Wodeyar: Ends Durbar
A multi-faceted, affable personality, who left his lasting impression in all walks of life, finally embarked upon an eternal journey
“Why do you think there is no cycle-rickshaws in and around Mysore but that practice still exists in the Hyderabad-Karnataka and Mumbai-Karnataka regions? My forefathers described it (cycle-rickshaws) as inhuman and abolished it. This is what we call humane approach of the kings,” Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, the last scion of the Mysore Wodeyar dynasty, had said this during one among his numerous conversations with this correspondent.
That sums up what type of man or leader he was—human, humane, mild-mannered, soft-spoken, a visionary, meticulous, just and fair—the qualities, traits and attributes which he seems to have inherited from his forefathers. Perhaps, the DNA of Yadu clan—to which Wodeyars belonged—was such. Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar (60) died of cardiac arrest in Bengaluru on December 10, 2013. A great lover of music, arts, painting, wildlife photography, fashion designing, travelling, driving, history, sociology, astrology, astronomy, cricket, tennis, reading books (mostly autobiographies) and above all, tending cows and calves, the portly Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar was a multi-faceted personality. Rightly described as a walking encyclopeadia, who had almost all the information and statistics on world matters on his finger tips, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar was unofficial cultural ambassador of Karnataka as he was instrumental in making Mysore silks sarees famous in foreign countries by holding fashion parades.
Without sounding immodest and without even a tinge of sarcasm or negativism, Srikantadatta Wodeyar had once said, “We Wodeyars or rather my forefathers who ruled this part of the state gave priority and thrust to developmental activities—both infrastructure and human resources. We focused more on building roads, bridges and schools. That is why the roads in old-Mysore region are far more superior when compared to the Hyderabad-Karnataka and Mumbai-Karnataka regions. There (in those two regions) the priority of the rulers—Nizams, Nawabs and Adil Shahis—was building mosques and very little for education and roads.”
A four-time MP from Congress representing Mysore Lok Sabha, Srikantadatta mingled with the party workers and people as easily as anyone, forgetting and unmindful of his status and stature as member of the royal family. “There is no more monarchy; we are a constitutional democracy. I need to be like a common man, though the people look at me with reverence. I cannot stop them from bowing whenever they see me,” he had once said during 1991 Lok Sabha elections.
Though Congress was his natural habitat, Srikantadatta, however, had a brief stint in the BJP at the height of the Ayodhya movement. He was unsuccessful as BJP candidate in the 1991 polls. Quite naturally, Srikantadatta had a cordial relationship with the late Rajamata Vijayaraje Scindia, one of vice presidents of the BJP and also with her son, the late Madhav Rao Scindia. “I am told that we have our lineage with Rajasthan,” he had said.
Surprisingly, Wodeyars inherited much of the tradition and culture from Krishnadevaraya of the once-famous Vijayanagar emperor. Dasara, the world-famous cultural and traditional nine-day festival and the majestic Dasara procession on the tenth day—Vijayadashami—was inherited by the Wodeyars from Vijayanagar rulers. “The last of the Hindu empire was that of the Vijayanagar. Hinduism thrived under Vijayanagar rulers. The collapse of Peshwas in Maharashtra and Vijayanagar marked the advent of Mughals towards South,” Wodeyar had said and added enigmatically, “There is much for the present-day generation to draw appropriate lessons from the collapse of Vijayanagar empire.”
A good cricket player during his college days, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar was very recently elected as the president of the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA). But there is a tragic irony in him becoming president of KSCA and his passing away, just after a few days of taking over as the head of the cricket association.
I am privy to the discussion Srikantadatta Wodeyar had with the late Rajan Bala, one of the greatest cricket writers and world-class expert on the technique of cricket. Aware of Rajan Bala’s importance in the field of cricket, Wodeyar had approached him to help him fight the elections for the post of president of KSCA.
Rajan Bala was made of acerbic tongue and never hesitated to call a spade a spade, be it Maharaja or anybody. “Why do you want to enter the danger zone? It (KSCA) is not made for a soft person like you” But Maharaja was unrelenting when he said, “I am in politics. What can be more dangerous than political field?” “But you are not cut out for politics also. You are in politics not by choice but because of circumstances, mostly due to your domestic compulsions, such as safeguarding your property etc,. It would be very difficult for you to win the elections as KSCA president because I quite well know the people there. Even if you win, you will not survive for long,” Rajan Bala had told Wodeyar straight on his face. Who would have thought that Rajan Bala—who died in October 2009—would have meant this way that Wodeyar will not survive for long?
Wodeyar suffered a mental trauma and agony till his death when the state government headed by HD Deve Gowda in 1995 decided to acquire the vast property belonging to the Mysore kings—Mysore Palace, Bangalore Palace, surrounding areas measuring about 250 acres, etc. The legal battle went up to the Supreme Court. “My energy and concentration are being spent in protecting the property for the sake of the people and posterity. I have numerous plans to develop tourism and strengthen culture, besides making a regular source of income to the family members but I cannot concentrate on any of these things,” he had said. Disappointment was writ large on his face, perhaps, due to the fact that the present-day rulers were insensitive to the genuine needs of the erstwhile rulers. In the previous elections, he had declared in his election affidavit that his assets and properties are worth Rs 2500 crore, thus making him the richest candidate. “Now eyebrows will raise, once this information flashes in the media,” he had said, winking his eyes.
Once commenting on the collapse of the Soviet Union, Wodeyar had said, “The Romonov dynasty was included to the Russian monarchy in 1613. For about less than four centuries, it was monarchy that ruled Russia. In October 1917, the great revolution took place. Monarchy was upturned by this revolution. The Communists took over. That ideology had all the potential to fail and fall flat, which happened in 1991. Today Russians are finding it difficult to survive and retain their country as one nation. This is what happens when ruling dispensation is upturned by violent means. Compare this to what happened in India. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel gently coaxed the princely states to sign the Instrument of Accession. He was the greatest leader with a vision. We, Wodeyars were the first to sign the Instrument of Accession and became a proud partner of the Indian Union. India continues to remain as one nation, though we have lost a few thousand kilometers in the North-East and North West. This is what we call one country knit by one common bond of belonging to one nation. Even before the country came under one administrative unit, Bharat was one nation thanks to its culture and heritage since time immemorial.”
In the evening on December 11, as the sun set in the west, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar’s pyre was lit by his adopted son, Kantharaje Urs. The flame merged with the unfathomable twilight of the setting sun, thus bringing down the curtains on the glorious Yadu dynasty. Long Live the Wodeyars!
By SA Hemantha Kumar from Bengaluru