The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, May 6, 2001

Unmatched grandeur of Mysore Palace
By Usha Bande

YOU enter the simple, unassuming gateway, not anticipating anything more than the usual sort of a palace, housing a museum with rare artefacts and the like. But one glance at the building, a hundred yards away and you are transfixed to the ground, overawed by the splendour you encounter. The Mysore Palace is huge, artistic, beautiful and exquisitely well-maintained. One is literally drawn towards it, so great is its charm.

The palace is an extravaganza in stoneThe Mysore Palace has a chequered history. The present palace was rebuilt on the model and the foundation of the old one in 1897, after the old wooden palace was consumed by a devastating fire. Henry Irwin, the architect of the Vice Regal Lodge, Shimla, designed it. Maharani Vanivilasa Sannidhana, then regent, approved the plan and by October, 1897, the stone-laying ceremony was performed. The construction work took about 15 years. Two significant features of the building are: utilisation of local material as far as possible and fire-proof methods of construction.

What attracts the eye on first encounter is the massive grey granite building, three-storeyed, dominated by a five-storeyed tower with a gilded dome. The colour combination of the main grey structure with deep pink domes is attractive. The tower is 145 ft from the ground to the golden flag on its summit. The imposing facade has seven big arches and two small ones flanking the central arch, supported by tall pillars. Above the central arch is an impressive sculpture of Gajalakshmi — the Goddess Lakshmi with elephants.


The Mysore Palace has been the abode of the great Wodeyar family who ruled over the territory for over six centuries. Yaduraya founded the Wodeyar dynasty in 1399 AD. Since then till the Independence of India, the Wodeyars ruled over Mysore. They had Hydar Ali and Tipu Sultan as their Prime Ministers and counsels. Today, the Wodeyar family lives in the residential western half of the palace, while the eastern half is open to the public. It is this part — rich, impressive and witness to history — that leaves a visitor dumbfounded.

The colonnaded Durbar HallAfter removing our shoes, we walk along the long corridor of the ground floor and are ushered into Gombe Thotti, the dolls’ pavilion. During the Maharaja’s time, this part was meant to display dolls during the Dasehra festival. But now it houses exquisite art objects like the wooden model of the old palace, European marble sculptures, decorative Japanese lamps, a sliver umbrella, Indian marble sculpture from Rajasthan, a wooden mandapa with an idol of Lord Ganesha and an exquisite metal sculpture representing the adage, "Grapes are sour." This one is filled with lights giving it a realistic touch. The northern part of the dolls’ pavilion houses several dolls of the late 19th and early 20th century.

One of the most impressive items of the northern-most bay of the pavilion is the golden howdah. The core of the howdah is made of wood. The gold sheets weigh about 80 kg. These gold sheets covering the howdah have intricate designs showing flowers, leaves and lamps. It is bedecked with two ivory fly-whisks having fine ivory bristles tipped with zari. During Dasehra festivities, the Maharaja was taken out in a procession in the howdah. However, now the presiding deity of Mysore, Goddess Chamundeshwari’s idol is placed in the howdah and taken out in a procession.

Next, we move to the ceremonial hall, known as the Kalyan Mantapa. It used to be the marriage pavilion during the maharajas’ regime. The walls of this pavilion are mounted with 26 impressive oil paintings depicting Dasehra festivities. Floral designs, elephants, the maharaja in the howdah, the rejoicing public — all come to life. One of the most memorable panels depicts St Philomena’s Church in which the Christian community of the city is depicted standing with flowers to be offered to the maharaja. The signboard on the church says, ‘God bless our maharaja’. One is touched by the religious unity the country has shown. This octagonal, painted pavilion has a colourful stained-glass ceiling. Mysore artists did the design of the stained decoration while the Glasgow Foundry executed it. The theme of the glass decoration and the mosaic floor is the peacock. The peacock colours are impressive and eye-catching.

The simple and unassuming entrance to the palaceFrom the Kalyan Mantapa we move to the northern corridor only to encounter marvellous period furniture. Two silver chairs with the royal insignia hold us breathless. One of the chairs, it is recorded, was made by Bartonson & Company, Bangalore (the designers of the elephant gate of the palace) and the other by T.R. Tawker of Madras. Flanking the chairs are two cut-glass chairs from Belgium. An impressive silver chariot, the painting of the maharaja with his brother and nephew, the teakwood frame and the magnificent Burma teak ceiling as you look up completes the picture.

In the Durbar Hall, the maharaja used to hold his ceremonial durbar during Dasehra. In the evenings, cultural programmes, folk arts, police band and other festivities used to take place. Moving amid the huge wall paintings, the arched pillars and the floral designs, one is simply spellbound. So massive and decorative is the colonnaded passage through the hall that the overall effect is of awe and enchantment. The words of Constance E. Parsons aptly describe the Durbar Hall, "No short description can do justice to the beauty of line, wealth of material, blaze of colour and exuberance of decoration in the great Durbar Hall."

If you look up, you are once again in for a surprise. The ceiling has paintings of the 10 avatars of Vishnu. The central panel depicts the 12 zodiac signs around the trinity — Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh. And then, the huge chandeliers! God, one exclaims, what art! what beauty!

Nine temples in and around the complex sanctify the palace. They are dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Vishnu and other family deities. Miracles are associated with some of them. Executed in simple but impressive style, the temples house some exquisite idols.

The Mysore Palace is rich, full of splendour and decorative. It is a heritage site we can be rightly proud of.