Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mysore Palace Journal

The Mysore Palace journal - published by Ramsons Kala Pratishtana. It has about 80 rare photographs and paintings showing the various stages of Mysore palace being built along with interesting tidbits about the palace. It is available at Ramsons store in front of Mysore Zoo.
Here's a look inside the journal - Mysore Palace Celebrating a Century 2012. Rare photographs in the collection of Sri R.G. Singh give a glimpse of the making of Mysore palace and other aspects of palace. About 80 pages of photographs are the main attraction. Rest 80 are ruled pages which carry tidbits and line drawings showcasing little known aspects of palace. In these pages you can write your experience and observations when you visit Mysore palace.

Following is an article by Dr. Javeed Nayeem about the journal which appeared in the evening newspaper of Mysore 'Star of Mysore' on 9 March 2012.


By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD

Although I have seen quite a few royal abodes both in our own country and abroad, I have always felt that none of them come anywhere close in visual appeal to the Mysore Palace, especially when it is illuminated at dusk. I can safely say that this opinion does not spring from any bias that I may be harbouring because I happen to be a born Mysorean. I feel reassured and gratified that many of my friends too who have visited Mysore and who have also seen the best of what the world has to offer have endorsed my opinion wholeheartedly. I think this makes my own appraisal fair enough.

During my travels, I have been led by guides and guide books to structures that were no different from large mud houses and yet called 'pala-ces' because some ruler or the other once dwelled there. I have also had many opportunities to see many really fine palaces much larger than our Amba Vilas and more impressive by their sheer might but still being unable to match its fairy tale look at night. Since in addition to having a great admiration for our palace, I am also much fascinated by its history, I always try very hard to uncover interesting facts about it from all possible sources.

So a couple of days ago, when I learnt that a book has been released detailing the construction of our palace to mark the completion of a hundred years of its existence, I could not wait to procure a copy of it for myself. Thanks to the intervention and good offices of my journalist friend Niranjan Nikam, last evening I was able to get in touch with R.G. Singh who has compiled the book as a project of his family firm, Ramsons Kala Pratishtana. It is an institution that is into the development and revival of art and craft forms which have long suffered from much neglect. Singh was kind enough to provide me a complimentary copy of his book in less than fifteen minutes of my contacting him although we were unable to meet each other personally. If things go as planned, I will perhaps have met him by the time you get to read this piece.

He says he is a self-made history buff who has been fascinated by the past ever since his childhood. It appears he started collecting old pictures and photo-graphs of Mysore and now has more than two-and-a-half thousand photographs and paintings in his possession.

Interestingly, this passion started nearly twenty five years ago when he happened to see a discarded photograph of horsemen standing in front of the palace that was lying in the Shivakumar Frame Works at Lansdowne Building. The proprietor of the shop, Shivanna, was kind enough to let him have this piece of history which its former owner had left behind after getting its ivory inlaid rosewood frame reused to protect some other picture that was perhaps more precious to him. He says his father D. Ram Singh and his uncle M.B. Singh, the former Editor of Prajavani, Sudha and Mayura were instrumental in encouraging him to come up with the book which he says is a personal tribute to the Maharani, Kempananjammanni Vani Vilasa Sannidhana, the widow of Chamaraja Wadiyar X (1868-1894). Since the heir to the throne, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV was still a minor at that time, she was the regent from 1894 to 1902 and it was during her regency that the present palace was built under her direct supervision to replace the old palace that was destroyed in a fire.

In fact, her signature indicating her approval appears on many of the drawings and blueprints of the palace which still survive to this day. Compared to the many coffee table books that one comes across on a subject such as this, it is no doubt a rather small book. But it is certainly not a book that can be casually cast aside after a cursory look through although that is exactly what most people do with most books. This book serially depicts the various stages of construction and many stages of modification and metamorphoses the Mysore palace went through before it emerged from its chrysalis of history to remain forever perched like a golden butterfly on the pretty flower that Mysore is. It has some pictures shot from the top of the palace which show how the city looked a century ago. What is most interesting is that there was an entire township with houses, shops and narrow lanes within the precincts of the fort itself. It appears these were cleared to create the open space and the gardens that we see around the palace today after paying suitable compensation and relocating the inhabitants.

What makes this book unique and very precious is the fact that it has some photographs which simply are not available anywhere else. This is because they happen to be pictures shot by Lazarus & Co., the Calcutta firm that was entrusted with the job of decorating and painting the vaulted ceilings of the colonnaded hall behind the durbar hall. Well- preserved by his mother Jean, they had been lying with the British journalist and broadcaster Mike Souter whose great grandfather Dennison Smith happened to be a representative of Lazarus & Co. They were luckily made available to Singh when Dennison visited Mysore and Bangalore recently in search of the connections his great grandfather had with the palace.

In a very interesting and informative foreword, Singh gives credit to the contributions and efforts of all people whose inputs made his dream come true. The layout of the book has been done by Raghu Dharmendra who also happens to be the man who gave us the elephant-based logo of our 400th Dasara, although I do not think he got his fair share of credit for it. It was he who personally handed me the book yesterday for which I am promptly giving him credit today! (For your personal copy of the book you may call him on Mob: 98801-11625). It would have been good if our government had undertaken a project of this kind on a much larger scale to mark the completion of a century of our palace. It is still not too late and the powers-that-be should give it a serious thought. History is only useful when we record it.

e-mail: kjnmysore@rediffmail.com