Social life in Thanjavur, with its religious practises, caste traditions and conventional distinctions, continued with no perceptible change throughout the eighteenth century. The people, divided as they were by different religious systems and diverse caste distinctions lived at variance with one another. The Hindu religion commanded the largest following with the rest of the population pursuing either Islam or Christianity as their faiths. Castes and sub castes running to a large multitude presented insurmountable impediments to mobility within the society and their susceptibility to external influences. The world in which Tyagaraja strove experienced war with Muslims, the ascendancy of British power and the decline of the rajas (Nayakas and Marathas).
The presence of the followers of Islam in Thanjavur and Tiruchirapalli districts are well attested. They were assigned a minor role in administration, yet appear to be affluent. As per the history of Thanjavur in the lyrics of Tyagaraja, there are no direct references to the presence of Muslims or the influence they exerted on society. In one composition, namely Samayamu Delise in raga Asaveri, he seems to make an indirect reference in the line Thurakkaveethilo vipruniki panaka puja neraya jesiyemi meaning, it is of no value if a Panakapuja for Brahmin is done in Muhammadan quarters. The persecution of Muslims is on record during Maratha rule in Thanjavur. In fact one can also hear of Rahman, the Hindustani musician at the court of Sivaji II. And also get to learn of Syed Hussain and Dolak Nannumiyan Saheb. Reference to 'Thurakkaveethi' by Tyagaraja is suggestive. Perhaps Muslims lived in quarters of their own.
Evidences pertaining to the period speak more about the presence of Christian Missionaries at Thanjavur. In AD 1765, the Jesuits of Puducherry extended their activity to Thanjavur. During the second half of the eighteenth century the Jesuits made no great stride due to the growing influence of Protestantism. Reverend Schwartz, a German by birth, founded the Thanjavur Mission in AD 1778. Reportedly Tukhoji persecuted the Christians. Sarabhoji II extended state patronage to Western musicians. In fact Tyagaraja has incorporated Western band tunes into a handful of his compositions. Judged from available evidences religious toleration seems to have been the general policy of the Maratha State of Thanjavur. The secular view point is evident from the expressions of Tyagaraja through his lyrics. He puts down the pride of inferior people who revel in sectarian differences (matha-bheda patitamunava madasantatabhanga).
The disintegration consequent to the cleavage of Hindu society into several sectarian groups and multiplicity of gods and goddesses seems to have caused greater concern to Tyagaraja. We have ample historical evidence to confirm that the Maratha rule at Thanjavur was a hotbed of sectarian philosophic controversy and wonderful genius and energy were called upon to avert the great crisis to which Advaita and Visishtadvaita were subjected to, at times even under the auspices of the state.
Tyagaraja's condemnation of such philosophic controversies is patent. Does it conduce to happiness or bring any benefit to indulge in disputations about different faiths is the question posed.
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