Vidwan Ettan Thampuran – My Great Grandfather

Padnichare Kovilagath Manavikraman (Ettan) Raja, Zamorin of Calicut.

The period following the accession of the British over Malabar was a time when the Zamorins of Calicut, those suzerains who ruled over vast swaths of territory in Malabar for over 500 years, had descended into holders of simple titular positions with just a small privy purse from the British Government. Gone were the days of pomp and splendor, gone was the palace and fountains in the middle of Calicut, burnt to cinder or carted away by merchants. All they were left with was some property and oversight of temples, but with little malikhana income. The administrative staff and the Nair pada they once commanded was no longer in the payroll. The cheer that you see mentioned in a formal report quoted below was notably absent.

Quoting law journals - In 1792 Tippu ceded Malabar to the East India Company and ever since it has been under the rule of the Government of India. On the cession, the ruling powers of the rajahs and the chieftains were taken away from them. They were not deprived of the possession of their landed properties, but they were compelled to pay land revenue in respect of them and consequently became mere holders of land held under ryotwari tenure. Upto 1806 the deposed rulers were allowed to collect the land revenue and retain for themselves one-fifth of the net income, but in that year the East India Company itself undertook the collection and thereafter the Government granted to the deposed rulers annual allowances (malikhana) for the maintenance of themselves and their families. The malikhana was liable to forfeiture on proof of disloyalty or mis-conduct. The only ruler with whom the East India Company entered into an agreement in writing in respect of the payment of malikhana was the Zamorin (the Rajah of Calicut). It is only fair to add that the Zamorins, having loyally accepted the great change in their destinies, have ever since cheerfully and faithfully discharged their obligations to the Power which supplanted them just a century ago.

The Zamorin family after losing their territory first to the Mysore sultans and later the British, were mostly wrestling with court cases and arguing over property with the new owners, who had opportunistically taken them over or in some cases, just assumed ownership knowing that the Zamorin families had no power to do anything otherwise. Even the temples, previously a large source of revenue were languishing and the regional economy in a state of shambles. The succession structure of the Zamorin family was as always quite complicated and involved selection of the senior most person from the three kovialkoms or ancestral palaces – Padinjare (West) Kovialakom at Mankavu, the Puthiya (New) Kovilakom at Panniyankara and the Kizhakke (East) Kovialkom at Kottakkal.
Ettan Thampuran and Ambalakkat Lakshmi Amma

It was in those days that Manvikraman Thampuran, the Ettan Raja, went on to grow up in the Mankavu Padinjare Kovilakom and right from his childhood days found security in the world of music, literary works and the study of Sanskrit. There was no dearth of it in the vast home, as well as the temple complex of Thali nearby.  The annual Revathi Pattathanam was still in vogue where a large number of Pundits attended, but not held often enough. While we do have some idea of the general situation, not enough of specific information is available about his younger days. In fact we do not even know when he got married, but I would peg that roughly at 1870.  Around that time, he got married to Ambalakkat Lakshmi Amma, the beautiful lady you see in the photograph. That friends, is my great grandmother on my father’s side. They had four children among whom the youngest was Ambalakkat Karunakara Menon, a leading advocate of Calicut and a congressman.  The eldest was Ambalakkat Gopala Menon, my grandfather, the Calicut registrar in those days. So now you know my connections to a Zamorin from the Padinjare Kovilakom i.e. the Padnichare Kovilagath Manavikraman (Ettan) Raja, Zamorin of Calicut 1912-1915, otherwise called the Vidwan Ettan Thampuran or the Kerala Bhoja.

I delayed writing this article for a period of time for want of information, but it is interesting to confess that it was this person who started my interest in Malabar History many years ago, years after the people who could have given me firsthand information, like my father and his sisters had passed away from this world. It was a painstaking process to gather whatever little information I could unearth on this very interesting stalwart, famous for his literary and poetic skills as well as the personal support and grooming provided to budding writers who went on to become big names, like Vallathol Narayana Menon and VC Balakrishna Panikkar. Later I went to the Padinjare Kovilakom to see if I could find somebody there and to get some inputs, and it was Mr Virarayan who got me started by showing me the place where he lived and by providing a booklet on the Kottichezhunellath and some more details. He also gifted me with a book Samoothiriyum Kozhikodum written by PCM Raja….As I sat in those hallowed but now dilapidated premises and took a moment to imagine the days when my ancestors sat at that poomukham listening to poets or making compositions, I could feel an occasional shiver down my spine, as I drifted off thinking about their lives and better times.
Ettan Thampuran
Anyway let us get to the interesting persona my great grandfather was. That he was a writer of repute is mentioned often in history texts. In fact he was one of the early nonfiction writers in Malayalam, and his travelogue Kasiyathra charitram (travel in 1896, published in 1903), only the second to be written in Malayalam (First was Romayatra by P Thoma Kathenar). I will try not to do too much of a eulogy here as some others have worked on lengthy doctorate theses on the very subject of Ettan thampuran’s contributions to Sanskrit.
A great scholar poet, titled Vidwan Samoothiri (rare in the line of Zamorins), he was instrumental in publishing many works in Sanskrit during his time. He became the Eralpad (2nd in line) in 190 and the Zamorin in the year 1912, and the various ceremonies are documented in the book of Duarte Barbosa (ML Dames) with a good amount of details (VET provided the specifics to collector AC Thorne who translated it for the book).
Mankavu Padinchare Kovilakom - Poomukham
A quick overview of some 40 or so of his works in Sanskrit includes three dramas Odanavaneswara vijaya, Lakshmikalyana, and Samskrita Lakshmi kalyana, a translation of the Malayalam Social play Lakshmikalyana by KC keshava Pillai. Then there was the Dianadayal paracampu based on a Hitopadesa fable, a Shloka in praise of Nemam Subramanya Iyer(now sung as a kriti in raga Kapi set to Adi tala), Vishakhavijayollosa,  Parvathi Parinayam, a collection of essays and poems including – Sringara manjari madana, Rana singuraja charitra, Dhruvacharitam, Pratisrudha dasaka, Kerala vilasa, Bhikshu gitastava, dhatu kavya, Jnana pradipika, Champu bharata, Parvathi Swayamvaram, Prethakamini and finally Kasiyathra Charitam in Malayalam – covering his own trip to North India in 1895 and detailing amongst other things prosperity seen in North Indian cities. Keralavilasa incidentally contains 105 verses based on Keralolpatti. A few of his ragamalikas are also mentioned here and there. Manavikrama samutiri charita is a historical kavyam by Vasunni Musat which gives the life history of Ettan Tampuranas well as one throwing much light on the period. People say that it is highly useful in understanding the period, but I have not been able to find this anywhere.
But more than anything else, he was a patron and teacher for others interested in the field of music and literature. The Padinjare kovilakom at Mankavu at the turn of the 20th century was the place where sahridaya sagamam meetings were held and poets like Vallathol and Balakrishna Panikkar were groomed. Vallathol, in one of his poems, has recalled how the Ettan Tampuran sought his company at poetry recitals, music concerts and literary discussions. Lt is written that in their company, Vallathol went about with his meagre resources, composing slokas in Sanskrit. Vallathol gratefully mentions Ettan thampuran as the 'reincarnation of the great ‘Bhoja Raja. Ettan raja was also well known as a convener of regular literary meetings attended by great South Indian writers and poets. He was the main sponsor of the Kerala granthamala which published many works of Kerala writers.
V Unnikrishnan Nair and NV Krishna Warrier writing in the Calicut souvenir state that he was the third Zamorin who contributed much to the literature of Malabar and was a great patron of budding writers and poets. They list people who regularly attended the Sahridaya sangamam as Punnaseeri Nambi Neelakanda Sharma, Kaikulangara Rama Warrier, Mahakavi Kunjukuttan Thampuran, Vellanasseri Vasunni Mussad, RV Krishnamacharya, Telappuram Narayanan Nampi, Vallathol, VC Balakrishna Panikkar etc and state that Ettan Thampuran was known as the Abhinavabjoja Raja amongst the Sanskrit pundits in India those days. Balakrishna Panickkar VC, as CHF wrote was the pioneer of the Romantic Movement in Malayalam Poetry and composed Manavikrameeyam, a treatise in verse on alankara shastram, dedicated to his guru. Pundit Gopalan Nair who translated the 10 volume Sreemad Bhagavatham in Malayalam was a favorite disciple of Vidwan Ettan Thampuran.
Ettan Raja was also responsible for the Thunchath Ezhuthachan memorial. A conference of eminent writers and leaders of society was held on October 17, 1906 to formulate a scheme for the construction of a memorial and it was this Samoothiri, Vidwan Manavikrama Ettan Thampuran who took the initiative. He was also instrumental in supporting Punnaseri Nampi with the establishment of the Pattambi Sanskrit College and continued to put in efforts in elevating it to college status. He also made a proclamation stating that there was nothing against Sanskrit being taught to everyone sitting together, irrespective of caste and religious distinction (1914-1915).

He was also very keen about the propagation of Ayurveda, and in 1902, the first ever congress of the Ayurveda Samajam was convened at Chalappuram in Kozhikode in the presence of Manavikrama Ettan Raja and Ramavarma Appan Thampuran, the 6th prince, the Kunjunnithampuran of the Kochi state. At this first annual meeting, the name "Keraleeya Ayurveda Samajam" was introduced, 55 years before the state of Kerala was formed.

Though a person who made sure that everybody could be literate and learn languages like Sanskrit, and study in schools and colleges patronized by the Zamoirn, he was also a person with many firm and traditional opinions. Talking at the Malabar marriage commission meeting, he (Fawcett – Nairs of Malabar) informed the Commission that "It has been ordained by Parasu Rama that in Kerala, Marumakkatayam women need not be chaste" and he quoted a shloka in proof that there should be no such thing as chastity excepting amongst the Brahman women. But well, it was a testament of the times I suppose.

It is said that he was a reluctant Zamorin and that administration was not something he enjoyed. Literature and poetry were his life and I also heard that he was close to abdication of the position during his last years. The main reason was that the Zamorin’s estate at that time was in an abject state of penury and his inability to find monetary resources, a huge burden on his mind.  The figures are mind boggling, 39,970 acres of land were registered in the family name and an equal amount of unregistered land was apparently held, but all this produced only a gross income of Rs 3,64,000/-. With a family count in the three Kovilakoms of well above a thousand or more people, the income meagre. The estate was eventually taken over by the British court of wards with JA Thorne as Collector. Ettan Thampuran’s death occurred soon after the loss of Guruvayur temple to the court, this turning out to be his greatest disappointment (He would have been happy to hear that it went back to the family 12 years, in 1927). On many occasions he had to request the court of wards for monies to tide over expenses and this weighed his mind greatly, a testimony to the sad state of affairs following the many triumphant years till the Mysore Sultans systematically tore up the fabric of Malabar.

A full account of some of the royal ceremonies "The Eralpad's Kotticchelunellattu", whose Ezhunnellattu as Eralpad is vividly described in this Malayalam account with many interesting details. Mansell Longworth Dames – version of ‘The book of Duarte Barbosa’, Appendix II, JA Thorne’s translations refer to data from the original Malayalam article ‘Ariyittu vazcha’ provided by Vidwan Samoothiri, while reigning as an Eraalpad as well. Noteworthy is the fact that when his portrait in the book was taken, he was in his one year Diksha or mourning, hence the heavy beard (Another interesting fact is that the bust on his right is the Kochi Rajavu – If you will recall, the two families feuded for centuries). Ettan Thamburan, the late Zamorin, was the first to visit Cochin after those turbulent times. He was given a right royal reception by H.H. Rama Varma the Ex-Raja of Cochin, who was then ruling Cochin.

The Kasi trip (Varanasi - Benares pilgrimage) travelogue is pretty interesting – and as you peruse it, you see the country through the eyes of an inquisitive traveler. You can read the views of a deeply religious and middle aged person traveling in an entourage which curiously included just one woman - my great grandmother, proving to be a great eye opener of the times. I found the para comparing a bathing ghat to the manachira tank in Calicut quite amusing and the use of certain Malayalam words archaic. His amazement seeing Bombay and appreciation of the facilities rendered by a Gujarati Seth from Calicut named Vrindavan quite apparent in the words and description. Perhaps someday I will translate this work together with some of the others - who knows! Regretfully I could not find the part 2 of that work and part 1 only covers the journey until the group reach Kasi.

Vallathol of course went on to become a famous writer and poet, established the Kalamandalam and today we can all sit back and see Kathakali the way it should be seen and remember the great poet. And of course, you can go to Kottakkal for an Ayurveda massage to relax those tight tendons or seek relief for some ailment that cannot be cured…

I also recall the meeting with the late Puthiya Kovilaguth Manavedan Kunjaniyan Raja and how he remembered Ettan Thampuran. He was mentioning to me how KVK Iyer got most of his book’s content from Ettan Thampuran’s ‘Agnivamsa rajakatha’, an account detailing the legendary history of the Zamorins of Calicut.

It would have been quite interesting I suppose, if we could meet across generations to discuss matters of common interest, but well, in Kerala that is why a number of families still do ancestral recognition poojas in places like Palghat. They have a ceremony where the food liked by that karanavan is kept and some poojas done. What could be done for this gentleman? Something to think about.

Additional input from Mr CK Ramachandran at Calicut Heritage Forum, gratefully acknowledged and posted below

Incidentally, we at CHF had mentioned the patronage provided by Vidwan Ettan Raja to the young and indigent poet, V C Balakrishna Pillai . We feel this is the appropriate place to place some more interesting tidbits concerning Vidwan Ettan Raja and his proteges.
It was Vellanasseri Vasunni Moosad (you mention him as one VET's friends) who took the young Vallathol to the Mankavu sadass. Vallathol was then passing through a difficult stage in his life. The young man of 24 years had fallen in love with Madhavi, his uncle's daughter (murappennu). But, as the poet himself complained in his 'Bandhanasthanaya Aniruddhan', the course of true love never runs smooth. There were some initial opposition and finally he was to marry on a certain day,and had travelled from Tirur to Ponnani only to be informed that because of a death in the family, the function had been postponed. A dejected Vallathol travelled back to Tirur and sought solace in the company of Vellanassery Moosad. The very next day, Moosad took him to Mankavu as he thought the young lover deserved a change of scene. He spent some unremarkable days there and returned to Ponnai to get married. His second visit came later after he had made a mark in poetry and prose. Returning from Kadathanatt kovilakam (Udaya Varma was another great patron of literature) in the company of Kavikulaguru Krishna Varier, Vallathol visited Mankavu . The benevolent VET enquired of Varier about the financial condition of the young poet. Varier explained that the poet (who had by then become father of a girl) was in dire straits and could do with some assistance. VET gave two offers : he would write to some 20 respectable persons to contribute Rs.50 each (totalling Rs.1000) as capital for any venture that Vallathol may undertake. He guaranteed these loans and even hinted that most of these would be non-returnable loans. The second offer was equally tempting - a job as Malayalam Munshi in the Zamorin's College.
Vallathol rejected both offers. According to his biographer, there could have been two reasosn for this rejection: Vallathol was confident that if VC B Panicker could start his own publication in Trissur, so could he. Secondly, he could not stand VET's antipathy for Kathakali which Vallathol adored. VET had observed that the use of loud instruments like Chenda and Maddhalam and the dinconnect between the songs and the mudras did not appeal to 'modern' tastes. Vallathol who had inherited his love of Kathakali from his father, found that he could not compromise his taste, although he was ever grateful for the offer of assistance made by VET.
Another great figure who enjoyed the patronage of VET was the great scholar Punnasseri Nambi Neelakantha Sharma. You had mentioned about VET's work 'Sringaramanjari'. It was in fact one of the five shatakas (100 slokas) which he had published by the name Panchamrita Shatakam. Each of the five works had 100 slokas . There was some criticism ( by some scholars from Tamil nadu). Punnasseri put up a spirited defence of this work, and this was his first published work also. Another contribution of Nambi is worth recalling: VET had been writing Sanskrit letters to many scholars. It was Nambi who compiled these letters and published with an introduction by himself under the title, Lekhamaala (1898), in his own printing press called Vijnanachintamani. The next year saw Nambi establishing a Sanskrit pathshala and named it Saraswathodyothini. The school which blossomed into the famous Sanskrit College in Pattambi would not have survived its initial years of troubled existence, but for the generous assistance provided by VET.
VET's generosity towards many other poets and writers who became famous, will fill volumes. We hope someone makes a serious study of the contributions of this royal patron.

Further input from Mr Veerarayan at Padinjare Kovilakom

1.       EttanThampuran’s mother was Sreedevi thampuratty (1822-1902) born on Malayalam era 997, month Kumbham.  Star Karthika at kunnahur Kovilakam near Kallada river, Kollam, while members of the padinchare kovilakam was residing there during Mysorean invasion.  Returned to mankave kovilaklam in her 6th year of age.

Father – Appan Namboodiri of Thottappaya Illam near Trissur
Brothers – Eralpad Anujan Thampuran & Ammaman Thampuran (auther of INDUMATHEE SWAYAMVARAM, the second novel in Malayalam)
Grand uncule – Poet Manaveda Eralpadu Raja, a great schjolar, astrologer, social reformer etc..  author of VILASINI ( a work on sukha sandesam
2.       Ettan Thampuran was the driving force behind the then  Zamorin Maharaja P.K.Kuttiyaettan Raja in his effort to establish Zamorin’s College in 1877.
3.       Took over the management of Padinjare covilakam estate in his 27th year of age when his mother became the Valiya Thampuratty (Senior Rani) of the Kovilakam in 1872 and administrated the affairs of the kovilaklam for 30 years.
4.       After the death of Valiya Manavikraman Raja (friend of pazhassi raja), the landed properties in and around Kalladikode and nearby cherpulasseri were lost to local janmis .  a litigation to get back the properties was initiated VET with the help of his wife’s relatives Ambalakattu Raman menon and the attempt was not fruithful.
5.       After entrusting the Zamorin’s Estate administration to the Court of Wards, he returned to the palace of Pallippuram and breathed his last in 1915 there.

Duarte Barbosa - An account of the countries bordering on the Indian Ocean and their Inhabitants – Mansell Longworth Dames
Calicut corporation souvenir – 1966
Kasiyathra charitram – Ettan Thampuran (Those interested can download or read it here
The Eralpad's Kotticchelunellattu - Ettan Thampuran (provided by Mr PK Veerarayan Raja)
Samoothiri vamshavum Samsrita sahityavum – Dr K Kunjunni Raja (Bhaktapriya April 2012)


Thanks to my cousin Balagopal Ambalakkat, a fine photographer in his own right, for kindly providing a scanned picture of the young Ettan Thampuran. My great Grandmother’s picture was also provided by the Ambalakkat family and though the beautiful lady’s picture had been touched up by a zealous photographer recently, you can make out how pretty she was.

The older Zamorin’s picture comes from the archives of the Cornell University Library – Originally Provided by JA Thorne (ICS, Collector- Tellichery) & printed in Duarte Barbosa’s 1918 translation of – An account of the countries bordering on the Indian Ocean and their Inhabitants. The original of the same picture which I have at hand, is a little bit damaged at the top and edges.

Once again my heartfelt thanks to Mr Veerarayan for assisting me with whatever information he had. He is in the process of making a long family tree chart of the Zamorin's with many details and I hope he completes it to the benefit of interested historians.

The Padinjare Kovilakom pictures which you see is the handiwork of Dr Harimohan. I combined three of them to create the Poomukham picture.

If anybody can contribute more details on Ettan Thampuran, his works or any other details, please do so with a comment or write to me.

Tanjore and its Carnatic music legacy

Some weeks ago I delivered a short talk on this subject to a few friends in our music group and as it involved some study, I decided to write an article around it.  We enjoy these Sunday afternoons trying out some songs under the watchful eyes and ears of our much beloved and patient teacher Sunitha and at times we go over a little bit of theory and history. With that backdrop, let’s get started and go over the matter presented in that short talk, not to be considered in any way an exhaustive treatise on the subject.

The Carnatic has variously been described as the land to the south of the Vindhyas or the land between the Krishna and Kaveri. While Carnatic music should simply mean as the music of the Carnatic, this blend of Indian classical music has also been defined using the various meanings of Kar and Karna, with the word Kar meaning old, black, or that which pleases the ear. So it could be music of the old, music that pleases the ear or music of the darker skinned people. All debatable, but well, a separate topic for those hard core enthusiasts I suppose.
Indian Classical music has its origins attributed to Vedic times and also celestial beings like Narada, but the form familiar today was originally popularized during the 13th and 14th centuries by Purandaradasa (the pitamaha or grandsire), Bhadrachalam Ramadasa and Kshetrayya in the Kannada rajya while a senior contemporary Annamacharya also composed and sang his songs in praise of the Tirumala Lords. The most luminous of the composers and originators of the Carnatic style of music was Pundarika Vittala. The Haridasa bhakti tradition popularized songs sung in praise the celestial and Purandaradasa codified and consolidated it by evolving several graded steps such as sarali, jantai, thattu varisai, alankara and geetham.

This music flourished with the patronage of the powerful Vijayanagar kings. Patronage as you can imagine was a prerequisite, for music did not fetch any revenues for the singer or composer and thus they had to find support from royal courts to survive. The above named composed many thousand songs, but while some of those lyrics remain, the musical parts of many of them was lost and it is believed that this was mainly due to a stoppage in propagation of their teachings due to an absence of a formal student teacher (Guru Shishya parampara) tradition. Two events were to affect the growth of this musical form in the year 1565, one being the death of Purandaradasa and the second being the battle of Talikota where the Deccan Sultans routed the Rayas of Vijayanagar.
While all this confusion was going on, the township of Thanjavur, at the delta of river Cauvery or Kaveri was under the rule of the benign Tanjore Nayaks. Tanjore or Tanjavur as hoary legends go, derived its name from Tanjan (another of those indigenous kings termed asura or demon in later days by Aryan scribes) who was killed by one Anandavalli Amman and another Neelamegha Perumal. Tanjan's dying request was that the city be named after him and his request was granted. The town was very famous for the Bhrihadeeswara temple built by Raja Raja Chola in1010. In later days it was also the seat of the Tyagaraja Cult which became popular with Saivites after the Chola Murugan cult lost its sheen. The Somascanda (Shiva+Uma+the child Murugan) based Tyagaraja cult had its seat at Thiruvavur. As time went by, a number of Smarta Brahmins from Mulakanadu relocated from Kannada and Deccan to Tanjavur and they were the people who popularized the Carnatic music form in the centuries which followed. The kings of the region, both the Tanjore Nayaks and the Madurai Nayaks were of Telugu origin and the court language was Telugu. Many of the compositions of that period were therefore either in Telugu and Sanskrit. We will now trace its popularization first by the Tanjavur Nayaks and later by the Maratha Bhonsle kings, all fortunately patrons of music, art, and dance, not to forget literature of all kinds. The ambience was also there, with many a temple, royal patronage and the various annual competitions held every year to attract hordes of scholars, composers and musicians from neighboring regions.

Carnatic music had by the 16th Century thus shifted to Tanjore, where under the benign rule of the Nayaks and later the Maratha kings, it flourished as a major art form. As you will see, many of the kings were composers and musicologists themselves. Attracted by employment opportunity and the stability, several Bhagavathars from Kannada and Andhra regions moved to Tanjore and its environs. Interestingly while the Cholas promoted Tamil literature and arts, the Nayaks brought in the Telugu art forms and later it was upto the Marathas to continue to work with these accepted forms and also add in a Marathi touch. Not only that they also went on to codify Dasi dances and introduce western touches to the Carnatic music world.
Tanjavur Nayak period – 1530-1674.
The main contributions during this time came from the three kings, Achyutappa, Raghunatha and Vijayaraghava, all of whom patronized Carnatic music. Even though plagued with skirmishes and wars throughout their reign, they found time for the arts.

Achyutappa (1560 AD-1614 AD) Achyutappa (the son of a betel leaf bearer Sevappa Nayak of Achutaraya) spearheaded the promotion of music by granting asylum to those Brahmin families fleeing from the Kannada regions after the loss of the Vijayanagar kings and by resettling them at Unnathapuri (Achutapuri or Melattur). The composer who really got things going was Givinda Dikshita who oversaw the resettlement of the families on behalf of Achutappa. Govinda Dikshitar it appears, had the Unnathapureeswarar temple renovated and extended, created the various agraharams around it and constructed the pond in front of the temple, named after Govinda Dikshitar as "Ayyan Kulam".It was in Melattur that the great poets Bharatam Kasinathayya and his disciple, Veerabadrayya were born. In fact it could be summarized that the move of Govinda dikshita from Vijayanagara to Tanjore shifted the center of Carnatic music to Tanjore.
Raghunatha (1600 AD-1645 AD) by all records was termed as a gifted scholar in both Sanskrit and Telugu language, and a talented musician with his court crowded with poets and scholars. Raghunatha takes credit for not only writing several books on music and Telugu literature, but also compositions.  Raghunatha created new ragas, talas, and melas like Jayanta sena (ragam), Ramananda (Talam), Sargita vidya and Raghunatha (Mela). Maduravani and Ramabhadramba were famous poets in his court, whereas Sudhindra and Raghavendra were two famous Madhava gurus patronized by him. Govinda Dikshita continued to be a minister in his court as well and Raghunatha’s Sanskrit treatise on music, Sangita Sudha opened the intricacies and secrets of music to the public. The later scholar Venketamakhin however states that the Sangita Sudha was actually authored by Govinda Dikshita.

Raghunatha also composed kavyas and dance-dramas and popularized the 24 fret horizontally held Raghunatha mela veena or the Saraswati veena (a.k.a Tanjore veena) which is staple to Carnatic music today. It was during Raghunatha's reign that a palace library was established and it was in this Saraswati Bhandar is where the manuscripts from Raghunatha's prolific court scholars were collected and preserved. Raghtnatha Nayak specifically mentions in Sangitha Sudha that he undertook the task of simplifying classical music so that there was no variation between the defined and the actual recitals. His aim was that people should recognize the ragas simply by listening to the songs once and that it was his aim to open the secrets of music to all.

Vijayaraghava (1634 AD-1673 AD) Vijayaraghava's stable and somewhat longer reign witnessed a good amount of literary output both in music and Telugu literature. Vijayaraghava’s court was also filled with a number of poets and literary scholars and he is credited with more than thirty books in Telugu and the great Venkatamakhin, Govinda Dikshitar’s son, served his court, so also Chengalvakala Kavi and  Yagnanarayana Dikshita (Venkatamakhin’s brother).Venkatamakhin later authored the Chaturdandi Prakashika, which is probably the most important treatise in the Mela era and one that codified the melekarta scheme. Venkatamakhin also composed many geethams and prabandhas, as well as 24 ashtapadis in praise of Lord Thyagaraja of Tiruvarur. Following Venkatamakhin, his descendant Muddu Venkatamakhin is attributed to have authored the Ragalakshana (early 18th century). A later scholar, Govinda, further refined this scheme in his Sangraha Choodamani and it is his nomenclature that survives till date.

And what is evident in this period is the solid guru shishya parambara and the natural passage of music forms from teacher to student and movements across regions, locales and generations.
The Maratha period 1674-1855

The Maratha rulers of Thanjavur were major contributors to musicology including Shahaji who authored the Ragalakshanamu (1684 – 1712) and Thulaja who authored the Sangita Saramruta (1728 – 1736). The Marathas had differing food habits, different gods, differing language and different dance and music forms, but Venkoji (Ekoji) the Maratha ruler and his successors did not impose any of that. They adapted Telugu, Sanskrit and Tamil, and continued with their patronage and support to existing traditions, but also allowing new art forms to enter the scene. This 200 year span as the Bhonsles of Maharashtra ruled is considered to be Tanjore Carnatic music’s and Tanjore Natyashastra’s golden period. Neighboring regions Kumbhakonam and Mannargudi also benefited under the administration of the Maratha rulers.
How Sambaji (credited with our staple curry Sambhar!!!) and Venkoji a half-brother of Maratha warlord Shivaji landed up in Tanjore and displaced the Tanjore Nayaks is an interesting story for another day, but to start this part, Venkoji was invited to support the last Tanjore Nayak Alagari’s war efforts when the latter was threatened by the Madurai Nayak. Venkoji or Ekoji as he was called chose however to remain and take over the kingdom, partly due to his not being paid promised remuneration, and also because of differences with his brother who had taken over parts of the Mysore kingdom. This was to benefit the people of the region, as we look at that decision today, for all practical purposes.

Even though their reign was dotted with many wars with various other local rulers and later overtures by the English, these rulers provided unstinted support to the musical and dance forms of the region, and remained great lovers and patrons of art and literature. The Saraswati Bhandar became a library of repute and is the Saraswati Mahal of today. Their courts supported many a composer and musician and we see the results from the prodigious output of the famous trilogy of Thyagaraja, Shama Sastry and Dikshitar. But before we get to them, let us start with Venkoji or Ekoji, the first of the rulers.

Venkoji (1674 AD – 1684 AD) was a great follower of Carnatic music and is important because he not only allowed the continual use of Telugu as the court language, but also patronized the cultural and musical traditions of the erstwhile Nayaka kingdom. He promoted the culture of Sadir or court dance in Tanjore courts, while Dasiattam was already prevalent in the temples.
Shahaji (1684 AD-1712 AD) was a scholar both in music and literature. Around thirty works consisting of dramas, Padyas and Kavyas have been ascribed to him. Scholars of Tanjavur bestowed upon him the titles of Abhinavabhoja and Navina bhoja. He donated a village Shahjirajapuram (Thiruvisanellur) and resettled 46 Brahmin pundits there. He wrote the Raga Lakshanamu, a treatise on rare ragas (perhaps done by Muudu Lakshana - grandson of Venkatamakhin) and went on to author over 208 padas and ashtapatis with the mudra Tyagesa and popularized the usage of the name Tyagaraja.

Saraboji 1 (1720 AD-1728 AD) followed, he created the villages or agraharams of Mangamatam (Tiruvenkadu) and Sarabojirajapuram (Tirukkadiyur), endowed many Brahmins and promoted the work of poet Giriraja kavi who invented many ragas (Tyagaraja was his grandson) and worked in his court. He was titled Vidyabhoja.

Tulaja I (1728 AD- 1736 AD) who followed was the one who authored the musical treatise Sangeeta Saramrita. He was also to become the promoter of Sadir and Bharatnatyam styles of dance and wrote a few yakshaganas. Interestingly the Tanjore Veena was named Tulaja Vina during his times. He was well versed in Jyostishya, Ayurveda, law and politics. Ghanasyama Pundit and Manabhatta were composers in his court.
Ekoji 2 (1736 AD - 1737 AD) followed at the age of 40 during a period when Tanjore was beset with a lot of problems over accession, and composed over 86 padas called Ekoji sahityamu. The famous dancer Muddamanga danced in his court.

Pratapasimha (1739 AD-1763 AD), who was more a Marathi writer and an able administrator, was less a musicologist compared to the others, but promoted many composers & poets such as Melattur Veerabhadrayya. Notable in his court was Muddapalani whom I briefly introduced in a previously posted short story. More on her and her work Radhika Santawanamu on another day.
Tulaja 2 (1763 AD – 1787 AD) was the reason for the renaissance in Carnatic music mainly due to his building the framework for the success of the Tanjavur trio of Shyama Sastri, Tyagaraja and Muthuswamy Dikshitar. The reasons are very interesting. His court had eminent musicians such as Sonti Venkataramayya (Tyagaraja’s teacher), Pachimiriyam Adiyappaiah (Syama Sastri’s teacher). His building a temple Bangaram Kamakshi temple made Syama Sastri’s father settle in the region. Similarly Ramabrahmam, Tyagaraja’s father was appointed by Tulaja to take care of the Tulajamaharajapuram and Hariharapuram agraharams. Ramaswami dikshitar was appointed by Tulaja to compose and formalize the songs for the dasis of the Tiruvavur temple. As you can imagine the progenies later grew up in Thiruvavur in this cultural atmosphere and were well trained by the proficient gurus of the court. Tyagaraja incidentally was the grandson of Giriraja Kavi, a Sanskrit poet in the Saraboji I’s Court. Subbaraya Oduvar the father of the Tanjore quartet also served in his court.

Amarasimha (1787 AD-1798 AD) An uncle of Serfoji 2, and stepson of Pratapasimha ruled over the kingdom since the young Serfoji II was a child and still under the care of Rev Schwarz. He was also a good patron of art and literature and it is said that several musicians and poets of repute adorned his court. But he spent much of his time plotting to kill the young boy and the Westerners, especially Rev Schwarz took care to ensure that he did not.
Sarabhoji 2 (1798 AD- 1832 AD) was perhaps the biggest of the patrons of art in Tanjore. His childhood and story of arrival is quite interesting. The doctrine of lapse was being imposed strictly by the British and Tulaja’ children had all died. So he rushed to Satara to adopt a Bhonsle boy and that was the great Serfoji 2. It was to prove to be a wise choice. The young boy was sent to St George School in Madras under care of Rev Schwarz, a Danish missionary. Schwarz helped Serfoji survive in peace when surrounded by Hyder Ali on one side and the British on the other. You will also recall that his uncle was trying his best to get him killed. Eventually he took over Tanjore but soon after, gifted his kingdom to the British in 1798. A food and fun loving person with many wives and 25 odd concubines, he had all the time in the world for art and music and he did well to promote it.

During his time Muthuswamy Dikshitar and his brother Baluswamy came to his court leaving Madras, and the Tanjore quartet also came into prominence. While they excelled in fine tuning the art of Bharatanatyam, they also authored a number of varnams and Kritis. The brothers Chinnayya (1802–1856), Ponnayya (1804–1864), Sivanandam (1808–1863) and Vadivelu (1810–1845) were employed in the Tanjore courts initially, after which they moved to Travancore to work for Swati Tirunal who incidentally was a good friend of Serfoji. Serfoji himself was a composer and writer. As Radhika explains - Serfoji's works can be considered as a milestone in the growth and development of the theory and practice of the Sadir dance. Apart from these works on classical music and dance, the royal composer is said to have authored a Kuravanji nataka as well as a lavani, a Marathi folk musical form. Another great composer, the Christian convert Vedanayagam Sastriyar who wrote over 500 kritis and 133 books served in his court. Scholars like Subba Dixit and many others thrived in his court, but slowly they were starting to consider other locales for nationalistic reasons and monetary benefits to Ettayapuram and Travancore.
Serfoji was not just a great music and art lover, but also an avid reader as evidenced in the thousands of books and scriptures he hoarded and left (over 80,000)in the Sarswati Mahal, most of them with his scribbles on the pages. He also made huge contributions in the field of medicine and technology not to mention yeoman service in the field of dance by defining and promoting Bharatanaytam with the Tanjavur quartet.  The navavidhya Kalanidhi Salai was started by him.

And of course he was well taught in western music, later creating the Tanjavur band as well as ensuring the introduction of the violin, piano, flute, guitar, clarinet and so on to the music scene. Varaha Payyar served in his court, and it was with his support that many a western instrument got added to the chamber music orchestra. A number of English notes or Nottuswaras (see my previous article on M Dikshitar and his nottuswaras) were also composed during his period.
Thus we see that the Nayaks and the Bhonsle’s preserved and promoted Carnatic music in Tanjore, till eventually British ascendancy in Madras resulted in the poets, composers and musicians moving slowly to the new center at Madras from the various principalities. The music form also changed with the passage of time. With the advent of Maratha rule, Marathi style Bhajans were introduced to blend with the Ashtapadis, Tarangam, keertans and other forms and compositions. Harikatha and yakshagana were popularized and the use of western instruments like the flute and the violin promoted. Purists however complained that the Carnatic style was getting diluted, becoming populist and simpler, but that was development, I suppose. And as we saw the dasiattam or nautch dance which had attained a bad name (and was banned by the British) evolved into the flowing dance form Bharata natyam that we see and enjoy today.

All of this took place at the Sangeetha mahal or the royal hall of music in the Tanjore palace. Quoting a Hindu article, the hall, a rectangular hall with a vaulted roof, used to have four punkahs that spanned the breadth of the room. The design of the hall is such that it would have helped in balanced absorption and deflection of sound waves. The chandeliers and other decorations must have helped in sound dispersion. The many perforations would have ensured that excess amplification was avoided. There used to be a pit in front of the stage, which would be filled with water. This too must have helped in proper deflection of sound waves to the upper gallery. But as we all know good things come to an end, the Sangeetha Mahal that had seen all these stalwarts (except perhaps Tyagaraja) perform since the 1600’s became a godown and a government office during the British rule and even after Independence.
As always these things change with time, in fact there are people who now feel that places like Cleveland, the birthplace of rock music may soon become another new center for Carnatic music with a growing number of listeners, wealthy patrons, annual concerts and a steady flow of teachers on demand. That then would be a passage across time and the oceans….

Development of Sadir in the court of Raja Serfoji II (1798-1832) of Tanjore – VS Radhika
The Reception of Western Music in South India around 1800 - Takako Inoue
From the Tanjore Court to the Madras Music Academy - Lakshmi Subramanian

Maddys ramblings
NottuSwara – Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s European airs
A Rummy Tale


Mata Hari the femme fatale and Malabar

History has many an interesting character but there is only one person whose name is synonymous with spying, espionage, intrigue, and sensuality, it is none other than Mata Hari, a purported German spy who was executed by the French during the First World War. This gorgeous, 5’10” feet tall woman could be easily described as the most famous or for that matter, the most talked about spy in the world after James Bond. But there is one large difference; she was a real person, a horizontal agent as Toni terms her, unlike Mr. 007. What would you think looking at her name? Variously explained as sunrise, the mother of Vishnu or eye of the day by just translating the Hindi or Sanskrit words, she was an exotic dancer with a very interesting life story. From the depressing streets of Pre-World War 1 Holland, she moved to sunny Java and back to Europe to set a blazing trail through the night club scenes of Paris, Germany and Holland, and sharing her bed with scores of bigwigs along the way. From Paris she moved to Germany, then to Holland as the First World War descended but doubled back to Paris after a few dull months. That was her undoing, for with a few months she faced death in front of a firing squad, after being summarily convicted of treason, spying and death of many thousand Frenchmen.

Why not spend a few minutes learning the reasons for her mystique and how she claimed to be a woman from Malabar? It will be but a brief account of Margaretha Geertruida "Grietje" Zelle, ‘the horizontal agent’ who warmed the bed of many a military man on both sides of the war and through to her eventual death. But was she a spy? That has always been the million dollar question and most are inclined to believe today that she was just foolish but never a spy…But people still pore over a few hundred articles and books about her and new ones continue to be written as you read this, this shows you her everlasting appeal
When she started her sensuous dancing show career in Paris, she announced…

I was born in the south of India on the Malabar Coast to a Brahmin family.  My father was called Ashirvadam, known for his piety and pureness of heart.  My mother was a dancer who died giving birth to me; she was only 14.  The priests who adopted me gave me the name Mata Hari and I was raised in the great underground world in the temple of Shiva.
As time went by, a few variations crept in …in which her origins moved to Jaffna Pattanam in Ceylon. And her mystique grew and people crowded her shows to see her (I had been to Indonesia and Cambodia recently and saw the version that Mata Hari adapted, it is more like the Apsara dance in Cambodia which does have some Indian dasiattam moves, steps and actions. In fact her dressing and head gear is quite close to the Apsara costumes – the Robam Tep Apsara) and her version of the seminude oriental dance which was not Indian in any way, but purported to be Indian. In a clever way she manipulated the eagerness people had, to learn about the hidden secrets of India, perhaps magnified in the writings of the English who returned to their dreary shores. The French newspaper Le Journal, taken in by her declarations, declared Mata Hari as the very symbol of Indian culture: “Mata Hari personifies all the poetry of India, its mysticism, its voluptuousness, its languor, its hypnotizing charm … rhythm, poems of wild voluptuous grace” The critic as you can see compared India with female attributes, notably as one writer explained, those which elude the rational mind such as voluptuousness, hypnosis and mysticism.

The biggest difference from the Apsara dance of Cambodia was Mata hari’s dress or the lack of it. She sometimes wore a body stocking, sometimes nothing other than a padded breast piece or Cache-sein (she usually refused to uncover her breasts in public or in private as most reports go – they say that she was rather shameful about their inadequacy, but then Mata Hari did dance bare-breasted more than once, and her topless performance as Salome in 1912 brought her acclaim. Perhaps she knew that concealing a small part of the body while exposing the rest had an exciting effect).
I will provide you a very quick overview of her life before she hit the Paris streets and the limelight, for without it the story will not be complete. It was in Java that she learnt about the mysterious Malabar, where the Portuguese and later the Dutch colonized Batavia and other islands to form the Dutch East Indies. Perhaps she heard about how Rama of Mahabharata dispatched Sugriva to look for Sita in Java, perhaps not, she must have just learnt some of the dances out of boredom and acute depression. Why so?

When she was 13, Margaretha’s father Zelle's business went into bankruptcy (in 1889 at Friesland) and her misfortunes started after her mother’s death. By the age of 18, she had become conscious of her power over men and her overt sensuality and soon put it to use, perhaps without much thought. First it was the headmaster of her teacher’s training school and this resulted in her being moved out to relatives in Hague. That was when a boorish 39 year old alcoholic and heavily mustachioed Rudolph Macleod, back home in Holland on leave from Java put up a matrimonial advertisement. The bored Margaretha applied and they met, soon to get married and enter into a nightmarish world of unhappiness, violence and sadism. They had two children in quick succession, but the elder boy Norman died due to apparent poisoning (or syphilis) as Rudolph’s career went into a tailspin. The girl Non survived and the couple returned to Holland in 1902 where the now 26 year old Margaretha applied for divorce which ended with Rudolph keeping custody of Non. All Margaretha was left it was her knowledge and powers over men as well as a bit of dancing that she had learnt in Java. That is how she decided to seek a new career as an exotic dancer and a high class paid courtesan with a story (which was her Indian origins) and a new name, Mata Hari. Her initial performances were at Musee Guimet. The dance was called the Les Danses Brahmaniques. In fact Guimet was the person who suggested that she add an exotic name and thus Mata Hari was born to dance a sometimes writhing, reptilian dance form, slithering over the floor and eventually into many an arm. 

Though videos of her dances do not exist anymore, vivid descriptions such as this provide a good idea of her cabaret performance - One of the descriptions in the Neue Wiener Journal from 15th December 1906 entitled Brahma Dances in Vienna, the critic reviews her performance at the Viennese Secession Hall thus: The auditorium was steeped in mystical darkness. Covered blue, green, white lights. A Brahma-altar, surrounded by a blossoming fruit tree, has been erected at the front side of the room. Steaming incense burners augment the almost solemn atmosphere of the small auditorium. Then the Hofburg actor Gregori enters the room ... he improvises a little introductory speech. [He says] Mata Hari’s dances are like a prayer ...the Indian people dance when they venerate their Gods. Mata Hari herself enters with measured tread. A Junoesque apparition. Big, fiery eyes lend her noble-cut face a peculiar expression. Her dark complexion [...] suits her marvelously. An exotic beauty of first order. A white, gathered veil envelopes her, a red rose adorns her deep black hair. And Mata Hari dances ... That is: she does not dance. She performs a prayer before the idol, as a priest performs a service [...].[Then] Mata Hari dances the budding love of a chaste girl. A while veil – the slendang – serves as a symbol of chastity. Beneath the veil, the beautiful dancer wears on her torso a breast ornament and a golden belt ... nothing else. The audacity of the costume is a minor sensation. But without the slightest trace of indecency ... What the artist reveals in dance is art. Each muscle of the upper body is engaged. The dance ends with a victory of love over restraint ... the veil drops [...].Finally the dance of Siva, the destroyer. The priestess, in a passionately engaged dance, sacrifices every piece of jewelry, so that He hears her prayer. One veil after another drops until in the end she stands in her pure, undressed beauty [...]. The priestess sinks, unconscious, to the floor in front of the feet of the stern god [...] Stormy ovations …………
The major attraction of Mata Hari was, of course, her brazen novelty in the prudish prewar Paris. She converted stripping into an artistic, exotic and acceptable format, now cloaked inside a Hindu religious dance form as though it was always the norm in Malabar (while the concept of Dasiattam was very much in vogue in Malabar and the Tamil speaking Kongunadu, stripping was not a custom though some classes of women were uncovered above their hips - in contrast, Mata Hari always covered her breasts). The general consensus in those days was that Mata Hari made you feel that you were actually satisfying your desire with her. That was her allure and the allure took her far and high, earning her a fortune which she spent freely. But as you know, the heights don’t just make you giddy, they were also precarious perches from where you could have a great fall.

Her story started to change as days went by, and in later dances she said that she learnt the dancing from her foster Indian mother who dedicated her to Lord Shiva and that was how she, aged 13, danced for the first time in the nude. In fact this mystery and cloak and dagger act completely masked her poor dancing skills. But as legends go, she was quite vigorous on the floor and off it, and the lighting and special stage props as well as her beautiful eyes and amorous expressions made it very enticing and original. The next few years were her high times, where she ruled the revue floors and minted money while at the same time warming many a bed. But imitators started to appear on the scene and the dancer Mata Hari and her dance was becoming a bit jaded.

To make her private parties and dances even more authentic another person and his troupe was
roped in. The group was named ‘The Royal Musicians of Hindustan’. When I first read about this connection, I was taken aback, for the person heading it was none other than Inayat Khan the founder of The Sufi Order in the West and the father of the famous English spy code named Madeline a.k.a. Noor Inayat Khan or the princess spy (Many a year ago, I had written a somewhat inadequate article about her). Inayat left India in 1910 to come to the West, traveling first as a touring musician and then as a teacher of Sufism, visiting various places along the way, France and Netherlands included. It is in France that Mata Hari and Inayat met.
The Royal Musicians of Hindustan performed with Mata Hari, providing live accompaniment for her dances, before Inayat moved on to Russia and fathered Noor with Nora Baker. Their pairing was opportune, for the group came to promote Indian music and Mata Hari was of course the self-proclaimed pioneer of oriental dancing in the west! The photographs (from her garden in Neuilly) of them together in a British society magazine are striking with Matahari looking every bit an Indian, this time fully clothed and demonstrating some typical Indian dance moves. The timing of their collaboration seems to have been between 1912 and 1913. Her announcements and press releases as well as witness accounts state that the troupe were Indian Brahmin musicians (Interesting that a Sufi Muslim propagator went along with this)! By that time, Mata Hari’s birth place had moved from Malabar to Jaffna pattanam in Ceylon and in 1914, it was placed at the banks of the Ganges!! The storyline also changed - to that from there she went on to become a Javanese court dancer. The public lapped all of it, for the lady did ample justice by providing a good amount of eye candy. But what could have got her into the world of spying? That part of the story is the last act of her life and evidence of her desire to be among officers.
Times were soon to become more difficult for the ageing Mata Hari and her repetitive dances were reducing in number. There was not much left of her body to be revealed, and the upper society had already sampled her. Her ways became more erratic and to keep up with her high living, became non selective and was soon noticed at all kinds of seedy places with men. She now decided that the dance routine had to be changed to something Egyptian and this perhaps took her to the German town of Berlin.
And that was when the war clouds started to form and her bank accounts got frozen. Fleeing Germany in 1915, she went to Holland and here the Germans contacted her asking her to spy for them for a sum equivalent to about $61,000 and by giving her a code name H21. She agreed to do so and collected the money, but actually planned to do nothing. From there she went to Paris to sell her stuff there and collect some money. On her way, the British M05 interrogated her and placed their suspicions on record. Between the years 1914-16, her travels are well recorded and so I will not get into details of her purported spying. And then she came back to Paris and soon after fell in love with an injured Russian soldier much younger than her named Vadime - Vladamir de Massalof, and later offered to spy for the French. Her love for the uniform had taken her places, but soon it was to be the reason or her downfall.

It was in the summer of 1916, that a Captain Ladoux heading the French counterintelligence, requested her to become a French agent. Not understanding the complexities of what she was doing, she agrees and is soon caught in a spider web of intrigue. The war is not going too well for the allies and the French and some affirmative action is expected from Capt Ladoux who has started to believe that Mata Hari is a double agent. Bouchardon’s (the prosecuting lawyer) investigation on the matter looked dead and the Allies’ war was going disastrously. A scapegoat was needed to save face and the Germans wanted her ‘burned’. As it happens, a set of messages sent by Germany provide information on agent H21 and these are sent in a code that the Germans knew were broken by the allies. Perhaps they wanted to fix H21 when they found out she had agreed to spy for the French, perhaps, they did what Ladoux wanted since he was involved with the Germans himself. Ladoux’s testimony at the trial based on German inputs confirming that she was H21, and connected her to espionage

He sets out to get her and soon Mata Hari is arrested in Paris on 13 February 1917 and sentenced to death as a pro-German spy after a dubious trial ( as somebody said – one where there was not even enough evidence to flog a cat!). On 15 October 1917, she is executed by firing squad. . Interestingly, soon after Mata Hari’s execution, Ladoux and others were arrested later, as German agents!!
The death is well reported, so also the trial and it is stated that Mata Hari faced death bravely,
though no longer a beauty, walking proud with her head high and refusing a blindfold. The fire order was shouted out, the shots rang their death knell, and Mata Hari was gone. As was recorded, an unnecessary, coup de grace was also completed, with a French officer emptying his gun into her ear. No one claimed her corpse which was finally taken to a medical school to be used by students there for study on the dissecting table. Her body thus continued to be kept for public view and as a public property. In 2000, it was discovered that her head had disappeared. Now no one knows what happened to it or to the rest of her body.

Shipman writes - It was men who, like witch hunters, built the case against her, driven by prejudice not fact. And with France gripped by anti-German spy mania, few would stick their heads above the parapet to defend her. Britain's fledgling intelligence service, MO5 (soon to change its name to MI5) also helped dig her grave with, as we will see, the dodgiest of dossiers. All because Mata Hari said and did what she wanted, with her life which was - I wanted to live like a colorful butterfly in the sun, rather than in the calmness of the inside of my room. And then again, she was convicted not for espionage but for her lack of shame."

EK Mahon concludes - So why was she accused? Both Bouchardon and Ladoux could not get past the fact that Mata Hari was a beautiful woman who loved men, and gave herself freely to them, no matter the nationality. As far as they were concerned, she was a promiscuous and immoral woman, and for that alone she should have been condemned. Mata Hari's fatal mistake was that she loved officers, no matter what the nationality, not a good thing during wartime.

Mata Hari thus lived the life typical of an Indian Nautch girl or devadasi. She was as they said, justly famous for her true talent which was exotic dancing and pleasing men, not espionage. The only person she loved, the Russian officer Vadime let her down completely by claiming that all they had was a fleeting affair. And it is not that Mata Hari did not know her limitations and strengths – she said “I never could dance well. People came to see me because I was the first who dared to show myself naked to the public. I prefer to be the mistress of a poor officer than a rich banker. It is my greatest pleasure to sleep with them without having to think of money. I have said yes to them with all my heart. They left thoroughly satisfied, without ever having mentioned the war, and neither did I ask them anything that was indiscreet.
Was she ever a double agent? Perhaps she was, of that I am still not too sure as she was circumstantially involved in some cases. Rudolph her husband, died in 1928. Jean Louise ‘Non’ Macleod, her daughter died in 1919, somewhat mysteriously, the day before she was to board a ship to Java, in her sleep.

De Marguérie’s a high ranking official in the foreign ministry, one of her patrons and rare defense witness during the trial concurred - It was a great relief to spend three days talking of philosophy, Indian art, and love with her. It may seem unlikely to you but it is the truth." Without being asked, he volunteered, "Nothing has ever spoiled the good opinion that I have of this lady."
Femme fatale – Love, lies, and the unknown life of Mata Hari – Pat Shipman
Sisters of Salome – Toni Bentley

Femme fatale - an irresistibly attractive woman, esp. one who leads men into danger or disaster

1.       With Inayat courtesy Fries Museum
2.       Others from Google images – with due acknowledgements to uploaders