Friday, October 23, 2009

The Mysore of yore

Pictured above is the Mysore Palace, 1930. I used to bicycle on that road as a thoroughfare to Ashoka Road in the late 70s.

In one of his articles in the local daily, STAR OF MYSORE [some years back], Mr.T.S.Nagaraj, wrote a few things, most beautifully: "Don't ever underestimate the Mysorean, who generally appears contemplative and self-effacing. You will take some time to realize his wit and wisdom, which unfolds slowly and unobtrusively - majjigeyolagina benneyanthe - like butter emerges from buttermilk. There is an unintended artistic expression by the people even in seemingly ordinary matters.

"To the Mysorean, coffee is booze. He is very particular about its quality. The test of good coffee is that the guest sitting in the hall should savour its elevating aroma from the kitchen, ahead of the housewife walking up to him with a cupful. Talking about cofee is also a convenient opening gambit for most casual chats, don't be amused if instead of saying 'good evening' to you when you meet an acquaintance on the road, he says "coffee aayithe?", meaning "have you had your coffee?". It does not matter even if you have just had your dinner!"

[Mr.Nagaraj is the brother of the world-famous photo-journalist, TS Satyan.]

Look at the traffic policeman 'in control' of traffic in this 1915 photo of "Hardinge Circle".

We are looking at the spot near that building where there is a fountain. This Elgin fountain was shifted to "fountain circle" when the statue of Krishnarajendra Wadiyar was built in its place. The part of Lansdowne Building seen here has given way to Devaraj Urs Road.


My mind runs a bit on 14.12.2007:

Just as we find ourselves grumbling about this and that, late Prof. HSK brings out many points and locations and compares it with the past. (Reproduced below) I have to agree that Mysore WAS a livable city, not IS. The Commissioner can do wonders only if the public, at the individual level can cooperate with him. But then, with our "who cares" attitude, the efforts will make no impression. When are we beginning to think that spitting on the road, easing ourselves to compound walls, throwing rubbish into the open areas, lighting matches to plastic and other harmful waste, mixing kerosene to petrol, dirtying the public places, taking dogs for 'excretory walks', leaving cattle to the streets to graze, honking of automobile horns, cutting avenue trees, drilling holes in the earth for water....... is bad for the city's health from every angle? Mainly it could be the utter careless and selfish attitudes of the public and also the influence of many villages in Mysore's vicinity, the reasons thwarting healthy progress.

If a genuinely strong rule is enforced in public interest, that is thwarted by the one with a vested interest through a phone call, or even a visit to the Commissioner!! With such interferences, the city will be like a bull in the mill.

Mysore IS now just a name no longer synonymous of its old and famous tags. It's just growing, growing fast, into just another modern city with more problems than peace, thanks to various negating factors that seem to have been eating up all the goodies Mysore is renown for.


Here's HSK's article:

[Star of Mysore, 14.12.2007]
"HSK's Moving Finger"

Some time ago I read an interesting report in the newspapers. It said that Mysore is one of the most livable cities of India !
The question is — 'Is it? or will it become one?'
Mysore is not a livable city today. Anyone who says so will be under an illusion. It was, once upon a time, a livable city and also a lovable city. It was during the days of the Maharajas.
If Bangalore was deemed to be a commercial and industrial city, Mysore was considered as a cultural city. One of the greatest cultural pageants of the city was the Dasara. The city which was a sleeping beauty would suddenly wake up to the beating of drums and the tingling sou-nd of bells tied to the necks of majestic elephants.
Dasara crowd
It was not the practice then to bring the elephants (tamed, of course) from the forest and hurriedly parade them in the streets to get them accustomed to the din and buzzle of the city and the Dasara crowds. 'Ane Karuhatti' or the 'Abode of elephants' was on the spot where the JSS institutions today stand. The building on the Shivarathri Rajendra Circle was Hasuvina Karuhatti or the place where the Palace cows were kept. There was a separate accommodation for horses.
Dasara durbar was a beautiful function which even Gods would love to witness. The procession was a feast for the eyes. All that pomp and pageantry have disappeared and today Dasara is a pale and lifeless imitation of those celebrations.
Soon after Dasara the representative Assembly of the State was being held at Jaganmohan Palace. The University convocation would follow. In addition to these, a number of celebrations, social and religious, were attracting huge crowds.
The powers that be did not fail to attend to civic amenities. The water supply system as well as the underground drainage was ideal. It is said that when rains failed and the city had to face the ordeal of water shortage, the Kukkarahalli tank, which is now a part of the Mysore University, was constructed. It was a beautiful lake then and far more expansive than it is today. Many daring swimmers were swimming in the tank from one shore to the other shore at the opposite end and return swimming. Today the tank is half dead and half alive.
Another beautiful lake was Doddakere — the spot where the exhibition is being held now. In those days — just about seven decades back — the waters of the tank extended from the front gate of the Palace fort to almost the foot of the Chamundi Hill. The space between Doddakere and the hill was occupied by another tank called Gobbalikere. The Doddakere was dried up because of the fear of Malaria. The smaller tank also almost perished. In those days the illuminated Palace and Chamundi Hill would be reflected on the placid waters of the tank. It was so beautiful that many drama companies of those days had the main curtain of the theatre painted with that scene.
The Karanjikere, as the name itself suggests was another beautiful water body. The Karanji tank also was facing the threat of extinction. Thank God ! It is revived. The Dali Avenue Thandi Sadak was a beautiful road by the side of the Karanji tank. It was like a tunnel, covered by creepers grown on either side of the road. It looked like a very long pendal from one end of the road to the other end. Alas, it is today encroached by the Zoo. The public who used to walk along the cool grove in the evening are deprived of that pleasure. It looks rather drab in the Zoo.
Drab environment
Lalitha Mahal Palace today looks very pale. All its majesty is lost because of the drab environment around it. The Lalithadri on the Chamundi Hill is only a name today. Our poet Kuvempu has written a beautiful poem eulogising it. Nobody seems to be interested in reviving it.
The Rajendra Vilas Palace on the top of the Chamundi Hill was later converted into a hotel. It lost all its glory. At the Central Hall of the Palace, huge mirrors of the size of the walls were erected close to the walls on all the four sides and if you happened to enter it upwards, you would be flabbergasted by the innumerable images (infinity) of yours reflected by the mirrors on all the four sides. Perhaps those mirrors are no longer there !
The roads of the city were broad (from the standard of those days) with footpaths on both sides. They were well maintained. The dome lights adorned the roads and at night they looked like myriad stars descended to earth to praise the glory of the city.
The parks have shrunk. They are filthy. In the evenings, the citizens used to flock them for recreation. The Palace Band (later the Government band) used to play songs once a week in the evening. The band stand and garage were two beautiful constructions. They are gone.
Ideal road
The Mirza Road was an ideal road which served as a rendezvous for evening strolls. But alas! It looks today like a beautiful damsel cruelly raped and bruised by a bastard. The Hardinge Circle with a thrilling fountain surrounded by ornamental flower plants is today drab and lifeless, with vehicles ceaselessly plying along the labyrinth of roads.
The Krishnarajendra Circle, which is said to be built like the Connaught Circle of Delhi, is a poor imitation. The planners had no aesthetic sense. The erstwhile circle with a fountain called Elgin Fountain, and a statue erected on a high pedestal and greenery all round was one of the most beautiful spots of the city.
The city is full of filth and dust. Eateries have encroached every available spaces, especially footpaths. The customers throw away the papers and render the whole area quite dirty. Sweeping the roads at least once a week is a rarity. Building construction is going on unabated and the small water bodies are occupied by buildings, causing the drying up of the source of underground water. Who cares ? The several tanks surrounding the city are slowly dying.
Natural environment is disappearing. Pollution levels are high. The Chamundi Hill also may disappear some day. The city fathers fail to plan for the next 25 years or more. They are thoughtless.
Can you revive the city to its previous pristine beauty and make it a real livable city, Mr. Manivannan ?

(The Thandi Sadak in the zoo he mentions above can be seen in the Kannada film Miss Leelavathi)


Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Was a great place, now a has been. For many outsiders, Mysore still evokes memories of clean roads, trees and "salubrious"climate. Where's all that now? All we see is dust, over crowding, dirt, traffic, smoke, more dust...and it's going to get worse because nobody cares.

KP said...


Do you have posts with photographs of mysore houses - not palaces - house like I see in yadavgiri / near ramasamy circle a unique mysorean middle class house / maybe where bureaucrats of the mysore state or businessmen would stay?


Dinakar KR said...

KP, I must say, not yet. Someone should go around and take pictures of these typical houses. I like them too, also the interiors. Also, even older houses are in the old Fort Area and they to are quite unique and worth recording.