The Legacy and Beauty of Mysore and Mysore Palace | Mysuru Karnataka | Mysore | Mysore palace | Mysore palace in India | Mysuru Karnataka | Mysuru Palace
Table of Contents
Introduction – Mysuru Karnataka
The Mysuru Palace is located in the Heritage City of Mysuru. It is the main attraction of Mysuru and a prime destination specially from Bangalore. This can be visited during a weekend. It attracts thousands of Tourists every day and more than 3.50 million tourists annually.
If you plan to visit India and want to visit Mysore, this post will take you through the important information and historical background of the place. Mysore or Mysuru is also known as the Garden City, a tourist’s paradise, has a natural and artistic backdrop in the form of the Chamundi Hill on which resides the presiding Deity of Mysore and its Royal Family, Goddess Chamundeshwari. Very less known that this was once a kingdom of the Demon Mahishasura who was killed by goddess Durga. Chamundi hills is the place where she settled, and she is the family deity of the Royal Family of Mysore. The city derives its hoary past on the hill itself.
Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa the Buddhist texts, allude to the dispatch of Buddhist missionary, Mahadeva by Ashoka to Mahishamandala to propagate the Buddhism. Mahishamandala is identified with Mahishasura, the City of the Buffalo Demon Mahishasura, who was killed by Durga and established herself on the Hill in the form of Chamundi.
Mahishamandala is identified with Mahishasura, the City of the Buffalo Demon Mahishasura, who was killed by Durga and established herself on the Hill in the form of Chamundi.
The most ancient temple in the city is the temple of Mahabaleshwara on the Chamundi Hill. In the premises and walls of Mahabaleshwara temple, there is an inscription dating back to A.D.950, according to which this sacred spot was known as Mobbela Tirtha, perhaps referring to Mahabala Tirtha.
Donations to Mahabala Tirtha by famous Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana is recorded in an inscription in the same temple dating back to 1128A.D.
Kodi-Bhairaveshvara temple on the bank of the Doddakere which means The Big Tank in the city is another sacred temple. This shrine is closely linked with the founding of the Mysore Wodeyar Dynasty.
The foundation of Mysuru Wodeyar Dynasty
According to traditions, in 1399 A.D. two brothers, Yaduraya and Krishnaraya also known as Vijaya and Krishna travelled from Dwaraka in Gujarat to worship Lord Narayana of Melukote, through Vijayanagara on the way. They were enchanted by the beauty of Mahisur (Mysore) and made it their abode.
They were directed in a dream to await the arrival of Saint (Jangama) and to spend the night in the temple of Kodi Bhairava. During the early hours of the morning, they overheard the difficult and embrassing situation in which Princess Devajammanni of the little Kingdom of Mysore was placed. King Chamaraja had died, Maranayaka, the Commander-in-chief of Karugahalli, was harassing the Queen of Chamaraja to give her daughter in marriage to him so that he could become the King.
The Queen was also directed by her family Deity, in her dream, to send the family Priest to Kodi Bhairava temple. The Priest visited the temple as directed. He informed the brothers about the situation in the Palace.
A fake marriage was arranged between the Princess and Maranyaka. The Princess accompanied by the Priest went to Hadinaru, a small village 25 kms. away from Mysore to attend the fake marriage. Two brothers then killed Maranayaka and his followers. The princess Devajammanni was married to Yaduraya, who thus founded the Mysore Wodeyar’ Dynasty.
Royal Family of Mysore
With the traditional founding of Mysore Wodeyars’ Dynasty, in 1399 A.D. by Yaduraya, Mysore has seen 24 Rulers. However, until the emergence of Raja Wodeyar in 1578 A.D the Mysore Kingdom was a small feudatory Kingdom under the Vijayanagar Kingdom.
With the fall of Vijayanagar in 1565 A.D. the Wodeyars of Mysore inherited and kept alive the traditions of Vijayanagar. Raja Wodeyar ascended the throne with pomp and magnificence in 1610 A.D., in Srirangapatna which was then the capital and inaugurated the Dasara Festivities which are still celebrated with all greatness.
The most celebrated Kings after Raja Wodeyar who contributed to the Cultural Heritage of Mysore are Ranadhira Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadeyar (1638-1659 A.D.), Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar (1673-1704 A.D), Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar III (1794 – 1868), Chamaraja Wodeyar X (1863-1894), Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV (1884-1940).
Krishnaraja Wodeyar their younger brother Kanteerava Narashimharaj Wodeyar. Yuvaraj of Mysore. And his son Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar from 1940-1950 were the 1ast king of Mysore, till the establishment of the Republic of India.
There was an interruption between 1761 and 1799 when Haidar Ali and his celebrated son Tipu Sultan were virtually the Rulers of the State until Tipu fell at the capture of Srirangapatna by the Britishers in 1799. The five-year-old Prince Krishanraja Wadeyar III, was then installed as the King of Mysore on the throne of his ancestors in 1799.
The History and Architecture of Mysuru Palace
The Old Palace of Mysore
Records and History of the Mysore Royal Family (Srimanmaharajaravaravamsavali: Shri-Man-Maharajavara-Vamsavali) inform us that the Rajas of the fourteenth century were living in a palace in Mysore. However, the first definite mention of the present Mysore Palace is available, when in about 1630 A.D. it is said to have been rebuilt by Ranadhira Kantheerava Narasaraja Wodeyar, after it had been struck and damaged by lightning.
He is credited to have rebuilt Soundarya Vilasa, Namatirtha and other Pavilions (“Thottis” in Kannada according to the Kannada nomenclature) around the reconstructed Palace and placed seven cannons with four carriages with Ammunition boxes of which had distinct names. The main ones among them were Ramachandra, Muddukrishna and Simha.
In 1760, Krishnaraja Wodeyar II, was invited to visit his capital Mysore, and his Palace by his Prime Minister Haidar Ali. In 1793, Tipu Sultan is said to have removed all the old and dilapidated buildings including the Palace, but excluding Temples, in order to build the new city of Nazarbad.
Even in 1799 there appears to have been no Palace worth the name in Mysore. As per the Duke of Wellington emphatically states that there were no house at all, suitable for the coronation of the young Raja in 1795, and therefore, it had to take place in a Shamiana or Pendal, erected in Nazarbad. The duke then, Col. Arthur Wellesley wrote again to his brother Henry on May-26-1801, in a letter:
“The Raja’s Family have moved into the old Mysore where their ancient Palace has been rebuilt in the same form in which it was formerly and I believe, on the old foundations. The whole family appears to be as happy as we wished they should be when this Government was established. Mysore is becoming a large and handsome town full of inhabitants.” In 1803, Lord Valentia visited Mysore, and described the Palace as small, neat but unfinished. He further said that there was a handsome gateway.
It appears that the Palace which was hastily built in just about two years was in bad repairs by the end of the 19th century and many of the tenements attached to it were crumbling. Added to this was the fire in 1897 at the close of the festivities, during the marriage of the Princess Jayalakshmammanni Yavaru. The greater part of this wooden Palace was almost destroyed by fire. We are fortunate to have a photograph of this wooden Palace taken by one John Birdwood who was a Lancer in the Mysore Army and who later became the Commander-in-Chief of Indian Army and later on he was the master of Peter House, Cambridge. He presented the Photograph to His Highness in 1929.
An excellent description of this wooden Palace as it was before disastrous fire of February 1897 is recorded by the Author of the Mysore Gazetteer which is worthy of note: “The Palace of the Maharaja which is situated inside the fort, facing nearly due east, is built in the Hindu Style and with the exception of a few paintings executed by European Painters at various times while in the Palace employ, contains little trace of the influence of European art. The front, which is gaily painted and supported by four elaborately carved wooden pillars, comprises the Sejje or Dasara Hall, on open gallery where the Maharaja is in the habit of showing himself to the people on great occasions, seated on his Throne.
Its principal gate opens on a passage under the Sejje, leading to an open yard. At the further or west side of this courtyard is the door leading to the womens’ apartments, which occupy most of the western portion of the Palace. The northern side, comprises various offices, such as the Armory, Library, etc., and on the south are the rooms occupied by the Maharaja, of these the most interesting is the Ambavilasa, an upstairs room sixty-five feet square and ten feet high with a raised ceiling in the center. It was here that the former Raja received his European guests stayed and transacted the ordinary business of the day.
A wooden railing separated that portion of the room in which the Raja’s seat was placed from the rest, and adjacent wall was hung with pictures principally of officers connected at different periods, with Mysore, which His Highness was accustomed to uncover and point out to his European visitors. The floor was of chunam and with the exception of the doors, which were overlaid with the richly carved ivory or silver, there was no attempt at magnificence or display.
This hall has been recently entirely renewed in more modern style and the ceiling raised on handsome iron pillars. The sleeping and eating apartments of the Raja, which are for the most parts small and confined all opened upon the Ambavilasa, and just outside it was the stall in which was kept the cow worshipped by His Highness, the chapel is adjacent. Although the palace had been almost entirely built the year 1800 it was in very bad repair and many of the tenements attached to it were crumbling to ruin.
The only remaining portion of the palace of the old Hindu dynasty which Tipu Sultan had demolished, is a room in the interior, with mud wall of great thickness and stability. This is known as the Painted Hall, owing to the decoration of its ceiling and is said to have been the state room of the old Palace which was a much less pretentious building. As with most oriental courts, there was no attempt at isolation and except in front where there is an open space, the palace was pressed close on all sides by the dwellings of the poorest inhabitants.”Source: Mysuru Guidebook.
The New Mysore Palace
In order to restore the grandeur of the Mysore Palace, Her Highness, the Maharani Vanivilasa Sannidhana, C.I., then regent, decided to build a new palace on the model and on the foundations of the old palace. The architectural plans by Mr. Henry Irwin, architect of the Vice regal lodge at Shimla and Consulting Architect with the Government of Madras, were approved.
The construction which was inaugurated by Her Highness in October of 1897 was completed in 1912 at an aggregate out lay of Rs. 41,47,913. Two special features in the construction of this Palace are noteworthy: utilization of local materials as far as possible and adoption of fireproof methods of construction which was to be essential future of the new design.
The main building is of massive grey granite, three storied, and dominated by a five storied tower covered by a gilded dome. The tower is about 145 feet from the ground to the golden flag on its summit, the imposing facade has seven big arches and two small arches flanking the central arch, supported by tall pillars.
The sculpture of Gajalakshmi is located above the central arches on the parapet. The palace, like the old, is built around an open courtyard, called Thotti, open to the sky. To the east of this Thotti on the ground floor, is the impressive elephant gate.
The stunning Marriage Pavilion, also known as Kalyana Mantap, is located directly to the south. On the first floor, still facing east, is the great Durbar Hall, Divan-E-Aam, measuring 86m (282.7 feet long) by 39m (129 feet wide). On the same floor, towards the south is a daintily decorated private Durbar Hall, called Ambavilasa, the Diwan-E-Khas.
The second floor has several rooms and large halls on the sides. The Kalyana Mantapa or the Marriage Pavilion, on the ground floor, is a beauty to look at. The octagonal, painted pavilion has a colorful stained-glass ceiling. Although the renowned Walter Macfarlane Saracen Foundry in Glasgow carried out the execution, the stained decorations are credited to Mysore artists for their design.
The dome is supported by clusters of triple cast iron pillars, at intervals. The peacock is the primary theme in both the stained-glass decoration and the mosaic floor. Hence, this hall is also called Peacock Pavilion.
In addition to the main attraction, the stained-glass decoration, this pavilion features murals all over the walls that feature the well-known Mysore Dasara. The Vijayanagar rulers held the first elaborate Dasara celebrations at Hampi, also known as the Festival of Ten Nights. There are graphic accounts of these festivities in the accounts of the contemporary Foreign Travelers like Portuguese Domingo Paes & the Persian ambassador Abdur Razzak who visited Vijayanagar.
During the visit of Dr. M.S. Nagaraja Rao to Glasgow, in 1979, he learnt with deep sorrow that this famous Foundry went out of business in as late as 1965 and all the records connected with the firm were consumed in a bonfire.
However, advertisement in the volume of the local Chamber of Commerce proudly announces and illustrates the Ambavilasa Durbar Hall of Mysore Palace as the work executed by Walter Macfarlane of Glasgow.
With the disintegration of the Vljayanagar empire, it was the Nayakas of Keladi and Ikkeri, and Wadeyars of Mysore who inherited the traditions of Vljayanagar. The Mysore Rulers made the Dasara immortal by the grand festivities for ten days, culminating in the famous procession of the King in a Golden Howdah, on a decorated elephant.0
However, the Mysore artists under the patronage of and commissioned by, the noble Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, have immortalized the Dasara procession, on canvas, in 26 panels, on the walls of the Marriage Pavilion. Thus, the Kalyana mandapam is not only an architectural beauty, but a veritable gallery of paintings.
The public Durbar Hall is a massive pillared hall which deserves to be maintained as such. The rear walls have paintings by Raja Ravi Varma (Rama breaking the Shiva Dhanus) and eight forms of Devi, viz., Kalika, Navadurga, Mahishamardini, Saraswati, Mahalakshmi, Bhuvaneswari, Gayatri and Rajarajeshwari by a distinguished local artist sculptor Sri Shilpi Siddalingaswami.
The central panel has a large painting of the Mysore Royal family by another distinguished artist late Sri Y. Nagaraju who has also executed some of the panels in the Marriage Pavilion. The interesting feature of this panel, however, is that it depicts four generations of Mysore Kings, viz., Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1794-1868), Chamaraja Wodeyar (1863-1894), 24th King Krishnaraja Wodeyar IVth (1884-1940), the 25th Last king of Mysore Jaya Chamarajendra Wodeyar (ruled: 1919-1950 i.e. till the establishment of the Republic of India.) Jaya Chamarajendra Wodeyar Died in 1974.
All the paintings are encased in delicately carved teak-wood frames, which are by themselves works of art. The majestic Durbar Hall can itself be best described in the words of Constance E. Parsons who says
“No short description, if any, can do justice to the beauty of line, wealth of material, blaze of color and exuberance of decoration in the great Durbar Hall. Walls vie with ceilings, columns with doorways, and both by daylight and when ablaze with thousands of fairy lights. The hall gathers up and displays all that poets and artists have dreamed of the splendid setting of an oriental court: all the glamour and glory of the thousand nights and one night.”E. Parsons
The Durbar Hall was extended on the eastern side in front of the old one during the year 1932. The facade has nine arches in front supported by ornamental pillars, carrying a beautiful balcony on the top. Since the hall does not have any intermediate pillars, it provides an uninterrupted view of the throne and various functions at the durbars. The room immediately above the descending gallery is covered with sheets of asbestos which are painted, depicting the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
The central panel of the ceiling has the paintings of the twelve zodiac signssurrounding the trinity of the Hindu pantheon Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. The Artist was Sri Shilpi Siddalingaswamy.
The frontage of the Durbar Hall was further improved with the additions of the side wings with double towers, all cut in stone.
There are two inscriptions on the marble slabs fixed on the eastern face of the northern and southern wings. They record that under the patronage of Krinsnaraja Wodeyar IV, the construction of the new Durbar Hall was carried out by Engineers whose names are recorded. The Ambavilasa, which is the Diwan-E-Khas, is the most gorgeously decorated hall, with a harmonious composition in colors.
The beauty of many of the details is unsurpassed in the Palace. The floor in between the pillars is inlaid with Agra work, work but completed by local boys and men. The teak-wood ceiling too is magnificent having bold and intricate carved designs. Every door silver, teak and rosewood with ivory inlay, has charming decorative designs, depicting the ten incarnations of Vishnu, & tiny Krishna kissing his toe, as he lies on the Peepal leaf.
The central aisle has a beautiful stained-glass ceiling decorated with delicate designs, supported by cast-iron pillars, all of which are manufactured by the famous McFarlane of Glasgow. The beautification of the Ambavilasa was entrusted to that celebrated artist of Karnataka, Sri K. Venkatappa. While assigning the work, His Highness Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV said, “You have devoted your whole life for the study of fine arts and have made great name in your life. You have brought much credit to my State, and I consider it as a pride.
My only ambition is to show you, through your art, to the distinguished visitors that come here, and say that it is my countryman’s work.” A look at this beautiful hall, where Venkatappa has blended Blue, Gold and Red to provide a pleasing color scheme, shows that the great artist has lived up to the expectations of late His Highness.
The dainty hall also has three plaster of Paris bas-reliefs of the great artist K. Venkatappa, fixed to the southern wall interspersing the windows. They represent Hanuman receiving the signet ring from Rama (done in 1930), Buddha receiving Alms from Yashodhara and Rahula (done in 1933-34) and Shakuntala taking leave of Sage Kanva (done in 1928).
Summary – Mysore Palace in India
The legacy and beauty of Mysore’s Wodeyar Dynasty and Mysore Palace is magnificent. The destination is not very far away from Bengaluru and can easily be covered during a weekend. This is a great destination after you visit Hampi. Mysore is famous for its Dussehra celebration. The Royal family is still there and there is a legacy of Mysore’s Golden throne as well.
The Legacy and Beauty of Mysore and Mysore Palace | Mysuru Karnataka | Mysore | Mysore palace | Mysore palace in India | Mysuru Karnataka | Mysuru Palace
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