Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Coronation of the Wodeyar Kings

The coronation of the Kings after the abolish of Privy purse is no longer a grand public event but a very private ceremony. The most glittering coronation was that of the last king of Mysore State, Major-General His Highness Sri Sir Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar Bahadur, Maharaja of Mysore, GCB, GCSI, on 29 August 1940. To those of the citizens of the heritage city of Mysuru privileged to attend that event it was a spectacle that would never be forgotten. The coronation of the last Maharaja’s heir in 1974 was private and subdued.

Anachronistic as it sounds in a country that through an act of the Parliament removed the very word of ‘Royalty’ from its lexicon and rendered the hundreds of kings, nawabs and other minor royalty bereft of all trappings of pomp and transformed them into plain Mr. and Mrs., the fascination for a bejeweled Maharaja being seated on a throne to the sonorous chants of arcane hymns, smoke of the incense reaching the chandeliers high above, the nobles and other invitees dressed in outfits, with swords, draws a concerted and collective in-drawn breath of awe. And for one brief moment in time, one is sucked into the vortex of past and imagined  dormant memories of kingly rituals.

The coronation of the new king of Mysuru slated to be held before the onset of the annual Dasara will be muted but just as grand for those privileged  few. For here is an unbroken tradition of a Wadiyar ascending the throne of a erstwhile kingdom  whose history goes back to several hundreds of years.

Though the Mysuru kingdom can be traced to the establishment of a small principality by Yaduraya in 1399, it was only in 1578 that the kingdom was established by Raja Wadiyar (1578–1617). Between 1939 till the ‘reign’ of Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, there have been 25 kings of the Wadiyar lineage.

It was Raja Wadiyar who first ascended the Golden Throne and proclaimed with his coronation, his rule over the kingdom of Mysuru at Srirangapatna. A word about the Golden Throne is necessary. Shrouded in mystery, this throne which it was claimed belonged to Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers.

The saint Vidyaranya, who is the head of the Sringeri Mutt in 1338, is supposed to have shown the hiding place of the throne to the Vijayanagar King, Harihara, who lived between 1336 and 1357.  Harihara then removes it to his capital and the throne is used for the next two centuries as the royal throne of the Vijayanagar kings. The fall and annihilation of the Vijayanagar empire finds the throne being removed by one of the feudatory chieftains to Srirangapatna. In 1609, Tirumalaraya II gives it to Raja Wadiyar and goes to Malangi. A year later Raja Wadiyar declares himself to be an independent ruler and ascends the Golden Throne and claiming to be the inheritor of Vijayanagar tradition inaugurates the Navaratri and Vijayadashmi at Srirangapatna.

The canons of the Manasara, a 600 CE treatise on architecture and sculpture, which contains an entire chapter on thrones, mentions several kinds of thrones. Thrones  are symbolic seats of authority and symbolize divinity and power, both cosmic and earthly.  There is mention of the  Padmasana Throne, which is the ‘Seat of the Gods,’ the Bhadrasana or auspicious throne and the Lion or Simhasana throne which only those kings who had all the royal attributes could ascend. Scriptural canons say that the Bhadrasana throne is used for coronations and the Simhasana Throne for royal festivals like the Dasara. The Wadiyar kings follow this custom to this day. Thus the heir-designate will ascend the silver throne on the day of his coronation.

There are pictorial records apart from royal murals that show the king being seated on the Golden throne which is a part of the coronation rituals marking the first Durbar of the newly coronated king.

The photograph of the painting shows the coronation of boy King Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar in 1799 at the Kote Venkatramana Temple. In the painting, Dewan Purnaiah is seen on the right side of the king who is seated on the throne.  To the left of king, Lt.Col. Wellesly is seen seated. The throne itself seems flush to the level of the raised platform.

Incidentally, the  Devatanama Kusumamanjari, a Sanskrit work written during the reign of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar in 1859 in verse form is laudatory and  there is  mention of the various attributes of the throne. The verses about the throne also mention the  mystical  and magical powers that exude an aura around the throne. These powers prevent one who is not worthy from ascending the throne. Mummadi in his illustrated iconographic classic: Sritattvanidhi's first part called Shakti Nidhi gives more description on related topics like:

1. Names of swords which are worthy of King's worship as given in the Hemadri in the section called Khadgapujavidhi.
2. Names of Lions that stand in the eight cardinal directions of a Throne in Hemadri.
3. Names of decorative dolls fixed in the throne as given in Prabhavali- the commentary on Sankhyaratnakosha authored by him.

A legend from the ancient past is evocative enough to be recounted here. The steps of the Golden throne are embellished by figures  of 32  divine maidens. The King Bhoja has discovered the throne under an earthen mound and has it restored in his Palace. With all ceremonies and rituals befitting a king, Bhojaraja ascends the throne only to be thwarted by an invisible force emanating from the divine maidens which prevent from taking another step.  Then damsels then take turns narrating a story that enumerates the virtues  of an ideal king who alone is worthy of being crowned on the throne. The king then through good deeds goes about acquiring the virtues of a godly king and then is able to ascend the throne. . Shades of Arthur’s Excalibur!

Coming back to coronation one discovers that from surviving records of the 1940s that the Wadiyar kings were first installed on the Silver Bhadrasana and then there is the Durbar on the golden throne afterwards it is only during the Dasara festivities that the king ascends the Golden throne. Photographs from the 1940 show the Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar being installed on the Silver Bhadrasana  while a 1974 photograph shows His Late Highness Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar coronated on the Silver throne.

Be that as it may. There are two abiding reasons why the coronation of the new king is of importance. First this year 2015, marks the 75th  anniversary of the coronation of Jayachamaraja Wadiyar. It is also the  40th anniversary of the Coronation of Srikanatadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar.

Second the history of Mysuru and its peoples is remarkably entwined  with the Kings of the Wadiyar dynasty. From reign of Yaduraya (1399–1423) to Hiriya Bettada Chamaraja Wadiyar I (1423–1459)  and on to Thimmaraja Wadiyar( 1459–1478 ); from  the reign of Hiriya Chamaraja Wadiyar II (1478–1513),Hiriya bettada Chamaraja III Wadiyar (1513–1553),Thimmaraja Wadiyar II (1553–1572),Bola Chamaraja Wadiyar IV (1572–1576),Bettada Chamaraja Wadiyar V(1576–1578),Raja Wadiyar I (1578–1617),Chamaraja Wadiyar VI (1617–1637) and Raja Wadiyar II (1637–1638) and then onwards to various other kings culminating through Khasa Chamaraja Wadiyar IX (1766–1796),Krishnaraja Wadiyar III (1799–1868),Chamarajendra Wadiyar X (1868–1894), and during the regency  of Vani Vilas Sannidhana, queen of Chamarajendra Wadiyar X from 1894 to 1902 and then thence to the reign Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV (1894–1940) and Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar (1940–1950) and lastly Srikantadatta Narsimharaja Wadiyar, (b-1953), ascended the throne in 1974. Once again the dynasty continues unbroken.

We go back in time to the coronation of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. His ascendancy is significant because he was the first Wadiyar king to resume the rule of Mysore by the Wadiyar lineage after a gap of  36 years. It was only the courage, patience and sacrifice of the Queen  Lakshmammani that kept the Wadiyar dynasty alive. On June 30th 1799, the five-year-old Krishnaraja Wadiyar III was crowned the king of Mysore in a traditional coronation ceremony that took place in a special pavilion constructed near the Lakshmiramana Swamy temple in Mysore. Reports say that the  young boy was led by the Duke of Wellington to the throne.

Mummadi died on March 27, 1868. In due course, Dasara festivities started in September but a formal proclamation from Viceroy paving way for the formal installation of the young Prince was not forthcoming thus creating some apprehension in the Royal house hold. But on September 19, (third day of Dasara) Col. Elliot conveyed the good tidings about receipt of a telegram from the Viceroy in this regard. 

On Sept 23, 1868 (Wednesday) (Vibhava Nama Samvatsara, Ashvayuja Shudha 7, Budhavara, Moola Nakshatra) Young Prince Chamaraja Wodeyar X ascended the historic throne assisted by Chief Commissioner Bowring and Col. Elliot holding his hands on either flank.The twenty third Maharaja of the Wodeyar dynasty was selected from the Bettada-Kote Ursu clan. But the British Rendition ended only in 1881 when the Maharaja was invested with the administrative powers.

23 September 1868. Magnificent Mysuru style miniature depicting the coronation of Chamarajendra Wadiyar X in the old wooden palace of Mysuru. Also seen are the royal animals, carriages and palanquin. On the left side of the throne is seated the British Resident and State Officers, on the right side is Aliya Lingaraja Urs who played a significant role during the Regency of Vanivilasa Sannidhana. Artist: Venkatasubbu. Image courtesy: Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery, Mysuru.
A booklet, “ Proceedings of the Installation of His Highness, The Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar Bahadur in the Government of the Territories of Mysore” dated, March 25th , 1881,” states among other things: ”  On March 23rd 1881, the Governor of Madras, Major-General Sir Thomas Munro,  and his staff along with the J. D Gordon, Chief Commissioner of Mysore and the Provisional Commander-in-Chief ‘enter’ Mysore. They are met at the entrance to the town by officers of the Station, the relatives of the Maharaja and officers of the Palace household.”

The publication then goes on to say that: “The Governor announces that he has been empowered by the Viceroy and Governor General and calls on the Chief Secretary to read out the Proclamation …” which announces to the chiefs and people of Mysore that His Highness Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar is hereby  placed in possession of the territories of Mysore and invested with the administration of the Mysore State.....” .

Addresses are presented by various organizations and one in particular is fascinating. The address from the  Coorg Planters’ Association  says among other things that , “ Although we are not part of the Mysore Raj still Your Highness cannot but be aware of the ties which do and must ever exist between Mysore and Coorg.”   

The Wesleyan and London Missionary Societies representing the churches and educational and medical missions are next in the protocol presenting their addresses.

Interestingly the congratulatory address by the Catholic church is in Latin and it is worth reproducing here. It begins thus: “ Serenissimo Principi Ac Domini, / Domino Chamarajendra Wodeyar Bahadur, Mayssurensium Regi,/ Vicarius Apostolicus Mayssurensium and goes on thus : In hac auspicatissima die qua primo regni scetpra tenes, ac imperii habenae tuia juvenilibus manibus committuntur, quum laeto animo haec tuorum subditorum densa corona sua offcia et vota tibi offerunt, et nos Catholicae Religionis asseclae, neque numero, nec certe fida erga tuum Majestatem devotiene infini, te Regem ac ducem nostrum venerabundi salutus . (  “On this most auspicious day when for the first time Your Highness holds the scepter of your Kingdom, and the reins of Government are entrusted to the guidance of your youthful hands, with how glad a heart does this dense throng of your subjects present to Your Highness an offering of their duty and their loyal congratulations. We also, the followers of the Catholic Religion, neither small in number nor certainly the last in devotion to Your Highness, respectfully welcome our Prince and Ruler.” )

Like time-travelers we go to the coronation of  “Maharaja Sir Shri Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar”, who was coronated under unusually sad and untimely demise of his father. The ritual coronation was performed under the Regency of his mother H.H. Vanivilas Sannidhana on 01 February 1895.
Photographed by C.G.Brown, Bangalore, on 01-02-1895 and it was taken during the installation of HH Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV. This picture appeared in GRAPHIC dated June 1, 1895. It was Col. Henderson then Resident in Mysore, who conducted the prince to the steps of the throne and read out the Viceroy's proclamation. He also presented the Maharaja a handsome necklace on behalf the Viceroy.
After attaining majority, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV was formally invested with the powers of administration through a formal function on 08 August 1902 and the venue was a specially erected pavilion in the Jagan Mohan Palace since the old wooden palace was partially gutted in a accidental fire and the present palace was under construction.

One takes recourse to the India Office records which reveals:  “The road to the approach to the installation pavilion was lined on either side by the Infantry and the Cavalry of the Maharaja’s army. The Guard of Honor was by the Royal Warwickshires, a battle-scarred elite regiment of the British army and the Band and Colours  (Imperial cavalry guards) were stationed at the entrance of the Durbar hall. The Viceroy Curzon  who is to install the new king is met at the Government House by a deputation consisting of the Diwan and the principal officers of the Mysore State.”

A further excerpt extricated from India Office archives: “…the Viceroy Curzon  was accompanied by Mr. Wood, Under secretary ( Foreign Department) , Lt.Col. E. Barring, Military Secretary, Mr Carnduff and His Excellency’s Personal Staff. Also present was J A Bourdillon, the Chief Commissioner.“   The report mentions that there on the dais were two silver Thrones, one of which was subsequently used as a Masnad to which the Maharaja was formally conducted by the Viceroy after being installed.

The Coronation of the last Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar is evocative as it reflects the love of the people for their sovereign.   A  manifesto published in 1942 titled  ‘Ananda Chandrika‘ by  Ramakrishna Sastri, an Hindi Pandit describes the Pattabhisheka (the installation)  of Jayachamaraja Wadiyar. The author says that Palace astrologers have after consultations chosen the date of the Installation and that invitations have been distributed to all the important citizens. There are buntings and flags festooning the city. Several bullock-carts laden with sugar are sent around the city and sugar-candy was distributed to all the citizens and visitors to the city. 

On the day of the installation all prisoners are pardoned and released.  The King-to-be is dressed in white and bedecked with jewels. He is escorted to the Lakshmi-Vilasa of the Palace where the installation is to be held. The king then performs Kalasha Pooja, sacrificial rituals to Agni and other Gods.  The State elephants, horse and oxen are in attendance even as Palace musicians play compositions some of which have been composed by the Maharaja Jayachamaraja  Wadiyar himself. The king is then installed on the Silver throne!

The scion Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar was coronated on the silver throne in what was a very private ceremony. No chronicler seems to have recorded the proceedings or the arcane rituals that preceded his ascension to the throne. Similar will be the ascension of the heir–designate, Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar who will continue the legacy of the Wadiyar dynasty. The heir designate will be formally adopted on February 23rd 2015 and much before the onset of the Dasara festivities will ascend the silver throne in the Palace within whose premises so much of history has taken place and will continue to do so in the future.

Incidentally, Yaduveer Gopal Raj Urs traces his lineage to Chamaraja Wadiyar. His great great grandmother Jayalakshmammani was the eldest daughter of Chamaraja Wadiyar and Vani Vilasa Sannidhana. Further  his mother, Tripurasundari Devi, is the grand-daughter of the last Maharaja, Jayachamaraja Wadiyar who was the only son of H.H. Yuvaraja Kantheerava Narsimharaja Wadiyar, the second son of Chamaraja Wadiyar and Vani Vilasa Sannidhana.

The Heir-designate is to assume the name “Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar” on his coronation, and will be given the official Royal signet ring (Mohur), the royal seal  and the State sword. 

- A version of this article appeared in the Mysore's popular evening newspaper 'Star of Mysore' on 21 February 2015. Sri Rajachandra pointed out few corrections and the same have been carried out in this article. A warm thanks to respected Sri Rajachandra Sir.


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