She held the fort for seven years

Bangalore’s Vani Vilasa Hospital for Women and Children and Vani Vilasa Road, Vani Vilasa bridge across the Kabini and the Vani Vilasa Sagara dam in Chitradurga district, are all commemorative of a determined queen who at the age of 28 bore the burden of administering Mysore state for seven years (1895-1902).

This remarkable queen was Maharani Kempananjammanni Vani Vilasa Sannidhana, the daughter of Narse Urs of the Kalale family. Having been educated in Kannada, Sanskrit and English, in February 1878, at the age of 12, she was married to Chamarajendra Wodeyar X. For a short period, she enjoyed a happy married life raising her two sons and three daughters.

But tragedy struck the royal household on December 28, 1894, when Maharaja Chamarajendra Wodeyar X passed away. On February 1, 1895, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, the ten-year-old son of Chamarajendra Wodeyar X, was installed to the throne of Mysore and the Maharani was proclaimed the Regent.

Though the death of the Maharaja was a terrible blow to the Maharani, she rose to the occasion and decided to carry on with the administration of the State, ably assisted by Dewan K Sheshadri Iyer and an executive council of three members, viz., TRA Thumboo Chetty, PN Krishnamurthy and Abdul K Chaman.

Regency of the Maharani

During her seven-year regency, the State witnessed much progress, especially in the field of public works, health and education. To provide irrigation facilities to Chitradurga district, a dam across the Vedavathi was built (the present Vani Vilasa Sagara dam).

The Shivanasamudram hydro-electric project was undertaken during 1899-1900 and electricity was supplied to KGF in 1902 and to Bangalore in 1905. Bangalore was provided with drinking water through pipes from the Hesaraghatta reservoir. In 1896, Chamarajapet and Seshadripuram extensions were created in Bangalore to house the City’s growing population. In February 1897, a portion of the Mysore Palace was destroyed due to fire.

The work of rebuilding the Palace based on a new design prepared by an English architect, H Irwin, began and was completed in 1912.

Many dispensaries and hospitals were established. In 1897, the Maharani laid the foundation stone for the construction of Victoria Hospital in Bangalore, the inauguration of which took place in 1900 by Viceroy Lord Curzon. During the period of Regency, the number of hospitals in the State rose from 116 to 134. In 1898, the plague broke out in Bangalore and other parts of the State and the government took several relief measures.

Much emphasis was laid to promote female education. By 1902, there were 235 public schools for girls with 12,500 girls studying. In 1902, for the first time in the history of South India, two women candidates from the Maharani’s College Mysore appeared for B A examination and passed. Foreign travel for post-graduate students was introduced and the scheme called Damodar Das scholarship was instituted.

On August 8, 1902, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, at the age of 18, began his direct rule over the State. The regency of the queen had ended.

This occasion was attended by the then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, who remarked, “She has set an example of public and domestic virtue which has been of equal value to her people and to her family and which has earned for her the admiration and respect of all.”

In recognition of her regency, on the request of Lord Curzon, the British Crown sanctioned the privilege of raising a 19-gun salute on ceremonial occasions to the Maharani. In 1893, she was conferred the ‘Crown of India’ award. She passed away on July 8,1934.

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