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Mysore - City of Palaces

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In defining the unique identity of Mysore city, it is difficult to avoid a comparison with Bangalore, which essentially means focusing on their contrasts. Bangalore, developed mainly as a British Cantonment after Tipu Sultan's fall, with its largely European classical public buildings, shopping malls, churches and colonial bungalows. Mysore, on the other hand, has retained its dignified character of a “native” princely city — its ambience and atmosphere characterized largely by the towering presence of the Mysore Palace.

The Maharajas, their Dewans and the talented luminaries of their durbars have left a very enduring impression on the city's landscape with the numerous buildings, gardens, boulevards planned markets and of course Palaces. Each of these structures has a bearing to a master concept of the overall aesthetics. Today's Weekend Star Supplement welcomes you to the City of Palaces. Mysore has 10 Palaces, of which nine of them were built by the Wadiyars and one by Tipu Sultan.

Mysore Palace:
The work on the Mysore Palace, which was for merely known as Amba Vilas began in 1897, the very year in which the eastern and northern wings of the old Palace were gutted in a fire mishap, during the wedding of the Princess Jayalakshmammanniyavaru (Jayalakshmammanniyavaru). The work of the Palace was completed in 1911-12 and a royal sum of Rs. 41.50 lakh was spent.

Prevost Battersby, the then Viceroy who saw the Palace while it was under construction in 1905 noted, “the Maharaja was ensuring that the act of building was not merely a piece of self-indulgence, but served as yet another marvel for his subjects.” The artisans who carved the stone for the new Palace in Mysore were from a community with a long history of stone carving.

The Mysore Palace, which is built round a spacious courtyard ringed by rows of massive stone pillars with intricate carvings, was designed by an English architect named Henry Irwin, who had built many public buildings in the then Madras State. The Palace is a lively variation of Indo - Saracenic (Muslim designs and Indian materials) architecture. Henry Irwin borrowed the idea of the fluted pillars (pillars in the shape of a flute) and foliane capitals (the arch design between two pillars) from the Delhi fort. He then got the idea for the domes from the onion domes of the Taj Mahal and arcuate canopies (arch shaped canopies) from Rajput palaces. Finally, to all these Indian designs, he added Italian style and came up with the now world-renowned Mysore Palace.

The interiors of the Palace are varied. In some parts of the Palace, they are reminiscent of European halls and the ceilings are elaborately carved, jostled with the florid tracery of a Mughal interior. Pink and green stained glass windows and the furnishings of early twentieth-century Europe adds beauty and a sense of grandeur to the interiors.

Amba Vilasa:
The Mysore Palace was previous known as Amba Vilas Palace. The Amba Vilasa is the most beautiful hall in the Palace. This hall was used by the king for private audience. To enter the Amba Vilasa one has to open the intricately carved rosewood doorway inlaid with ivory. The central knave of the hall has ornately gilded columns, stained glass ceilings and chandeliers with fine floral motifs.

Kalyan Mantap:
The Kalyan Mantap's interior design and style is very South Indian, with its cast iron pillars supporting the roof. Even some of the prominent and intricate ceilings in the Palace are painted in the south Indian style with a lot of birds and miniature divine figurines.
The Mysore Palace is said to be the first structure in India to make use of castiron construction columns. The roof frames for the Palace were manufactured by Macfarlane's of Glasgow, England and then brought to India. The floor of the Mantapa has the peacock theme with a peacock mosaic, designed with tiles from England.

Jagan Mohan Palace:
This Palace was built in 1861 to house the Royals while the Mysore Palace was being remodelled. This Palace, since 1915, after the Royals moved out has been used as an art gallery and museum. It is built in predominantly Hindu style by Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar. The existing facade with a hall behind it was added in 1900, on the occasion of the wedding of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar. This served as a venue for formal events till the Durbar Hall of the new Palace was built. The rich and eye-catching facade is composed of three large entrances.

The heavily moulded and bracketed entablature supports elaborately crafted compositions of miniature temples and religious motifs, which serve both as a gable and fitting crest niches.

Cusparched balconies and stained-glass window shutters and ventilators are among the surviving original features of the interior of the hall, which at one time was said to have had a bridge-like platform slung across for the royalty to view a stage performance at the other end. This three - storeyed Palace is now the Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery with paintings, sculptures and musical instruments from the bygone era. It is also interesting to note that the sessions of the country's first ever Legislative Assembly was held in Jaganmohan Palace. It is learnt that the installation of the Maharaja took place at Jagan Mohan Palace in 1902 in the presence of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India.

Lalitha Mahal Palace:
Set on a ridge commanding a panoramic view of a gently sloping and curving valley at the foot of the Chamundi Hill, Lalitha Mahal Palace, this dream-like edifice was originally built for special guests of the Maharaja. Designed by E. W. Fritchley, a much - patronised Bombay - based architect of those days, the building was completed in 1931 at a cost of Rs. 13 lakh. Its central dome is modelled on St. Paul's Cathedral, London. Its luxurious interiors are embellished with the finesse of local craftsmanship, as well as imported luxury fittings.

Apparently, Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar felt that the distinguished guests, especially those visiting from overseas, would feel more at home in this European-classical style building. The building is a majestic two - storey structure of twin lonic columns, a projecting porch on the ground floor, on which rests a slightly recessed pavilion on the first floor. The interiors effectively showcase the skills of the then local craftsmen. One can see richly laid decorative motifs on walls and ceilings, carved wood shutters and wall panels, myriad details and touches of regal embellishment. Imported elements in the decor include stained glass, tiled flooring, luxury fittings and furnishing of rooms and attached conveniences. The staircase leading to the first floor is broad and is built using Venetian marble. The Palace is now a landmark star hotel in the city.

Rajendra Vilas Palace:
This beautiful Palace sits 1,000 feet above the city with its four-chhatris and the central dome forming a pleasant silhouette on the hill's skyline. This Palace was commissioned by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV. The building — virtual construction of an older building dating back to 1822 — is said to have been completed in 1938. This used to be the summer palace of the Wadiyars. The chhatris are in Rajasthani style, the other stylistic elements being distinctly Indo-Saracenic. The central dome is resting on a high neck in the style of Mysore Palace while the central tower is a ribbed one with lantern. The semi-circular verandah on the north commands a panoramic view of the city. The first floor opens to spacious terraces adjoining the chhatris. The Palace was converted to a hotel earlier, but now is shut down for that long renovation.

Vasantha Mahal:
Originally built in 1842 as a “Pleasure Palace” to house “special-schools” for the education of Princes, the building is set in a 36 - acre landscaped park. The most interesting feature is the wrought - iron grills of three graceful arches, leading to a curving verandah and a large, oval inner hall. The verandah straightens along the wings and extends all around.
The plan is repeated on the first floor. Tuscan columns, oval aperture parapets at various levels and wrought iron railings on the first floor are the notable elements of the facade. This Palace later became a hotel but presently is closed down.

Cheluvamba Mansion:
Built as the third Rajakumari's Mansion in 1910 - 11, the building has housed the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) since 1949. Amongst the most distinguished period-structures of the city, it happily retains its original vast setting and terraced garden, which enhances its presence in no small measure.

An edifice of imposing expanse, its main facade on the east is composed of a central set of twin - towers, flanking a semi - circular block of ground-columned verandahs on the ground and first floors. Altogether, the structure is balanced and dignified. The front elevation exhibits more restraint in its aesthetics than the sides, which are a little too rich with columned groups. Maharani's College for Women in Mysore functioned in this mansion for a short while in late 1940s.

Karanji Mansion:
This Palace, built in Indo-Greek style of architecture on 38 acres of land, was completed in 1914 for the second Princess Maharaj Kumari Krishnarajammanniyavaru, at a cost of Rs. 4.29 lakh. The building commands a vast setting and a view of Karanji Lake.

Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion:
Built for the first Maharaja Kumari Jayalakshmammanniyavaru in 1904-05 at a cost of Rs. 7 lakh, this mansion houses a group of offices of the Mysore University and the University Museum of Folk Arts. Originally set on the vast estate of 800 acres, it is situated to the west of Mysore Palace. It may be mentioned that Sudha Murty of Infosys Foundation donated generously towards the restoration of this heritage structure.

There are two beautiful and intricately carved sculptures in this mansion. On the north side of this mansion stands a sculpture of Goddess Lakshmi and in the south stands Goddess Bhuvaneshwari. The interiors with rich carvings and mouldings both in masonry and wood has been kept distinctly Hindu in architecture, as in Mysore Palace.

Lokaranjan Mahal:
Also known as the summer Palace, Lokaranjan Mahal was built in 1880s as the Royal School and later used as a guest house for distinguished guests. Set in a large garden, this imposing structure is approached through an interesting, ornately carved gate of cusped arches crowned with a string of finials. The topmost terraces, punctuated with finialed peers, provides a picturesque silhouette to the rear outline.

Chittaranjan Mahal Palace:
The Palace on Hunsur Road was constructed as a guest house to the royal family. This later was converted into a studio (Premier Studio). The Palace is now the Green Hotel.

Tipu Sultan Summer Palace:
This Palace, which once existed on Chamaraja Double Road, was built by Tipu Sultan. Tipu is said to have constructed this Palace for resting, while on his journey to Madikeri (Kodagu). In 1956, this Palace was handed over to Raghavendra Swamy Mutt by the descendants of Tipu Sultan and Nizamuddin Ali Khan. The Palace now houses a primary school run by the Government. It is a matter of pride that the Palaces built by the erstwhile rulers have not been allowed to be lost in the pages of history, but maintained in excellent condition, housing vibrant institutions of research, education, culture and the hospitality industry.

Courtesy: Star of Mysore

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