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Palaces of Mysore

Mysore till recently was popular as a City of Palaces. The Mahajaras of Mysore had built several beautiful buildings for various public purposes and also Palaces to suit their needs. These royal buildings have been put to different uses today.

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1) Mysore Palace: Mysore Palace is one of the most magnificent buildings. It is a sight not to be missed when it is illuminated on Sundays and festive occasions. The interior of the Palace is equally worth a visit, for its spacious halls, called Mantaps, paintings and architectural beauty. The palace is an excellent combination of Indo-Saracenic architecture. The domes and the outside construction are of Muslim architecture. But the interior of the Palace is a fine example of Hindu architecture. Together, it is an aesthetic blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture.

Though the present Palace is little over a century old, there is clear evidence to show that there existed a royal structure even when the two Yadu dynasty princes, Yaduraya and Krishnaraya, came to Mysore in 1399 A.D. The Mysore chieftain had his residential building here. Mysore remained the capital of the Yadu or Wodeyar dynasty till 1610 when Raja Wodeyar shifted his headquarters from Mysore to Srirangapatna, after defeating the Vijayanagar representative. Till this period, as the Mysore rulers continued to rule their province from Mysore, there must have existed a building appropriate to their stature and needs. We find a clear description of the Mysore Palace as it existed during the period of Kanteerava Narasaraja Wodeyar (1638) and Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar (1673-1704), the earliest description of the Mysore available on record. This clearly indicates that a royal structure existed in Mysore even prior to them. Kanteerava Narasaraja Wodeyar is credited to have rebuilt the old structure and the fort around it and strengthened it by placing around it eleven powerful guns, each bearing a name. The Palace, probably, did not receive due care after Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar, because of political instability in their kingdom.

Historical evidence goes to show that the Palace and the buildings located around it within the fortwalls suffered further when Tipu Sultan embarked upon a project to shift the town to Nazarbad, a distance of about 1.5 kms from the present Palace. There was no building worth the name in Mysore for the coronation of the five-year-old Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, after Tipu died in the battle against the British in 1799. The capital was shifted back to Mysore from Srirangapatna and the ancestral Palace was rebuilt on the same site in the same form as it existed earlier. The model and paintings of this Palace, built chiefly out of wood and mud in Hindu style, can be seen even today. The Maharaja and his family moved to the Palace in 1801.

As fate would have it even this hastily built wood and mud structure met with a catastrophe. During the wedding of Jayalakshammanni, the eldest daughter of Chamaraja Wodeyar, in February 1897, a sudden fire destroyed the entire front wing of the wooden Palace. Again the construction of a new palace, a bigger one than that existed, but on the same model and on the same site, was taken up in that year alone and was completed in 1912. During this period, the royal family temporarily lived in the Jaganmohan Palace, which now houses an art gallery. The new palace cost about Rs. 42 lakhs. However, the old portion of the palace was retained and can be seen even now behind the front portion of the new structure. It has a Mantap marking the coronation of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III at this place.

Built out of local material, the Palace is a three-storied structure with a five-storey tower, the tallest tower with the gilded dome rising to a level of 145 feet from the ground. Between the seven arches in the front, there is the "Ane Bagilu" or the elephant gate. Above it in the first floor, facing east is the grand Durbar Hall, where the rulers were holding court during Dasara and on special occasions. Inside the palace, there are beautiful pavilions or halls - Kalyana Mantap (the wedding hall), Amba Vilasa (the private durbar hall), Gombe Thotti (hall of dolls) and rooms with armory and trophies - all built around an open courtyard. Gombe Thotti and Kalyana Mantap contain life-like paintings and murals of the Dasara procession of the period of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. It is a reproduction of actual procession of the then ruler. Durbar Hall and Amba Vilas are used for private functions of the erstwhile royal family. Stained glasses, huge cast iron pillars, decorated dooms, murals depicting the famous Dasara celebrations, paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, beautiful doors and carved figures in panels, friezes and niches have added to the grandeur of the palace. Behind the main palace, in the old portion, scion of Mysoer royal family, Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar has exhibited the royal family artifacts in a private residential museum. The colourful Dasara procession starts from the precincts of the Palace.

Private Residential Museum: Attached to the Palace, in its old portion called 'Karikal Thotti', Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the scion of the Mysore royal family, has set up a private residential museum. The museum offers a glimpse of how the royal family lived and worked in the days gone-by. The living room of Krishnaraja Wodeyar, intricately carved doors and pillars with gold leaf painting, stained glass window panes, marble and tiled floors, personal collection of Wodeyar dynasty are the notable features of this portion of the Palace. In this royal background on display are items like crystal chandeliers and furniture, silver thrones, furniture, utensils and exquisite paintings of the old Mysore school, palanquins, oriental furniture, Chinese inlay chairs, pooja items, costumes, uniforms, trophies and the personal armory of the former rulers. Items worth noticing include a replica of Dasara elephant, silver clock with a photo of Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, 'Vajra Mushti' wrestling trophies of Maharaja's stables of the period of 1824-1924, birthday (Vardhanti) throne, silver wedding throne of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, photos including polo championship of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and his brother Narasimharaja Wodeyar, 1940 Dasara procession, queen's palanquin, and silver throne of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III used for pooja purposes (Bhadra Peeta) with lion shaped legs. It is an excellent collection of royal artifacts worth seeing.

2) Jaganmohan Palace is one of the oldest buildings in Mysore. It is over a century and half old. Jaganmohan PalaceLike the main Palace, it is also an attractive palace built by the Mysore rulers. During these 150 years, it has been the centre of several landmark events that have shaped the modern State of Mysore, now named Karnataka. Built in 1861, it housed the royal family when the old wooden palace was gutted in a fire in 1897.

The royal family stayed in this palace till the present main Palace was built. The installation of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV was conducted here in 1902. Lord Curzon, the Viceroy and Governor-General of India attended it. Its ornamental front portion with a hall was added to the main building at the time of the marriage of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and hence was called the Wedding Pavilion. The pavilion also served as the Durbar Hall in which Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV held the annual birthday and Dasara Durbars till the completion of the new Sejje or Durbar Hall in the main Palace in 1910. The pavilion was the venue of the Representative Assembly after 1923, a democratic set up of the people's representatives to deliberate and decide the affairs of the state, the first of its kind in a princely state, an arrangement made by the Mysore Maharajas.

The early convocations of the Mysore University were held in this beautiful hall. The hall was also a royal auditorium for staging drama and other cultural activities exclusively for the members of the royal family. It was also a venue for several important meetings and sessions till modern structures came up in other parts of the city. Even today it continues to be a venue in the heart of the city for conferences and cultural programmes, which include annual music, dance and other cultural activities, including the Dasara cultural programmes. It has two huge wooden doors on either side of which are displayed the Dashavathara, or the ten incarnations of Vishnu. The three-storied main structure was converted into an art gallery during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. It has a collection of artifacts belonging to the Mysore rulers.

Among the art galleries in South India, the Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery of Mysore stands prominently because of its possession of very great paintings from the brush of the world famous artists as Rembrant, a similar of which are not found in any of the art collection in the world except Russia. Besides Rembrant, works of old masters like P.P. Rubans, Titan, Aless Caddy and miniature paintings by Gunov are also exhibited in the western section of the collections. Valuable and rare art collections made by Col.Scott, a British Army Officer, who served in the British Army that fought against Tipu Sultan, were shifted from Srirangapatna to this gallery in 1950. Gravure prints by British army men showing details of the Mysore Wars and of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan are also arranged in the gallery. A spacious hall is exclusively set apart for display of the famous paintings of Raja Ravi Verma, the famous Kerala prince and painter. The paintings relate to incidents from epics. Also displayed are paintings of Mysore, Bengal and European schools. Among the famous painters whose works have found place in this art gallery are Mysore K. Venkatappa, Nikolay Roerich of Russia, Jiladin Ville of Germany, Sterling from England and Colton from Italy.

The Indian artists whose paintings are displayed include those of Raja Rama Varma, brother of Ravi Varma, Ishwardas, Haldenkar, Subbukrishna and M. Veerappa. M. Ramanarasaiah, who was the curator of this gallery for a long time, has executed most of the paintings related to the Mysore royal family. Ramanarasaiah was the Palace Artist and was also incharge of the exhibits of the gallery. Prior to his appointment as full-time Curator, renowned artist G.Venkatachalam was the Curator. The walls of the third floor are richly covered with interesting and colourful paintings relating to Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. On one side, his Dasara procession is displayed. The Maharaja is seen going in procession in a chariot drawn by elephants, one of the earliest authentic visual records of the Dasara celebrations.

Some of the games displayed on the adjacent wall are full of interest arousing curiosity. Several games such as Devi Sayujya and Srikanta Sayujya are calculated to direct the thoughts of players heavenward. The game of chess in Indian or Hindu tradition is very largely represented on this wall. Krishnaraja Wodeyar III was an adept at these games. He invented several new games, some of which are represented here. Jaganmohan Palace has also an excellent collection of musical instruments. The Maharajas, in particular Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, were using some of the musical instruments. It has also ornamental furniture, glass and Chinaware, sculptures and photographs on display.

Jayalashmi Vilas Palace3) Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion: The century-old Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion, one of the five famous royal mansions was built by the Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar for his eldest daughter in Mysore. It was built in 1905 and was renovated in 2002. The mansion originally built at Rs. 7 lakhs has been restored at a cost of Rs. 1.17 crores. The restoration work began on April 21, 2000 and was completed in about 18 months. The mansion will now be a museum and a research centre of the Mysore University, which has the building in its possession, after the establishment of the post-graduate centre, Manasa Gangotri. Rare exhibits from folklore, archaeology and geology, collected from various parts of India, will be on display.

The salient architectural features of this imposing three-wing building include a series of twin Corinthian and Ionic columns, regal pediments on the first floor, above the north and east porches, pilastered window-sets in variegated ensembles of flat arches, pediments and oval ventilators, all richly moulded. The interior decorations are of purely Indian style. Some important portions of the three-wing structure, south and north portions connected by a small over-bridge, is the dancing hall, Kalyana Mantap, richly decorated residential rooms. The 40x25 feet dancing hall has a wooden floor with a viewers' gallery and first floor. The roof of the central portion, about 40 feet high, is decorated with painted glasses providing ventilation. The Kalyana Mantap with 40x40 feet hall has a 12-pillar square. The eight-petal shaped dome has glass windows and on top the gold-plated 'Kalasha' or tower. Kalyana Mantap is the most beautiful portion of the mansion.

The main pediment in the high-bracketed European classical building in invariably embellished with matching motifs of Greeco-Roman design containing motifs from Indian religious tradition. The north side pediment of the mansion contains a sculpture of Goddess Lakshmi, whereas to the South there is Goddess Bhuvaneswari under a domed canopy. The different wings of the building are connected by arched colonnades. There is a small courtyard with a foundation at the main building. The interior reveals rich carvings and mouldings both in masonry and wood and are excellent specimen of the ancient Indian design.

The front of the quadrangle is carved over, providing a fine reception hall nearly 40 feet high, while the back portion, known as the Bhuvaneswari, is simply covered and surmounted by a dome with a gilt finial on top. In the Bhuvaneswari, there are some fine carvings to be seen. The doors, windows, almirahs and pillars supporting the dome are all highly filigreed. The mansion is chiefly built of brick and mortar, timber and iron; stone having been dispensed with on account of the great delay in construction which it would have involved. There are separated drainages for rain water and used water.

The finest views of the mansion are obtained at the eastern and western sides which, graced with ornamental pediments, extend to a length of nearly 400 feet. The total area of the mansion is 1.20 lakh square feet. Originally called the First Rajkumari Mansion, or the Palace of the first princess Jayalakshmi Devi, or the Kebbekatte Bungalow it is about three kms from Mysore City Bus Stand at an elevated place, opposite the Kukkarahalli Tank.

Close to the Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion was the old Race Course, where horse racing was conducted during the British days. This Race Course premises has now become the campus of Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering. Besides Jayalakshmivilas Mansion, the other famous mansions in Mysore are the second Rajkumari Mansion in Nazarbad, the third Rajkumari Mansion in V.V. Mohalla with the name 'Cheluvamba Mansion', the Maharaja's Summer Palace called the 'Lokaranjan Mahal', adjacent the Zoo Gardens in Ittigegud and Lalitha Mahal, which now houses the ITDC Hotel.

Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar (1863-1894) had three daughters and two sons. While the two sons, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and Narasimharaja Wodeyar continued to live in the Main Palace, three mansions were constructed for the three daughters. All the three bungalows were constructed in three different corners of the city in excellent locations atop small mounds, offering a beautiful view of Mysore. The bungalows were given the names of the respective princess - Jayalakshmammanni, Krishnajammanni and Cheluvajammanni. Their marriages took place in 1896-97 and 1900.

The first princess, Jayalakshmi was married in 1897 to Sirdar M. Kantharaj Urs, who later became the Dewan of Mysore. Kantharaj Urs was the Princess' maternal uncle. He was the younger brother of her mother, Vanivilasa Sannidhana, who was the Regent of Mysore, till Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV came of age to assume charge as the ruler. Kantharaj Urs had a beautiful house in the Fort of the Palace called "Gunamba House" after his mother. But, it was considered inadequate for him and the Princess after their marriage. So, befitting the Princess' status, a new Mansion was built by acquiring about 800 acres in "Vijaya Sripura", to the west of Mysore City. It was called the Jayalakshmivilas Mansion.

It was during this marriage between Kantharaj Urs and Jayalakshammanni that an accidental fire broke out in the Palace, causing much havoc. The frontage of the old Palace, built hurriedly soon after the fall of Srirangapatna in 1799 to accommodate the royal family, was fully gutted. It was rebuilt as it exists now, with polished granite obtained from the nearby Chamundi Hills. However, the royal throne and other valuables were saved with great difficulty.

The second princess marriage with Colonel Desaraj Urs was held in 1896 also in the old palace. The third princess married Sirdar M. Lakshmikantharaj Urs in 1900. It was held along with the marriage of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, who married Lakshmivilas Sannidhana Prathapa Kumari Bai, Princess of Vana in Kathiawar State.

4) Cheluvamba Mansion: Cheluvamba Mansion was built for the use of the third princess of Mysore, during the reign of Cheluvamba Palace (CFTRI)Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, the grand-father of Jayachamaraja Wodeyar. This building houses Mysore's premier research institution, the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI). It s situated on the northwest part of Mysore on the Mysore-Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) Road, near the Mysore City Railway Station. This is another imposing building constructed on an elevated place with an extensive area. The Mansion and the area around it are well preserved by the CFTRI.

5) Karanji Mansion: Karanji Mansion in Nazarbad Mohalla, adjoining the Mysore-T.Narasipur Road, was constructed for the second princess. Built in Indo-Sarcenic Renaissance style of architecture, like the other two Mansions, it houses since 1965 the Postal Training Institute of the Department of Posts, Government of India. It was built in 1902 on an area of 38 acres on an elevated place. It became popular as Karanji Mansion because of its proximity to the Karanji Tank. It was constructed at a cost of Rs. 4,27,610. The Postal Department is maintaining the Mansion well. Apart from training its staff, it has set up a museum here depicting the Postal history of the country.

Lalitha Mahal Palace6) Lalitha Mahal Palace: Lalitha Mahal is a heritage building standing on a beautiful location overlooking the Chamundi Hills. It was commissioned by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV in 1921 for the exclusive stay of the Viceroy of India. It was designed by E.W.Fritchley from Mumbai in the Renaissance style with concepts from the Italina palazzo and English manor. The royal guest palace has now been converted into a five-star hotel of the India Tourist Development Corporation of the Government of India. However, the heritage aspects of the Palace, having a viceroy room, a banquet hall and a dancing floor, and an Italian marble staircase have been carefully maintained. The dancing and banquet halls have been converted into dining halls and are also made available for meetings and conventions. To suit the requirements of the hotel, modern conveniences have been provided in its interior. However, old fixtures and furniture, elevator, and portraits are well maintained. The vast lawn, though reduced in size for want of maintenance, is being well taken care of, with fountains and parking spaces for vehicles. The side lawns are made available for tea and cocktail parties. The hotel is also now equipped with a swimming pool.

Mysore Summer Palace
Rajendra Vilas
Mysore Summer Palace Rajendra Vilas Palace
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