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MYSORE PALACE
Documentary Film Series on Mysore Palace

INTRODUCTION

The Garden City of Mysore, a tourists paradise, has nail and artistic backdrop in the form of the Chamundi Hill on which resides the presiding deity of Mysore and its Royal Family, Goddess Chamundeshwari. The City derives its hoary past the Hill itself. Mahavamasa and Dipavamsa, the Buddhist texts, allude to the despatch of Buddhist missionary, Mahadeva by Asoka to Mahishamandala to propagate the Buddhist Dharma. Mahishamandala is identified with Mahisuru, the City of buffalo demon Mahishasura, who was vanquished by Durga and established herself on the hill in the form of Chamunda.

With the traditional founding of the Mysore dynasty, in 1399 A.D. by Yaduraya, Mysore has seen 24 rulers. However, until the emergence of Raja Wadiyar in 1578 A.D. the Mysore Kingdom was a small feudatory Kingdom under the Vijayanagam Kingdom. With the fall of Vijayanagara in 1565 A.D. the Wadiyars of Mysore, inherited and perpetuated the traditions of Vijayanagara. Raja Wadiyar ascended the throne with pomp and pageantry in 1610 A.D., in Srirangapatna which was then the Capital and inaugurated the Dasara festivities which are still celebrated with all grandeur. The most celebrated Kings after Raja Wadiyar who contributed to the cultural heritage of Mysore are Ranadhira Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadiyar (1638-1659 A.D.), Chikka Devaraja Wadiyar (1673-1704 A.D.),

Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar (m) (1799-1868 A.D.), Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar (TV) (1902-1940 A.D.) and Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar from 1940 till the establishment of the Republic of India.

There was an interregnum between 1761 and 1799 when Haidar Ali and Ms celebrated son Tipu Sultan were virtually the rulers of the State until Tipu fell at the capture of Srirangapatna by the British in 1799. The five year old Prince Krishnaraja Wadiyar III, was then installed as the King of Mysore on the throne of his ancestors in 1799.

THE MYSORE PALACE - ITS HISTORY & ARCHITECTURE

The Old Palace

Annals of the Mysore Royal Family (Srimanmaharajaravara Vamsavali) inform us that the Rajas of the fourteenth century were living in a Palace in Mysore. However, the first definite mention of the Mysore Palace is available, when in about 1638 A.D. it is said to have been rebuilt by Ranadhira Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadiyar, after it had been struck and damaged by lightning.

 

Added to this was the fire. In 1897, at the close of the festivities, during the marriage of the princess Jayalakshmmanniyavaru, the grater 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 has been recorded.

The New Palace

In order to restore the grandeur of the Mysore Palace, Her Highness, the Maharani Vanivilasa Sannidhana, C.L., 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 lrwin, architect of the Viceregal Lodge at Simla and Consulting Architect with the Government of Madras, were approved. The construction was inaugurated by Her Highness in October of 1897 and Mr. B.P. Raghavulu Naidu, A.C.E., Executive Engineering, Palace Division, Mysore State was placed in charge of the building of the new palace, as the old palace had burnt to a certain extent and destroyed by fire. He had an extensive study of architecture design at Calcutta, Delhi and Agra to be incorporated in the New Palace which stands even today as a splendid edifice of his work, and artists ability. He was also in charge of improvement of Mysore with New Bazaars and buildings and was responsible to build the Marriage Pavilion "The Jagan Mohan Palace" in 1900. He obtained many awards for has engineering skill from the palace as well as an award at Franco-British exhibition of 1908 for an artistic Show Case Exhibit.

The construction of the palace was completed in 1912 at an aggregate outlay of Rs.41,47,913. Two special features in the construction of tills palace are noteworthy: utilisation of local materials as far as possible and adoption of fireproof methods of construction which was be an essential feature of the new design.

The main building is of massive grey granite, three storeyed, and dominated by a five storeyed 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. Above the central arches as the parapet is the sculpture of Gajalaksmi. 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. Immediately to the south is the beautiful Kalyana mantapa or the marriage pavilion. On the first floor, still facing east, is the great Durbar hall, Diwun-e-Ain, measuring 47.25 in (155 feet long) by 12.80 m (42 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 Kalyanamantapa or the marriage pavilion, in the ground floor, is a beauty to look at. The octagonal, painted pavilion has a colourful stained-glass wiling.

The designing of the stained decorations is said to have been done by the artists of Mysore, but executed by the famous Walter Macfarlane Saracen Foundry at Glasgow. The dome is supported by clusters of triple cast iron pillars, at intervals. The main theme of the stained glass decoration as well as that of the mosaic floor is the peacock. Hence this hall is also called peacock pavilion.

Apart from the stained-glass decoration which is the central attraction, the walls of this pavilion are covered with murals, depicting the famous Mysore Dasara.

The Dasara or the Festival of Ten nights was first celebrated on a grand scale by the rulers of Vijayanagar, at Hampi. We have graphic accounts of these festivities in the accounts of the contemporary foreign travellers like the Portuguese Domingo Paes, the Persian ambassador Abdur Razaak who visited Vijayanagar. With the disintegration of the Vijayanagar empire, it was the Nayaks of Keladi and Ikkeri, and Wadiyars of Mysore who inherited the traditions of Vijayanagar. The Mysore rulers made the Dasara immortal by the grand festivities for ten days, culminating in the famous procession of the Kind in a Golden howdah, on a decorated elephant.

However, the Mysore artists, under the patronage of, and commissioned by, the noble Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, have immortalized the Dasara procession, on canvas, in 26 panels, on the walls of the marriage pavilion. Thus, the Kalyanamantapa is not only a architectural beauty, but a veritable gallery of paintings.
Mahabharata fame, and was in Hastinapura. Kampilaraya brought this throne from Hastmapura to Penugonda, now in Andhra Pradesh, where it was kept underground.

The public Durbar Hall is a massive pillared hall, which deserves to be rnaintai.ned as such. The rear walls have paintings by Raja Ravivarma (Rama breaking the Siva Dhanus), and eight forms of Devi, viz., Kalika, Navadurga, Mahishamardini, Saraswati, Mahalakshmi, Bhuvanesvari, Gayatri and Rajarajeshvari, by a distinguished local artist-sculptor Sri Shilpi Siddalingaswami. The central panel has a large paintings 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., Krishnaraja Wadiyar III, Chamaraja Wadiyar, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV with his younger brother Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadiyar, and the handsome prince Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, the last king who ruled the princely State before it merged into the Indian Union. All the paintings are encased in delicately carved teak-wood frames, which are by themselves works of art.

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 top. Since the hall does not have any intermediate pillars, it provided 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 painting of the twelve zodiac signs surrounding the trinity of the Hindu pantheon, Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. The Artist was Sri Shilpi Siddalingawamy.

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 marble slabs fixed on the eastern face of the northern and southern wings. They record that under the patronage of Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, the construction of the new Durbar Hall was carried 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 colours. The beauty of many of the details is unsurpassed in the Palace. The floor, in between the pillars is inlaid with Agra 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, or tiny Krishna kissing his toe, as he lies on the pipal 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, late His Highness Krishnaraja Wadiyar 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 his blended blue, gold and red to provide a pleasing colour 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 begging Alms from Yashodhara and Rahula (done in 1933-34) and Shakuntala taking leave of sage Kanva (done in 1928).

The star attraction of the Mysore Palace is the traditional ceremonial golden throne.

The golden throne, consists of the main seat, a staircase, and the golden umbrella. A benedictory verse, forming part of the Sanskrit inscription, consisting of 24 Slokas in Anusthubh metre. engraved on the rim of the umbrella.

According to this epigraph, which is addressed to Krishnaraja Wadiyar III, the bejewelled golden throne has come down to the Mysore royal family from generations of kings.

The history of the remarkable throne is exciting. According to one tradition this throne belonged to the Pandavas

In 1336 A.D. Vidyaranya, the royal preceptor of the Vijayanagar kings, pointed out the spot where it was buried, to Hiriham I, one of the founders of the Vijayanagar empire, who retrieved this. This auspicious throne was then used by the Vijayanagar kings at Anegondi, for more than a century and a ha!f. During the early part of the 17th century, the Governor of Vijayanagar rulers at Srirangapatna obtained this and brought it there.

After the fall of Tipu Sultan, this throne was recovered from a room in the Sultan's Palace at Srirangapatna. It is learnt that this royal seat was quickly renovated and used in the coronation of the child Raja, Krishnaraja Wadiyar III in 1799. Since then this ceremonial throne remained with the Mysore royal family.

Originally made of figwood, this throne is said to have been decorated with ivory plaques. Later on, in course of time, it was decorated and be jewelled with golden embellishment and silver figurines. In a Sanskrit work called Devatanama Kusumamanjari composed by King Krishnaraja Wadiyar III, in 1859, there is a detailed description of the golden throne:

"The throne is decorated with golden pillars and mango leaves. The balustrades of the steps leading to the seat are embellished with female figures. The golden umbrella has festoons. The seat has the tortoise seat (Kurmasana). The four sides of the throne are decorated with Vyalas and creepers. Elephants on the east, horse on the south, soldiers on the west and chariots on the north decorate the royal seat. Brahma towards the south, Mahashwara on the north and Vishnu in the centre form the Tinity. In the corners, are fond Vijaya and four lions, two of the mythical Shardulas, two horse and swans in the four corners. It is further adorned with Naga nymphs and Ashthadikpalas or the guardians of the eight quarters".

This throne is a work of art. Although it has undergone slight alterations in the 1940s, it has retained the original artistic, decorative features.

The vast open space, in front of the Palace, with the planned garden that is being laid out, adds charm and majesty to the entire structure. "The place is known for its illumination. The entire building is lined with rows of bulbs, following the contours of the structure, and when lit up, it looks like a Place of lights. It is no wonder that visitors to the Palace exclaim, that the Mysore Place has no comparison anywhere in the world and is unique".

The other main attraction of the Palace are :

(1) The Fort, (2) Cannons, (3) The Dolls Pavilion (Gombe Thotti), (4) The Golden Howdah, (5) Marriage Pavilion (Kalyana Mantapa), (6) Portrait Gallery, (7) Period Furniture Room, (8) The Trophies, (9) The Armory, (10) The Durbar Hall

TEMPLES

In this Palace complex, there are temples like :

(1) Kodi Bhairavasvami Temple, (2) Sri. Lakshmiramana Swami Temple, (3) Sri Shveta Varahaswami Temple, (4) Sri. Trinarayaneshwara Swami Temple, (5) Sri. Trinarayaneshwara Swami Temple, (6) Killi Venkataramana Swami Temple, (7) Sri. Bhuvaneshwari Temple, (8) Sri Gayatri Temple.