Archive for the ‘Rajas & Maharajas’ Category

To Narendra Modi. From the Maharaja of Mysore

24 April 2014

As the words I, me and myself trip off the ads, lips and trolls of the man who thinks he will rule India soon, a sobering blast from the past. This, here, in his own hand, is a plaque commemorating Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar‘s note to his subjects upon completion of 25 years as the maharaja of Mysore.

Dated the 8th of August 1927, the choice of words is revealing. While the English part of the letter has the King speak of himself in the first person singular—four “I”s and four “my”s—the Kannada part is replete with the collective “namma” (our), with not a word screaming “main” as is now the wont.

The man who thinks he will rule India soon may like to remind himself that it was in Krishnaraja Wodeyar’s reign that Mysore became the first state to have a democratic system of governance.

And as the man who thinks he will rule India blithely watches his minions spew words of exclusion in 2014, it’s also useful to remember that Mysore, under Krishnaraja Wodeyar, was the first State to provide reservations for the weaker sections of society in government jobs.

Also read: Rama, Rama rajya & Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar

When the maharaja’s son failed an examination

Why the Queen sold her diamonds and jewels

T.S. Nagarajan, a legend and a gentleman: RIP

18 February 2014

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tsn_now1churumuri records with deep regret the passing away of the legendary Mysore photographer, T.S. Nagarajan, in Madras this morning. He was 82 years old.

Younger brother of the equally accomplished T.S. Satyan, Mr Nagarajan had been ailing for some time and had shifted from Bangalore to be with his family.

The end came at 10.40 am, according to his daughter Kalyani Pramod.

Mr Nagarajan, a former photographic officer in the photo division of the government of India—who became a photographer thanks to the maharaja’s elephant—spent a lifetime shooting pictures of homes and houses, especially their interiors. He wrote about his “most unforgettable picture” in 2006 without the photograph, letting readers imagine—and then provided the picture (above).

Like Mr Satyan, Mr Nagarajan was brilliant with painting word-pictures and wrote several pieces for churumuri, which he then compiled into a book for private circulation. A 4,624-love story of his wife and life companion for 50 years, Meenakshi—“I thought she would live forever“—was received to global acclaim.

Mr Nagarajan’s most selfless act as a photographer was to make available, through churumuri, in 2008 a picture he shot in 1955 for All India Radio of the Kannada literary legends at one table, for all Kannadigas to use and re-use—free of cost, with these words:

“I had just graduated from the First Grade College and was entertaining ambitions of becoming a photojournalist. I had a broken (and repaired) Argoflex camera, a present from my celebrated elder-brother T.S. Satyan, with which I took this picture.

“Akashvani paid me a handsome sum of Rs 6 for using it in their programme journal.

“I stumbled upon this print while looking for another rare picture of my grandmother from a stack of old prints. I feel this picture does not belong to me now. It belongs to all Kannadigas. Therefore, I request churumuri to offer it on my behalf to all lovers of Kannada by placing it in the public domain.”

A book of his pictures Vanishing Homes of India was released by Mani Ratnam and N. Ram last month.

***

By T.S. Nagarajan: I thought she would live forever

The R.K. Narayan only I knew

The Sharada Prasad only I knew

External reading: The T.S. Nagarajan interview

Did R-Day Tipu tableau insult Kodavas & Jains?

28 January 2014

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ARUN PADKI writes: 65 years after to the day when the Constitution of India was adopted paving the way for the birth of Republic of India, has the government of Karnataka undermined the spirit of our democracy by displaying a tableau of Tipu Sultan?

Knowing very well that the antecedents of Tipu are hazy and not one that could be showcased as a symbol of the State or Karnataka’s pride, the government of Karnataka’s decision to make him the theme of its tableau at this year’s Republic Day parade is not in good taste.

The fact that this tableau was chosen over Kodagu-the land of warriors tableau is only rubbing salt over their wounds.

The contribution of Kodavas to this country is immense and on this community Tipu committed atrocities unimaginable that befits a king. Only a warlord or one with extreme perversion and hatred could do these heinous acts of murder, maiming and forceful conversion.

The other people who suffered similar atrocities during Tipu’s regime were the people from Coastal Karnataka, mainly Catholics and the people of Malabar who were forced to flee to a friendlier King, the Raja of Travancore and the rest staying back, after accepting a religion forced onto them.

The government could have chosen from and done justice to the citizens of the state and country by showing Karnataka in true spirit: The splendour of Mysore Dasara in the 18th century or the Saavira Kambada Basadi (thousand-pillared temple), a Jain temple that is spell binding.

Since Dasara has its own platform to exhibit’s the splendour, this can be given a miss.  As a true Mysorean, even I would not complain since we are a State with lots of diversity. One State, many worlds…indeed!

For centuries Jains in Karnataka have given more to the society than one can imagine.  If the monuments they have built, their generosity and the benign leaders of the past are one aspect, the education institutions of today and the charity work they are doing in today’s world is another.

They do not ask for favours from Government unlike others although the the UPA government has conferred them the title of ‘minority’ in an election year.

Tipu’s contribution to culture, literature, Kannada language and more importantly secularism is always questioned.  Kannada was replaced with Farsi language.  As far as making him a freedom fighter is concerned, biased historians have compromised on his correspondences with the French to overthrow the British.

The Government of Karnataka has played dirty politics by displaying a tableau of Tipu with the elections in mind.  It is for the people who are the target of appeasement here to understand the facts of about Tipu and not get swayed by these short term gimmicks.  Mutual respect and equality is important than being appeased or tolerated.

And today, Kodavas and Jains, being small communities, have become inconsequential to the politicians as they are not a vote bank.

Also read: Oldest book in President’s house is on Tipu Sultan

Should a University be named after Tipu Sultan?

CHURUMURI POLL: Tipu Sultan vs Kempe Gowda?

‘Most Hindus and most Muslims are communal’

Did the ‘Tiger of Mysore’ really tame a tiger?

Tipu Sultan and the truth about 3,000 Brahmins

Tipu Sultan left his last meal unfinished’

When the Maharaja’s son failed an examination

14 January 2014

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Jayachamaraja Wodeyar with Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Bangalore (courtesy Wikipedia)

Star of Mysore editor-in-chief K.B. Ganapathy reproduces this delightful anecdote from the January issue of the Kannada magazine Uthana, published by Haldipur Vasudeva Rao:

“Mysore Kingdom was being ruled by His Highness Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV (also known as Nalavadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar). He had adopted his brother’s son Jayachamaraja Wodeyar as his heir apparent to the throne as he himself did not have children. During his reign, the University of Mysore was established.

“Jayachamaraja Wadiyar was studying in the intermediate class in the University. T.S. Venkannayya was the head of the Kannada department. Working with him in the department were Thi. Num. Srikantaiah and K.V. Puttappa (Kuvempu) who had just then completed his post-graduate study in Kannada and joined the department as a teacher.

“When the results of the intermediate examination was announced, it was found that the heir apparent to the throne Jayachamaraja Wadiyar had failed in Kannada examination.

“Some days after the results were announced, a call came for T.S. Venkannayya from the Palace to meet the King. On the appointed day and time, the Durbar Bhakshi (Palace Officer) came to Venkannayya’s house in the Palace vehicle and took him before the Maharaja.

“As Venkannayya was waiting in the designated place, the Maharaja came in and the former got up in reverence greeting the Maharaja. Acknowledging the greeting, Maharaja requested Venkannayya to take his seat but he continued to stand waiting for the Maharaja to take his seat.

“However, the Maharaja remained standing waiting for Venkannayya to sit down first out of reverence to a teacher — educationist. Finally both resumed their seats simultaneously. Then followed a brief conversation between the two in the following manner:

Maharaja: The Prince has failed in the exam…

T.S. Venkannayya: Yes, Your Highness. The Prince has failed in Kannada.

Maharaja: What should be done now to make him pass the exam?

Venkannayya: Your Highness, the Prince has to write the exam once again.

Maharaja: Still, if he fails?

Venkannayya: He must be given private tuition.

Maharaja: Okay, will you give him the tuition?

Venkannayya: No, Your Highness. Except in the University classes, I do not teach outside.

Maharaja: If so, how to solve this problem?

Venkannayya: We have one youngster Puttappa who has recently joined Kannada Department. He is very good in teaching. I will entrust him the responsibility.

The Maharaja accepted the suggestion and entrusted the responsibility to T.S. Venkannayya and got up, an indication that the interview was over.

Venkannayya too got up, but in the meanwhile, as arranged before, the Durbar Bhakshi brought a silver tray full of fruits, betel leaves and a gold tasselled shawl and held it before the Maharaja who, after honouring the teacher with the shawl, presented him the silver tray with fruits.

Durbar Bhakshi dropped Venkannayya at his house in the Palace vehicle.

As Venkannayya emptied the silver tray, a surprise awaited him. There was an envelope with one thousand rupees — a huge amount for those days. When Venkannayya sent the silver tray back to the Palace, it came back with the assurance that the tray too was for Venkannayya.

It weighed 108 tholas!

Also read: My daddy, His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore

Once upon a time, at the Maharaja’s study circle

When Bishen Bedi bowled from the Maharaja College end

Mutton chops, mudde and saaru with Srikantadatta Wodeyar

The maharaja’s elephant that made me a photographer

Rama, Rama rajya, and Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar

Why the Maharani sold her diamonds and jewels

The policeman who stopped the Maharaja

How the Maharajas shaped Mysore & Mysoreans

11 December 2013

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Mysore

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The rest of democratic India that is Bharat—indeed, the rest of Karnataka that is not Mysore and Bangalore—will not understand the fuss over the passing of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the last link to the rajas and maharajas of Mysore, who lorded over a tiny five-star kingdom for 614 years.

Although Srikantadatta’s own role, even as a member of Parliament, may have been infinitesimal in the republican era, the imprint that the benign and benevolent royals left on generations of Mysoreans is immense: in our education, in our arts and culture, in our attitudes, in our palaces, roads, gardens and clubs.

Here, one grateful 22-carat Mysorean pays a 21-gun salute.

***

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By SUNAAD RAGHURAM

Mysore of the 1970s when I was growing up as a young boy.

There was an air of well-proportioned dignity to it; a rare kind of regality; a sense of easy sophisticated charm; in the quietude and tranquilLity that pervaded the air like a gossamer thin veil, a kind of strange allure that no other place in the rest of Karnataka possessed.

It showed in its beautifully laid out streets; quiet, broad, tree-lined, leafy and handsome. And in the magnificent but slightly dulled mansions of Lakshmipuram with their delicate fountains, more often than not with the statuette of Lord Krishna, standing with his right leg elegantly over his left and a flute to his lips.

In the bungalows of Vontikoppal with their bougainvillea-smothered porticos, where invariably stood in grand aloofness, a car, mostly either a stately black Ambassador or an Austin of indeterminable vintage, a subtle indication of a certain exaltedness.

And in the greying grandioseness of the homes of the privileged. European in style and dimensions, with their wood latticed windows and many structured floors, their green gardens with red geranium creepers hanging from moss covered earthen pots in the balconies.

In Nazarbad and on the rain-tree lined street leading up to that white beauty of splendid stature, the Lalitha Mahal palace, nestling under the imposing omniscience of the Chamundi Hill.

Inside these mansions could be found Mysore style paintings in gold.

Paintings of goddess Chamundi, astride on a lion.

Or a beautiful swing with its ivory in-lay showing delicate flowers and mango motifs.

Or a rattan sofa.

Or a teak or a rose wood one, with its cushions in cream and white.

The massive black head of a gaur or a chital with its huge antlers fixed to the walls around, trophies from a long concluded hunt in the awesome jungles of Bandipur or Kakanakote, not too far from Mysore.

Mysore was unique.

A kind of baby of the Wodeyars, the kings of the dynasty that ruled for an impossibly long 600 and odd years. A baby born into serious privilege. A baby that had everything laid out for it.

Mysore was like none other. For sure. The Maharajas showered it with the kind of luxurious abundance that no other town or city in the state could ever imagine.

So fascinatingly royal in its demeanour and style.

So laid back and mellow.

So very easy in its manner.

The Mysorean was a gentle, soft-spoken, easy-going kind of man for whom the din and tumult of a Bangalore or Bombay was anathema; a kind of culture shock which left him dumb founded.

Not to him the mindlessness of heavy traffic, not to him the frenzied pace of business, not to him the rush hours of life where clambering on to a bus or a train defines the difference between success and failure.

To the Mysorean, life was almost always meant to be an unhurried, relaxed, quiet and elaborate repast. And even to this day, it is largely so.

At the many social clubs that you find in the city. All set up by the Maharajas.

Like the Cosmopolitan Club, the Narasimharaja Sports Club, the Race Club and the Jayachamaraja Wadiyar Golf Club. Where many an evening has been spent observing intellectuals discussing and debating weighty matters of scholarship and the casual gentry deliberating on the timing of Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement!

Over soothing glasses of scotch of course!

The royals of Mysore gave to the city a kind of atmosphere where there could be seen a sense of luminous exuberance in the general affairs of existence.

The impact of the Maharajas could be felt everywhere. In the manner in which stood the royal palace built out of fine grey granite in the heart of the city with its deep pink marble domes, under whose amazing arches on the day of Vijayadashami, erstwhile Maharajas climbed on to the magnificently caparisoned royal elephant with its shimmering silks and glistening ivory tusks covered in a sheath of shiny gold.

In the slightly standoffish seclusion of the Rajendra Vilas palace in the distance, perched like an eagle’s nest at the edge of the Chamundi Hill where not too many Mysoreans ventured, even when it was being run as a luxury hotel.

In the red turrets of the Gun House next to the main palace, a tony bar and restaurant in the early 80’s, where you found some exquisite continental fare served by liveried waiters in an atmosphere of absolute mellowness, to the accompaniment of cool, soft, easy English numbers sung by a portly singer called Saby who rode an old but well preserved Yezdi to work.

In its culture of music concerts during Rama Navami and Dasara. Where some of the greatest and the most accomplished of singers and instrumentalists from around the country felt it a singular honour to perform.

In the manner in which the University was shaped. Where some of the brightest and most sharp minds came to teach. Like Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, a professor of philosophy at the Maharaja’s College, then one of the most revered institutions of learning in the country.

Like Professors J.C. Rollo, A.B. Mackintosh, W.G. Eagleton, B.M. Srikantaiah and S.V. Ranganna.

Inside whose classrooms with their teak wood tables and benches sat, as students, the likes of M.N. Srinivas, H.Y. Sharada Prasad, T.S. Satyan, ‘VeeneDoreswamy Iyengar, R. K. Narayan, U.R. Anantha Murthy, P. Lankesh, Kuvempu, Ta.Su. Shama Rao, G.S. Shivarudrappa; the list of the great and the prodigious can go on.

The campus housing the departments of higher learning, so poetically named Manasagangotri.

Where stands, sentinel like, the Jayalakshmi Vilas palace, that takes you back even now, to the time of the 1800s, when Mysore was a tiny little town cocooned in kingly warmth; a reminder of the munificence of the royal family which gifted hundreds of acres of their personal property for the cause of setting up these post graduate schools of learning as they exist today, amidst a profusion of greenery and wooded bliss.

Where apart from students, you find walkers and exercisers of all shapes and sizes, willingly getting their daily fix of muscle toning activity. A lung space so beautiful and leafy, it could perhaps be compared to the ones in the universities in distant England, especially after the cricket ground named Gangotri Glades, one of the prettiest in the whole country, was developed!

As the orange hued flames begin to lick the sandalwood pyre of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, veritably the last of the royals of Mysore, the mind stills and the heart aches.

Perhaps in the deep longing for the Mysore that his ancestors created and left behind or in the feeling that all good things, as the old line goes, shall never last forever.

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: My daddy, His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore

Once upon a time, at the Maharaja’s study circle

When Bishen Bedi bowled from the Maharaja College end

Mutton chops, mudde and saaru with Srikantadatta Wodeyar

The maharaja’s elephant that made me a photographer

Rama, Rama rajya, and Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar

Why the Maharani sold her diamonds and jewels

The policeman who stopped the Maharaja

Wodeyar got more than what he leaves behind

11 December 2013

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Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar (third from left) with his wife Pramodadevi (third from right), and his sisters (file photo)

As Mysore observes a spontaneous bandh, as plebs and celebs spill platitudes, as newspapers and TV channels plunge into panegyrics, Dr Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi of the department of history at the Karnataka state open University provides a much-needed critique of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the last scion of the erstwhile royal family of Mysore, in The Indian Express:

“Wodeyar’s more notable public preoccupation in the last decade had been the legacy of his family. He spiritedly contested a script written by Lingadevaru Halemane, a Marxist playwright and linguist, which was to be used for a “sound and light” show at the Mysore palace.

“Wodeyar contended that his family’s history and accomplishments ought to be highlighted as the singular factor in creating modern Mysore.

“He demanded that everything else, including the contributions of people such as Sir M Visvesvaraya or the history of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, be deleted from this hour-long show. Halemane’s script was altered several times but Wodeyar wasn’t satisfied.

“Even though the “sound and light” show has been occasionally held, it hasn’t become a permanent feature at the Mysore palace. Wodeyar’s resistance has been a determining factor.

“Wodeyar’s inheritance was immense. His legacy isn’t. His royal counterparts from northern Indian states have had greater success both in politics and especially in business. Such success may have eluded him but in Mysore he remained a simple, decent but significant presence, especially during the annual Dasara celebrations.”

Read the full article: Mysore ‘last prince’

Also read: Tell the full, fair, undistorted story: Wodeyar

Srikantadatta Wodeyar: part of Mysore’s royal history or not?

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar: RIP

10 December 2013

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At the ‘Khaas Durbar’ during Dasara in Mysore, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar ascends the golden throne for the rituals

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During Dasara in Mysore, Mr Wodeyar wears the royal attire and is escorted to and from the rituals with the pomp and glory of bygone days

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During Dasara in Mysore, Mr Wodeyar wears the royal attire and is escorted to and from the rituals with the pomp and glory of bygone days

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During Navaratri, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar himself conducted some of the poojas in the main Amba Vilas Palace

NEWS

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar poses in front of the Bangalore Palace in this file picture

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Mr Wodeyar, with his rival turned friend Brijesh Patel (second from right) after his election to the Karnataka State Cricket Association recently

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Mr Wodeyar with his wife Pramodadevi Wodeyar

churumuri records with deep regret the passing away of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the scion of the erstwhile royal kingdom of Mysore, in Bangalore on this the 10th day of December, 2013. He was 61 years old, and is survived by his wife, Pramodadevi. The Wodeyars have no natural heir.

Mr Wodeyar, was the son of Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, the last maharaja of Mysore. And as the “erstwhile prince”, he remained the last tangible link with the City’s royal past, playing a key role in the conduct of the ten-day Dasara celebrations each year.

A two-time former Congress member of Parliament from Mysore (who also fought and lost on the BJP ticket), Mr Wodeyar had been elected president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) only last week. He played cricket for Mysore University during his college days.

Mr Wodeyar, who suffered from weight problems, had been unwell and greeted KSCA members upon his election, sitting down.

File photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: My daddy, His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore

Once upon a time, at the Maharaja’s study circle

Mysore’s three richest families—after Srikantadatta Wodeyar

When Bishen Bedi bowled from the Maharaja College end

Mutton chops, mudde and saaru with Srikantadatta Wodeyar

Where on earth is Bangara Doddi Naale?

Another petty ending to a ‘world-famous’ Dasara

19 October 2013

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K. JAVEEN NAYEEM writes: No you have not read me wrong and I have not made a mistake in what I have written. I did say ‘petty’ and not ‘pretty’. This year’s Dasara may have been a pretty show especially with its new eco-friendly, LED lighting which stood out as something uniquely different from what we had all seen in the past.

But I cannot help feeling that this year it also became a festival of petty squabbling.

Yes, it was nothing but that, between politicians and bureaucrats, between the real power-keepers and Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the virtual symbol of royal power and between the Kavadis, the elephant-keepers, and the administration which owns the elephants.

Just before the grand finale this year, there was an ugly and much publicised stand-off between our elected representatives on one side and the deputy commissioner and the police commissioner on the other, over the issue of free passes. I can only say that these kinds of confrontations look very undignified and amount to washing very dirty linen in full public view and media glare.

Issues like these should be settled and sorted out in some official privacy well in time without finding a mention in the press.

In a show with limited seating capacity I do not see why hordes of supporters of politicians should be given free access to have a ringside view while all those who elect them to power are denied a decent seat despite paying through their noses to have it reserved. I agree that in a ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch yours’ set-up there is nothing much one can do to get rid of such despicable things but there has to be a limit to this kind of madness.

Politicians should make it known to their fans that too many free passes will only deprive access to that many guests and therefore this kind of largess cannot be accommodated beyond a reasonable measure.

It is a very well-known fact that year after year we find many holders of VIP Passes and even Gold Cards arriving at the torch light parade venue only to find their seats already occupied by gate-crashers who simply refuse to vacate them despite intervention by the police personnel.

I have myself seen many foreign tourists simply going away in disgust at not being able to get any assistance from the officers who are posted there to prevent such occurrences. Such incidents will only give much negative publicity that only negates our efforts to popularise our Dasara across the globe.

Many mega-events similar to our Dasara are held all over the world every year but we do not see the slightest disorder in the way they are conducted. It is time we learnt to maintain some semblance of order here too. But now this remark of mine should not mean that we should immediately dispatch a delegation to study how it is done there!

A thing that we have been seeing regularly over the past few years is the sulking of the scion of the royal family. By either refusing to allow public display of the royal throne or lending the golden howdah for the procession, he behaves like an over-pampered child who craves for attention knowing very well that these two artefacts are required for the Dasara every year.

Although we have all heard of elephants having tantrums, these days we have been noticing their keepers too being afflicted by this malady. The mahouts and kavadis now regularly resort to arm-twisting tactics to get some extra attention and perks during the Dasara which is the only time when they can flaunt their importance. This is nothing but blackmail.

Knowing that their job is unique in that the government simply cannot find substitutes to manage the elephants which are indispensable symbols of the Mysore Dasara, they choose to go on a strike for the silliest of reasons like not being allowed into the palace grounds through a particular gate.

All this, despite our government bowing down to really comic levels to keep their ego flying high, like getting the State health minister himself to massage their backs or the district-in-charge Minister to serve them food while the media covers and comments on everything they do like having their haircuts and baths before the final day.

While it takes people from many other professions like carpenters, gardeners, sweepers, painters, drivers, tailors, folk artistes and policemen to make the Dasara possible, I wonder why only the mahouts, kavadis and their children should get all the attention and special treatment?

It is time someone made them understand that as paid government employees it is their duty to see that they work cheerfully in a spirit of mutual co-operation with all others.

We all take pride in calling the Dasara a ‘world famous festival’ and yet no one responsible for showcasing it thinks of providing its telecast a proper English commentary in at least one channel for the benefit of all the non-Kannadigas who watch the show on the television or the net.

Although many channels relayed the footage of the Dasara procession and the commentators repeatedly drew attention to the fact that the show was being watched live round the world, not a single one of them thought it proper to provide even subtitles in English.

Should we not ensure that the millions of non-Kannadiga viewers too understand what is happening when they are shown the different activities related to the festival and what the different tableaux and troupes in the procession represent? As hosts of Dasara festivities should we not ask ourselves if we can afford to be so indifferent to the needs of others whom we invite as our guests at the grandest and the biggest festival of our State?

(K. Javeen Nayeem is a practising physician who writes a weekly column in Star of Mysore where the full version of this piece appeared)

Photograph: A stilt-walker at the Dasara procession on the final day of Dasara 2013 in Mysore (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: What is so “world-famous” about Mysore Dasara?

A feast for the stomach—and a feast for the eyes

20 September 2013

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From Mukhwas, a just-published book on Indian food through the ages, by Alka Pande:

Kanteerava Narasaraja (Wodeyar) of Mysore (1638-49) enjoyed tasteful bites served by charming women. The women had to possess certain qualities of beauty to serve the fastidious king.

“‘Their faces had to shine like the full moon with coryllium sparkling in their eyes. Bells were tinkling around their waists and bangles jingling on their wrists as they served food. The women were enchanting, with anklets ringing sweetly announcing their arrival, swaying their wide hips and slender waists’.”

Photograph: via Wikipedia

Also read: Mudde, mutton saaru and mutton chops with the Maharaja

Why the Mysore Palace doesn’t run out of water

21 May 2013

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There are hundreds of engineering colleges around us. There are hundreds of “experts” ventilating on some issue or the other. But every summer it is not uncommon for brand-new localities and brand-new buildings to run out of the most basic of human necessities: water.

Because they are so poorly designed.

The main Amba Vilas palace in Mysore in recent years has attracted more visitors than even the Taj Mahal. Yet it seems to have no such problem. At least not in a life-threatening way.The reason, it turns out, is because the engineers employed by the rajas and maharajas seemed to have a vision beyond their salary packet.

From a news report in Star of Mysore:

While Mysore, Bangalore and Mandya districts are facing severe water woes, the renowned Mysore Palace is free from water woes, as it is not affected.

Thanks to the Wodeyars for constructing 12 tanks with a capacity of 1.20 lakh litres on the roof of the Palace building.

Probably except for the members of the Royal family and Mysore Palace Board officials, none of the other would know about these large tanks which are now providing water to thousands of visitors who throng the Mysore Palace premises everyday.

These tanks are located on the third floor of the Palace building just below the ‘Gopuram’ (Dome) and each tank has the capacity of storing 10,000 litres of water. These tanks also act as natural air conditioners for the entire Palace building. Out of the 12 such tanks, 6 provide water to the Palace and the remaining 6 provide water to the Mysore Palace Board.

Palace Engineers Shivakumar and Murali said that the construction of tanks came as a big surprise to everyone as they are constructed inside the RCC of the Palace roof which will keep the building cool even during hot summer and have been designed in such a way that they provide water to everyone working in the precincts of the majestic structure.

These tanks are designed in such a way that Cauvery water is supplied directly to these tanks through rising pipes. Now, since the supply of Cauvery water has been stopped, an alternative arrangement has been made to supply water from the borewells located inside the Palace premises.

“There are 8 borewells inside the Mysore Palace premises and each of them have been fitted with 5HP motors; through them around 30,000 litres of water is to supplied to the tanks”, said Shivakumar.

***

Photo Caption

In 2007, Vikram Sampath, the biographer of the Wodeyars recounted this story:

“The KRS dam, completed in 1931, created the biggest reservoir in Asia, second only to the Aswan dam across the Nile in Egypt. Since the outlay for the dam exceeded the state budget’s, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar (then a mere teenager) and his sagacious mother Regent Queen Kempananjammanni sold costly diamonds, ornaments, gold and silver plates of the royal family in Bombay to provide seed capital for the project.”

Also read: Why the Queen sold her diamonds and jewels

Also view: A panoramic picture of the Mysore palace

Mudde, saaru & mutton chops with the Maharaja

15 December 2012

Photo Caption

What other people eat—and how, and how much—has long been an object of human fascination; increasingly so in the age of the modern media, where food is the new sex, something you can ogle at, ooze over, fantasise and salivate about, all with your clothes on and without once touching or coming close to the piece de resistance.

The former India Today and CNN-IBN journalist Neha Prasada nee Seth has just done a lavishly produced coffee table book on how the blue blooded amongst us, i.e. the Rajas and Maharajas, did what every mortal must. Titled ‘Dining with the Maharajas‘ (Roli Books, Rs 4,000), the book captures the social history of the royal culinary traditions.

# Like, how the maharani of Tripura liked four different types of cuisine at one meal.

# Like, how the Nizam of Hyderabad, a lover of jalebi, had the size of his poison increased three times when advised by doctors that he could consume only three of them due to diabetes.

# Like, when Motilal Nehru was sent to Allahabad jail by the British, Mohammed Amir Ahmad Khan of the Mahmudabad princely family sent him biryani with a bottle of champagne to keep him going during his imprisonment.

At the hands of Neha Prasada and the photographer Ashima Narain, the high tables of the kingdoms of Hyderabad, Kashmir, Jodhpur, Mahmudabad, Patiala, Rampur, Tripura, Sailana and Udaipur are laid out. Also starring is the royal family of Mysore, in which Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar waxes eloquent on bisi bele baath. Excerpts:

***

By NEHA PRASADA

As you travel to the south of India, your route will take you through dense plantations rich with fragrant cardamoms and cloves, spicy peppercorns, pungent red chillies, aromatic cinnamon, and bay leaves. This trail heavy with spices will lead you to the state of Karnataka, which boasts of one of India’s largest spice industries and at one time was part of the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore.

This ancient land rich in tradition and culture has been ruled by the Wadiyar dynasty since 1399. Interestingly with each change in regime, Mysore’s palate has changed and imbibed new flavours.

From the second century to the third century AD, the state predominantly had a cuisine particular to the ruling Buddhists. Power changed hands when the Buddhists were defeated by the Jains in a debate and the Kannada Jain community held sway over everything including food habits in Mysore.

Finally it was in the tenth century that Hindu kings wrested power under the leadership of Shankaracharya and have continued to rule the kingdom.

The present representative of the Wadiyar Dynasty, Maharaja Srikantadatta Narasimharaja wadiyar explains, ‘With new influences coming in through foreign traders like Arabs, coupled with the decline of Vijaynagara, Muslim flavours were introduced and adapted by us. We added non-vegetarian dishes and new styles of cooking to our cuisine.”

New flavours were imbibed under the cultural influence of the Bahmani kings who were of Persian descent and rulers from Tamil Nadu who controlled the Deccan at different points in time….

***

The Mysore royal family with its over 300-year-old food tradition has always treated food as much more than mere sustenance.

Says the 59-year-old custodian of this ancient family, ‘The basis of our food philosophy is that the five elements of nature which include the sky, wind, water, earth, and fire are involved in growing food. The human body needs these elements to keep functioning, thus food is the fuel of life.’

Ancient texts like the Paka Shastra, which elaborate on the art of cooking, were followed by the chefs of the royal kitchens. This knowledge was further passed down to future generations that served in the royal household.

‘These texts did not just tell you what to eat but how and when to eat it. For example, the vessels that were used to make the food had to be made of certain metals, which have beneficial properties when mixed with food,’ says Wadiyar.

Food was cooked and served in vessels made of copper and brass. Interestingly copper was also a safeguard for the royal family because if poison were added to the food, the copper would turn green. These texts also outlined the properties of each herb and spice that went into every recipe.

He explains, ‘We had separate cooks for the zenana or female quarters of the palace and separate for the mardana or male quarters because of recipes and ingredients prescribed in the texts were different for men and women.’

While ingredients like green cardamoms were used liberally in dishes prepared for women because it increased their fertility, mace was added to the recipes for the men because it boosted virility. Then there are recipes, which were medicinal in intent.

‘Curd and rice was recommended for cooling the body. Even now when elephants are in heat, this is included in their diet,’ he explains.

The palace kitchens were staffed with 150 chefs who cooked only vegetarian dishes and 25 chefs who cooked only non-vegetarian dishes. Each group was further divided into Muslim and Hindu cooks with their own special skill sets.

There were another twenty Brahmin cooks who had a separate kitchen, which was kept clean from meat, fish, poultry, and tamasic vegetables like onions and garlic. These Pandit chefs prepared the food for all religious ceremonies.

‘These cooks continued to serve the family loyally generation after generation. I believe that not even the best cooking school in the world can match up to the knowledge and experience you imbibe when born in a family of cooks,’ observes Wadiyar. He adds, ‘The cooks had their work cut out for them. Every day at least twenty people at in the mardana and twenty-five in the zenana. Also a minimum of twenty-five different dishes had to be served at any given meal’ .

***

In comparison, his diet is meagre and restricted to fruits and steamed ragi balls on most days. Wadiyar who is a self-confessed foodie has become extremely health conscious over the past few years and is particular about keeping his weight in check.

However, once in a while he does like to treat himself to local Mysore cuisine and his favourites include masala chops, cold mutton roast, and bisi bele bhat (rice cooked with lentils and vegetables).

Wadiyar remembers his thread ceremony, which is one of the most important rituals in a young Hindu boy’s life as he enters adulthood. He was ten years old at the time.

He recalls, ‘Two thousand visitors came from all over for my thread ceremony to Mysore, besides the 3000 local guests. The celebrations went on for three days where on the first and second day pure vegetarian food in great variety was served. Finally on the last day two banquets were organised. There was a reception for the foreigners in the Lalitha Mahal Palace where the menu included European food, while the second banquet was for the Indian rulers where local delicacies were served….

***

During the summer months between April and May, the family would move to Fernhills Palace in the hill station of Ooty. The highlight of the season was the famed fox hunt organised by the Mysore royals, which was attended by royal families across India and British officers.

Relates Wadiyar, ‘For three generations my great grandfather, my grandfather, and my granduncle had the distinction of being the hunt masters for these meets. Each day at the beginning of the hunt a lavish breakfast would be organised at Fernhills Palace. After a day of chasing the fox, the participants would ride back for a late lunch where both local Indian and European food was served.’

The family’s hunting camps were famous and attracted many keen sportsmen from the royal families of India.

‘We would set up camp for almost 600 people at our hunting lodge in Kakanakote. Every evening after a day of hunting, banquets were organised for the participants by the palace staff. Two separate tents were put up to host these dinners, which included the first class tent for the heads of state, while the second class tent was for the accompanying officers on duty,’ remembers Wadiyar.

***

In the midst of all this activity, we are also invited for lunch to the private quarters of the family in the Bangalore Palace…. In a sunlit courtyard of the palace the chefs have set up their stoves and chopping boards. The trays of spices are a study of what sets apart Kannada cuisine from the rest of India especially the north.

Fiery red Badige chillies, vibrant green curry leaves, kokum (sour fruit native to western India) as dark as ebony, dried brown tamarind, mounds of snowy white coconut, and golden yellow turmeric powder add colour to the mosaic of spices like cardamoms, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns, and bay leaves.

Explains Wadiyar whose cooking skills are limited to whipping up a decent omelette, ‘We grow a lot of our spices like tamarind, kokum, and coconut on the palace grounds.’ His cooks have ground together special masalas and secret potions that have been passed from cook to cook, to go into the rich curries that are stewing in antique copper vessels.

‘The Mysore garam masala includes equal portions of cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon unlike the north Indian garam masala, which is made up of many more spices. Then we use something called the hatti masudi, which is a mixture of chillies and spices from the Nilgiris.’

The basic flavours in Kannada cuisine are that of coconut, jiggery, tamarind, and fragrant spices, which give the food a balance of sweet, sour, and spicy undertones. The locals who are predominantly rice eaters prefer BT rice which has more bite than a Basmati, while another popular cereal is ragi. Even the oil used for most dishes is rice oil. ‘Unlike north Indian cuisine we use oil sparingly which is why our food is much lighter,’ he adds.

The lunch is served in the family’s private drawing room where the walls are rich with the oils of European masters. The multi-course lunch includes spicy lamp chops masala a favourite of Wadiyar; an unusual horse gram curry called uili saru which is also prepared with mutton; country muddiya muttai made with mutton mince and eggs very similar to scotch eggs; a light fish curry meenu tanginakai saru; jhat phat fowl jhal frezi (quick and easy shredded fowl), and Anglo Indian classic; a coconut milk rich vegetable stew served with fluffy appams and baby appams (fried rice and gram cakes); and finally two rice preparations puliyogare or tamarind rice and bisi bele bhat. For dessert there is a creamy saabaki payasam made with sabut dana (sago) and milk to round off the meal.

As a devout Hindu the Mysore family observed every festival and puja in the Hindu holy calendar. This meant thousands of people were fed at such ceremonies in the palace.

He says, ‘We have ancient recipes that can serve one or multiples of hundreds. At any given religious ceremony at least a thousand people used to be fed. For our big festivals like Dussehra sometimes the numbers would go into lakhs.’

Even today the head of this dynasty has at least two havans or ceremonies every month and thirty-one priests are on his permanent payroll to observe these religious rites. Wadiyar explains, ‘I have only come so far in life by holding on to these traditions and culture.’

(Excerpted with the permission of the publishers)

***

File photograph: Srikantatta Datta Wodeyar (right)performs ayudha pooja at the Mysore palace on the eighth day of Dasara in Mysore in October 2012 (Karnataka Photo News)

***

Read reviews of the book: Vir Sanghvi, Sourish Bhattacharya

Buy the book here: Roli Books, Amazon, Flipkart

What the lights ‘n’ sights of Mysore hide from you

20 October 2012

Doorada betta nunnuge” (from afar, even a distant hill looks smooth) is an old Kannada saying.

The sight of the Mysore palace with the Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar circle in the foreground, all decked up for Dasara in Mysore on Saturday, is a shining example of that. “Dasara Works” are going on feverishly even as the festival is veering to an end, but tourists and visitors are unlikely to notice.

For, the lights provide a nice veneer to mask the darkness.

***

Dr K. Javeed Nayeem writes in Star of Mysore:

“We are all in the middle of Dasara which is our most important annual event. But Mysore is still getting decked up for the occasion even after the short-lived celebrations themselves have started and are also about to end. It is a little like the bride still getting dressed even after the priest has started chanting the sacred mantras, completely unmindful of the fact that she is missing and only mindful of not allowing the designated auspicious moment to slip away!

“This is the scenario that meets our weary eyes year after year, ever since the Dasara slipped from the hands of our erstwhile royalty into the hands of our new netas. I wonder why some proper planning does not go into its preparations. At least it can then serve its intended purpose of showcasing our city at its best and making our tourists happy that the time, effort and money they spent on seeing it were worth it….

“Here I am reminded of Aesop‘s fairy tale where work on the project which started off in great haste, has fallen asleep enroute like the hare, while it is slowly but steadily being overtaken by its rival, the tortoise of escalating costs. Instead of wasting money and time on fairy tale projects and trying to achieve the impossible, it would be better if we concentrate on doing something tangible and useful.”

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: What is so world-famous about Mysore Dasara?

Should Bollywood have a place in Mysore Dasara?

Once upon a time, on this day, in another age

Mysore Mallige for the Maharani amid gold, glitz

Mysore Mallige for ‘Maharani’ on day of glitz, gold

16 October 2012

On the first day of Dasara 2012, the scion of the erstwhile royal family of Mysore, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, dressed in traditional robes, sits on the throne at the main palace (top and middle), and blesses his wife Pramoda Devi, during the private darbar, on Tuesday. –

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: What is so world-famous about Mysore Dasara?

Should Bollywood have a place in Mysore Dasara?

Once upon a time, on this day, in another age

8 reasons Karnataka is wrong on Cauvery issue

8 October 2012

Like a bad penny, the Cauvery “dispute” returns to the national discourse every few years with both the “riparian” States involved the story, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, making the same noises—the former of everlasting injury and the latter of arrogance, with the Centre acting like a traffic policeman with his hands tied.

Every time the dispute flares up, and that is usually when there is scanty rainfall, the same revanchist forces of linguistic chauvinism and parochialism dust themselves and utter the same threatening cliches.

The world’s topmost water resources experts—the moviestars of Gandhinagar—descend on the streets. Bandhs are called, roads are blocked, resignations are offered, the ruling party flexes its muscle, all-party delegations meet the PM, and the media beats the familiar wardrum that sends shivers down the spines of those who can remember 1991-92.

Lost in the melee is sense and common sense. A dispute involving a couple of districts in the deep south holds the rest of the State and its relationship with a neighbour hostage. Karnataka’s fair name as a law-abiding State and the reputation of Kannadigas as a decent, civilised lot is muddied in the eyes of the nation and the courts.

Here, a lawyer conversant with the intricacies of the dispute lists eight reasons why Karnataka is once again barking up the wrong tree in circa 2012.

***

1. When the agreement of 1924 was signed between the Maharaja of Mysore and Madras, the former diwan of Mysore,  Sir M. Visvesvaraya, supported it unequivocally. The said agreement gave 80% of all the water to Madras, which is equal to 360 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) at the Border.

2. The Cauvery Tribunal, reduced the quantity from 360 TMC as provided by the agreement of 1924 to 205 TMC in its interim Order, or 192 TMC in its final Order, which is a reduction of about 50%. During the years of drought, the shortfalls are to be shared equitably by riparian states. How is this distress to be shared?

3. According to Tamil Nadu, if the shortfall in the flows is 40%, its share ought to stand reduced by 40%. On applying this simple mathematical reduction formula of pro-rata, the shortfall in the flows given to Tamil Nadu comes to 40 TMC as on 19 September 2012.

4. However, the Prime  Minister rightly ignored the pro-rata formula when he passed the Order on 19 September 2012 directing Karnataka to ensure 9000 Cusecs till 15 October 2012 equivalent to only 20 TMC. This 20 TMC not only includes the arrears but also the monthly quota. Therefore, in real terms, the Prime Minister has only given 10 TMC towards arrears as against 40 TMC which ought to have been due to Tamil Nadu under the pro-rata formula.

5. Present storages is about 65 TMC. Even in the worst year of 2003-2004, 30 TMC flowed into the Karnataka reservoirs till December. So, in this year too, a similar quantum of water can be expected.

6. Cauvery is a political issue for the Vokkaligas. Historically, none from the Vokkaliga belt in Mandya and Mysore ever raised a word of opposition in 1924. Even after independence in 1947 or the re-organisation of States in 1956, none from Mandya or Mysore sought revision of the agreement of 1924. It is only after 1974, that the Opposition to the 1924. After 1974, the opposition in the Vokkaliga belt started but it is selective, targeting Non-Vokkaliga Government.

7. Mandya Vokkaligas opposed the Varuna Canal because it benefitted the Lingayats and Backward Classes in Mysore District. Mandya Vokkaligas do not bother when water is released from Kabini to fulfil the Order because Kabini caters to Lingayats, SC, ST and OBCs.

8. The ones who should really be complaining are Coorgis, since Coorg does not have drinking water though more than half the Cauvery water comes from there.

Photograph: Kannada movie stars (from left) Pooja Gandhi, Prameela Joshai, Shruti, Tara and Sudharani emerge out of the Raj Bhavan in Bangalore on Saturday after submitting a memorandum to Governor H.R. Bhardwaj on Cauvery issue (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: If it’s summer, it’s time for a nice Cauvery row

Not everybody is a loser in the Cauvery dispute

What Kannada racists can learn from a Raja-Rishi

26 September 2012

The silhouette of Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, the 25th and last maharaja of Mysore—a raja-rishi” (statesman-saint) in the words of a certain somebodyon Wednesday, as a sad and silly storm over a memorial for the world’s most famous Indian writer in English, R.K. Narayan, gathers chauvinistic steam in their hometown.

Even a cursory glance at the Wikipedia page of the king, who also served as the governor of Madras, suggests that he helped Ramanathan Krishnan to play at Wimbledon; that he helped the Western world discover the music of the little-known Russian composer Nikolai Medtner; that he provided patronage to ‘Tiger’ Varadachar….

But then, the Wikipedia page is in English.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Once upon a time at the Maharaja’s study circle

Once upon a time, a 50′x50′ site for 50 rupees

‘My father, His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore’

Lessons from Hungary 8 months into a centenary

19 August 2012

U.B. VASUDEV writes from Tampa, Florida: We went on a tri-country tour of Denmark, Germany and Hungary recently and as usual took a few photographs. Here are two photos of two illuminated monuments from Hungary, juxtaposed against one from our own: the main palace in Mysore.

Each of the three buildings have their own distinct architecture and a beauty of their own.

Our Amba Vilas Palace (top) is exactly 100 years old this year and I hardly see any mention of the centenary celebrations—and eight months of the centenary are already over! Politicians are busy filling their pockets and perhaps don’t have time to take any interest in celebrating a milestone in the history of Karnataka and India.

The Hungarian Parliament (middle) was completed in 1904, eight years before our Mysore Palace.

The Buda Castle, first completed in 1265, has been the palace of the Hungarian Kings and sits on the Castle Hill.

When it comes to maintenance, the two magnificent structures in Budapest have been maintained extremely well, with all their original tapestry and furniture. Our palace, though in no way inferior to any monument anywhere in the world, cannot boast of any attempt at a high degree of preservation.

I really felt so depressed when I saw the way the monuments and history have been preserved in Copenhagen, Berlin and Budapest. I felt the same when we went to Portugal, Spain and Morocco last year. We have such beautiful memorials built by all those who ruled India over the past few hundred years.

I wonder how they are going to be in the next few decades.

Also read: 400th year of Dasara and we can’t even remember?

Why does Mysore need Jamshedpur for water?

24 May 2012

KIRAN RAO BATNI writes: The price of water has gone up by at least five times in Mysore, which is a stone’s throw away from the Krishna Raja Sagara dam.

Those who were paying Rs 75 per month are now required to pay anywhere from Rs 400 to Rs 500.

Just a few months ago, a company called JUSCO completed installation of their pipes and meters in addition to the existing ones, promising 24×7 water and better customer service. Residents had to pay anywhere form Rs 500 to Rs 2000 to install T-sections, complete the piping from the curb to the water meter, and patch up the masonry.

I’ve always wondered why Mysore, home to Sir M.Visvesvaraya, one of the greatest civil engineers and water management gurus in the history of mankind, had to knock on the doors of a Jamshedpur Utilities & Services Company Ltd for distributing its own water.

Why didn’t a MUSCO do this?

Would it have been too good for the consumer, or for the employees?

Anyway. Today, there is neither the 24×7 water (it’s more like 3×5), nor the better customer service. But there’s a five times hike in the water bill. The quality of water has reduced considerably in the last twenty years.

We used to drink directly from the tap twenty years ago, but today we’re forced to buy water filters or UV or RO machines or risk health problems – and these machines need maintenance to the tune of Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 per year, plus the electricity charge and the area they occupy in the kitchen.

Coming back to the issue at hand, corporators of the Mysore City Corporation, upon receiving complaints from a handful people like me are asking people to not pay the water bill, but are shying away from making public statements to the same effect.

MLA and Mysore district in-charge, S. A. Ramdas has issued a statement that the price hike will be withheld. But nothing has happened on the ground, as we just received the water bill with the increased rate.

When I contacted the MCC (Mysore City Corporation) public relations officer, M. V. Sudha (mobile phone number: 9449859915), she explained that the MCC is basically out of funds, hinting that revenue from water is inevitable. K. S. Raykar, commissioner, MCC, didn’t pick up the phone.

If what M.V. Sudha says is right—that the MCC is starved of funds—and I have strong reasons to believe that she is, then everything falls in place.

The MCC is starved of funds because it is not allowed to make revenue to even sustain itself, because of the lopsided ‘democracy’ in which we live, where the concentration of power increases with distance from the people: New Delhi wields more power than Bangalore which, in turn, wields more power than Mysore, over Mysoreans!

Is this democracy?

***

Barely ninety nine years ago, in 1913, right here in Mysore, His Highness Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar concluded a treaty with Edwin Montagu, under-secretary of State, government of (British) India.

According to the treaty, which clarified the relationship between the State of Mysore and the Government of India, the Maharaja obtained full powers of internal administration, subject only to the general supremacy and paramountcy of the British government – something his father, His Highness Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar did not enjoy.

But in less than 34 years, amidst the waving of flags in New Delhi and elsewhere, and the bursting of crackers and some meaningless riots near Lahore and Calcutta, His Highness Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar lost all the power his father had obtained in the treaty with Montagu.

It appears that he became worse than the corporator I called today, in terms of the power he came to hold. Of course, some money was thrown in into his kitty, going under the name of privy purse, in return for agreeing to a slight change of job description: king to pawn.

Sir M. Visvesvaraya saw with his own eyes how the Maharaja of Mysore was relieved of nearly all his powers by the Government of India (the free one, the Indian one) which consequently reduced the autonomy and powers of internal administration of the State of Mysore.

What was the State of Mysore has today literally transformed into a municipal corporation, and this municipal corporation is not even the ‘glorified municipal corporation’ that J. Jayalalitha recently talked about when she accused the Central government of undermining federalism.

That glory goes to the government of Karnataka, not to the municipal corporation of Mysore.

Wrote Sir MV, expressing hope that things would change and decentralization would happen as the passing phase passed:

The States are now, for all political purposes, closely integrated with the Centre and though they are units of the Federation, they occupy, in actual working, a lower subordinate position than what they held under the British administration. It is hoped that this is only a passing phase in the evolution of the new democracy. (Sir. M. Visveswaraya, Memoirs of My Working Life, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1960, p. 58)

Clearly, Sir MV had hoped for too much. The ‘phase’ has neither passed, nor shows any signs of passing. New Delhi continues to be the new Paramount Power in India – with a paramountcy surpassing that of the British.

***

In the meanwhile, the greatest minds of Mysore – Engineers, Doctors, CAs, MBAs, etc., have all gone away, or have all turned away, while their aged parents are waiting for money orders to pay the increased water bill with.

Also read: If it’s summer, it’s time for a nice Cauvery row

‘A magic, moving, living part of the very earth’

German visionary behind our vanishing beauties

28 March 2012

SHASHIKIRAN MULLUR writes from Bangalore: The heat has gone up and the dust has risen. Everywhere dry leaves have covered the ground, but Bangalore was beautiful this Sunday morning from upward of eye-level.

The most striking sight is of the yellow flowers: Tabebuia Argentea which flowers are tiny trumpets, and the Indian Laburnum which hang in a bunch like grapes.

The first is The Tree of Gold; and the other is the Tree of the Golden Showers—or the Vishu, whose flowers, my Malayalee friends tell me, are beloved of Krishna.

I checked now: The Indian Labernum is indeed indigenous, so you may believe Krishna knew them in his ancient time, whereas the Tubebea Argentea is from tropical Americas.

Then there are the trees with pouting purple flowers and others with lavender across their crown and in a carpet on the street at their feet.

The radiant Lady’s Tongue have blossomed too, way overhead, but they’re fallen on the ground as well. And tiny Pongam flowers which are buds even in bloom, which lay sprinkled on the ground all of last week, they are now broad mats of dry fiber—they soften your step when you walk on them.

Bees and butterflies are in a swarm over the Singapore Cherry, flicking and kissing their tiny flowers, their white petals the texture of art paper, and their quivering filaments thinner than human hair—but how they’re straight up and erect!

Many of these trees—or the parents of these trees—arrived here by a foreign hand, a German one, the hand of a man born in Dresden, and long buried in the Christian graveyard in Langford Town in Bangalore, in whose psyche he is deeper-buried and long forgotten—even if the road before Lal Bagh is named Krumbiegel Road.

Gustav Krumbiegel was dear to the Maharaja of Mysore who took him from the Gaekwar of Baroda, to improve Lal Bagh and to bring green and the colors of flowers to Bangalore and Mysore. The Gaekwar had wrested Krumbiegel from London, where Krumbiegel was creating and tending flower beds in Kiev Gardens and Hyde Park.

Krumbiegel spent time also in Hamburg, but before the War, so the fine gardens you see today in that city must’ve been planted by recent horticulturists.

Of course, many of the trees Krumbiegel planted on the avenues of Bangalore have been felled and auctioned and sold as timber. Where the trees stood, and where they’d have flourished for many decades more, over their dead roots the roads have been widened, and by the broadened streets glass and concrete have taken on the role that belongs to trees.

Not that the love of trees and flowers has fled the heart of the Bangalorean. The better apartment blocks have fine young trees in their compounds; the Royal Gardenia hotel has lawns and plants running up and down its walls in a fashion that has perhaps struck wonder in the Creator.

In developments such as the upmarket Nitesh Logos, upcoming on Aga Abbas Ali Road, the landscaping is designed by a Singaporean.

So the insides of residential compounds and corporate campuses are—and will—still be ringed in greens and flowers. The worry is for public spaces: Who will replicate the Maharaja’s initiative to get the best talent in the world for a tasteful planting of trees anew along our roads and in our parks?

Who will take the place of the Maharaja in this moment? And do what developers and software companies have done on private land?

Our politics seems set to stay weak for indeterminate time, so an initiative from the private sector is urgent: first to persuade the government to approve such an undertaking, then for the private corporate enthusiast to actually carry out the grooming—without boards larger than lawns shouting the sponsor’s brand-name, but rather with quiet love for this city which is theirs, and also ours.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News (top); Deccan Herald

Mysore Dasara CDI: a prism of the past in water

5 October 2011

On the seventh night of Navarathri, the Mysore palace stands in what newspaper caption-writers would call “all its resplendent glory”, the streams of water shooting out from the fountain forming a metaphorical graph of how the 400 Dasaras before this one fared.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Should Bollywood have a place in Mysore Dasara?

4 October 2011

ROHITH BATNI writes: Come 2012, for some, “Mysore Dasara” could mean a train between Mysore and Dasara. Yes, that’s how far the Mysore Dasara celebrations have been steered away from the host-City.

Here’s a brief recollection by a Mysorean of how the ‘raayara kudure‘ has been progressively becoming a ‘raayara katthe‘.

Mysore Dasara 2008: Organizers launch the fest’s official website in tens of languages, barring Kannada. Guess why. They presumed Kannadigas wouldn’t refer the site. What they failed to understand was that using Kannada on that site actually represented Kannadigas and the people that’ve been historically celebrating Mysore Dasara.

Feedback was provided, interested people worked with these organizers to inform the importance of having Kannada as the binding spirit behind Mysore Dasara celebrations – both online and on the field.

Mysore Dasara 2009: The refurbished official website now featured the Kannada version; pages displaying most information in Kannada. Meanwhile, a new event called Yuva Dasara started playing mostly Hindi music.

Feedback was provided again by interested citizens of Karnataka to stop playing Hindi in a Dasara function as it is just plain incongruent to do so. It’s like playing Michael Jackson during a temple prayer offering. MJ’s music is not bad but is plain incongruent in a temple prayer scene.

Mysore Dasara 2010: The official page of Dasara now features English and Kannada only, a pretty good move keeping in mind the impossibility of maintaining the website in ten+ languages, most of them international.

But the Yuva Dasara event continues to play Hindi music, drawing widespread flak from Mysore Dasara tourists. The event just entered the hall of infamy of cultural programs held in Karnataka, yet endorsing week long irrelevant, non-Kannada (mostly Hindi) entertainment content.

All public feedback seemed to be falling on deaf ears, and departments of the populist state government seem to deriving calculated benefits out of these broad daylight murders of Mysore culture.

Mysore Dasara 2011: Opened the gates to a totally new version of Mysore Dasara – in fact a morphed version fielding Mizorami, Oriya, Bengali, Gujarati, you-name-it, dance artists and chefs alike.

Tourists landing in Mysore to witness the unique Mysore Dasara and its heritage are now challenged to treasure hunt for the original Mysore (and Karnataka) culture and tradition.

This time it is the Mysore-less Dasara Food Festival, the Mysore-less Yuva Dasara, and so on.

Anyone taking a guess what Mysore Dasara would be about in 2012? May be a good suggestion to name a train between Mysore and Dasara for that’s how far the two have been rendered.

Did we hear someone say – “in 2012 I am expecting the Polar Bears and Icy-cool Penguins to walk the Vijayadashami Jambu Savaari? Oh my! Aren’t those penguins popular among people, so what if they donn’t fit well in a Dasara procession?

Photograph: The Bollywood music composer duo of Vishal and Shekhar performing at the Yuva Dasara music festival at the Maharaja College ground, in Mysore on Sunday (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: ‘Bollywood: India’s most moronic cultural export’

‘Bollywood’s a scam. Farah Khan is a big, fat con’

Adoor: Do only Bollywood beauties possess glamour?

Mammootty: Is Hindi cinema Indian cinema?

77 years ago, when the Mahatma came to Mysore

2 October 2011

Long before self-serving rath yatras and road shows became trump cards in the boardgame of Indian politics, Mahatma Gandhi went around the country campaigning against untouchability. The Mahatma’s magnificent mission brought him to Mysore, 77 years ago.

In his just released book, Mahatma Gandhi’s Campaign against Untouchability in Karnataka, Dr G.A. Biradar, the Bijapur-born archivist who currently works at the national archives in New Delhi, describes the Mahatma’s  journey through Mysore.

Gandhi’s two-day yatra yielded Rs 6,244 in donations.

***

By G.A. BIRADAR

M.K. Gandhi left Bangalore on 4 January 1934 for Mysore, arriving there early the next morning. Accompanied by Tagadur Ramachandra Rao, V.Venkatappa, Agaram Rangiah and others, he left the same morning for Tagadur where he visited an Ashram and received a purse of Rs 100.

Mahatma Gandhi next motored to Badanaval where he visited the khadi spinning centre and depot and received purses of Rs 155 and Rs 25 from the public and one Rama Mandiram of Badanaval, respectively.

The said khadi centre had been opened some years back by the all-India spinners’ association and which after Gandhi’s visit to the State in 1927 was taken over by the State….

Both spinning and weaving gave employment to large numbers of Harijans. Gandhi spoke to the spinners telling them how they could add to their earnings by introducing improvements in their implements, reforming their habits of life and giving up vices and expenses, which were a heavy drain on their slender purses.

“Let us hope that the progress recorded by this centre will induce other States and local bodies to give greater encouragement to the industry and make the fullest use of resources that are available.”

From Badanaval, Gandhi proceeded to Nanjangud where he was presented with an address in a sandalwood casket by the president of the municipality and another address by the local Harijans.

The casket and other articles presented at Nanjangud were auctioned for Rs 200, the total collections there amounting to Rs, 1,480 including a donation of Rs 1000 from one Srimathi Chinnamma of Bangalore for the construction of a dispensary at Tagadur.

Gandhi addressed the gathering Nanjangud on the uplift of the Harijans, urged them to throw open all sacred temples and wells and appealed to them to blot out untouchability.

“Mysore has been rightly considered one of the most progressive of States in India and, in several respects, far in advance of conditions obtaining in British India. There is progress in all directions.

“Nature has favoured the State with a variety of rich gifts, and they are trying successfully to deserve them. The tidiness of the houses and the cleanliness of the road are in themselves a proof of the refined habits of the people. This could never be enforced from above but was a result of the people’s own culture.”

The Harijan quarters that Mahatma Gandhi saw in Mysore were in keeping with the progressive traditions of the state. They were situated amidst healthy surroundings. The streets were broad and well swept and rows of houses well laid out, and the cottages wore an appearance of cleanliness and contentment. They would be the envoy of urban people living in pigeon-holes.

The welfare work going on among these Harijans was evidenced by a hostel here and an industrial school there, a children’s home at one place and a reading room in another. All this gave Mahatma Gandhi the greatest delight which he expressed in the speech at the public meeting in Mysore.

Returning to Mysore City the same day (5 January1934), Gandhi visited several Harijan localities there and the Adi Karnataka Hostel. At Jalapuri and Dodda Adi Karnatakapur, he addressed the gathering on the uplift of the Harijans and advised the latter to give up their bad habits and lead a clean life.

In the evening he attended a meeting of about 8,000 people and again spoke on Harijan uplift and the eradication of untouchability.

While addressing the people at Harijans’ meeting in Mysore, Mahatma Gandhi said:

“You should conform to the rules of hygiene and sanitation-internal as well as external. Internal sanitation consists in taking the name of God-the first thing to be done after getting up in the morning. That is the breakfast for the soul.”

When he was told that the Harijans of the locality had given up beef-eating, he added:

“It is a matter of deep joy to me and congratulation for you that you have given up beef-eating. I would like you to be able to say the same thing about drink. What is the use of paying for some coloured water which makes us so mad that we forget the distinction between mother, wife and sister? I have heard Harijans telling me that drink is prescribed for them on occasion of marriage and death. I can tell you, without fear of contradiction that is a suggestion of the devil. It is nowhere written in scriptures. I would ask you, brothers and sisters, not to go near the devil. I hope you will take my advice to heart and it will give me great joy when you will be able to say that you have given up drink also.”

The City Municipality presented him with an address in silver casket, while other bodies presented purses with addresses. The total collections amounted to Rs 2,424.

In reply to the municipal address, Mahatma Gandhi at the public meeting in Mysore, said:

“It has given me much pleasure to renew acquaintance after six long years. As you are aware, I came to Mysore State in order to regain my health that I had lost during the tour which I was conducting at that time. And naturally I have the most pleasant recollections of my stay in Mysore. From His Highness the Maharaja Saheb, and his Dewan and other officials to the subjects of His Highness the Maharaja Saheb, I experienced nothing but the warmest affection. You can, therefore, understand more fully probably than before how much joy it must have given me to have come in your midst again. You have added to the joy and pleasure by asking me to perform the ceremony of unveiling a portrait of the late Sjt. Venkatakrishnayya, the Grand Old Man of Mysore. I congratulate the artist upon his effort, because it is a faithful representation of the figure which was quite familiar to me. Perhaps, all of you do not know that I had the pleasure and privilege of seeing the Grand Old Man of Mysore in flesh and blood during my visit. I had then become acquainted with his many virtues. I know then that he occupied a unique place in your hearts. I am quite sure you do not expect me or want me to recount his many virtues. You who were on the spot know them much better than I could possibly do during a brief visit. I only hope that those of his virtues for which you and I prize his memory will be translated into our lives. We may not flatter ourselves with the brief that we have discharged the obligation to his memory by your inviting me to unveil this portrait and witnessing the ceremony and by unveiling it.

“I must now pass on to the mission that has brought me here. The Municipal address reminds me that I should see things which are worth seeing, so that I may carry away happy impressions of the effort that has been and is being made here on behalf of the Harijans. The Reception Committee with very great forethought had arranged to take me, before bringing me to this meeting, to various Cheries (localities) and showed me the improvements made during these six years. And you are quite right in thinking that after an examination of these places I should carry away nothing but happy impressions of what has been done on behalf of Harijans. I must congratulate the State and the Municipality of Mysore on the neatness and cleanliness I observed in all the places visited this afternoon. And I am glad for the assurance that the Municipality will not lose any time in looking after the domestic comforts of the Harijans of this city. In my opinion, sweepers in every city are its noblest servants. It must be a matter of humiliation and shame to have the sweepers and scavenges consigned to the dirtiest places and utterly neglected. In my opinion, they hold the key of the health of every city I their pockets. Any city that dares neglect its scavengers and sweepers commits the crime of neglecting the health of its citizens.

“But my mission covers a much wider theme that the economic welfare of Harijans. We are, no doubt, bound to jealously guard their economic and educational welfare. But this is not enough, if we are to do reparation to Harijans for the untold hardships to which we have subjected them for centuries past. They are entitled to precisely the same rights and privileges as any other citizen. And as Hindus they are entitled to the same social amenities and religious privileges that any other Hindu is entitled to. My mission, therefore, is to invite Savarna Hindus to wash themselves clean of the guilt of untouchability. And If, during the short period of grace open to Savarna Hindus, they fail to do this duty, I have not the shadow of a doubt that Hinduism will perish. You can now understand that this cannot be done by a municipality or even the Maharaja Saheb himself. If you and I will not change our hearts, what can even Rajas and Maharajas do? It is, therefore my privilege, as it is my duty, to invite you to cleanse your hearts of untouchability, the distinction of high and low. If you understand thoroughly the spirit of this message, the change of heart is an incredibly simple performance; and you can see in the twinkling of an eye how, if this change comes about in Savarna Hindu hearts, the economic, social and religious progress of Harijans must follow. It will then be a sign and seal of this change of heart. All these purses you have been kind enough to give me I consider as an earnest of your determination to make that change of heart. May God give you strength to do it and save Hinduism from impending doom.”

On the morning of the 6th January 1934, Gandhi left Mysore for Channapatna. En route he visited Mandya, Sakoor, Maddur, Besagrahalli, Shivapur and Somanahally, where he received purses amounting to Rs.815.

(Excerpted from Mahatma Gandhi’s Campaign against Untouchability in
Karnataka, published by Chaitra Pallavi Prakashana, Mysore, 116 pages, Rs 100, with the permission of the author)

***

Gandhi had visited Mysore State seven years earlier, in 1927, as a State guest of the Maharaja.

At the beginning of a recorded speech in 1931, he is heard saying this:

“In my tour last year in Mysore [State], I met many poor villagers, and I found upon inquiry that they did not know who ruled Mysore. They simply said some God ruled it. If the knowledge of these poor people was so limited about their ruler, I, who am infinitely lesser in respect to God than they to their ruler need not be surprised if I do not realize the presence of God, the King of Kings. Nevertheless I do feel as the poor villagers felt about Mysore, that there is orderliness in the universe.”

Naada habba with an eye on the North and West

28 September 2011

The 401st Dasara is upon us. On the first day of the nine nights, U.B.Vasudev in Tampa, Florida, forwards a panoramic picture of the main Amba Vilas palace in Mysore, the cynosure of all eyes, all lit up.

This picture, as viewed from the Jayamarthanda gate, overlooking the Doddakere maidan and Chamundi Hills, has been stitched together using four different frames captured by Vasudev in March 2010.

This is how it looks during the day, without lights.

Especially for some of us who grew up in the erstwhile Royal Mysore, this time of the year is very nostalgic. It would have been nice if Mysore Dasara was what it used to be,” writes Vasudev.

The palace, which turns 100 in 2012, is also the star of Karnataka tourism’s print advertising campaign this year, hammering home the point that the Mysore palace attracts more visitors than Buckingham Palace.

A few years ago, the palace attracted more visitors than the Taj Mahal.

***

Vasudev also forwards a YouTube video of the anthem of Mysore composed by the late Basappa Shastry.

***

Also read: Dasara in punya bhoomi vs Dasara in karma bhoomi

On the morning of the first day of the nine nights

What is so famous about “world-famous” Mysore Dasara?

All that glitters is gold for the next ten days

My daddy, His Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore

Once upon a time, this day, another age

In the nervous 90s, stitching up some old memories

Five Hindus and a Christian invade Mysore palace

11 August 2011

All decked up in their traditional attire, the elephants for the Mysore Dasara—Balarama, Arjuna, Abhimanyu, Sarala, Mary and Ganga—arrive at the main Amba Vilas palace to a grand reception on Thursday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

***

2008: They come in all sizes: XXXL, XXL, XL and L

2010: Time to pull out the words ‘world-famous’ again

The make-up stays, just in case somebody asks

‘Where is Malgudi? Where we all wish we lived’

9 June 2011

On the 10th anniversary of his passing away, The Guardian, London, has a long piece on the legendary creator of the fictional town of Malgudi, R.K. Narayan, with churumuri‘s own Sunaad Raghuram quoted in it.

churumuri‘s 2006 campaign for keeping Narayan’s memory alive in Mysore, by renaming a Mysore-Madras train as Malgudi Express, connecting the two cities Narayan was connected with, also finds passing mention.

“There is at least one place in Mysore where you can put your finger on the elusive RKN – at his former home, up in the northern suburb of Yadavagiri. It was built to his own specifications in the late 1940s.

“The area, then rustic and isolated, is now a leafy street in a pleasantly breezy uphill location, but the house stands empty and rather forlorn, with a look of out-of-date modernity – two storeys, cream-coloured plaster, with a stoutly pillared verandah on the first floor.

“The idiosyncratic touch is a semi-circular extension at the south end of the house, like the apse of a church. On the upper floor of this, lit by eight windows with cross-staved metal grilles, he had his writing room.

“It had such a splendid view over the city – the Chamundi Hill temple, the turrets and domes of the palace, the trainline below the house – that he had to curtain the windows, “so that my eyes might fall on nothing more attractive than a grey drape, and thus I managed to write a thousand words a day”.

“A few hundred yards up the street stands the smart Hotel Paradise. The manager is Mr Jagadish, a courteous and slightly mournful man with a neat grey moustache. He knew Narayan in the 1980s, when he would sometimes dine at the hotel with his equally famous younger brother, the Times of India cartoonist, R.K. Laxman.

“I ask what he was like, but it is Laxman who stands out in his memory. Laxman was “very funny”, and had opinions about everything, but Narayan was “more serious”. He was a modest man, he didn’t “blow his trumpet”.

“Sometimes, says Mr Jagadish, he has guests who ask him: “Where is Malgudi?” He laughs and taps the side of his head. For a moment I think he is giving an answer to the question – that Malgudi was all inside one man’s head – but what he means, of course, is that the question is daft.

“Narayan was asked it many times, and ducked it in a variety of ways. One of his more enigmatic answers was this – “Malgudi is where we all belong, and where we wish we lived.”

Read the full tribute: Rereading R.K. Narayan

Illustration: courtesy James Fennelly/ Adelphi University, New York

R.K. Laxman/ The Tribune, Chandigarh

Also read: R.K. Narayan on Mysore

Ved Mehta on a day in the life of R.K. Narayan

T.S. NAGARAJAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knew

T.S. SATYAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knew

R.S. KRISHNASWAMY: A day in the life of R.K. Narayan

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY: As Mysorean as Mysore pak, Mysore mallige

A tale of two roads paved with debris & hubris

11 May 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: This is a tale of two roads in Mysore: the Janata marga and the Raja marga.

The Janata marga is the Krishnaraja Sagar road, in short KRS Road. Ever since the present ‘rulers’ of Mysore cast their eyes on this road, it has seen only misery.

Thousands of commuters used this road daily to reach their offices, shops and schools, and to go to the railway and bus stations. On the weekends, lakhs of tourists from all over the country used it because it connected the City with what used to be one of its most famous tourist attractions, the Brindavan gardens.

Such a vital link has been closed for more than a year.

Reason: A “multi-disciplinary project” involving the railways, Vani Vilas water works, electricity department, public works department, Mysore city corporation, etc is going on here. The work involves doubling the rail track, re-laying the pipes for water supply,  re-erecting lampposts for electricity and asphalting the roads.

But a year on, there is no end in sight to this magnificent project.

So, in these days of high costs of petrol and diesel, commuters and tourists are forced to take detours on roads not equipped to take the load, spending extra money, wasting time and wasting fuel.

No one knows who is in charge; so no one knows who to hold responsible for the mess: there is no coordinating agency, at least not one which we, the public, have been told, which monitors the work by the various departments and which specifies the date of commencement of work and its completion and the total cost.

Just what is holding up the project completion is unclear when other more important works are taken up round the clock and finished in record time in other cities and even smaller towns.

And as we speak, nobody knows whether it will be completed in the next 40 days, as announced by one of the officials, or if it will take another four months at least according to some other “experts”.

The Chief Minister comes here every now and then for his prayers and distribution of money, and the district in–charge Minister stays very close to this road.

Nobody seems to be bothered.

That is what happens to Janata marga. It is nobody’s baby really.

***

But the Raja marga is different.

The Raja marga is supposed to become the ‘pride’ of the administration.

It is supposed to cost Rs 18 crore to upgrade a present stretch of a road of 4. 5 kms and make it the mother of all roads. Naturally everybody is interested and involved. As the name suggests, it will be a ‘Royal Road’ in the heritage city of Mysore,  giving tourists  ‘a feeling of going back to around one hundred years’.

The first phase of work (between Hardinge Circle and K.R. Circle) is likely to be completed before this year’s Dasara festival.

The highlights of this project are a carved stone barricade, slabs to cover the storm water drain, ornamental lamps and tiles. These are supposed to depict the royal days of the Wodeyars.

Only, to facilitate this “feeling” of going back by 100 years, around 250-300 full grown trees will be felled without which the Raja marga cannot not be completed!

The Raja marga will be put to use for about four hours in a year and it is meant for tourists who can’t even walk on the road.

The KRS road which is used by thousands of tourists and commuters, can at best be described a mudtrack, basically meant for bullock carts with potholes and cannot even be termed a decent road. Most of them come back with problem of backache once they traverse up and down.

It is a shame the Government cannot concretise the road or at least ensure there are no potholes and unevenness for the entire stretch. Maintenance of this important road seems to be totally absent.

And we have money that is being poured into Raja marga in the name of tourists to give them a feeling of royalty hundred years ago.

The maharajas of Mysore and their Dewans, Sir M. Visveswaraya and Sir Mirza Ismail, and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in whose name this disgrace called national urban renewal mission (JNNURM) is being conducted… wish you were all here. You are all missing something.

Photograph: courtesy M.A.SRIRAM/ The Hindu


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