A display of regal pomp to many, the Mysuru Palace is after all the home of a royal family. But, the Wodeyars don’t shy away from sharing their glory with all those who are enchanted by its mysticism. You are welcome here.
Like every other kingdom’s tales, this one too has its set of ups and downs, challenges and victories, but, also a charred beginning and a curse that still haunts the royal family. As the legend goes, no king of this southern Indian kingdom had a son born in his family to carry the dynasty on. This is due to a curse bequeathed on them by the wife of a king who had ruled this empire once and was deposed by a former king from the present royal family. History shows that several rulers of this clan remained childless and their successors were adopted. In fact, the current titular head too was adopted by the family in a special ceremony as the new successor.
As the story has it, the royal history not just tells of a hoodoo but also an accident that had set the palace ablaze. As it’s told, a major part of the property was engulfed in fire during the celebrations of a royal wedding and its restoration took several years even under the watchful supervision of the best architects, designers and at a restoration cost of nearly INR 4.14 million. Commissioned in 1897, the construction of the palace was only completed in 1912.
Stories have been told of the empire falling and rising, but despite the downfalls that the royalty has seen, life continues inside the walls of one of India’s grandest palaces with all its splendour and nobility up for display to a fascinated eye.
The Mysuru Palace
Such a charmer this place is that it enthrals one and all with its sheer magnificence, the grandeur and a palpable old-world charm. It speaks for the royals it belongs to and its rich history which is rather eminent from its mega exteriors and extravagant interiors.
Crimson-coloured marble domes stand stunningly on the tall, pearl-coloured pillars of this three-storey palace, made of gray granite, making it appear straight out of a fairy-tale movie. A larger-than-life sized entrance and a lush green lawn around tickle one to step inside this awe-inspiring property.
Situated in one of the most historically enchanting cities of India, Mysuru (formerly Mysore), in the Indian state of Karnataka, the palace is one of the most elaborately designed and constructed royal homes. It is perhaps among the most stunning of royal buildings that the state houses.
The palace’s building, an architectural marvel, gracefully blends Hindu, Muslim, Rajput and Gothic styles of architecture. Commonly described as Indo-Saracenic, the style can be seen in many structures constructed in India during the British rule.
But, what makes it stand out is the royalty that still resides in it and their marvellous home that they share with the world.
The palace was once the seat and stately abode of the royal Wodeyar family and still remains their residence. Wodeyar literally means king or owner in Kannada (the native language of Karnataka). The kings of this clan, like all other princely states, had lost their kingdom in 1950, when India became a republic, but before that they ruled the kingdom of Mysore for nearly 550 years and the Mysuru Palace attests that.
The galleries inside have sculptures and paintings of its former rulers and their families, which the visitors can come, see and witness the history through it. Not just some symbols, every little detail in the design and architecture of the palace tells of the past of one of the most influential and affluent royal families who up till present day holds a net worth in excess of INR 100 billion (EUR 1.3 billion) and continues to radiate their kingship, at and through their regal abode.
Rolling out royalty for you
Apparently the family believes in enjoying their glory with those enchanted by it. Every Sunday and on national holidays, the palace is illuminated with nearly 10,000 bulbs, which light it to life, making for a view that gets eked in one’s memory. Tourists often gather outside the palace to capture the mesmerising scene and keep it with them forever. The palace also hosts the annual ‘Mysuru Dasara Festival’ during the celebrations of which, the doors of the palace are left ajar for visitors and tourists. The celebrations, part of a more than 400-year-old tradition, see various cultural and artistic ceremonies at the palace. Its grounds are set for performances by leading artists and there is a parade led by caparisoned elephants and other fancy floats. Part of the palace’s precious possessions, these elephants can otherwise be said ‘hello’ to from the outside, when they are relaxing and eating in the lawns. It is believed that every year, nearly INR 10 million is spent on maintenance to provide people with these grand spectacles.
Apart from the weekly and annual festivities, one can enjoy a tour of the palace. The ‘darbar’ (public hall), which houses statutes, sculptures and paintings of the former royalties, is open for the commoners along with some other bays. A glorious room, the ‘private darbar’ or the ‘Ambavilasa Palace’ is where the kings would meet their private guests. Its rosewood doorways inlaid with ivory still emanate the sheen that once was. One of the most playful of rooms is the Gombe Thotti or the ‘Doll’s pavilion’. It is a gallery of traditional dolls from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The chamber also has a fine collection of Indian and European sculptures and ceremonial objects like a wooden elephant howdah (frame to carry passengers) covered with 84 kg of gold. Also called the ‘golden howdah’ or Ambar, the chariot is one of the major attractions here. A rather intricately designed chamber is the Kalyana Mantapa, an octagonal hall, which has seen all of the family’s celebrations including birthdays and weddings. The walls of this chamber also adorn paintings depicting the Dasara processions. Its ceilings hold a sheet of vibrant glass with peacock and floral motifs on it, which are reflected on the mosaic tiles below, making this chamber exquisite from top to bottom, quite literally. On the southern part of the Kalyana Mantapa is the portrait gallery of the palace that displays paintings of the royal family and some artworks done by Raja Ravivarma, one of India’s famed artists.
Other than these chambers, the palace’s complex also has multiple temples, which have been carved out of precious stones and marbles besides faith and of course stories. The city’s oldest temple, in the honour of Sri Lakshmiramana Swami, which is located on the western part of the palace, is said to have freed a half blind man of his darkness. The temple is also important as it is within its walls that many religious ceremonies related to the royal children were performed. Sri Prasanna Krishanswami Temple and the Sri Bhuvaneshwari Temple are other important temples inside the palace and tell tales of the Wodeyars.
The Wodeyars, or Wadiyars as they were spelled by the British, ruled the Kingdom of Mysore since the establishment of the dynasty in the year 1399 by Yaduraya Wadiyar. Although they lost their kingdom in 1950, when independent India chose to become a republic, and further lost their titles and privy purses in 1971, they continue to retain their mystic charm and social influence in Mysuru.