19th century painting of Raja Serfoji, son stolen from Thanjavur Saraswathi Mahal traced to U.S. museum

Source: The post is based on the article “19th-century painting of Raja Serfoji, son stolen from Thanjavur Saraswathi Mahal traced to U.S. museum” published in The Hindu on 23rd July 2022.

What is the News?

A rare 19th-century painting of Raja Serfoji and his son Sivaji, which was stolen from Saraswathi Mahal, Thanjavur has been traced to the US Museum.

Who was Maharaja Serfoji?

Maharaja Serfoji was the last of the Bhonsle Rajas of Thanjavur. He was born in 1777 and died in 1832. 

His only son Shivaji ruled until 1855. However, he had no male successor.

Due to this, Thanjavur became a casualty of Lord Dalhousie’s infamous ‘Doctrine of Lapse’ and it got absorbed into British Ruled Indian provinces.

Contributions of Maharaja Serfoji

Library: The Sarasvati Mahal Library was founded as a Palace Library by the Nayak Kings of Thanjavur (1535–1675), it was however Serfoji who enriched it with priceless works, maps, dictionaries, coins and artwork.

Educational Reforms: Serfoji founded a school called Navavidhya Kalanidhi Sala where languages, literature, the sciences and arts and crafts were taught in addition to the Vedas and shastras. 

– Serfoji is also credited with installing a hand press with Devanagari type in 1805, the first of its kind in South India. He also established a stone-type press called “Nava Vidhya Kalanidhi Varnayanthra Sala“.

Medicine: Serfoji established the Dhanavantari Mahal, a research institution that produced herbal (indigenous medicine) medicine for humans and animals.

What is the Doctrine of Lapse?

The Doctrine of Lapse was an annexation policy followed widely by Lord Dalhousie when he was India’s Governor-General from 1848 to 1856.

The doctrine declared that if an Indian ruler died without a male heir his kingdom would “lapse”, that is, become part of Company territory. 

One kingdom after another was annexed simply by applying this doctrine: Satara (1848), Sambalpur (1850), Udaipur (1852), Nagpur (1853), Jhansi (1854) among others.

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