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Maharajas of Mysore

Chivalry and romance are associated with the emergence of the Yadu or Wodeyar dynasty, who ruled from Mysore from 14th century onwards for nearly six centuries. As one enters the Southern gate of the Mysore Palace, one can spot a small temple dedicated to Kodi Bhyraveswara. This temple is of historical significance as it saw the emergence of the Wodeyar dynasty. In this temple, a dramatic turn of events took place way back in the year 1399 A.D.

As the story goes, two young men, Vijaya and Krishna of the Yadu dynasty hailing from Dwaraka in Gujarat came to Mysore, after visiting Melkote on their pilgrimage. The two royal princes took shelter at the Kodi Bhyraveswara Temple, which was close to the Doddakere, from where people of then small city of Mysore fetched water for drinking and daily chore. At dawn, they heard some women, while washing closes discussing the distress situation of the young Princess Devajammanni. The death of her father, Chamaraja, the local ruler, had landed her and her mother, the queen, in trouble. Taking advantage of the situation, the neighbouring Chief of Karugahalli, Maranayaka, began demanding the kingdom and the princess in marriage. Taking the help of a Jangama Odeya, a Shaivite religious man, the two chivalrous brothers came to the rescue of the distressed Maharani and the Princess. Mobilising troops, they killed the Karugahalli Chief and his men and saved the Mysore royal family and their kingdom. A happy princess married the elder brother, Vijaya, and he became the first ruler of the Yadu dynasty. He assumed the name Yaduraya. Thus the traditional founding of the Wodeyar dynasty took place in 1399 with Yaduraya. Since then, 24 rulers have succeeded in the dynasty, the last being Jayachamaraja Wodeyar. It is during his period, India won freedom and later monarchy was abolished. With that ended the reign of the Mysore Maharajas. Yaduraya ruled from 1399 to 1423. Hiriya Bettada Chamaraja Wodeyar (1423-1459), Thimmaraja Wodeyar (1459-1478) and Hiriya Chamaraja Wodeyar (1478-1513) succeeded him. Hiriya Bettada Chamaraja Wodeyar II (1513-1553) became the fifth ruler. Thimmaraja Wodeyar (1553-1572) succeeded him and he defeated some neighbouring chieftains and expanded his boundary. The next ruler, Bola Chamaraja Wodeyar (1572-1576) was called 'Bola' or 'Bald' because while he was visiting the Chamundi Hills to worship the Goddess, a lightning struck and he lost all his hairs. After him, Bettada Chamaraja Wodeyar III (1576-1578) ruled for a brief period of about two years.

Mummadi Krishnaraja WodeyarThe next ruler, Raja Wodeyar (1578-1617), emerges as the first powerful ruler in the Mysore royal family. Till his emergence, Mysore was a small feudatory kingdom under the Vijayanagar Kingdom. The Mysore chieftains owed allegiance to the Vijayanagar kings and the Vijayanagar representative at Srirangapatna. Taking advantage of the fall of Vijayanagar kingdom in 1565 A.D., Raja Wodeyar defeated the Vijayanagar representative in a battle at Kesare near Mysore, shifted his capital from Mysore to Srirangapatna in 1610 and acquire the famous throne and ascended it. However, he continued the traditions of Vijayanagar and revived the famous Dasara festival, celebrating it for the first time in Srirangapatna with pomp and grandeur. After Chamaraja Wodeyar (1617-1637) and Raja Wodeyar II (1637-1638), the next powerful ruler to ascend the throne of Mysore was Ranadhira Kantirava Narasaraja Wodeyar (1638-1659). A courageous ruler, he successfully fought back the efforts of Bijapur Badsha to acquire Srirangapanta twice, fortified the Srirangapatna and Mysore forts with arms and weapons, and began minting coins with his seals. Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar (1659-1673), who ruled next, further expanded the kingdom by acquiring areas of Keladi Shivappa Naika and Palegars of Madurai and Thiruchinapalli.

Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar (1673-1704) emerges as the next celebrated ruler. Besides further expanding the kingdom and
Krishnaraja Wodeyarstrengthening the forts, he introduced modern administration with a lot of reforms in his vastly expanded kingdom. He appointed staff for specific jobs, fixed wages for different works, built several canals to provide water for irrigation, introduced weights and measures and also postal system, imposed taxes to improve revenue, constructed storehouses to store produces, and set up 18 departments (Chavadis) in the administration. During his 31 years of reign, Mysore saw peak of its glory. Kannada literature flourished under him, the Maharaja himself making significant contribution. Kantirava Narasaraja Wodeyar (1704-1714), Dodda Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1714-1732) and Chamaraja Wodeyar (1732-1734) succeeded Chikka Devaraja. It was during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar II (1734-1766), Hyder Ali Khan and his celebrated son Tipu Sultan became the virtual rulers of Mysore. They were in total command till 1799 when the British Army killed Tipu in the 4th Mysore War in Srirangapatna. Nanjaraja Wodeyar (1766-1770), Bettada Chamaraja Wodeyar (1770-1776) and Khasa Chamaraja Wodeyar (1776-1796) continued as rulers in the Mysore dynasty during the interregnum. With the death of Tipu, the capital was shifted back to Mysore. Five-year-old Prince Krishnaraja Wodeyar III was installed on the throne of Mysore in 1799. He ruled till 1868. He revived the Dasara celebrations on a grand scale in Mysore. The old Mysore Palace was rebuilt. During his period, steps began to be initiated for developing Mysore into a modern township. New Agraharas and temples were built outside the Palace Fort. Kannada literature saw a new dimension.

Narasimha Raja Wodeyar with Jayachamaraja WodeyarKrishnaraja Wodeyar was the longest ruler and Chamaraja Wodeyar, during whose period Mysore saw further progress on modern lines, succeeded him. Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV became the 24th ruler of Mysore in 1895. His mother, Maharani empananjammanni of Vanivilasa Sanndihana was Regent during his minority from1895-1902.

The 38-year rule of the Maharaja saw an all-round progress in his State, including Mysore. Ably assisted by two Dewans, Sir M.Visvesvaraya and Sir Mirza Ismail, Mysore emerged as a modern city and State. It earned the encomium 'Ramarajya'. After his death in 1940, Jayachamaraja Wodeyar became the 25th and the last ruler of the Mysore royal family.

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