In 1675, a column of Bijapur army came to Thanjavur to help Vijayaraghava and retrieved Vallam from the Madurai Nayak. However the same army subsequently killed Vijayaraghava Nayak and Ekoji as a great warrior managed to ascend the throne of Thanjavur kingdom. After Ekoji, his three sons namely Shaji, Serfoji I, Thukkoji alias Thulaja I ruled Thanjavur. Then the mantle was handed to Bava Saheb (son of Thukkoji) and after his death his Queen Sujan Bai (wife of Bava Saheb). The Maratha rule was further continued by the rule of Prathaba simha, Thulaja II, Amarasimha, Serfoji II, and Sivaji. Mention may be made of the flourishing of literature, art and architecture in the Maratha rule. The Prominent kings among the Maratha kingdom are noted below:
Ekoji I proved himself a great patron of scholars, besides constructing canals and tanks, reclaiming fallow lands and repairing villages destroyed by floods.
His wife, Deepabai Ingle, wrote short verses and was the author of several devotional and philosophical poems. Ekoji's minister, Narasimha Rao, wrote several books in Sanskrit and Marathi, while the well-known Marathi poet, Raghunatha Pandita, wrote his Damayanti Swayamwara and Pativrata Dharma at this time.
Ekoji died in 1684. A contemporary Telugu work by Shivarama Kavi entitled Karnakalanidhi describes Ekoji's heroic defence of Trichi Fort from the Mysore army.
|» Shahji II (1684-1711 A.D.)
Shahji was a versatile writer in Telugu, Marathi and Sanskrit and was credited with being the progenitor of the Pada Sahitya. Shahji's reign was rich in architecture and literature. His greatest contribution to literature was Chandrashekhara Vilasa, Shabdaranava Samanvaya, Shabdaratna Sangraha, Shringara Manjari etc., He wrote more than 40 dramas and thousands of Padas.
|» Serfoji I (1711-1729 A.D.)
Shahji was succeeded by his brotherSerfoji . He was a great warrior and patron of letters. Serfoji inherited the wealth and talent from his elder brother. During his period, the famous court poets were Venkata kavi, Rama Pandita, Shyamaraja and Renukadasa.
|» Tukkoji I (1729-1735 A.D.) (alias Thulaja I)
Serfoji's brother Tukkoji ruled for eight years, and he patronised Hindustani classical music. Tukkoji wrote the Sangeeta Saramrita. Tukkoji was also a scholar in Sanskrit, Marathi, Tamil and Persian. He was the author of Dhanvantri Vilasa and the prominent literary figures in his court were Sangeeta Saramrutha Sadashiva and Ghanashyama.
|» Ekoji II (Bava Saheb) (1735-1736 A.D.)
He was the only son of Tukkoji I and he ruled only one year after his father's demise.
|» Pratapasimha (1739-1763 A.D.)
Pratapasimha was, initially, a reluctant ruler. Among his first actions was to imprison and later kill the powerful Khilledar Syed. He allied with the English and, in response to an appeal from Muhammed Ali of Tiruchi, attacked Chanda Sahib. Pratapasimha's General Manoji helped capture the fort of Arcot. Pratapasimha's period is one of continuous war, caught as he was between the French and the English and their lackeys, Muhammed Ali of Tiruchi and Chanda Sahib of Arcot.
Pratapasimha was a popular ruler, the last of the great kings of Thanjavur. He was served by the able men such as Manoji, his General, who was pro-English and able to estimate the trends of his times, and the Dabir Pandita, an expert on revenue and administration. Pratapasimha was also a very tolerant ruler and built the mosque at Nagore, endowing it with fifteen villages. Pratapasimha was a prolific author in Marathi who wrote Krishna Manjari, Uma Samhita and Parijata Nataka.
|» Tulajaji II (1763-1787 A.D.)
Tuljaji was a patron of Marathi literature. Aluri Kuppanna was conferred the title of Andhra Kalidasa by Tuljaji. It was during this period works such as Panchanatha sthalapuranam, Ramayana Yakshaganas, Bhagavatha Stories, Indumathi Parinayam etc., were popular in his court.
|» Amara simha (1787-1798 A.D.)
On Tuljaji's death in 1787, Amara simha is said to have increased the ratio of Kudivaram and alienated much land as inams or free gifts to learned men. He developed apathy towards the authoritarianism of the British and consequently he lost his throne in 1798.
He showed interest in Telugu and Sanskrit dramas. Mathru Boothana was a famous poet in his court and he composed parijatapahavanam, which bears similarity to Kuchupudi Dance.
|» Serfoji II (1798-1832 A.D.)
Serfoji ascended the throne in 1798. Serfoji devoted his life to the pursuit of culture and Thanjavur became renowned as a seat of learning. He erected a monument in marble in the chapel at Thanjavur for Schwartz, the missionary who introduced him to western learning. Serfoji's love of learning and thirst for knowledge led him to enrich Sarasvati Mahal Library, which was a Palace Library. He evinced keen interest in the development of the Library. He purchased around 4000 books from abroad at his own cost, read them and left them in the Library. Medical treatises, in the library collection contained his remarks alongside, in English. His library included treatises on Vedanta, grammar, music, dance and drama, architecture, astronomy, medicine, training of elephants and horses, etc.
Serfoji setup the first Devanagari printing press in South India, using stone letters. He had a small museum of old coins.
His Durbar hall was decorated with oil paintings of Maratha rulers of Thanjavur, besides other prints and paintings in the library. His unique architectural contribution is an eight- storied tower manora at Saluvanayaka pattinam, to commemorate the victory of British over Napolean, in the Battle Leepick in the year 1813 .A.D He being a scholar and writer sent many Pundits far and wide and collected huge number of books and manuscripts for this Library.
Dhanavantari Mahal where physicians of Allopathy, Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha researched their systems of medicine has eighteen volumes of the results of their studies. He had the important herbs studied and catalogued in the form of exquisite hand paintings. His pilgrimage to Benaras was also recorded in the form of eight plates. Serfoji patronised music, dance and the fine arts. He constructed several choultries and initiated poor- feeding, besides funding several Vedic yagnas, as exemplified in an inscription at Orathanadu.
Several foreigners of great reputation and scholarship such as Bishop Heber, Dr. Buchanan, Bishop Middleton and Lord Valentia, who paid a visit to Thanjavur court, have left valuable impressions of the Raja and his cultural activities. Let us hear from Bishop Heber: - " I have been passing the last four days in the society of a Hindu Prince, the Raja of Thanjavur who quotes Fourcroy, Lavoiser, Linnaeus and Buffon fluently, has formed a more accurate judgement of the poetical merits of Shakespeare than those so felicitously expressed by Lord Byron, and has actually emitted English poetry very superior to Rousseau's epitaph on Shenstone, at the same time that he is much respected by the English Officers in his neighborhood as a real judge of a horse, and a cool, bold and deadly shot of a tiger. The truth is, that he is an extraordinary man, who having in early youth received such an education as old Schwartz, the celebrated missionary could give him, has ever since continued, in the midst of many disadvantages, to preserve his taste for, and extend his knowledge of European literature, while he has never neglected the active exercises and frank soldierly bearing which become, the descendant of the old Maharatta conquerous, and by which only, in the present state of things, he has it in his power to gratify the prejudices of his people and prolong his popularity among them.
To finish the portrait of Maharaja Serfojee, I should tell you that he is a strong built and very handsome middle aged man, with eyes and nose like a fine hawk, and very busy gray mustachios, generally splendidly dressed but with no effeminacy of ornaments and looking and talking more like a favorable specimen of a French General Officer than any other object of comparison that occurs to me".
| » Shivaji II (1833-1855 A.D)
He was the only surviving son of Serfoji II. A pale and sickly child in the words of Heber, and as a man he was noted for his physical and mental attainments. We have few dramas and Panagyrics from his reign. He patronised poets and scholars and encouraged the writers to bring more books. During his period, the temple arts like music, dance etc., were flourished. He also showed keen interest in the upkeep and developments of Sarasvati Mahal Library. On one Varahappaiyar prepared catalogue for all the manuscripts. This titular dignity of the Rajah became extinct on his death without an heir. The Marathas under Shivaji I and his successors had evolved a system of administration, which prevailed in Maharashtra. The Marathas of Thanjavur did not introduce the typical Maratha administration in the conquered territory, but put a then veneer of their own innovations out to an essentially local set up. From Ekoji to Shivaji II, there were Kings and Kings; but their character and competence not only viewed widely but also were circumscribed by circumstances so much so that the best of them was not a Great King and the worst of them was not a cruel tyrant.