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Mysore palace will complete 100 years next year

Last updated: 10 October, 2011

HISTORY

The Mysore Palace, which will complete 100 years of its existence next year, has many exciting stories behind it. From a wooden palace that was reduced to ashes, to the determination of a queen to see a new grand structure in its place, the stories are stuff that drama is made of, writes Ravindra Bhat

It would be an understatement to say that hundreds of people throng the Mysore Palace every day to enjoy its beauty.

The number of tourists who make Mysore an invariable part of their travel itinerary is immense. The Amba Vilas Palace draws them, much like the Taj Mahal in Agra.

This palace, among the world's most beautiful palaces is now on the threshold of completing a 100 years. The history of the palace is as exciting as the history of Mysore’s Yaduvamsha kings.

Construction of the palace that stands today started in October, 1897. After 15 years of work, the construction was completed in 1912. The cost at which the palace was built was Rs 41,47,913. The palace, which is a symbol of the glory of the Wodeyar kings, was built under the supervision of Queen Kempananjammanni Vanivilasa Sannidhana.

There is a tragic tale behind the construction of this massive palace. On February 28, 1897, the wedding of Princess Jayalakshammanni was held with Sardar M Kantaraje Urs. The old palace was abuzz with excitement and celebrations. By evening, the palace was reduced to ashes. Was the fire because one of the hundreds of lamps light that evening had toppled over and spread an accidental fire?

Or was it because the fire from the homa (a sacred fire set up during weddings or auspicious occasions) spread across the palace? One version says it was a fire in the kitchen. The fire raged, as people tried to douse it with water from the Doddakere. By the time the fire brigade was sent from Bangalore, the palace was a heap of ashes.

Before the fire could completely engulf the palace, the staff managed to retrieve the gold, silver, jewellery, books, the throne and several other weapons and valuables, and heap them in front of the palace. The queen was not one to lose heart. She decided to get a new palace constructed on that spot.

She looked at hundreds of maps and blueprints before going ahead with the design of the new palace. The one that impressed her the most was the blueprint presented by architect H Irwin, who was responsible for the construction of the Viceroy’s building in Shimla.

It was this blueprint that was used for the construction of the new palace. Fire-resistant material was used in the construction, as also fire prevention equipment. Lessons from the earlier disaster had been learnt quickly.

In 1932, the palace underwent minor renovations. The beauty of the palace only doubled. If one looks up at the structure, one can’t but exclaim and wonder what a majestic structure it indeed is.

A mix of designs has been used, from Indo-Saracenic to Hoysala influences to designs reminiscent of Greek architecture. A lot of granite has also been used in the construction. The palace has three storeys. On top of the third storey is a five-storeyed gopura or tower. The tower has a gold sheath. The tip of the tower is at a height of 145 feet from the ground. There are many domes, huge entrances, hallways and passages in the palace.

There is also a room to hold weapons, a huge library, an elevator, and a flight of stairs. The private bedrooms are all located on the third floor. There is a kalyana mantapa, (marriage pavilion), two durbar halls, the royal throne encrusted with gems, a music room, a dolls’ pavilion and temples all inside the royal home.

The palace is full of many fine engravings, sculptures, pillars and screens made of red and white stone. Local material has been used for all the construction and sculptures, barring only a few stones brought from Jaipur and Italy.

History of the palace

The old Mysore palace’s history is intertwined with the history of Mysore’s Yaduvamsha. It was in 1399 that the Yaduvamsha (Yadu dynasty) took over the reigns of Mysore, with Yaduraya as the king. If one looks at the history of the Wodeyar kings and their lineage, you will notice that prince Chamaraja’s daughter Devarajammanni was married to Yaduraya and settled in Mysore. There are records that suggest that the old palace existed even before the advent of Yaduraya to Mysore.

There is evidence to suggest that when Ranadheera Kanteerava Narasaraja Wodeyar was the king, the palace was struck by lightning and the king had to get a new palace built.

But it is not clear whether he actually got a new palace built, or whether the old one was renovated. The next reference to the palace in historical texts comes in 1760 when the then Maharaja Immadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar is brought by Hyder Ali to have a look at the palace. Later, after the death of Hyder Ali in 1793, Tipu Sultan defeated the Mysore kings and became Sultan of the region.

After the death of Tipu, the five-year-old Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar was coronated in a pandal put up near Nazarbad, according to a letter dated June 14, 1799, written by Colonel Wellesley to his brother Earl of Mornington. Later, by early 1800s, a palace was built, which was eventually destroyed in the fire.

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