The Kingdom of Mysore was a kingdom in southern India that was formed in 1399 near the contemporary city of Mysore, according to legend. It was a princely state from 1799 to 1950, and until 1947, it was in a subsidiary alliance with British India. In 1831, the British gained direct control of the Princely State. It was subsequently renamed Mysore State (later enlarged and renamed Karnataka), with Rajapramukh as its monarch until 1956, when he became the state's first Governor.
The kingdom began as a tributary state of the Vijayanagara Empire, founded and ruled for the most part by the Hindu Wodeyar dynasty. During the reigns of Narasaraja Wodeyar I and Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar, the kingdom acquired huge swaths of what is now southern Karnataka and parts of Tamil Nadu, consolidating its position as a powerful empire in the southern Deccan. During a brief period of Muslim dominance, the kingdom adopted a Sultanate administrative style.
It clashed with the Marathas, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Kingdom of Travancore, and the British during this time, culminating in the four Anglo-Mysore Wars. The First Anglo-Mysore War ended in victory, but the Second ended in stalemate, and the Third and Fourth Anglo-Mysore Wars ended in defeat. Following Tipu's death in the Siege of Seringapatam (1799), the British conquered vast portions of his kingdom, signaling the end of an era of Mysorean rule over South India. By way of a secondary alliance, the British returned the Wodeyars to their throne, and the weakened Mysore was transformed into a princely kingdom. The Wodeyars ruled the state until India gained independence in 1947, when Mysore joined the Union of India.
Mysore, although as a princely state, became one of India's more developed and urbanized provinces. During this time period (1799–1947), Mysore became one of India's most important centers of art and culture. The Mysore kings were not just excellent artists and writers, but they were also generous patrons, and their legacies continue to impact rocket science, music, and art to this day.
Sources for the history of the kingdom include numerous extant lithic and copper plate inscriptions, records from the Mysore palace and contemporary literary sources in Kannada, Persian and other languages. According to traditional accounts, the kingdom originated as a small state based in the modern city of Mysore and was founded by two brothers, Yaduraya (also known as Vijaya) and Krishnaraya. Their origins are mired in legend and are still a matter of debate; while some historians posit a northern origin at Dwarka, others locate it in Karnataka. Yaduraya is said to have married Chikkadevarasi, the local princess and assumed the feudal title "Wodeyar", which the ensuing dynasty retained. The first unambiguous mention of the Wodeyar family is in 16th century Kannada literature from the reign of the Vijayanagara king Achyuta Deva Raya (1529–1542); the earliest available inscription, issued by the Wodeyars themselves, dates to the rule of the petty chief Timmaraja II in 1551.
Autonomy: Advances and Reversals
The following kings reigned as vassals of the Vijayanagara empire until the latter's fall in 1565. The kingdom had grown to thirty-three settlements by this point, with a force of 300 soldiers to protect them. King Timmaraja II acquired the nearby chiefdoms, and the first ruler of any political consequence among them, King Bola Chamaraja IV (lit. "Bald"), refused to pay tribute to the titular Vijayanagara monarch Aravidu Ramaraya. Following the death of Aravidu Aliya Rama Raya, the Wodeyars began to assert themselves more, and King Raja Wodeyar I wrested control of Srirangapatna from the Vijayanagara governor (Mahamandaleshvara) Aravidu Tirumalla – a development that elicited, if only ex post facto, the tacit approval of Venkatapati Raya, the incumbent king of the diminished Vi With the conquest of Channapatna from Jaggadeva Raya to the north during Raja Wodeyar I's reign, Mysore became a regional political player.
As a result, by 1612–13, the Wodeyars had gained considerable autonomy, and tributes and revenue transfers to Chandragiri had ceased, despite the fact that they recognised the Aravidu dynasty's formal overlordship. Other powerful leaders in Tamil nation, such as the Nayaks, continued to pay off Chandragiri emperors long into the 1630s. The Bijapur Sultanate and its Maratha subordinates blocked Chamaraja VI and Kanthirava Narasaraja I's attempts to advance northward, however the Bijapur army under Ranadullah Khan's siege of Srirangapatna in 1638 were decisively defeated. After successfully repelling the chiefs of Madurai, expansionist ambitions turned southward into Tamil country, where Narasaraja Wodeyar acquired Satyamangalam (in modern northern Erode district), and his successor Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar expanded further to capture Erode and Dharmapuri in western Tamil. Malnad's Keladi Nayakas were likewise successfully repelled. In the 1670s, the Marathas and Mughals pressed into the Deccan, resulting in a period of complicated geopolitical developments.
Chikka Devaraja (r. 1672–1704), the most famous of Mysore's early kings, who ruled for much of this time, not only survived but also increased the kingdom's borders. By creating strategic alliances with the Marathas and Mughals, he was able to accomplish this. Salem and Bangalore were added to the east, Hassan was added to the west, Chikkamagaluru and Tumkur were added to the north, and the whole of Coimbatore was added to the south. Despite this growth, the kingdom remained landlocked without direct coastline access, ranging from the Western Ghats to the western limits of the Coromandel plain. Chikka Devaraja's efforts to correct this drove Mysore into confrontation with the Nayaka chiefs of Ikkeri and the kings (Rajas) of Kodagu (now Coorg), who ruled the Kanara coast (today Karnataka's coastal territories) and the intervening hill region, respectively. Mysore annexing Periyapatna but losing at Palupare, the conflict produced mixed outcomes.
However, from around 1704, when the kingdom passed to "Muteking" (Mukarasu) Kanthirava Narasaraja II, the kingdom's survival and development were achieved by a careful game of alliance, negotiation, subjugation on occasion, and annexation of territory in all directions. Mysore was now officially a tributary of the Mughal empire, according to historians Sanjay Subrahmanyam and Sethu Madhava Rao. According to Mughul archives, Mysore paid a monthly tribute (peshkash). Suryanath U. Kamath, a historian, believes the Mughals may have regarded Mysore as an ally, a scenario brought about by the Mughal–Maratha rivalry for supremacy in southern India. With the Mughal empire in decay by the 1720s, more issues occurred when Mughal citizens at Arcot and Sira demanded tribute. Krishnaraja Wodeyar I handled the situation with caution in the years that followed, keeping the Kodagu chiefs and Marathas at bay. During Chamaraja Wodeyar VII's reign, power passed to the influential brothers from Kalale town near Nanjangud, Prime Minister (Dalwai or Dalavoy) Nanjarajiah (or Nanjaraja) and Chief Minister (Sarvadhikari) Devarajiah (or Devaraja), who would rule for the next three decades with the Wodeyars relegated to the titular heads. The Deccan Sultanates were overtaken by the Mughals during Krishnaraja II's reign, and in the ensuing chaos, a commander in the army named Haider Ali came to prominence. He became a legendary figure after his victory over the Marathas at Bangalore in 1758, which resulted in the acquisition of their territories. The king bestowed the title of "Nawab Haider Ali Khan Bahadur" on him in recognition of his accomplishments.
Under Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan
Haider Ali's combat prowess and administrative savvy have earned him a place in Karnataka's history. Haidar's ascension occurred during a period of significant political change in the subcontinent. While the European powers were busy changing themselves from trade corporations to political powers, the Nizam, as the Mughals' subedar, pursued his ambitions in the Deccan, and the Marathas sought refuge in the south after their defeat at Panipat. The French and British fought for control of the Carnatic during this time, with the British eventually triumphing when British commander Sir Eyre Coote decisively defeated the French under the Comte de Lally at the Battle of Wandiwash in 1760, a watershed moment in Indian history that cemented British supremacy in South Asia. During this time, the Wodeyars remained the titular rulers of Mysore, while Haider Ali and his son Tipu wielded real power.
By 1761, the Maratha threat had faded, and by 1763, Haider Ali had conquered the Keladi kingdom, defeated the rulers of Bilgi, Bednur, and Gutti, invaded Malabar in the south, and easily conquered the Zamorin capital Calicut in 1766, extending the Mysore kingdom up to Dharwad and Bellary in the north. Haider's spectacular rise from relative obscurity and resistance created one of the last remaining challenges to British dominion over the Indian subcontinent—a battle that would take them more than three decades to defeat.
The British established an alliance with the Marathas and the Nizam of Golconda to counter Haidar's ascendancy, culminating in the First Anglo-Mysore War in 1767. Despite having a numerical advantage, Haider Ali lost the battles of Chengham and Tiruvannamalai. The British rejected Haider Ali's peace offers until he strategically positioned his soldiers to within five miles of Madras (modern-day Chennai) and successfully sued for peace. When Madhavrao Peshwa's Maratha army attacked Mysore in 1770 (three battles were waged by Madhavrao against Haider between 1764 and 1772, all of which Haider lost), Haider expected British backing based on the 1769 pact, but they misled him by remaining out of the conflict. Haider's fundamental suspicion of the British was reinforced by the British betrayal and subsequent defeat, an attitude shared by his son and which would influence Anglo-Mysore conflicts for the next three decades. Haider Ali defeated the Marathas in 1777 and reclaimed the previously lost provinces of Coorg and Malabar. In the same year, Haider Ali's army proceeded towards the Marathas and battled them at the Battle of Saunshi, emerging victorious.
Haider Ali had taken sections of modern-day Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the south by 1779, bringing the Kingdom's total extent to almost 80,000 square miles (205,000 km2). In 1780, he made friends with the French and reached an agreement with the Marathas and Nizam. The Marathas and the Nizam, on the other hand, abandoned Haider Ali by signing treaties with the British. In July 1779, Haaider Ali led an army of 80,000 men, chiefly cavalry, over the Ghats' passes amid burning villages before laying siege to British forts in northern Arcot, thereby beginning the Second Anglo-Mysore War. Haider Ali achieved some early victories over the British, most notably at Pollilur, the British's worst defeat in India till Chillianwala, and Arcot, before the arrival of Sir Eyre Coote, when the British fortunes began to reverse. In the critical Battle of Porto Novo, Coote scored the first significant blow against Haider Ali on June 1, 1781. Coote won the battle against five-to-one odds, and it is considered one of the British's finest victories in India. It was followed by a hard-fought fight on 27 August at Pollilur (the site of Haider Ali's earlier victory over a British force), in which the British won yet another victory, and the rout of the Mysore troops at Sholinghur a month later. Even though battle with the British continued, Haider Ali died on December 7, 1782. His son Tipu Sultan replaced him, and he resumed the war against the British by recapturing Baidanur and Mangalore.
By 1783, neither the British nor the Mysore could claim an overall triumph. Following the European peace treaty, the French withdrew their backing for Mysore. Tipu, often known as the "Tiger of Mysore," was undeterred in his fight against the British, but he did lose some territory in modern-day coastal Karnataka. The Maratha–Mysore War was a series of hostilities between the Sultanate of Mysore and the Maratha Empire that lasted from 1785 until 1787. Following Tipu Sultan's triumph over the Marathas during the siege of Bahadur Benda, the two kingdoms negotiated a peace deal that included mutual gains and losses. Similarly, in 1784, the Treaty of Mangalore was concluded, temporarily halting hostilities with the British and restoring the status quo ante bellum to the countries of the others. The Treaty of Amritsar is significant in Indian history because it was the last time an Indian power imposed terms on the British, who were forced to play the role of obedient supplicants for peace. A resumption of hostilities between the British and the French in Europe would have been enough for Tipu to renege on his contract and pursue his goal of attacking the British. His attempts to entice the Nizam, the Marathas, the French, and the Sultan of Turkey to provide direct military assistance were unsuccessful.
Tipu's successful attacks on the Kingdom of Travancore, a British ally, in 1790 were a decisive win for him, but also sparked increased hostilities with the British, leading to the Third Anglo-Mysore War. The British achieved advances at first, capturing the Coimbatore district, but Tipu's counter-offensive overturned many of these gains. By 1792, the British under Lord Cornwallis had successfully besieged Srirangapatna with the help of the Marathas from the north-west and the Nizam from the north-east, ending in Tipu's defeat and the Treaty of Srirangapatna. Half of Mysore was given to the allies, and two of his sons were kidnapped and held for ransom. Tipu, humiliated yet unflappable, set about reclaiming his economic and military dominance. He tried to gain help from Revolutionary France, the Amir of Afghanistan, the Ottoman Empire, and Arabia in a clandestine manner. These attempts to enlist the French were quickly discovered by the British, who were battling the French in Egypt at the time and were backed by the Marathas and the Nizam. In the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, Tipu died defending Srirangapatna, signaling the end of the Kingdom's independence. Tipu Sultan is regarded by modern Indian historians as a staunch British foe, as well as a capable administrator and inventor.
Following Tipu's defeat, the Madras Presidency and the Nizam conquered and split a portion of the kingdom of Mysore. The remaining area was turned into a Princely State, with Krishnaraja III, a five-year-old Wodeyar scion, seated on the throne, with chief minister (Diwan) Purnaiah, who had previously served under Tipu, acting as regent and Lt. Col. Barry Close acting as British Resident. The British then took control of Mysore's foreign affairs and demanded an annual tribute and subsidy in exchange for keeping a British force stationed in the city. Purnaiah distinguished himself as Diwan with his progressive and inventive administration till he retired in 1811 (and died soon after) on the boy king's 16th birthday.
The next years saw Mysore and the British maintain friendly relations until the 1820s, when things began to deteriorate. Despite the fact that the Governor of Madras, Thomas Munro, determined after a personal investigation in 1825 that the allegations of financial impropriety made by A. H. Cole, the incumbent Resident of Mysore, were without merit, the Nagar revolt (a civil insurgency) that erupted towards the end of the decade changed things dramatically. The British acquired direct control of the princely state in 1831, shortly after the insurgency and citing maladministration as a reason. Mysore was ruled by successive British Commissioners for the following fifty years; Sir Mark Cubbon, known for his statesmanship, served from 1834 to 1861 and established an efficient and successful administrative structure that left Mysore in a well-developed state.
However, in 1876–77, near the conclusion of the time of direct British rule, Mysore was hit by a devastating famine that killed between 700,000 and 1,100,000 people, or roughly a fifth of the population. Following the success of a campaign put up by the Wodeyar dynasty in favor of rendition, Maharaja Chamaraja X, who was educated in the British system, took over the rule of Mysore in 1881. As a result, a resident British officer and a Diwan were assigned to manage the Maharaja's administration at the Mysore court. Mysore remained a Princely State inside the British Indian Empire from then until Indian independence in 1947, with the Wodeyars continuing to reign.
In 1895, after Maharaja Chamaraja X died, Krishnaraja IV, at eleven years old, seized the throne. Until Krishnaraja took over the reigns on February 8, 1902, his mother Maharani Kemparajammanniyavaru ruled as regent. The Maharaja set about converting Mysore into a progressive and modern state, particularly in industry, education, agriculture, and art, during his reign, with Sir M. Vishweshwariah as his Diwan. Mysore has made such progress that Mahatma Gandhi referred to the Maharaja as a "saintly king" (Rajarishi). The actions of the ruler were praised by British philosopher and orientalist Paul Brunton, American author John Gunther, and British statesman Lord Samuel. Much of the early work in educational infrastructure that occurred during this time period will be extremely beneficial to Karnataka in the future decades. The Maharaja was a gifted musician who, like his forefathers, was committed to the advancement of the noble arts. After he signed the instrument of admission and Mysore entered the Indian Union on August 9, 1947, he was succeeded by his nephew Jayachamarajendra, whose dominion lasted for several years after he signed the instrument of accession. Jayachamarajendra ruled as Rajapramukh of Mysore till 1956, when his post was changed to Governor of Mysore State as a result of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956. He was the first Governor of Madras State from 1963 to 1966.
Mysore Palace (Image source: wikipedia.org)
During British administration, the architectural style of the kingdom's courtly and royal structures experienced significant alterations, combining European traditions with indigenous components. The Hindu temples in the kingdom were constructed in a traditional South Indian Dravidian style, which was a more humble counterpart of the Vijayanagara architectural style. Tipu Sultan built a palace and a mosque in Srirangapatna, his capital, during his reign. The city of Mysore, on the other hand, is best known for its royal palaces, garnering it the moniker "City of Palaces." Mysore Palace, the city's main palace, is also known as Amba Vilas Palace. The previous complex was destroyed by fire, therefore the Queen-Regent commissioned a new palace in 1897, which was designed by English architect Henry Irwin. The overall architecture is a mix of Hindu, Islamic, Indo-Saracenic, and Moorish traditions, including cast iron columns and roof frames for the first time in India. The granite columns that support cusped arches on the portico, a towering tower whose pinnacle is a gilded dome with an umbrella (chattri) on it, and groups of other domes around it are the most remarkable aspect of the exterior. The inside is lavishly ornamented, with marbled walls and a teakwood ceiling adorned with Hindu deity statues. Through silver doors, the Durbar hall opens to an inner private hall. The stained glass canopy is supported centrally by columns and arches, while the floor planels are inlaid with semi-precious stones. The stained glass octagonal dome with peacock themes in the royal complex's bridal hall (Kalyana mantapa) is notable.
Maharaja Krishnaraja IV commissioned E. W. Fritchley to build the Lalitha Mahal Palace in 1921. The "Renaissance" architectural style incorporates ideas from English manor buildings and Italian palazzos. The central dome is said to be modeled after London's St. Paul's Cathedral. The Italian marble staircase, polished timber floors in the dining and dancing halls, and Belgian cut glass lighting are also notable elements. The Jaganmohan Palace was finished in 1910 after being commissioned in 1861. The three-story structure, which features magnificent domes, finials, and cupolas, was the site of numerous royal occasions. The Chamarajendra Art Gallery, as it is presently known, holds a large collection of antiques.
Several architecturally notable structures may be found on the Mysore University campus, often known as "Manasa Gangotri." Some of them were built in the late 1800s and are in the European style. The district offices, the Jayalakshmi Vilas palace, Crawford Hall, the Oriental Research Institute (built between 1887 and 1891) with its Ionic and Corinthian columns, and the Oriental Research Institute (constructed between 1887 and 1891) with its Ionic and Corinthian columns are among them (Athara Kutchery, 1887). The Athara Kutchery, which once served as the British commissioner's office, boasts an octagonal dome with a beautiful finial. The Lokaranjan Mahal, the maharaja's summer residence, was erected in 1880 and was originally used as a royal school. The Rajendra Vilas Palace, atop Chamundi Hill, was commissioned in 1922 and completed in 1938 by Maharaja Krishnaraja IV in the Indo-British style. The Chittaranjan Mahal in Mysore and the Bangalore Palace in Bangalore, modeled after England's Windsor Castle, were two more royal homes built by the Mysore monarchs. Princess Cheluvambaamani Avaru, Maharaja Krishnaraja IV's sister, lived in the Central Food Technical Research Institute (Cheluvamba Mansion), which was designed in the baroque European Renaissance style. It is notable for its massive pilaster work and mosaic flooring.
The Chamundeshwari Temple, perched atop Chamundi Hill, is the most famous of the Wodeyar temples. The first construction here was consecrated in the 12th century, and the monarchs of Mysore afterwards patronized it. In 1827, Maharaja Krishnaraja III constructed a gopuram in the Dravidian style. Silver-plated doors with deity figures adorn the shrine. Other images depict Maharaja Krishnaraja III with his three princesses and the Hindu god Ganesha. A complex of temples, erected in various periods, surround the main palace in Mysore and are located within the fort. The Prasanna Krishnaswamy Temple (1829), the Lakshmiramana Swamy Temple (1499), the Trinesvara Swamy Temple (late 16th century), the Shweta Varaha Swamy Temple (built by Purnaiah with a touch of Hoysala style of architecture), and the Prasanna Venkataramana Swami Temple (built by Purnaiah with a touch of Hoysala style of architecture), The yali ("mythical beast") pillared Venkataramana temple, built in the late 17th century in the Bangalore fort, and the Ranganatha temple at Srirangapatna are two well-known temples outside of Mysore city.
At 1784, Tipu Sultan erected the Dariya Daulat Palace (lit. "garden of the wealth of the sea") in Srirangapatna, a wooden colonnaded palace. The palace, which was built in the Indo-Saracenic style, is noted for its elaborate woodwork, which includes ornate arches, striped columns, and floral motifs, as well as paintings. Murals represent Tipu Sultan's victory over Colonel Baillie's army at Pollilur, near Kanchipuram, in 1780 on the palace's west wall. While the battle is going on, one mural depicts Tipu enjoying the scent of a bouquet of flowers. The moustaches of the French soldiers separate them from the clean-shaven British soldiers in that painting. The Gumbaz tomb, erected by Tipu Sultan in 1784, is also in Srirangapatna. It is where Tipu and Haider Ali are buried. The granite base is topped with a brick and pilaster dome.
In the 1780s, Tipu Sultan and his father Hyder Ali invented the first iron-cased and metal-cylinder rocket artillery. During the Anglo-Mysore Wars, he effectively employed these metal-cylinder rockets against the British East India Company's bigger armies. The Mysore rockets of this period were far more sophisticated than those seen by the British, owing to the employment of iron tubes to contain the fuel, which allowed for more thrust and a longer range (up to 2 km (1 mi) for the missile. Following Tipu's defeat in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War and the capture of the Mysore iron rockets, they influenced British rocket development, spawning the Congreve rocket, which was used in the Napoleonic Wars shortly after.
In Encyclopaedia Britannica (2008), Stephen Oliver Fought and John F. Guilmartin, Jr. write:
The ruler of Mysore, Hyder Ali, invented combat rockets with a significant difference: the use of metal cylinders to hold the combustion material. Although the hammered soft iron he used was primitive, the container of black powder he employed had a far higher bursting strength than the earlier paper construction. As a result, a higher internal pressure was feasible, resulting in a higher propulsive jet thrust. Leather thongs were used to secure the rocket's body to a long bamboo rod. The range could have been up to three-quarters of a mile (more than a kilometre). Although these rockets were not precise individually, dispersion inaccuracy became less of an issue when huge numbers of them were fired at once in a mass attack. They were thrown into the air after lighting or skimmed across the hard, dry ground, and were particularly effective against cavalry. Tipu Sultan reportedly increased the number of rocket troopers from 1,200 to a corps of 5,000 as he continued to develop and expand the employment of rocket weaponry. These rockets were utilized effectively against the British in the battles of Seringapatam in 1792 and 1799."