If you ever were to give an example of fine luxury and grandeur to a friend, you could take them to the Maharaja’s Palace in Mysuru. This official residence of the Wodeyar dynasty is a visual spectacle
WORDS: AMOGH PUROHIT
First built in the 14th century, entirely out of wood, the palace is a testament to the irrepressible spirit of the people of Mysuru and the kings that have lived there.
The current palace is the fourth built up from the ground and was completed in 1912. Designed by British architect Henry Irwin, the palace is a worthy example of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture that blends together Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic architecture.
The history of the palace is action-packed with battles, politics and misfortunes. In 1638, the palace was struck by lightning. It was rebuilt by Kantirava Narasa Raja Wodeyar. He even added new pavilions.
But after the death of Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar the kingdom plunged into political instability and became prey to Tipu Sultan in 1793.
Just six years later, upon his death the Wodeyar dynasty took charge of the palace again and commissioned a new one in its place in 1803. This wooden palace too faced misfortune and was burnt to the ground at a wedding ceremony.
In the last chapter of this tainted and charred history of the palace, its destiny was passed on to queen regent Kempananjammanni Vanivilasa Sanndihana. She commissioned the masterpiece that we marvel at today for a whopping ₹42 lakh in 1912.
Mysuru Palace, also known as Amba Vilas Palace, is located in the heart of the city; it was planned with all roads branch out of the palace boundaries. Surrounded with an aesthetically designed vast garden, the palace is a three storied building, built with stone and marble domes.
It also has a five-storied, 145-ft high tower. The most striking feature of the palace are its deep pink marble domes on top of grey granite, which was designed by Irwin. Its portico is designed with seven vast arches while the central arch is bordered by two smaller ones, surrounded by tall beautiful pillars.
The front of the palace has an open balcony supported by massive circular columns. The beautifully designed square towers at various cardinal points are covered with domes.
And if you are floored by the arching exteriors, wait till you get inside. Just as you enter, the Doll pavilion welcomes you. Antiques made of gold, silver, marble, ivory from around the world are on display, some of them are over 900 years old.
The palace holds so much history that it feels like walking through a gorgeous museum that treasures souvenirs, paintings, jewellery, royal costumes and other items, which were once possessed by the Wodeyars.
It’s a kaleidoscope of stained glass and mirrors. The tastefully decorated and intricately carved doors open into luxuriously decorated rooms. The ground floor with an enclosed courtyard displays costumes, musical instruments, toys and numerous rich portraits.
The upper floor houses a small collection of weapons and hunting equipment from the time when the royals would go for game-hunting as a sport.
The beautifully carved mahogany ceilings, solid silver doors, white marble floors and superb columned Durbar Hall are breathtaking. The palace is a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world. Exquisitely carved doors open into stunningly luxurious rooms.
And if you head south of the palace you will enter the marriage pavilion or the Kalyana Mantapa.
This colossal hall has an octagonal gabled roof, covered by stained glasses. The flooring of this magnificent Kalyana Mantapa has artistic geometrical patterns created using glittering glazed tiles imported from England. And it all comes alive under the light of many dazzling Czechoslovakian chandeliers.
The royal throne, the regal seat is called the Chinnada Simhasana or Ratna Simahasana; captivating artwork on its gold plates is displayed during the Dasara festival.
The Maharajas of Mysuru used to sit on the golden throne and hold durbars in the Palace Durbar Hall. The paintings of eight manifestations of Goddess Shakti and an original painting of the renowned painter Raja Ravi Verma adorn the walls of the Durbar Hall.
This royal extravaganza also houses the oldest temple in Mysuru. The Sri Lakshmi Ramana Swami Temple is said to have immense power and there are urban legends to support this claim. Kodi Bhairava Swamy Temple is another important one in the palace. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva, in the form of Bhairava.
All this charm and magnificence amplifies during the world famous Mysuru Dussehra Festival. Stages are set up in the palace ground where many famous artistes perform.
On the 10th day, when the festival of Dashami is celebrated, a parade with highly ornamented elephants is conducted from the palace grounds. The festive fervour during this time at the palace and in Mysuru is something that every traveller must experience at least once.
And during this festival, the palace is lit with 96,000 lights for two months. This in itself will leave you speechless. If you are planning a visit, do not miss the sound and light show. It will probably be the most interesting history lesson you ever attend.