Vestiges of colonialism

Vestiges of colonialism

Majestic: Oriental Research Institute in Mysuru. Photos by author

Mysuru is known for its landmark monuments of the British and Wadiyar era. Of them, over a dozen landmarks of the colonial masters can be identified, including a few important roads.

Let us take a look at the earliest colonial landmarks in Mysuru, when they were built and after whom they were named.

The Duke’s House

Perhaps the earliest colonial structure of the British period is the Wellington Lodge, now housing the Southern Regional Centre of Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalay (Indira Gandhi National Museum of Mankind) in the ground floor. Granite steps lead to the poorly kept museum of the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage of the Government of Karnataka in the first floor.

Col Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), known for successfully waging war against Tipu Sultan and later against Napoleon at Srirangapatna and Waterloo, respectively, was the first occupant of the bungalow. He resided there after his victory on May 4, 1799, in the fourth Anglo Mysore War.

The Lodge, a plain two-storey building, was built in a hurry as a stop-gap residence till the Residency House, now the Government House, was ready for occupation for the Duke. The Lodge was also the first headquarters of the first Commissioner in Mysore, Col John Briggs, in 1831.

Cole’s Garden

Cole’s Garden is almost a forgotten name today. Today’s Banni Mantap, venue of the annual Dasara torchlight parade, was initially christened as Cole’s Garden, in honour of Arthur Henry Cole, the Resident of Mysore and Coorg, during the reigning period of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III.

Cole played an important role in getting the support of the Maharaja for the construction of St Bartholomew’s Church in Mysore. At the summit of the Chamundi Hills, he erected a mansion for his use in 1822, which later became the Rajendra Vilasa Palace.  

Statue of Gordon

A historical landmark is the Gordon Park and statue opposite the Deputy Commissioner’s office. Sir James Davidson Gordon, who was judicial commissioner since 1868, became the chief commissioner of Mysore and Coorg and later the Resident from March 8, 1881, until 1883. He was also the guardian to the young Maharaja, Chamarajendra Wadiyar.

Gordon was present during the marriage of Chamarajendra Wadiyar with Kempananjammanni on May 26, 1878, in the Jaganmohan Palace. As the guardian of the Maharaja, he had set up a girls’ school within the Palace for the education of girls of the royal family, a pioneering effort in the cause of girls’ education. He was also present at the historical investiture of Chamarajendra Wadiyar on March 25, 1881.

A progressive Resident, Gordon encouraged the Maharaja to create the famous Representative Assembly. With this, Mysore became the pioneering state in India to move towards democratic system.

In recognition of his valuable services, the Maharaja erected an equestrian statue of Gordon in front of the imposing Public Offices, the present Deputy Commissioner’s office building. The iconic bronze statue, a work of Edward Onslow Ford, a famous English sculptor, was unveiled in the Gordon Park by British Resident Mackworth Young, in October 1895.

An institute for Queen Victoria

The present Oriental Research Institute (ORI) of the Mysore University, a treasure house of palmleaf manuscripts, close to the Crawford Hall was built in commemoration of the 50th year rule of Queen Victoria in 1887. Hence, it was given the name Jubilee Institute.

Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar laid the foundation-stone of the Mysore Jubilee Institute which maintains a collection of exhibits of arts and industries. A library of rare Sanskrit and Kannada manuscripts was also established in connection with the Institute. The Library was opened to scholars in October 1891.

ORI houses a valuable collection of over 70,000 rare manuscripts, including the Kautilya’s Arthashastra from the 4th century BC.

Thandi Sadak

A landmark which has gone out of public access is the Daly Avenue, which was also known as Thandi Sadak. It is now a part of the Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens (Mysore Zoo).

This road with green arches is named in honour of Lt Col Hugh Daly, who was the British Resident of Mysore and Chief Commissioner of Coorg from 1910 to 1916. He played a vital role in signing the 1913 Treaty of Mysore, which made the Mysore Government equal to the British India Government. He was also involved in negotiating with the Madras Presidency with regards to sharing the Cauvery River water, on behalf of Mysore State.

Daly Avenue is a shaded road of architectural orientation between the then Maharaja’s stables to the present Lalitha Mahal Road (facing the Race Course entrance). On account of shade and the cool breeze that one experienced on this path, the creeper-covered walkway had also earned the name Thandi Sadak or Cool walkway.

The first clock tower

A liberal administrator, Lord Dufferin was the Viceroy and Governor-General of India from 1884 to 1888. His wife, Harriet Georgina, Dowager Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, played a leading role in improving medical training and care for women in India. She created ‘The Countess of Dufferin’s Fund’, resulting in the establishment of a number of Lady Dufferin hospitals and clinics, some of which still exist under the name. The first branch of the Dufferin Fund in a princely State was started in Mysore.

Accompanied by his wife, Lord Dufferin paid a State visit to Mysore on the invitation of Maharaja Chamaraja Wadiyar in November 1886. He was the first Viceroy of the colonial India to visit Mysore. On December 1, the Viceroy opened the Dufferin Fountain at the entrance to the Devaraja Market. Dufferin Fountain, now dysfunctional, is popular as Dufferin Clock Tower. The iconic clock tower was the first to be built in Mysore.

Prince prays in Mysore Church

Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clearance and Avondale and Earl of Athlone, the grandson of Queen Victoria, visited Mysore in November 1889, when Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar was the ruler.

During his visit, the prince visited the Maharani’s Girls’ School where about 500 students were studying. He offered prayers in the Bartholomew Church on the Bengaluru-Nilgiri Road, which is near the present KSRTC Mofussil Bus Stand, and witnessed the Khedda operations. In honour of his visit, the road from the present KR Circle up to the Hardinge Circle was named ‘Albert Victor Road’.

A crumbling structure

Now facing demolition-threat in the commercial hub, the iconic Lansdowne Building was constructed in 1892 in honour of Lord Lansdowne, who was the Viceroy and Governor-General of India when he visited Mysore.

He was the second Viceroy to visit Mysore after the termination of British Commission and restoration of administrative powers to Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar.

To welcome him, a series of celebrations took place in Mysore, and the construction of the Lansdowne Bazaars, as it was called then, was among them.