Cannons at Amba Vilas Palace, a 'blast' from the past

Cannons at Amba Vilas Palace, a 'blast' from the past

‘Kushala thopu’, 21 rounds of fire using cannons during Jamboo Savari, the last leg of Navaratri, may have been a tradition that was in practice since the Wadiyar’s rule. But what makes it distinct in the government sponsored event is that unlike other regions in the State, and also in the nation that were once governed by kings, Mysore is the only place where the good old artillery is still making sound, keeping alive the practice, albeit with changes. Though Jaigarh in Rajasthan boasts of the world’s largest cannon named ‘Jaivana’, it has been restricted to the Jaigarh fort in Jaipur, with royals offering customary puja to it.

Seven cannons

A total of seven cannons in a row near ‘Aane Bagilu’ (elephant door) welcomes the visitors at the Mysore Palace. Four among them are long barrelled and cast in different metals, while three are small ones made in brass. One among them is believed to be a gift from the then queen of England in 1881, and a crown like engraving on the barrel substantiates it. It was only later, the Wadiyar’s increased the artillery with similar types of cannons.

In the run up to Dasara every year, these cannons are overhauled to perfection by the dedicated 30 member unit drawn from City Armed Reserve (CAR) police force. Majority among them have been on the arduous job for over one decade, while five among them are new comers.

Sathyavelu, who is in the unit from 15 years told Deccan Herald, that the practice begins 20 days in advance ahead of Jamboo Savari (scheduled on October 4 this year). It starts with the cleaning of the barrel with water and oil, besides checking for residues if any, by inserting stick with a cloth in its end. The actual rehearsal begins with the acclimatisation of animals -- elephants and horses (belonging to mounted police wing) to the cannon shots.

Equally experienced Mahadevappa said that unlike balls of gun powder in use earlier, a plastic bag filled with gun powder is put into the barrel through a tiny hole on the top. A sharp object made of iron is used to insert the plastic bag, and break the same later to spill it inside. Each bag will consist of 1.8 kg of gunpowder making for one shot.  The gun powder is supplied from Arsikere in Hassan district.

On the D-day, 21 rounds of fire will be shot by three cannons as a mark of respect, soon after the elephant carrying Golden Howdah starts from the Palace. While one cannon will be kept as spare, the remaining three will be taken out in the Jamboo Savari, pulled by bullocks till Torchlight Parade grounds, the culmination point of the event.

The remaining artillery will be taken to the end point by ‘Tiger’ (the cranes used by the city police to lift four-wheelers parked in prohibited areas during the normal days). Another round of exercise, begins at the Torchlight Parade Grounds, by shooting 21 rounds of fire (in pauses) indicating the beginning of the evening extravaganza. This has also been in practice (lesser rounds) during the car festival at Chamundi Hills.


21 rounds of shots using cannons is in practice ever since Raja Wadiyar launched Dasara festival,  in continuation of Vijayanagar rulers, at Srirangapatna in 1610 AD. However, it was in practice even during private durbars and  VIP visits as a protocol, as mentioned in ‘Mysooru Noorinnooru Varshagala Hinde’, a book on Mysore authored by historian P V Nanaraj Urs.

According to Urs, 21 rounds of shots were fired as soon as the then Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar climbed the howdah as a mark of respect.

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