Beautiful south

Beautiful south
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First Published: Sat, Mar 29 2008. 01 06 AM IST
Updated: Wed, Apr 09 2008. 02 23 PM IST
Talakadu Maralagali Malingi Maduvagali Mysuru Dhoregalige Makkalagade hogali!
(I curse Talakad to be submerged under creeping sands;
May a cruel whirlpool be the scourge of Malingi;
And the kings of Mysore suffer the pangs of childlessness!)
Rani Alemelamma leapt to her death fully adorned in the jewels that Raja Wodeyar sent his men after, but before she gave her life up, she pronounced a vicious curse: that the royal family of Mysore, the Wodeyars, would bear no heirs. Curiously, every alternate generation of the family has been heirless, forcing the king to adopt within the family.
Every adopted son has had a biological son, but the biological son would be childless again. What is the scientific explanation? Vikram Sampath asks this question in his book, Splendours of Royal Mysore: The Untold Story of the Wodeyars, and goes that extra mile to discover where the tale stemmed from, and why the Wodeyar family doesn’t still have a biological heir.
Sampath answers, even justifies the reason why Mysore and Bangalore are models of development in India and relates how many hands the Mysore state changed over the centuries. He started working on the book when he was in school in the mid-1980s. The Sword of Tipu Sultan was being aired on Doordarshan, which, he felt, showed the royal family in bad light. Splendours of Royal Mysore, which includes a special message from Maharajakumari Meenakshi (sister of the present scion) tries to redeem the family’s image.
It is the result of years of research and investigative work on the Wodeyars—the book has enough drama to make it a page-turner, although he tends to get into too many dates, family names and lineage charts.
The book begins with the origins of the Wodeyar family (as recorded in folklore) and goes on to the generations that followed. The drama reaches a peak when the Muslim ruler Haider Ali takes over the state. Most British historians and those loyal to the royal family of Mysore, have recorded both Haider Ali and his son, Tipu Sultan, as usurpers and oppressors. But Sampath focusses more on the young Sultan’s achievements against the British and why he became known as “the tiger of Mysore”.
The second half of the book is about the successors of Tipu Sultan and their cordial relationship with the British. Over the next century, the state of Mysore, developed under the scrutiny of the British and prospered. Musicians like Mysore Sadashiva Rao represented the best era of the Wodeyar regime.
The author laments that few Bangaloreans know about the rich heritage that they inherit and the he devotes some pages to the making of modern Bangalore and Karnataka by M Vishweshariah and Mirza Ismail. Sampath quotes what the first Governor General of independent India, C Rajagopalachari, had said to his newly formed government about Karnataka, “His Highness’ predecessors have built this province to an enviable degree of progress and glory. The new government has taken over the responsibility. If I were here, I would not sleep happily. You have taken over a glorious thing”.
Although priced steeply at Rs1,500, Splendours of Royal Mysore is worth picking up for its wealth of stories.
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First Published: Sat, Mar 29 2008. 01 06 AM IST