This Village Shared a Special Bond With Palace
By Vincent D’Souza | Published: 12th December 2013 08:13 AM |
An eerie silence prevailed at the nondescript Gejjagalli village even as preparations were on for the final journey of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar at the Mysore Palace on Wednesday morning.
Though many of the villages surrounding Mysore were in mourning, the silence was deafening in Gejjagalli. The village shares a special bond with the Mysore Palace along with a few other villages like Sakalli and Marase.
People from these villages are cooks and deevatigas (a man who holds the torch during ceremonies) at the palace. Many of them hold the royal umbrella or sword at the entrance of the palace during Navratri celebrations and special ceremonies like weddings, birthdays, Krishna Janmashtami and other occasions.
Till a decade ago, over 150 people from Gejjagalli took up the seasonal jobs at the palace, but the numbers have come down to less than 10 now.
As television channels broke the news of Wadiyar’s death on Tuesday afternoon, Gejjagalli plunged into deep sorrow.
It wore a deserted look on Wednesday as most villagers headed to the city to have a final glimpse of the departed scion.
Those who stayed back, mostly women and children, were glued to television sets. Their moist eyes spoke of the affection they had for their prince.
These villagers eke out a living by rearing cows or are farm and construction labourers. They lost most of their agricultural lands to private housing projects.
Mallesh, who used to be a deevatige at royal ceremonies till a few years back, now earns his living by cooking at marriage functions. He returned to the village after having a darshan of the prince.
Forty-year-old Mallesh stopped attending palace assignments as marriages were more lucrative. He said he never expected anything from the Wadiyars as they themselves were in deep financial crisis.
Nanjundappa and Mahadevaswamy, who worked at the palace earlier, say they remember Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar visiting the palace only when he contested the election and once for a temple festival.
Each of these villages has tasks to perform at the palace during ceremonies. The people of Gejjagalli worked as cooks and deevatigas and arranged the golden throne.
Meanwhile, the people of Sakalli held royal umbrellas. The men of Marase village sported an attractive moustache and stood at palace entrances, brandishing swords, during ceremonies.
The Gentle Tragedy of the Last Prince
Srikantadatta Wadiyar was a prince forced by history to live in democratic times. Not a single unkind word has been spoken about him since his death on Tuesday, but politicians now shedding tears cared little for him when he was alive.
Straddling two completely different eras, Wadiyar lived a life of contradiction, perhaps confusion. Mahatma Gandhi had praised the Mysore empire as enlightened, but what was the young Wadiyar’s place in the new political landscape where the Gundu Raos of the Congress called the shots? He didn’t know, and he couldn’t quite figure it out.
There were still worshipful citizens out there, and he held them in a sentimental, virtual embrace. But that was it. While he basked in the goodwill earned by earlier generations through pioneering public welfare work, he seemed more eager to endear himself to Page 3 than to the citizens who came to catch a glimpse of him during Dasara.
By some accounts, he had no wealth he could spend on public welfare, and he was trying to create a fashion brand that could keep him going in hard times. (Let’s not forget ‘hard times’ holds completely different meanings for royalty and commoners).
Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, his grandfather, brought electricity to Bangalore in 1905, making it the first city in India to enjoy the benefits of wired energy. He also built the KRS Dam, earning the gratitude of generations of ordinary folks. The Mysore the Wadiyars envisioned and created, with the help of upright ministers (such as M Visvesvaraya and Mirza Ismail), is more beautiful than anything built by our masters in post-Independence India.
The Wadiyars planned two extensions to Kempe Gowda’s Bangalore — Malleswaram and Basavangudi — and they still stand apart from the greed-fuelled layouts that came up and choked shining new Bangalore. There is good reason people remember the Mysore royalty with fondness.
As for Srikantadatta, he had inherited the grand style of his forefathers, but not their wealth. The government wasn’t too sympathetic to his family’s claims on vast tracts of land in Bangalore and Mysore. He patronised turf clubs in at least three cities. He played golf and cricket. He owned a fleet of expensive cars. As appearances went, he lived it up, making public appearances with models every year on his birthday. But he could lay no claim to scholarship like his father, who spoke on philosophy, played the piano like a professional, and composed kritis in Karnatak classical music.
People say he was a kind-hearted man who was naive to the ways of the world. He was born into opulence: his grandfather used to order Rolls Royces in batches of seven, prompting the British luxury car maker to coin the term ‘do a Mysore’ to describe any order of a full fleet of cars at one go.
Many looked up to him to represent the gentle classicism of Mysore, but the soft-spoken ‘prince’ ended up representing a pushy fashion crowd that had no emotional connect with his lost world. That is the tragedy of the last prince of Mysore.
200 kg Sandalwood Used for Rites
Mysore: The Forest Department provided 200 kg of sandalwood, worth Rs 12 lakh, for the last rites of Srikantadutta Narashimaraja Wadiyar. According to an official, Pramoda Devi Wadiyar’s office had approached the department for wood.
DCF Kantharaj said 150 kg of high-quality sandalwood, that cost Rs 7,500 a kg and 50 kg of sandalwood, sold at Rs 4,300 per kg, was provided from the Mysore wood yard.