-By Dr. Meera Rajaram Pranesh
Wodeyars of Mysore played a prominent role in enriching Indian art and culture. After the war of Talikota in 1565 AD, Vijayanagar dynasty lost its entity. Their subordinate kingdoms like Mysore and Ikkeri came to limelight. Among them, Wodeyars of Mysore who followed the ideals of Vijayanagar Kings ruled for more than five centuries.
The origin of Wodeyar dynasty is a subject of controversy. Several interesting stories are knitted to authenticate its existence. One version traces the origin to the birth of Brahma continuing the lineage till the birth of lord Krishna of Yadava dynasty. When the city Dwaraka got drowned in the ocean, lord Krishna requests goddess Parvati to protect his descendents, and make them rulers of the southern part of Yadushaila or Melukote. As per the wishes of Krishna, Parvati brings his descendents, makes them the rulers and protects them by residing at Chamundi hills or Mahabala parvata.
Yaduraya the first ruler of Wodeyar dynasty was born in the year 1371 to Raja Deva, a descendent of Yadava dynasty of lunar race. Yaduraya and his younger brother Krishnaraya, came to Mysore from Dwaraka in the year 1399. Coincidentally, King Chamaraja who was ruling Mysore died leaving behind his wife Devajammanni and daughter Chikkadevarasi. Since there was no heir for the throne, Maranayaka the commander and chief of Karugahalli (an adjacent village), started ascertaining his powers on the royal family. Yaduraya killed Maranayaka, married Chikkadevarasi and became the ruler of Mysore in the year 1399. The new ruler was named Wodeyar, which later continued to be the Surname of the future kings of Mysore.
But some historians totally deny the above hypothesis and opine that, the brothers Yaduraya (also called Vijaya) and Krishnaraya were the descendents of Tonnur Hoysalas who belonged to the lunar race. But whatever may be the versions, the fact that Yaduraya being selected as the heir to his wife’s patrimony and being declared as the originator of Wodeyar Dynasty– the new line of Mysore kings is accepted by one and all. He expanded Mysore, built the fort around the hill Yadavagiri and named it Melukote.
Yaduraya had two sons– Hiriya Bettada Chamaraja Wodeyar I and Chamaraja Wodeyar. Hiriya Bettada Chamaraja Wodeyar who succeeded his father ruled for 36 years followed by Timmaraja Wodeyar I, Bettada Chamaraja Wodeyar II, Bettada Chamaraja Wodeyar III, Timmaraja Wodeyar II, Bola Chamaraja Wodeyar IV, Bettada Wodeyar.
The subsequent successor Raja Wodeyar born on 2nd June 1552 was coroneted in 1578 AD. He was a contemporary of the Vijayanagar rulers Sriranga and Venkata II. Raja Wodeyar expanded Mysore, and captured Srirangapattana from the representatives of Vijayanagar. He conducted several celebrations and was known to perform the famous Dasara festival with pomp and show, which was the prestigious tradition of Vijayanagar dynasty.
Raja Wodeyar was a devotee of lord Vishnu. Once his cousin Karagahalli Veerarajaih bribed the priest of Lakshmiramana swamy temple to kill the King. Srinivasiah the priest, mixed poison with the teertha (the holy water) that had to be given to king. But being guilty, his hands shivered while giving the teertha. After interrogation, the priest confessed that the teertha was poisoned. But the King asked whether he was offering it as teertha or poison. When the priest’s answer was teertha, the King devotedly consumed it. Miraculously – holy water turned into nectar in his throat and poison remained in his palm as a black patch which he carried for rest of his life.
Srirangaraya the king of Vijayanagar gave the throne of gems (said to be the throne of king Parikshit, grandson of Dharmaraya) to Raja Wodeyar. The latter ascended this throne in the year 1610 and declared his son Narasaraja Wodeyar as Yuvaraja. Srirangaraya renounced everything due to illness, went and settled in Mālangi near Talakadu along with his wives Alamelamma and Rangamma.
Alamelamma used to give her jewels every year to goddess Ranganayaki of Srirangapattana, during the annual festival. As was the customary, the temple priest approached Raja wodeyar, the new King, for jewels. When Wodeyar sent word for the jewels, furious Alamelamma, refused to give them. Wodeyar sent an ultimatum that if she refused to give the jewels, it would be taken forcibly. Alamelamma giving only one nose ring to the goddess, wrapped remaining jewels in her saree, jumped in the river Cauvery, cursing Raja Wodeyar and his descendents:
Mālangi maduvāgi, Talakadu maralāgi
May Mālangi be a whirl, May Talakad be buried under sand,
May the kings of Mysore have no Issues
Raja wodeyar was depressed by the news of Alamelamma’s curse. To appease the angry spirit, he made a golden idol of hers. Raja Wodeyar had five sons and one daughter. But coincidentally each one had a very early death. Even to this day, the royal family, worship the idol of Alamelamma during Dasara festival as Amalu devate. Though this is unbelievable, it coincides with the reality. The lineage of Wodeyar dynasty from its founder Yaduraya, continued uninterruptedly till Raja Wodeyar, who lost his three sons, and his last son Immadi Raja Wodeyar was born only after his death, but did not rule more than an year. From then, adoption became regular feature in the Wodeyar dynasty.
There is a belief that when Raja Wodeyar expired in 1617 at Srirangapattana, people of Melukote saw Wodeyar’s body merging into the idol of lord Cheluvaraya swamy, before getting the news of his death.
Raja Wodeyar’s grandson Chamaraja Wodeyar VI became the next king followed by Immadi Raja Wodeyar. Ranadheera Kanteerava Narasaraja Wodeyar who came next was the son of Bettada Chamaraja Wodeyar the brother of Raja Wodeyar. After the unnatural death of Immadi Raja Wodeyar (Dalavoy Vikramaraya poisoned him), his mother Timmajammanni brought Kanteerava Narasaraja, and coronated him in Srirangapattana. Many are the tales told about Kanteerava Narasaraja’s strength and chivalric spirits. His successor Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar was the son of Muppina Devaraja Wodeyar who was also Raja Wodeyar’s brother.
Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar, the 14th ruler of Wodeyar dynasty was the eldest son of Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar. Chikka Devaraja was kept in Gundlupet throughout his childhood. Chikka Devaraja was such an able ruler that he not only became Sārvabhouma Prabhu of Mysore but also established his leadership in whole of South India.
It was Chikka Devaraja who bought Bangalore for Rs.3 lakhs in the year 1687 from Khasim Khan, the chief commander in the Mughal army. But the Palace records of Mysore states that Chikka Devaraja defeated the Mughal army and wrested Bangalore from Khasim Khan. But whatever may be the sources giving divergent views, the fact that Chikka Devaraja took Bangalore and hoisted the imperial flag on 10th July 1687 is a fact.
His rule became one of the most memorable in the Annals of Mysore. He was called the Maker of Modern Mysore. It was Chikka Devaraja who built the Kote Venkataramana swamy temple in Bangalore and Shweta Varaha Swamy temple in Srirangapattana.
Chikka Devaraja’s son Kanteerava Narasaraja Wodeyar II also called Mūkarasu (a dumb king) became the heir followed by his son Krishnaraja Wodeyar I. His wife Devajammani adopted Krishnaraja II and made him the king. He along with his successors Nanjaraja Wodeyar, Bettada Chamaraja Wodeyar VII, Khasa Krishnaraja Wodeyar VIII became rulers for name sake. Administration of the state was completely under the control of Dalavoy Devarajaih and his brother Nanjaraja.Then came the ruling of Hyder Ali.
Mummadi Krishnaraja also called Nanjaraja was born to Khāsa Chamaraja Wodeyar and Kempananjammanni in the year 1794. Krishnaraja lost his parents when he was a baby. His grandmother Queen Lakshmammanni nurtured him. Repeated efforts of Lakshmammanni with British finally gave results. Mummadi Krishnaraja was coroneted on 30th June 1799 in Lakshmiramanaswamy temple at Mysore.
Since the King was very young, Dewan Pūrnaih assisted Queen Lakshmammanni in administration. Approximately around 1831, when Pūrnaih died, British took over the entire administration. Mummadi devoted all his time for art and literature and was honored with the title Abhinava Bhoja. He constructed the famous Jagan mohan palace in the year 1851.
Chamaraja Wodeyar IX, the next ruler of Wodeyar dynasty, was the adopted son of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. The adoption ceremony was performed in the Durbar hall of Amba Vilas on 18th of July 1865, and Chamaraja IX ascended the throne in September 1868. British took over the responsibility of Chamaraja’s education. Chamaraja was schooled in an atmosphere where he had to study with other students. He was entrusted the responsibility of administering Mysore on 1st of March 1881.
When Chamaraja Wodeyar’s coronation ceremony was fixed, British authorities were surprised to know that there was no State anthem of Mysore. When they advised to have a State anthem, Basavappa Shastry the court scholar composed Kayaou sri gowri overnight. This anthem was sung on the subsequent day for coronation ceremony. Kayaou sri gowri was sung throughout Mysore Kingdom as an anthem till the end of Wodeyar’s ruling period.
Chamaraja Wodeyar IX had five children- Jayalakshmammanni, Krishnajammanni, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, Cheluvajammanni and Yuvaraja Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wodeyar. When Chamaraja IX expired in the year 1894, the administration was looked after by Regent Maharani Kempananjammanni.
Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar was coroneted on 1st of February 1895 but was entrusted the responsibilities of administration in the year 1902, after attaining 18 years. Art and Culture rose to its peak during his period.
Jaya Chamaraja Wodeyar was the 25th and the last ruler of Mysore Wodeyar dynasty. He was born to Yuvaraja Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wodeyar and Kempa Cheluvajammanni.
His early education was at Royal school and was brought up under the personal supervision of his uncle Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. He was later admitted to Maharaja’s college, in order to study with other students and develop a broader outlook. Jaya Chamaraja was coroneted on 8th of September 1940. He had six children- Srikanta Datta Wodeyar, Gayatri Devi, Meenakshi Devi, Kamakshi Devi, Vishalakshi Devi, Nalinakshi Devi. After India became republic, all the Kings had to withdraw their powers as rulers.
Jaya Chamaraja Wodeyar was appointed as the Rajapramukh of Mysore; Chancellor of Mysore University and Banaras Hindu University; Governor of Mysore and Madras; President of Sangeet Natak Academy; President of All India Wild life preservation society; Awarded Honorary Doctorates; A Fellow of Sangeet Natak Academy. Jaya Chamaraja Wodeyar fell seriously ill and expired on 23rd of September 1974.
Mysore Wodeyars one of the prominent dynasties with 25 kings, who ruled for more than 5 decades, ended up with Jaya Chamaraja Wodeyar. But with the demise of his son and heir, Srikanta Datta Wodeyar on December 10th 2013, has the esteemed Wodeyar Dynasty come to an end?