Wodeyar Kings made an immense contribution to the development of Science & Tech and other spheres by ensuring people’s participation and engagement. Their welfare model was engineered with people at the core
With the then Chief Engineer of Mysore Sir M Vishveswarayya presented a blueprint of a dam to be built across the river Kaveri near the village called Kannambadi in 1911, the finance ministry of the Government of Mysore objected to the project citing lack of demand and huge costs. Mysore and surrounding regions had experienced a draught only a few decades ago. Crop often failed due to lack of water for irrigation. Hence Maharaja Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV understood the importance and gave a go ahead. However, the cost of the project which was estimated at Rs.81 Lakh was too high, and the British were not ready to loan the amount. Foreseeing the significance of the project, Rani Kempa Nanjammanni who was the King’s mother, decided to sell her jewellery, diamonds, gold and silver articles to raise funds for the construction of the dam. Such was the concern and dedication the Wodeyar had for the people of Mysore.
Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodiyar
As we observe Navaratri and enjoy the celebration of our culture and arts during the Dasara season, it is only prudent and honourable to remember the contributions of the Wodeyars to the state of Karnataka without which we would not be witnessing either the world famous Dasara procession or the industrial and scientific progress the state has made today. It is to be noted that when more than 10 thousand people were affected by the construction of the dam and had to be relocated, they were all rehabilitated to a new location immediately and all were provided with houses and agricultural lands. Old Mysore region even to this day recalls how common people from many villages became part of the construction of the KRS dam owing to the love and respect they had for their beloved King.
Mysore was regarded as an ideal state by Mahatma Gandhi, and he had termed Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar as the ‘Rajarishi’. The Wodeyar kings and their foresight were not only limited to solving immediate problems of the state but they also provisioned many long-term projects the effects of which we witness even today.
Contribution in Social and Cultural spheres
The Wodeyar kings continued to patronise the rich culture of the land just as the kings of Vijayanagar empire did. Raja Wodeyar I started the Mahanavami festival celebrations, known as Dasara now. A large procession was part of the celebrations which was started in 1610. This traditional procession with performers, daring acts, music has continued to this day and has made the city of Mysore famous across the globe.
Krishana Raja Sagara Dam, which was constructed in the supervision of Wodeyar dynasty but with the proactive participation of the people
Further, Garett House was brought from the British which was later converted to the present Bengaluru Palace. The Bengaluru Palace has hosted thousands of art and architectural events and is part of the Bengaluru art lore for over a century. Translation of various important works in other languages to Kannada and vice-versa was supported by the then Mysore Maharajas. Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar gave impetus to intellectual and spiritual development too by supporting institutions like Theosophical Society, Brahmo Samaj, and Ramakrishna Ashrama.
Science, Technology and Industry
Prof Sudheendra Haldodderi, a Science communicator and former scientist at DRDO has written extensively on the science and technology in Karnataka and the contributions of the erstwhile kings for the same. Prof. Sudheendra in his research categorically says that if India has made strident progress in science and technology in the last century, the contribution of Mysore state stands at the top. During British Raj, Mysore Kingdom was one of the few royal entities that actively supported technology and building institutions for that purpose.
Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru was constructed through the active support of Sir Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV
Mysore Lac and Paints Limited that produces indelible ink for Indian elections, the advent of electrification, institutionalising Central college in 1958, laying the foundation for Mysore University were all initiatives of Maharaja Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. Bengaluru became the first electrified city in India. Shimsha water reservoir near Bengaluru was India’s first electricity generating unit. It was established specifically to supply electricity to Kolar Gold Fields to help the British privately held company to dig deeper to mine the Gold. However, the city of Bengaluru too eventually benefited from this and saw bulbs lighting up homes and offices in the early 20th century. IISC was started in Bengaluru, upon the request of Swami Vivekananda, to which Maharaja donated 400 acres of land. Land for Raman research institute was given by the Maharaja to ensure that Prof CV Raman stays in India itself and conducts his research. Today, one cannot imagine Bengaluru being a Science and IT city without IISC and the Raman Research Institute.
Bhadrawati iron and steel works
In 1899, Rani Kempa Nanjammani instituted the agriculture research institute near Hebbal where research in soil was conducted by German scientists on the invitation of the Maharani. School of Mechanical engineering now known as UVCE was stared by the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar. Govt Sandalwood factory was started by him under the guidance of Vishweshwarayya to produce perfumed soap. Imperial Institute of animal husbandry now known as National Dairy Institute, Mysore lamps, forest research laboratory to research safeguarding forest wealth, tree diseases, etc., a Textile research institute in Bengaluru were all started due to the vision of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar.IISc was started in Bengaluru, upon the request of Swami Vivekananda, to which Maharaja donated 400 acres of land. Land for Raman Research Institute was also given by the MaharajaAnother keystone project initiated by Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar was the starting of HAL in Bengaluru in 1948. It was the first Public-Private partnership in the true sense, a concept which is prevalent today for most turnkey projects. Govt electric factory, Bhadrawati iron and steel works were all started and supported by Mysore Kings. A rail link between Bangalore and Chikkaballapur and Arisikere was also laid during the Maharaja’s reign.
Retired Kannada Professor and Scholar Dr N.S. Taranath has documented the contribution of the Wodeyars in various fields. Dr Taranath’s writings showcase the vision the Maharajas of Mysore had while taking decisions and taking the state forward. Their vision was to safeguard culture and traditions and adopt modern technology in the same spirit. Maharajas not just supported literature but also created many works of literature themselves in fields of music, sports, etc. The Wodeyar kings were patrons of epigraphy, archaeology, and were forthright in safeguarding historical buildings too.
Oriental research institute which was instituted by Maharaja Chamarajendra Wodeyar was instrumental in securing and curating 70000 ancient scriptures among which Chanakya’s Arthashastra was the most prominent. Translation of Sanskrit texts was undertaken by Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar. Raja school now known as Maharajas College was open for all sections of the society. Educational institutions which had English, Kannada and Sanskrit as the medium of instruction were also started. Importance to female education was a legendary step. The impetus to health was given by starting hospitals like Victoria hospital, Cheluvamba hospital, etc. Dr Taranath’s research shows that decentralisation was first practised by the Maharajas so that different areas of the state develop equally and also be able to provide employment.
The vision and work of the Wodeyars showcased not just Karnataka but India to the world. Their contributions to social justice, science and culture were legendary. It is but our honour to remember the contributions of the Wodeyars in various spheres during the Diwali season.