History of Mysore Palace
A testament to the irrepressible
spirit of the people of Mysore and their kings, the Mysore
Palace has survived political upheavals, disaster and
destruction, only to rise out of the ashes more magnificent than
The current Mysore Palace – the
fourth to occupy this site – was designed by the British
architect Henry Irwin after its predecessor was destroyed in a
fire in 1897. The imposing building that stands today was
completed in 1912, but it is believed that a Mysore Palace was
established as part of a wooden fortress, by the royal family of
Mysore, the Wodeyars, as early as the fourteenth century.
In 1638 the palace was struck by
lightning and rebuilt by Kantirava Narasa Raja Wodeyar (1638 -
1659 AD), who extended the existing structures, adding new
The glory of the new building was
to prove short-lived. The death of Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar (1673
- 1704 AD) in the eighteenth century plunged the kingdom into a
period of political instability.
During these turbulent times the
Mysore Palace slipped into a state of neglect culminating in its
demolition in 1793 by Tipu Sultan, the son of Hyder Ali, a
maverick general in the king’s army who rose to become the ruler
In 1799, when upon the death of
Tipu Sultan the five-year old Krishnaraja Wodeyar III
(1794-1868) AD assumed the throne, the coronation ceremony took
place under a marquee. One of king’s first tasks, on his
accession, was to commission a new palace built in the Hindu
architectural style and completed in 1803.
The hastily constructed palace
soon fell into disrepair and in 1897 was razed to the ground by
a fire at the wedding ceremony of princess Jayalakshmmanni.
The destiny of the Mysore Palace
now passed to Queen Regent Kempananjammanni Vanivilasa
Sanndihana, who commissioned well-known British architect Henry
Irwin to build a new palace that would be a tribute to the
legacy of Mysore and the Wodeyars.
Completed in 1912 and at a cost of
Rs. 41,47,913 the result was the Mysore Palace you see standing
today. A masterpiece in Indo-Saracenic architecture, on par with
great Mughal residences of the North and the stately colonial
public buildings of the South.
Patrons of art and culture, fierce
warriors and astute administrators, the Wodeyars grew from
provincial chieftains, to a mighty dynasty that would rule
Mysore for nearly six centuries.
The founding of the dynasty is
veiled in the chivalrous legend of two princely brothers from
Dwaraka, in the Northern State of Gujarat.
While on pilgrimage in Mysore the
two princes heard women lament the fate of the local Princess
Devajammanni. The King of Mysore had died and the Chieftain of
Karagahalli, a neighboring province, was trying to marry the
princess and acquire Mysore by force.
Rising to the occasion the two
brothers mobilized troops, killed the Karagahalli Chieftain and
rescued the princess. The grateful princess married the elder of
the two brothers, named Yaduraya, who became the first ruler of
the Wodeyar dynasty.
It was Raja Wodeyar (1578-1617),
the eight king of the Wodeyar dynasty, however, who transformed
Mysore from a feudal principality into a kingdom. Defeating the
king of the declining Vijayanagar Empire, he shifted his capital
from Mysore to Srirangapatna. It was also during his reign that
the famous Dasara festival was revived.
Ranadhira Kantirava Narasaraja
Wodeyar (1638-1659) consolidated the kingdom won by his
predecessor, thwarting two invasions by the powerful Bijapur
Adilshahis. He also fortified Srirangapatna and Mysore and began
minting coins with his seals.
Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar
(1673-1704), the next great Wodeyar, further expanded the
kingdom. He also introduced land reforms and streamlined the
administration. Following his death, a series of inept rulers
plunged the kingdom into political instability.
By the mid eighteenth century,
Mysore was virtually ruled by Hyder Ali, a general in the army
of Krishnaraja Wodeyar II (1734 - 1766), and then his son Tipu
Sultan. Finally, following the death of Tipu Sultan in 1799 in a
battle with the British, the five-year-old Prince Krishnaraja
Wodeyar III [1799-1868] was installed on the throne of Mysore.
It was under the reigns of
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III [1799-1868] and his son Krishnaraja
Wodeyar IV [1895- 1940], that the modern township of Mysore was
created. It was also during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV
that the Mysore Palace was built, under the commission of his
mother Maharani Kempananjammanni of Vanivilasa Sanndihana who
served as Regent during his minority from 1895-1902.
After his death in 1940,
Jayachamaraja Wodeyar became the 25th and last ruler of the
Mysore royal family. It is during this period that India won
freedom and monarchy was abolished, closing a chapter in history
and ending the era of the Mysore Maharajas.
A dramatic three storied stone
building of fine gray granite with deep pink marble domes
dominated by a five-storied 145 ft tower with a gilded dome
mounted by a single golden flag.
Designed by Henry Irwin, the
Mysore Palace is one of the finest achievements of Indo-Saracenic
architecture, summing up many diverse themes that have played
through Indian architecture over the centuries. Muslim designs
and Rajput style combine with Gothic elements and indigenous
materials in an exuberant display of grandeur.
The palace is set among
meticulously laid gardens and has an intricately detailed
elevation with a profusion of delicately curved arches, bow-like
canopies, magnificent bay windows and columns in varied styles
ranging from Byzantine to Hindu.
The striking façade has seven
expansive arches and two smaller ones flanking the central arch,
which is supported by tall pillars. Above the central arch is an
impressive sculpture of Gajalakshmi - the Goddess of wealth with
The sumptuous interiors of the
palace, in keeping with the grand exteriors, are replete with
exquisitely carved doors, expansive pavilions, delicate
chandeliers, exquisite stained glass ceilings and decorative
frescoes depicting scenes from the Indian epics. An enduring
reminder of the splendour of the Mysore maharajas and a
testament to the dexterity of the local artisans and craftsmen.
Ambavilasa or Diwan e khas
The Ambavilasa, a hall used by the
king for private audience, is one of the most spectacular rooms
of the palace.
Entry to this opulent hall is
through an elegantly carved rosewood doorway inlaid with ivory
that opens into a shrine to Ganesha.
The central knave of the hall has
ornately gilded columns, stained glass ceilings, decorative
steel grills, and chandeliers with fine floral motifs, mirrored
in the pietra dura mosaic floor embellished with semi-precious