Saturday, June 25, 2016

Royal Weddings – an affair to remember

Raja Ravi Varma painted the official wedding portrait of the royal couple H.H. Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar Bahadur IV and H.H. Maharani Sri Pratapa Kumari Lakshmi Vilasa Sannidhana; the oil on canvas portrait is in the collection of Mysore Royal family. Featured above is the 61x76 cms sized oleograph, printed in Germany. This popular print can still be seen at bhajana mandiras and residences of aristocrats in Mysuru. The wedding took place on 6 June 1900 at Jaganmohan Palace where a large hall was specially constructed for this wedding as the main palace was under construction. This oleograph depicts the sixteen-years-old Maharaja with his eleven-years-old royal consort. The invitation in Kannada reads the bride's name as Chi. Sou. Ku. Pratap Kuvari, daughter of Jhala Rana Vinay Simha. Whereas, the official version in the 'History of Mysore' by Hayavadana Rao states the details as Maharani Pratapa Kumari Ammanni avaru Lakshmi Vilasa Sannidhana (born 1889) youngest daughter of Rana Sri Bane Sinhji Saheb, Rana Sahib of Muli (Vana) in Kathiawar region of western India. Collection: Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysuru.

“God created the Maharajas to provide a spectacle to humanity” wrote Rudyard Kipling. And what a royal spectacle they were, their lives, the stuff dreams are made of, their alliances and misalliances and of course their fabulous and fabled weddings. Vintage photographs of some of the royal weddings show the bridal couple simply dripping with ruby, emerald, sapphire and diamond studded jewellery.

A hand written invitation with a simple floral trellis border issued under the joint oval seal of dowager Maharanis H.H. Rama Vilasa Sannidhana and H.H. Seeta Vilasa Sannidhana is for the wedding of Chi. Ra. Devaparthiva Raja, grand son of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III. The invitation dated 23 June 1877 has an ornate box below the oval seal stating 'Rani sahebarugalavara hukum'. Collection: Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysuru

Little wonder that India was and continues to be known as the ‘land of Maharajas’ and their weddings are 'heavenly spectacle on earth.’

1897. Wedding portrait of Maharajakumari Jayalakshmammanni avaru and Sri Kantharaj Urs who later rose to become Dewan of Mysore state (1919 to 1922). He was the brother of H.H. Dowager Maharani Kempanajnammanni Vani Vilasa Sannidhana. It was during this wedding that the front portion of the old palace was engulfed in an accidental fire. Collection: Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysuru

We are about to witness one such royal wedding, that of Yaduveer Krishnadatta- Chamarajendra Wadiyar with Trishika Kumari on June 27th/28th. Incidentally the young couple got engaged in May 2013 and their engagement was blessed so it is said by the Late scion of the Wadiyar dynasty, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar and his wife Pramoda Devi Wadiyar.

1898. Royal couple in regal finery. Maharajakumari Cheluvajammanni avaru, sister of H.H. Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV with her consort Sri Lakshmi Kantharaj Urs.Collection: Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysuru

What is it about a royal wedding that makes the spectator go ‘Ooooh’ with a gasp of wonder?
The formal wedding photograph of Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV and Pratapa Kumari taken on June 6th 1900, gives a glimpse of the opulence surrounding the wedding.
6 June 1900. The British Resident in attendance at the royal wedding reception. Standing L-R: M.Kantharaj Urs, A. Veerappaji Urs, V.N. Narasimha Iyengar, B. Krishne Urs, H. Nanjunda Raj Urs, M.N anjaraj Urs, T. Basavaraj Urs, H. Lingaraj Urs, Col. J.Desraj Urs. Sitting L-R: Col. Robertson, Resident, Yuvaraja Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wadiyar, H.H. Maharani Lakshmi Vilasa Sannidhana, H.H. Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, Lakshmi Kantharaj Urs and Dewan Sheshadri Iyer. Source: India Office Records, UK

Following the various formalities, the newly wedded couple were on June 14th taken in as grand a procession as the Dasara with all its fanfare. A note about the wedding was sourced from the India Office Records (Govt of UK). It says...

“Grand procession commenced at 10 pm with the Maharaja seated in the gold ambari on a magnificent state elephant. After leaving the fort, it proceeded through the main streets of the town and reached the palace around 1 am next day for the wedding ceremony.” The pity is that there is no photographic evidence of the crowds that thronged the street to rejoice in their Maharaja’s wedding to a Princess from the ‘North.’ However, the oil on canvas portrait of the young couple by the celebrated artist Raja Ravi Varma captures the opulence of the occasion.

Another entry of 1910 states that nearly 5000 people thronged the palace premises to witness the ritual of 'Kashi Yatre' performed at Yuvaraja Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wadiyar's wedding within the fort.
1910. The 'Kashi Yatre' ritual of Yuvaraja Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wadiyar, younger son of H.H. Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar Bahadur and H.H. Maharani Kempananjammanni Vani Vilasa Sannidhana. This was the first major event in the palace which was under-construction. In the foreground, H.H. Maharaja and H.H. Yuvaraja stand beside white royal parasols. Just behind them are the famed Mysore Lancers. In the background, the massive stone pillars that are visible behind the temporary ceremonial portico is now the inner courtyard of the palace. Collection: Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysuru

It is curious to discover that some of the Mysore Royals are ‘matrimonially connected’ to Royal families in the northern regions of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

The genealogical chart of the Mysore Royal House right from the reign of Chamarajendra Wadiyar X (ruled 1881–1895) until the present day indicates marriage alliances were being forged with Kshatriya kingdoms from the North. These exogamous marriages have been increasing since the end of the 19th Century.

In the book, 'Speeches of Dewan Kantharaje Urs' it is mentioned that H.H. Chamarajendra Wadiyar was desirous of finding Rajput grooms for his charming daughters. However, the first exogamous marriage was between Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, son of Chamarajendra Wadiyar, and a Rajput princess from the north.

After Chamarajendra’s death, the dowager Maharani Kempananjammanni Vani Vilasa Sannidhana who became the Regent on behalf of her young son Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV sought the British Resident’s assistance to secure an alliance. The Resident, W. Macworth Young, agreed, and sent several letters to the other British Residents and Agents in Rajputana, Central India and Bombay Presidency in December 1895.

The Residents and Agents claimed that the Rajput rulers were not convinced that the Mysore family belonged to their caste, and it is noted that there would be difficulties in effecting a matrimonial alliance with Mysore unless a beginning could be made by marrying a Mysore princess to a Rajput chief. This too seemed to be an uphill task. Meticulous minutes by the Assistant Resident point out to one proposal that had to be vetoed because of demands of a dowry! This proposal came from the Maharao of Kota, Mahendra Umaid Singh II to marry a princess of Mysore. The Maharao wanted a dowry of Rs 5,00,000, this was a huge amount of money considering that the civil list of the Mysore Maharaja, which was one of the largest amongst Indian princes, was at that time only Rs 14,00,000. The alliance failed to materialise. (India Office Records, Govt of UK).

Again we take recourse to the Resident’s minutes which states that the late Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar had met the Raja of Morvi, Thakur Waghji Ravalji II, and offered one of his daughters to the son of Morvi ruler. But this proposal too was dropped when it was discovered that the Mysore and Morvi families belonged to the same gotra.

18 June 1941. Twin weddings of younger sisters of H.H. Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar were performed on the same day. Left: Maharajakumari Vijayalakshmammanni with Pradyumna Sinhji Himmat Sinhji, Raja of Kotda Sangni, Saurashtra. Right: H.H. Maharani Sri Jayachamundammanni with H.H. Maharaja Sri Brajindra Sawai Brijendra Singhji Bahadur, Bahadur-Jung of Bharatpur, Rajasthan. The couples pose for an informal picture at the end of the rituals at the Mysore Palace. Collection: Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysuru

The much sought after Rajput alliance came when Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar’s marriage took place with H.H. Maharani Lakshmivilas Sannidhana Pratapa Kumari Devi ammani avaru who belonged to a family of Parmar Rajputs of Saurashtra.

Later several alliances with ruling Rajput families were forged. For example all three daughters of Yuvaraja Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wadiyar, had been married off to Rajput royal families outside the State. Princess Sujayakanthammanni and Princess Vijayadevi had been married into the royal houses of the principalities of Sanad (Baghela Rajputs) and Kotada Sangani (Jadeja Rajputs) respectively in Gujarat. However, the third sister, Maharajakumari Sri Jayachamundammanni had married the Maharaja of Bharatpur in Rajasthan, the family belonged to the Sinsiniwar Jat lineage.
March 1943. Youngest daughter of H.H. Yuvaraja Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wadiyar and Yuvarani Kempu Cheluvajammanni avaru, Maharajakumari Sujayakanthammanni avaru was married to H.H. Rudradutt Sinhji, Yuvaraja Saheb of Sanad, Gujarat. The couple are seen seated on the swing at the Sejje of Mysore Palace. Collection: Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysuru

The wedding of Jaya Chamarajendra Wadiyar may be said to be the last of the royal weddings. The first marriage which took place at the Kalyana Mantap of the Palace on May 15th 1938 was to Maharani Satya Premakumari Devi-ammanni avaru, the daughter of Pratap Singh Deo Bahadur of Jigni who are Bundela Rajputs.
15 May 1938. First wedding of H.H. Jayachamaraja Wadiyar (later in 1940 he became Maharaja)  with H.H. Satya Premakumari Devi ammanni avaru, the daughter of Pratap Singh Deo Bahadur of Jigni, Charkari state. A relaxed bride and the groom on the silver swing about to play with a ball made of jasmine strings, the ritual is known as 'Urutane on Uyyale'. The same ritual will be performed between the newly-weds on the evening of Monday 27 June 2016 at the Durbar Hall. Collection: Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysuru

The second marriage of Jaya Chamarajendra Wadiyar to Maharani Tripurasundari Devi ammanni avaru, daughter of Balananja Raje Urs of the Mysore State Forces was also celebrated with a lot of fanfare. There was great rejoicing throughout the State, and special services were held and prayers offered in all the important religious institutions in the State and at Tirupathi.

Buntings and banners had been put up. 'Long Live the Maharaja’ were hung across the palace Jayamartanda Gate and all along the main streets and the processional route .At the appointed time Jaya Chamarajendra along with relative and courtiers walked out of Palace stopping only to feed some sugar cubes to the bedecked white stallion. Then seated in the howdah is taken in procession.
1963. The newly married couple, Maharajakumari Gayatri Devi and Sirdar K.B. Ramachandra Raje Urs seated on the ritual low-stool (hasemane) with an ornate back-rest having the bas-relief of Girija Kalyana scene in Mysore style. On the left of the picture is H.H. Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, the father of the bride. They are the biological maternal grand-parents of Sri Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar. Collection: Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysuru

The Rajput connections continued, Maharajakumari Kamakshi Devi is married into the royal family of Wadawan in Gujarat. Her husband Rajakumar Atmanya Devji belongs to a family of Jhala Rajputs. Likewise, Maharajakumari Vishalakshi Devi is married to Rajakumar Gajendra Singhji who is a Rathore Rajput from Auwa, Jodhpur.

Royal processions were also taken out during the weddings of the daughters of Jaya Chamarajendra Wadiyar, Gayatri Devi, Meenakshi Devi and Kamakshi Devi. The marriages were solemnised in the Kalyana Mantap of the Palace. However, when Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar married Pramoda Devi in 1976, there was no procession due to various reasons but the wedding by itself was an opulent affair.
8 February 1976. H.H. Maharaja Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar and his newly-wed consort H.H. Maharani Pramoda Devi Wadiyar acknowledging the greetings of the assembled invitees after having darshan at one of the main temples within the Mysore fort. Collection: Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysuru

Incidentally, the biological aunt of Yaduveer, Kirtimalini Devi, is married to Shailendra Singh, another Bundela Rajput from the principality of Ajaigarh.

When Yaduveer weds Trishika Kumari, another Rajput connection of the Wadiyars will be forged. She belongs to the Ahra Guhilot clan of Sisodia Rajputs who are descendents of Maharanas of Mewar.
7 March 1977. Wedding of Maharajakumari Indrakshi Devi (daughter of H.H. Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar and H.H. Maharani Tripurasundarammanni avaru) with Sri Rajachandra Urs. The couple circumambulating the sacred fire as a part of the nuptial vows at the Kalyana Mantapa, the Peacock pavilion of Mysore Palace. Collection: Ramsons Kala Pratishtana, Mysuru

Perhaps the Maharajas of Mysore not being extravagant and not parsimonious either, have always celebrated their marriages with just amount of graciousness that bespokes of royalty. The scion of the Wadiyar legacy, Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamarajendra Wadiyar with Trishika Kumari also promises to be an affair to remember.


Royal Weddings

Another fairy tale royal wedding that took place in 1946 was the wedding of Princess Prem Kumari, the eldest daughter of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh of Jaipur to Yuvraj Jaideep Singhji of Devgadh Baria. This was the first wedding of Maharaja of Jaipur’s daughter in almost 100 years. So the celebrations were grand. All major royal houses were invited. The logistics and catering arrangements were prodigious and the preparations were made with military-like precision. The book of instructions to the Jaipur Palace employees was about two inches thick, detailing every party, festivity, ceremony and entertainment and containing programs for each group of guests and their staff. Even the menus for the servants and vantage points assigned to them for watching the processions were carefully worked out. The wedding festivities lasted for around two weeks.

The 1948 wedding of Princess Rajendra Kanwar of Jodhpur and Yuvraj Fatehsinhrao Gaekwad of Baroda was meticulously planned. A 12-man committee was formed to look after the wedding and logistics. Maharaja Hanuwant Singh personally supervised the marriage of his sister. The massive Umaid Bhawan palace and Meherangarh fort specially decorated for the wedding. Wedding reports state that the 4500 wedding guests were accommodated and the catering was done by 60 butlers and 125 English style cooks. There was a grand ceremonial procession through the streets of Jodhpur. This was followed by the main ceremony at Umaid Bhawan. The traditional Vedic ceremony lasted for two and half hours while the guests enjoyed cocktails and raucous folk music (Bollywood had not yet come into existence). This was followed by series of receptions. The total cost of the wedding? A whopping 1.4 million dollars and this was in 1948!

Cut to the present and we have the wedding of Rajkumari Shivatmika Kumari, the elder sister of Trishika who married Tikka Saheb Jaideepsinhji Mandhattasinhji (Jaideep Jadeja) of Rajkot on January 24th 2015 in Bangalore. Shivatmika and Trishika’s mother is Maheshri Devi, the Rajkumari of Vizianagaram and she has been living in Bengaluru.

Rajkumari Shivatmika’s wedding with Jaideep Jadeja began with a week of traditional festivities in Rajkot, a still sleepy dusty town of less than a million inhabitants. The seven day wedding celebrations culminated in an 8 km long procession through the main streets that had caparisoned camels, horses and elephants and the Yuvaraj Jaideep Jadeja rode in the golden howdah secured on the back of the bedecked Ambari elephant in the wedding procession known as ‘Fuleka.’ All the royal guests dressed in traditional attire were ferried in a fleet of 50 vintage cars that included a Buick Super, Hillman Minx, Oldsmobile Dynamic 76 Series, Chevrolet Phaeton Master Eagle Convertible Golden, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Bellaire and a Willys Station Wagon.

- This article appeared in the Star Weekend Supplement of the popular evening newspaper of Mysore, 'Star of Mysore' on 25 June 2016, few days before the wedding of current scion of Wadiyar, Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar with Trishika Kumari

The Coronation of the Wodeyar Kings

The coronation of the Kings after the abolish of Privy purse is no longer a grand public event but a very private ceremony. The most glittering coronation was that of the last king of Mysore State, Major-General His Highness Sri Sir Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar Bahadur, Maharaja of Mysore, GCB, GCSI, on 29 August 1940. To those of the citizens of the heritage city of Mysuru privileged to attend that event it was a spectacle that would never be forgotten. The coronation of the last Maharaja’s heir in 1974 was private and subdued.

Anachronistic as it sounds in a country that through an act of the Parliament removed the very word of ‘Royalty’ from its lexicon and rendered the hundreds of kings, nawabs and other minor royalty bereft of all trappings of pomp and transformed them into plain Mr. and Mrs., the fascination for a bejeweled Maharaja being seated on a throne to the sonorous chants of arcane hymns, smoke of the incense reaching the chandeliers high above, the nobles and other invitees dressed in outfits, with swords, draws a concerted and collective in-drawn breath of awe. And for one brief moment in time, one is sucked into the vortex of past and imagined  dormant memories of kingly rituals.

The coronation of the new king of Mysuru slated to be held before the onset of the annual Dasara will be muted but just as grand for those privileged  few. For here is an unbroken tradition of a Wadiyar ascending the throne of a erstwhile kingdom  whose history goes back to several hundreds of years.

Though the Mysuru kingdom can be traced to the establishment of a small principality by Yaduraya in 1399, it was only in 1578 that the kingdom was established by Raja Wadiyar (1578–1617). Between 1939 till the ‘reign’ of Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, there have been 25 kings of the Wadiyar lineage.

It was Raja Wadiyar who first ascended the Golden Throne and proclaimed with his coronation, his rule over the kingdom of Mysuru at Srirangapatna. A word about the Golden Throne is necessary. Shrouded in mystery, this throne which it was claimed belonged to Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers.

The saint Vidyaranya, who is the head of the Sringeri Mutt in 1338, is supposed to have shown the hiding place of the throne to the Vijayanagar King, Harihara, who lived between 1336 and 1357.  Harihara then removes it to his capital and the throne is used for the next two centuries as the royal throne of the Vijayanagar kings. The fall and annihilation of the Vijayanagar empire finds the throne being removed by one of the feudatory chieftains to Srirangapatna. In 1609, Tirumalaraya II gives it to Raja Wadiyar and goes to Malangi. A year later Raja Wadiyar declares himself to be an independent ruler and ascends the Golden Throne and claiming to be the inheritor of Vijayanagar tradition inaugurates the Navaratri and Vijayadashmi at Srirangapatna.

The canons of the Manasara, a 600 CE treatise on architecture and sculpture, which contains an entire chapter on thrones, mentions several kinds of thrones. Thrones  are symbolic seats of authority and symbolize divinity and power, both cosmic and earthly.  There is mention of the  Padmasana Throne, which is the ‘Seat of the Gods,’ the Bhadrasana or auspicious throne and the Lion or Simhasana throne which only those kings who had all the royal attributes could ascend. Scriptural canons say that the Bhadrasana throne is used for coronations and the Simhasana Throne for royal festivals like the Dasara. The Wadiyar kings follow this custom to this day. Thus the heir-designate will ascend the silver throne on the day of his coronation.

There are pictorial records apart from royal murals that show the king being seated on the Golden throne which is a part of the coronation rituals marking the first Durbar of the newly coronated king.

The photograph of the painting shows the coronation of boy King Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar in 1799 at the Kote Venkatramana Temple. In the painting, Dewan Purnaiah is seen on the right side of the king who is seated on the throne.  To the left of king, Lt.Col. Wellesly is seen seated. The throne itself seems flush to the level of the raised platform.

Incidentally, the  Devatanama Kusumamanjari, a Sanskrit work written during the reign of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar in 1859 in verse form is laudatory and  there is  mention of the various attributes of the throne. The verses about the throne also mention the  mystical  and magical powers that exude an aura around the throne. These powers prevent one who is not worthy from ascending the throne. Mummadi in his illustrated iconographic classic: Sritattvanidhi's first part called Shakti Nidhi gives more description on related topics like:

1. Names of swords which are worthy of King's worship as given in the Hemadri in the section called Khadgapujavidhi.
2. Names of Lions that stand in the eight cardinal directions of a Throne in Hemadri.
3. Names of decorative dolls fixed in the throne as given in Prabhavali- the commentary on Sankhyaratnakosha authored by him.

A legend from the ancient past is evocative enough to be recounted here. The steps of the Golden throne are embellished by figures  of 32  divine maidens. The King Bhoja has discovered the throne under an earthen mound and has it restored in his Palace. With all ceremonies and rituals befitting a king, Bhojaraja ascends the throne only to be thwarted by an invisible force emanating from the divine maidens which prevent from taking another step.  Then damsels then take turns narrating a story that enumerates the virtues  of an ideal king who alone is worthy of being crowned on the throne. The king then through good deeds goes about acquiring the virtues of a godly king and then is able to ascend the throne. . Shades of Arthur’s Excalibur!

Coming back to coronation one discovers that from surviving records of the 1940s that the Wadiyar kings were first installed on the Silver Bhadrasana and then there is the Durbar on the golden throne afterwards it is only during the Dasara festivities that the king ascends the Golden throne. Photographs from the 1940 show the Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar being installed on the Silver Bhadrasana  while a 1974 photograph shows His Late Highness Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar coronated on the Silver throne.

Be that as it may. There are two abiding reasons why the coronation of the new king is of importance. First this year 2015, marks the 75th  anniversary of the coronation of Jayachamaraja Wadiyar. It is also the  40th anniversary of the Coronation of Srikanatadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar.

Second the history of Mysuru and its peoples is remarkably entwined  with the Kings of the Wadiyar dynasty. From reign of Yaduraya (1399–1423) to Hiriya Bettada Chamaraja Wadiyar I (1423–1459)  and on to Thimmaraja Wadiyar( 1459–1478 ); from  the reign of Hiriya Chamaraja Wadiyar II (1478–1513),Hiriya bettada Chamaraja III Wadiyar (1513–1553),Thimmaraja Wadiyar II (1553–1572),Bola Chamaraja Wadiyar IV (1572–1576),Bettada Chamaraja Wadiyar V(1576–1578),Raja Wadiyar I (1578–1617),Chamaraja Wadiyar VI (1617–1637) and Raja Wadiyar II (1637–1638) and then onwards to various other kings culminating through Khasa Chamaraja Wadiyar IX (1766–1796),Krishnaraja Wadiyar III (1799–1868),Chamarajendra Wadiyar X (1868–1894), and during the regency  of Vani Vilas Sannidhana, queen of Chamarajendra Wadiyar X from 1894 to 1902 and then thence to the reign Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV (1894–1940) and Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar (1940–1950) and lastly Srikantadatta Narsimharaja Wadiyar, (b-1953), ascended the throne in 1974. Once again the dynasty continues unbroken.

We go back in time to the coronation of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. His ascendancy is significant because he was the first Wadiyar king to resume the rule of Mysore by the Wadiyar lineage after a gap of  36 years. It was only the courage, patience and sacrifice of the Queen  Lakshmammani that kept the Wadiyar dynasty alive. On June 30th 1799, the five-year-old Krishnaraja Wadiyar III was crowned the king of Mysore in a traditional coronation ceremony that took place in a special pavilion constructed near the Lakshmiramana Swamy temple in Mysore. Reports say that the  young boy was led by the Duke of Wellington to the throne.

Mummadi died on March 27, 1868. In due course, Dasara festivities started in September but a formal proclamation from Viceroy paving way for the formal installation of the young Prince was not forthcoming thus creating some apprehension in the Royal house hold. But on September 19, (third day of Dasara) Col. Elliot conveyed the good tidings about receipt of a telegram from the Viceroy in this regard. 

On Sept 23, 1868 (Wednesday) (Vibhava Nama Samvatsara, Ashvayuja Shudha 7, Budhavara, Moola Nakshatra) Young Prince Chamaraja Wodeyar X ascended the historic throne assisted by Chief Commissioner Bowring and Col. Elliot holding his hands on either flank.The twenty third Maharaja of the Wodeyar dynasty was selected from the Bettada-Kote Ursu clan. But the British Rendition ended only in 1881 when the Maharaja was invested with the administrative powers.

23 September 1868. Magnificent Mysuru style miniature depicting the coronation of Chamarajendra Wadiyar X in the old wooden palace of Mysuru. Also seen are the royal animals, carriages and palanquin. On the left side of the throne is seated the British Resident and State Officers, on the right side is Aliya Lingaraja Urs who played a significant role during the Regency of Vanivilasa Sannidhana. Artist: Venkatasubbu. Image courtesy: Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery, Mysuru.
A booklet, “ Proceedings of the Installation of His Highness, The Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar Bahadur in the Government of the Territories of Mysore” dated, March 25th , 1881,” states among other things: ”  On March 23rd 1881, the Governor of Madras, Major-General Sir Thomas Munro,  and his staff along with the J. D Gordon, Chief Commissioner of Mysore and the Provisional Commander-in-Chief ‘enter’ Mysore. They are met at the entrance to the town by officers of the Station, the relatives of the Maharaja and officers of the Palace household.”

The publication then goes on to say that: “The Governor announces that he has been empowered by the Viceroy and Governor General and calls on the Chief Secretary to read out the Proclamation …” which announces to the chiefs and people of Mysore that His Highness Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar is hereby  placed in possession of the territories of Mysore and invested with the administration of the Mysore State.....” .

Addresses are presented by various organizations and one in particular is fascinating. The address from the  Coorg Planters’ Association  says among other things that , “ Although we are not part of the Mysore Raj still Your Highness cannot but be aware of the ties which do and must ever exist between Mysore and Coorg.”   

The Wesleyan and London Missionary Societies representing the churches and educational and medical missions are next in the protocol presenting their addresses.

Interestingly the congratulatory address by the Catholic church is in Latin and it is worth reproducing here. It begins thus: “ Serenissimo Principi Ac Domini, / Domino Chamarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur, Mayssurensium Regi,/ Vicarius Apostolicus Mayssurensium and goes on thus : In hac auspicatissima die qua primo regni scetpra tenes, ac imperii habenae tuia juvenilibus manibus committuntur, quum laeto animo haec tuorum subditorum densa corona sua offcia et vota tibi offerunt, et nos Catholicae Religionis asseclae, neque numero, nec certe fida erga tuum Majestatem devotiene infini, te Regem ac ducem nostrum venerabundi salutus . (  “On this most auspicious day when for the first time Your Highness holds the scepter of your Kingdom, and the reins of Government are entrusted to the guidance of your youthful hands, with how glad a heart does this dense throng of your subjects present to Your Highness an offering of their duty and their loyal congratulations. We also, the followers of the Catholic Religion, neither small in number nor certainly the last in devotion to Your Highness, respectfully welcome our Prince and Ruler.” )

Like time-travelers we go to the coronation of  “Maharaja Sir Shri Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar”, who was coronated under unusually sad and untimely demise of his father. The ritual coronation was performed under the Regency of his mother H.H. Vanivilas Sannidhana on 01 February 1895.
Photographed by C.G.Brown, Bangalore, on 01-02-1895 and it was taken during the installation of HH Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV. This picture appeared in GRAPHIC dated June 1, 1895. It was Col. Henderson then Resident in Mysore, who conducted the prince to the steps of the throne and read out the Viceroy's proclamation. He also presented the Maharaja a handsome necklace on behalf the Viceroy.
After attaining majority, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV was formally invested with the powers of administration through a formal function on 08 August 1902 and the venue was a specially erected pavilion in the Jagan Mohan Palace since the old wooden palace was partially gutted in a accidental fire and the present palace was under construction.

One takes recourse to the India Office records which reveals:  “The road to the approach to the installation pavilion was lined on either side by the Infantry and the Cavalry of the Maharaja’s army. The Guard of Honor was by the Royal Warwickshires, a battle-scarred elite regiment of the British army and the Band and Colours  (Imperial cavalry guards) were stationed at the entrance of the Durbar hall. The Viceroy Curzon  who is to install the new king is met at the Government House by a deputation consisting of the Diwan and the principal officers of the Mysore State.”

A further excerpt extricated from India Office archives: “…the Viceroy Curzon  was accompanied by Mr. Wood, Under secretary ( Foreign Department) , Lt.Col. E. Barring, Military Secretary, Mr Carnduff and His Excellency’s Personal Staff. Also present was J A Bourdillon, the Chief Commissioner.“   The report mentions that there on the dais were two silver Thrones, one of which was subsequently used as a Masnad to which the Maharaja was formally conducted by the Viceroy after being installed.

The Coronation of the last Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar is evocative as it reflects the love of the people for their sovereign.   A  manifesto published in 1942 titled  ‘Ananda Chandrika‘ by  Ramakrishna Sastri, an Hindi Pandit describes the Pattabhisheka (the installation)  of Jayachamaraja Wadiyar. The author says that Palace astrologers have after consultations chosen the date of the Installation and that invitations have been distributed to all the important citizens. There are buntings and flags festooning the city. Several bullock-carts laden with sugar are sent around the city and sugar-candy was distributed to all the citizens and visitors to the city. 

On the day of the installation all prisoners are pardoned and released.  The King-to-be is dressed in white and bedecked with jewels. He is escorted to the Lakshmi-Vilasa of the Palace where the installation is to be held. The king then performs Kalasha Pooja, sacrificial rituals to Agni and other Gods.  The State elephants, horse and oxen are in attendance even as Palace musicians play compositions some of which have been composed by the Maharaja Jayachamaraja  Wadiyar himself. The king is then installed on the Silver throne!

The scion Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar was coronated on the silver throne in what was a very private ceremony. No chronicler seems to have recorded the proceedings or the arcane rituals that preceded his ascension to the throne. Similar will be the ascension of the heir–designate, Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar who will continue the legacy of the Wadiyar dynasty. The heir designate will be formally adopted on February 23rd 2015 and much before the onset of the Dasara festivities will ascend the silver throne in the Palace within whose premises so much of history has taken place and will continue to do so in the future.

Incidentally, Yaduveer Gopal Raj Urs traces his lineage to Chamaraja Wadiyar. His great great grandmother Jayalakshmammani was the eldest daughter of Chamaraja Wadiyar and Vani Vilasa Sannidhana. Further  his mother, Tripurasundari Devi, is the grand-daughter of the last Maharaja, Jayachamaraja Wadiyar who was the only son of H.H. Yuvaraja Kantheerava Narsimharaja Wadiyar, the second son of Chamaraja Wadiyar and Vani Vilasa Sannidhana.

The Heir-designate is to assume the name “Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar” on his coronation, and will be given the official Royal signet ring (Mohur), the royal seal  and the State sword. 

- A version of this article appeared in the Mysore's popular evening newspaper 'Star of Mysore' on 21 February 2015. Sri Rajachandra pointed out few corrections and the same have been carried out in this article. A warm thanks to respected Sri Rajachandra Sir.

Wadiyar Portraits – A Tradition of Capturing of Memories

Peacock pavilion of the Mysuru Palace is where the coronation of the new King is scheduled to be held on this 28th. In the hall adjacent to this pavilion is the portrait gallery that has on its walls the official coronation paintings of the several Wadiyar rulers along with their family members. The portrait gallery is unique in the sense that it is here that the past is remembered. It is also here that one would, on looking at so many representations of kings, begin to realize the importance that a royal portrait played in private and public life of the nobility.
But it was not only the coronation but also special events that called for it to be immortalized on canvas or photographed or painted. The Daly Memorial Hall which is home to the staid and learned Mythic Society in Bengaluru greets the visitor with a portrait officially commissioned of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV on the king being conferred with the GCS (the honor of Knight Grand Commander) on January 1st 1907.

The oil on canvas portrait shows the king partly in profile. The GCS Honor is pinned to a sash. The bejeweled necklace covering the neck of sherwani only add to the richness of the attire. The fluted and feathered plume with a jeweled brooch holding it place to the turban also add to the grandeur of this portrait.
But this was a royal portrait; it was meant to capture that moth’s wing flutter of a memory. The portrait painted was at once a recollection of an event while being at the same time a memory-keeper’s almanac. The hidden sutras embedded in these royal portraits take one backwards like a latter-day Wells-ian traveler hurtling to a distant past, let us say to the Official Coronation portrait of a 11-year old Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV who would soon be better known as Nalwadi.
This is a stylized photographic portrait that several artfully placed emblems in the manner of Reynolds for example, the jacquard seat of the chair. The three-legged table with a curved triangular holder while the top seems to be some polished surface. A clock, some leather covered  folders lie and the young prince is resting one hand on them while the other is at his hip. A Beagle is seemed to have been startled by the flash light, stands motionless standing under the table.
The photographer, Buranuddin of Mysuru, has used all possible elements that signify royalty in composing this photograph.
The autographed official photograph of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar to mark the Silver Jubilee of his coronation in 1927 shows the King dressed somberly resting one hand on the back of the chair while the other is grasping what could be a sword-stick. The single-row bejeweled necklace and the chain and fob in the upper coat pocket add a touch of elegance. Even the Mysore peta is unembellished. The photograph was printed in Germany on water-marked archival paper.
Thus it is clear that commemorative coronation photographs and paintings occupied a singular place in the pictography of the nobility. The old Colonial daguerreotype had just to begun to make significant inroads with several improvements. At the same time master Court painters continued to hold their own as master craftsmen in their attempt to painstakingly transfigure the subject.
Portraits were usually commissioned to commemorate special events. One such important event was the Coronation. In fact one example of the classic Coronation painting which is part of an illustrated manuscript is that of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar’s coronation. This painting in a private collection was photographed and reproduced in the Star of Mysore. The coronation took place in the Lakshmiramana Swamy temple that lies within the Palace complex. The painting was done in the royal atelier and there is no indication as to the identity of the artist.
One other painting that needs to be mentioned is the one at the Jaganmohan Palace which is that of the coronation scene of Maharaja Chamaraja Wadiyar. The painting vividly captures the historic moment and was painted by the artist Venkata Subbu in 1868.
There is one more official portrait of Chamaraja Wadiyar on being conferred with the Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India in 1892. This photograph reproduced here and which is in a private collection was ‘clicked’ by the famous photographer of the royalty, Raja Deen Dayal of Hyderabad. The photograph is self-revealing and attests to the royalty of the subject.
The portrait apart from its status as keeper of memories, was also, for the Wadiyar kings as it was rulers elsewhere across the country, an essential part of the accoutrements of the Blue-blooded nobility and the wealthier merchant classes.
Raghu Dharmendra, curator of Ramsons Kala Pratishtana (RKP) mentions in his dissertation, ‘Portraiture – In Surapura and Mysore Paintings - a Comparative Study,’ that at least a 1000 portraits of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar existed many painted in oils, inlaid work that used ivory, silver relief portraits apart from early daguerreotype photographs as well as lithographic prints. There are portraits of the king seated on an elaborately ornate chair, standing next to a pillar with a heavy drapery falling in folds, he is also shown performing puja either by himself or with his consort along with attendants. There are other portraits of the king with various pontiffs depicted as though they are deep in a spiritual discussion.
Going by the profusion of such paintings it would appear to the layman that the king was making a conscious effort to document history. The fact that he also encouraged court painters to create self-portraits and also portraits of other courtiers, officers, artists, employees and noblemen of Mysore, are an indication of the eclectic vision of this extraordinary king. Such portraits can still be seen on the walls of the hallowed Ranga Mahal, the top most floor of the Jaganmohan Palace.
Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar’s passion and his patronage for the visual arts had a dual effect. One, these paintings became a historical record and second, it led to the enthusiastic emulation of the King's passion by the Ursu Nobility as well as the leading citizenry of the kingdom. This led to a plethora of stylized portraitures that captured in all vividness and detail the lives of the people of the kingdom.
All this goes on to prove that portraits were as malleable as that of Dorian Gray’s though in a spiritual manner! Each of the paintings done were a part of a movable feast of images that shifted through time and space remaining to this day re-creators of the past.
Entering the private apartments of the Royal family one goes up the iron balustrade winding staircase. All along the steps just a little above one’s head at regular intervals are portrait paintings of various members of the Mysore Royals. Many of these are busts while others are equestrain portraits and so on.
While the English royalty painters used pastoral themes their Indian counterparts used the very Indian-ness of such public events of those days to display their virtuosity. For instance the 1927 Silver Jubilee of Nalwadi's coronation has been commemorated with a beautiful portrait done by artist Keshavaiah; this masterpiece is on display at the Banquet Hall of the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru while two equally stunning portrait paintings by Y. Nagaraju and S.N. Swamy are in the collection of Ramsons Kala Pratishtana in Mysuru.
The advent of photography did not as expected deal a death knell to the art of portrait paintings as much. The earlier sepia toned photographs of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar or Chamaraja Wadiyar shows them against a backdrop of classic settings. There is the heavy drapery hanging in folds on one side, a tall stool and heavy carpeting while the king dressed in his royal couture stands with an elbow resting on the stool while he assumes a dignified mien. The old black and white photographs led to another innovation, the painted photograph.
By the time Jayachamaraja Wadiyar ascended the throne, both photography and painted photographs were very much in vogue. But such was the ingenuity of the Indian photographers that their photographs of the Royalty was a marriage of these several stylizations. Thus you have photographs of Jayachamaraja Wadiyar shown in what was supposed to be a candid form. At various times you had special photographs of H.H. Jayachamaraja Wadiyar ‘clicked’ by the then well-known City Studios like Star Studio, Palace Studio and Raj Studio. The variation was of course the painted photograph of H.H. Jayachamaraja Wadiyar by M.N. Murthy.
The photograph taken by the unknown photographer of Palace Studios of H.H. Jayachamaraja Wadiyar in 1940 to commemorate the king’s coronation has been replicated as a painted photograph by artist M.N. Murthy and is now in the RKP collection.
But at no stage did photographs or painted photographs replace the portrait painter. There are paintings of H.H. Jayachamaraja Wadiyar by Y. Nagaraju and Subramanya Raju are on display at the Jaganmohan Palace gallery while the one done by Madhugiri Ramoo is in a private collection.
The tradition of painting historical events continues to this day. The last scion of the Royal House of Mysuru, the Late Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar along with his sisters and their husbands has been painted as several individual portraits by M. Ramanarsayya, the former Superintendent of Jaganmohan Palace.
It is with the intention of keeping this tradition alive, that Ramsons Kala Pratishtana (RKP) first commissioned artist K.S. Shreehari in 2014 to paint a classical portrait in the Mysore style of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar based on the photographs of 2013 Navaratri Khas Darbar.
This was followed by commissioning artist Manish Verma to recreate a Mysore style painting using a photograph of the Maharaja designate, Sri Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar. 
This classic Mysore style portraiture shows the king accoutered in his royal vestments and Mysore peta adorning his head while his posture follows the classic from that can be seen in many of the portraits of the present king’s ancestors. He is seated on the silver Bhadrasana which suggests that he has just been invested with the (symbolic) royal authority of Mysore Kingdom, the Maharaja of Mysore. 
-An edited version of this article had appeared in the evening newspaper 'Star of Mysore' on 27 May 2015

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Justice M.F. Saldanha

64 summers old Mr. Michael Francis Saldanha was born in Belgaum. His early education at St. Aloysius High School, Mangalore, laid a firm foundation for the distinguished academic record that followed thereafter. He graduated from the famed St. Aloysius College at Mangalore; the University of Mysore awarded him a gold medal for having secured a first class in English. Mumbai beckoned him for his higher studies, a first class LLB degree from the Government Law College in 1964 and a course in journalism where he excelled again, culminated in he being honoured with the coveted President’s gold medal by the then President of India, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnna.

Being a champion athlete, he has won numerous prizes in sports and games.

He began his apprentice-ship with a specialisation in criminal law, under late Rajni Patel.

In 1974, he was appointed as assistant government pleader in the writ cell where he handled a number of cases in the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court on behalf of the government of Maharashtra. It was here that he achieved a reputation both with judges and with the Bar for having displayed total fairness and integrity in the conduct of cases which finally entailed speedy disposal of cases and thereby imparting justice to innumerable persons.

On 30th July 1990 he was elevated to the bench as the judge of the high court of Bombay. It can be said that his stint at the judiciary has been a trail blazing one; Justice Saldanha has been rated as one of the most innovative and high profile judges on the bench.

The high degree of speed and efficiency into the disposal of proceedings in his court has won him unqualified admiration. As his contribution towards clearance of arrears (backlog of cases), Justice Saldanha has ensured that the time factor in case-disposal is reduced to the barest minimum and in order to set an example, he has systematically maintained a high disposal rate by completing the 29000th judgement on merits as on 10th December 2003. The last of reported judgements is even more impressive covering 22 fields of law and numbering 3750 as per the computer analysis.

It was exactly a dozen years ago that Justice Saldanha was transferred to the Karnataka High Court at Bangalore. After coming over to this State, Justice Saldanha has continued to deliver several innovative decisions, the most noteworthy of which is a recent one under the Contempt of Courts Act. In an extremely hard-hitting judgement, he has held that the role of law is being subverted by government and public authorities who disregard court decisions; he has held that in case of disregard of a judicial decision, the authority concerned will be personally liable for action. Castigating the situation prevailing in Karnataka, where court decisions are habitually and mechanically disobeyed and disregarded there by giving rise to a further round of litigation, the learned judge observed that with over three thousand contempt petitions pending in the High Court of Karnataka that it has created a national record and sending the wrong impression in the public mind that the law has not only lost its teeth but also its gums.

Justice Saldanha has maintained a rate of disposal that is more than five times the normal rate prevalent, this has been possible because he has adopted the practice in respect of all fresh cases that whenever a litigant qualifies for a fast decision, then instant justice must be meted out. Through this procedure, as many as 94% of all fresh cases have been completed either on the first or second date of hearing, thereby taking the burden off the arrears, at the same time older matters also receive equal attention, so that a sense of fair play is expressed by all sectors of litigants; his unique brand of instant justice has given the judicial process an entirely new outlook.

Another path breaking and thought provoking reform he introduced is that the time has come to 'Judge the judges' and that a bonafide complaint or criticism of a judge is not contempt. It can be said that he has single handedly brought about reforms in administration, traffic, environment and public life through the important decisions in his court.

This innovative and high profile judge has been feted across the globe. The Harvard Law Review defined him as ‘fair and fearless’ and the Chief Justice of South Africa described him as 'a man for all seasons'. He has delivered a series of lectures at the Beijing University. He was invited by the Johannesburg and Cape Town Universities to address seminars. Justice Saldanha is a visiting professor at the London School of Economics, the University of Sterling in Scotland, the Sorbonne at Paris and the Harvard Law School apart from several similar academic bodies in India. The International Jurists Association in its world survey in 1996, 97 and 98 has listed Justice Saldanha among the world’s ten best judges and he has been designated as the most respected judges on its permanent roll.

Another honour bestowed upon the Justice is that the Harvard Law School published a compilation of the hundred best judgements of the last century and listed his judgements in that exclusive list of Roll of Honour.

A talented and prolific writer, Justice Saldanha has contributed over 4000 articles and research papers to publications across the world. The brilliant and effective Justice can be easily listed as one among the all time greats of the Indian Judiciary.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Many Splendoured District - R.I. Dist. 3180

Karnataka, the eighth largest state of the Indian union is a state with legend, mythology and history intertwined together. Rotary International District 3180 encompassing the revenue districts of Mysore, Chamarajnagar, Hassan, Shimoga, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Kodagu and Chikamagalur is a kaleidoscope exhibiting the multifaceted diversity of this region.

Mysore - The City of Palaces

Mysore, also called the city of palaces, is one of the southern districts of Karnataka. Legend tells us that the place got its name from Mahishasura, the demon king who ruled here and was killed by Goddess Chamundeshwari after an epic nine day battle; the 10th day of this battle is celebrated annually as Dasara - the day of victory of good over evil. Mysore is referred as Mahisha-masthi in the great Indian epic Mahabharatha. Historically known as ‘Hadinadu,’ in some 10th century archaeological records, the city was named ‘Mysooru Nagara’ in 1524 by Chamaraja Wodeyar. Ruled by a succession of dynasties like the Cholas, Gangas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagar emperors and the Wodeyars, Mysore today combines traditional grandeur with modernity and emerges as one of the most beautiful and best planned cities in India. The city is famous for its fragrant jasmine, smooth silk and traditional sandalwood carvings and inlay work.

Of the seven palaces strewn across the city, the main palace, Amba Vilas, is unquestionably the grandest of all, containing one of the most interesting objects associated with the Wodeyars. The 200 kg golden howdah displayed during Dasara is a piece of art. The Jaganmohan Palace is a treasure house of pictures, paintings and art objects illustrating Mysore’s history and personalities. It also has a wide collection of Raja Ravi Varma paintings. Established in 1892 is the popular Mysore Zoological gardens which boasts of a wide variety of animals and has the rare distinction of breeding wild animals in captivity. Other places of interest are the magnificent St. Philomena’s Church having the distinction of being the biggest in South India. The Hoysalas have left an indelible stamp on the soil of Mysore in the form of the Chennakeshava temple at Somanathapura and Dharmapura. Several regional and central institutions like Central Food Technological Research Institute, Central Sericulture Institute, Defence Food Research Laboratories, Regional College of Education, Central Institute of Indian Languages, the Folklore Museum, the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums and the oldest University in the state (University of Mysore) are situated in Mysore.

Chamarajanagar - The City of Silk

Chamarajanagar is a newly formed district and is 65 kms from Mysore. ‘Arikothara’ was named ‘Chamarajanagara’ in 1818 AD by Krishnaraja Wodeyar III in memory of his father Chamaraja Wodeyar, who was born there. The earliest reference to this place dates back to 1116 AD during the reign of Hoysala king ‘Vishnuvardhana’ when the Vijayaparshwanatha Basadi was built there. The most conspicuous structure is the large ‘Chamarajeshwara’ temple built by Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. A stone tablet on the wall of the temple states that the town with the temple was established in memory of Chamaraja Wodeyar in 1828 AD. The Chamarajeshwara temple has a large enclosure with golden pinnacles and several shrines all around. The presiding deity Lord Chamarajeshwara is in the form of a Shiva lingam, which is believed to have been originally brought from Sringeri with blessings of the Shankaracharya.

The town has several temples dedicated to the various gods of the Hindu pantheon, notably are the Narayanaswamy temple, the Bhujangeshwara temple and the Veerabhadra temple. It also has a historical mosque called Jamia Masjid ascribed to Tipu Sultan. The modern town of Chamarajanagar is a busy active commercial centre having a large number of sericulturists producing several varieties of fine silk cocoons. Large tracts of land are forested having trees yielding valuable sandalwood, rosewood, and teakwood. The towns of Haradanahalli, Holealur, Honasur, Kestur, Kollegal and Maleyur have temples dating back to several centuries built by several dynasties from Gangas to Rayas of Vijayanagar. After the Fourth Mysore War in 1799, the taluk of Kollegal fell into the hands of British East India Company and came under the Madras Presidency in Coimbatore district. It was transferred to Karnataka after the reorganization of states in 1956. According to a legend, two sages named ‘Kohala’ and ‘Galava’ are said to have performed penance at this place and hence it became ‘Kohalagalava Kshetra.’ A 1224 AD Tamil inscription mentions the name ‘Kollagaara’ as an agrahara and a later record dated 1569 AD mentions the place as ‘Kologaala.’ The town has a strong tradition of the Shri-Vaishnava form of worship perhaps because it has been continuously inhabited by people of Tamil origin. The town of Yelandur was granted as a Jagir to Dewan Purnaiah for his services rendered to the throne by Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. The celebrated pilgrimage centres of Malai Mahadeshwara (Malai Mahadeshwara Betta) and Gopalaswamy (Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta) are situated in this district. The 15th century Saint Mahadeshwara was the head of the locally popular Haradanahalli mutt. The dense forested hills forming the fringes of the western ghats are inhabited by the Soliga and Kuruba tribes.

Hassan - Haunt of the Hoysalas

The beautiful stone edifices of Hoysala temples dotting all over the modern district of Hassan are eloquent testimony and ultimate tribute of the Hoysala dynasty and their master craftsman to art in its finest form. Situated in the south eastern part of Karnataka on the rights bank of the river Yagachi, Hassan is today the centre of India’s satellite programme as its Master Control Facility is situated in this town. It is hard to believe that the small village, what it is today, Halebid was once the flourishing medieval capital, Dwarasamudra of the Hoysalas, before it was razed to dust by the invaders. The celebrated towns of Belur, Halebid, Arasikere, Holenarasipura and Javagal, the villages of Haranahalli, Nugginahalli, Koravangala and Mosale to name a few, have stone temples which symbolise the confluence of Dravidian, Chalukyan and Chola styles, creating the Hoysala originality.

The celebrated Chennakeshava temple at Belur is well known for its stellar shape and 38 exotic bracket figures (Madanikas) displaying feminine form in playful, joyful, amorous moods. 17 kms from Belur is Halebid which has the strikingly beautiful Hoysaleshwara and Kedareshwara temples and many Jain shrines (basadis). The monolithic statue of Lord Gommateshwara (17.5 meters in height) towers over the summit of the Indragiri peak in Shravanabelagola, which is considered the spiritual home of the Jain sect. Hassan is a picturesque town in the heart of the Malnad region of Karnataka with rich vegetation and a pleasant climate.

Shimoga - Pride of Malnad

Situated roughly in the mid-south western part of the state, Shimoga an important industrial, commercial and educational centre, is on the bank of the river Tunga. Ruled by the Sathavahana dynasty in the 3rd Century AD, it was a part of the Chalukyan empire in the 6th century AD and a century later it came under the Jain chieftains, ruled by the Rashtrakutas from the 9th century until it passed on to the Hoysalas in the 11th century, and then became part of the Vijayanagar empire in the l4th century. Around the beginning of the 16th century, the Keladi Nayakas took over the area and remained in control till 1763 when Hyder Ali annexed the kingdom to Mysore’s Wodeyar dynasty. The western part of the district has tropical forests, the eastern part has several lakes and river valleys. 19 kilometers from Shimoga, on the banks of the river Bhadra is the ‘Steel Town’, Bhadravathi. It was here that the first state owned Iron and Steel Factory was started in 1923, and a Paper Factory in 1936. Historically important imprints have been left by the succession of rulers in the form of breathtakingly beautiful temples like the Lakshmi-narasimha temple, built by the Hoysalas at Bhadravathi. The Aghoreshwara temple at Soraba and architecturally splendorous Kedareshwara temple at Balligame to name a few. Home to an unique tribe, the Goravas, Shimoga also has its own dance form in the vigorous folk drum dance ‘Dollu-Kunitha.’ The traditional Sandalwood craftsmen, the Gudigars, have created a name of themselves in the Soraba-Sagar belt of Shimoga. One of the grandest natural spectacles in this part of India is at Jog, where river Sharavathi flowing over a rocky bed reaches a chasm and leaps down to a depth of 292 meters in four distinct falls - Raja, Rani, Roarer & Rocket - presenting a magnificent sight.

Dakshina Kannada - The Commercial Hub

The districts of Udupi, Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada together form the Karavali or coastal region of Karnataka which is the longest in the sub-continent. Mangalore, the district headquarters of Dakshina Kannada, is a quaint mixture of the old and the new. It is situated near the backwaters of the converging Netravathi and Gurupur rivers. Mangalore boasts of a long history of maritime trade which now has a modern major port. The New Mangalore Port Trust is the life line supplying petroleum products in major towns in Karnataka and neighbouring states and also in exporting iron-ore mined at Kudremukh to several destinations across the globe. Although developed as a business and commercial centre, it still retains its old world charm. Old tile-roofed buildings amidst coconut groves and St. Aloysius College chapel with its frescoes done by Italian Jesuit Antonio Moscheni cry for attention amidst high-rise buildings and modern shopping complexes. Kadri hills with its laterite caverns, Manjunatha temple dating back to the 10th century, Tipu Sultan’s Battery, Jama Masjid and the ancient Mangala Devi temple are the important places of interest. Dharmasthala with the Shaivite presiding deity of lord Manjunatha, has Vaishnava priests and is administered by Dr. Veerendra Heggade, a Jain. Puttur, a taluk headquarters, is known for its natural water springs ‘Bendar Tirtha.’ Situated amidst captivating hill settings is the ‘Gupta Kshetra - Sri Kukke Subramanya Temple,’ where the Naga serpents sought protection of lord Subramanya and lived in the caves. Karthikeya is worshipped here in the form of a cobra. The place is a sea of humanity during Subramanya Shashti. Venur is famous for the Gommateshwara statue installed in 1605 AD. Moodbidri, described as ‘Jain Kashi’ is known for the 18 basadis, the most famous of them being the ‘Savira Kambada Basadi’ (basadi with thousand pillars), built in 1430 AD which houses a priceless collection of jewel studded bronze images of Jaina Tirthankaras in the Sri Chandrakantha Swami Tribhuvana-tilaka Jain Temple. Karkala, 17 kms from Moodbidri, is renowned for the forty-two feet tall monolithic statue of lord Gommateshwara and the Chaturmukha basadi.

Kodagu - Land of the Brave

Breathtakingly beautiful, complete with green-topped hills and lush valleys, Kodagu or Coorg is the land where the legendary river Cauvery takes source and flows in all her splendour. Amidst the vast and verdant plantations of coffee, cardamom, orange and pepper, live the fiercely independent warrior planter clans of the Kodavas, who were never conquered by either Tipu Sultan or the British, and so to this day, all Kodavas retain the privilege of carrying firearms without a licence. Madikeri, the district headquarters has a hill fort built by the Lingayat kings of Kodagu.

The Omkareshwara temple at Madikeri is a curious mix of Islamic and Gothic styles of architecture. Talacauvery is where the life giving river Cauvery takes source and nearby Bhagamandala is dotted with apiaries, as bee-keeping is an old tradition of Kodagu. This is what the Englishman Hilton Brown had to say, of this land of Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa and General Thimmaya, in his article ‘The Astonishing Land of Coorg’ in 1922,
“I have called Coorg an astonishing land so it is astonishing in the respect already mentioned that, being considerably smaller than Aberdeenshire, it is ranked as a fully and separately constituted province in a country where mere districts run to half the size of Scotland. That fact, in itself, should lead one to expectations. But it is astonishing in many other ways and principally because, being situated in the heart of the South Indian peninsula, it continues to be what it is, a solitary island somewhere in the South seas, it would be remarkable and beautiful, but it would be at least credible, wedged between Tallicherry and Hunsur. It is scarcely that we could solace ourselves with the water meadows of Fraserpet or climb to the wind swept grass plateau of the Brahmagiri, where the Sambar walk in open solitude, and in the end descend into Malabar by the Saratabbhi Barapore river which must surely be as fine a piece of scenery on the grand scale as there is on earth.”

Chikamagalur - Cradle of Coffee

Legend has it that Chikamagalur was given as dowry to the younger daughter of Rukmangada, the legendary chief of Sakrepatna, while Hiremagalur (elder daughter’s town) which is another part of the city, was given as dowry to the elder daughter. Situated on the banks of the river Bhadra, the district is closely associated with the Hoysala dynasty. It was at Soseyur (today known as Angadi) in Mudigere taluk that Sala, the founder of the dynasty killed the tiger which was later immortalised in the Hoysala crest by master craftsmen.

Geographically situated in the south western part of Karnataka, carved against a mountainous canvas, this beautiful Malnad district is where the Europeans first sowed the coffee bean almost 200 years ago at Bababudangiri. Till today, Chikamagalur district remains a major producer of coffee in India. The district with dense tropical evergreen forests also has some of the most picturesque spots like the Kalhatti falls in Tarikere taluk, sunlit valley at Horanadu, river valley near Kalasa, Muthodi forest range with Bhadra wildlife sanctuary, the rolling hills of the Kudremukh. Sringeri the seat of the Adwaitha School of thought, the Bale-honnur mutt, Chennakeshava temple at Marle, Veeranarayana temple at Belavadi, Amriteshwara temple at Amrithapura and the Imam Dattatreya peeta are some of religious stops amidst the coffee plantations which blossom in an expanse of snow white in the flowering season.

Udupi - The Tropical Paradise

The recently bifurcated district of Udupi earlier formed a part of Tulunadu, the land of the industrious Tuluvas. The district headquarters, Udupi, is a noted Vaishnava centre where Madhvacharya, the propounder of the Dvaita Philosophy, established eight mutts called Ashta-matha – Pejaawara, Kaaniyooru, Sodhey, Krishnapura, Shirooru, Puttige, Aadamaaru and Palimaaru. The geologically significant basalt columns at St. Mary’s Islands nearby are a popular picnic spot. Five kilometers from Udupi is Manipal, a centre of modern learning founded by the legendary Pai family. Manipal boasts of several colleges and institutions of higher learning managed by the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. Udupi is considered the cradle of banking and hotels. Yakshagana is a unique dance-drama which is an all night event, performed with gorgeous costumes, elaborate makeup, quick movements, beating of drums accompanied by a narration in lyrical form - this art form is indigenous to the coastal Karnataka region. The institute of Yakshagana at MGM College is a pioneer in the revival of this art form.

Malpe beach, eight kilometers away from Udupi, is an ideal place for a swim in the frothing and foaming sea. Kollur is another pilgrim town at the foot of the western ghats known for its Mookambika temple. The idol here was installed by Adi Shankaracharya. North of Udupi along the coastal road towards Baindoor is the scenic Maravanthe beach where the highway is sandwiched between the Arabian Sea and the Sowparnika river.

The sea side towns of Kundapura and Baindoor have huge ancestral houses built entirely of wood. Udayavara near Brahmavara is the ancient capital of the ‘Alupas’ who ruled Tulunadu & Kasaragod between 700 to 900 AD. The district of Udupi is viewed as a stronghold of conservative Hinduism. It is also the centre for the distinctly non-Brahminical tradition of Bhoota cult. The Nandeeshwara temple at Mekkekattu houses the largest collection of Bhoota icons made of jackfruit wood. Another sight not to be missed is the ‘Kambala’ or the buffalo race, run in the inundated paddy fields by a pair of buffaloes egged on by a strong youth, during monsoon.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mangal Dhwani

I am sure that everyone who witnessed the two-hours long dance recital 'Mangal Dhwani' by Abhinava troupe of Bangalore on the Saturday evening of 21 Jan 2006 at the 36th Rotary Dist. 3180 Conference 'Shathottara 2006' will agree with me that it was a marvellous bunch of dances. Performing arts at its best, a visual treat.

The Abhinava troupe transformed the stage in front of the famous Lalitha Mahal Palace of Mysore into mythical Amaravathi of Lord Indra, the King of Gods.

The choice of songs and lyrics was well researched and the costumes were a true expression of the myriad hues of nature. The choreography was of the highest artistic merit.

Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, under whose command the beautiful palace Lalitha Mahal was built in 1931, was a great patron of arts. Believe me, he would have been delighted to watch the presentation, and Nirupama and Rajendra would have been conferred with the title of Asthana Vidushi and Asthana Vidwan respectively.

Like the first rains in June, the piece 'Monsoon' (Music by Praveen Godkhindi) drowned us in its musical and visual extravaganza. The abhinaya of Nirupama was so natural that when she pretended to catch the first drops of rain, we too felt the sharp cold drops denting our palms.

The presentation of Kuvempu's poem 'Haalu halla hariyali' was creativity at its best. The presentation of the 'dohey' from the immortal epic, 'Ramacharitha Manas' of Goswami Tulasidas was awesome, and the dancing duo of Niru and Raju gave it a new visual dimension.

The riot of colours and vibrant portrayal of Gopis in Raas-leela was a magical presentation; it seemed as if a medieval miniature painting suddenly sprang to life and performed before us.

The piece, 'Ta-dha' was a test of creativity for the dancing couple in which they came out with flying colours. It had Jazz and African music incorporated into the traditional Kathak orchestra. The dance was free flowing like a mesmerising aalaap.

The tribute to Saint Thyagaraja 'Jagadaananda-kaaraka' was most apt coinciding with the season. The performance of several dancers in unison was reminiscent of the mass singing by celebrated musicians at Thiruvayur. The dancers transported us from the sylvan surroundings of Lalitha Mahal to the fertile banks of Cauvery.

The penultimate item 'Nigaah' was a magical piece which would have pleased Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Oudh to no end. The finale 'Kadam Kadam' was highly energetic with deft footwork and the audience were left asking for more.

The visual message was powerful. The Abhinava troupe mesmerised the Rotary audience with their performance. Hats off to Abhinava.