Mysore’s ‘last prince’ inherited love,loyalty and great fortune

His royal counterparts from northern Indian states have had greater success in politics and business.

Written by Prithvi Datta Chandra Shobhi | Mysore | Published: December 11, 2013 12:19 am

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar,the last link to the storied Mysore royal family,passed away in Bangalore Tuesday. Wodeyar,60,was the only son of Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar,the last ruler of Mysore.

He is survived by his wife,Pramoda Devi.

A cricketer,entrepreneur,fashion designer and cricket administrator,Wodeyar,found most success in politics. A gold medalist in political science,he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Mysore in 1984,1989,1996 and 1999 as a Congress candidate. Wodeyar also lost twice.

Despite his electoral success,he rarely made an impact on politics.

Yet,Wodeyar enjoyed immense love and loyalty,especially in the rural areas,which translated electorally too. This was a testimony to the development strategies and social justice measures adopted by Wodeyar’s ancestors.

These accomplishments weren’t the only inheritance for Wodeyar. Even though he never sat on the throne,except on ritual occasions,he was always referred to as the ‘prince of Mysore’. Apart from his title and royal privileges,Wodeyar also inherited substantial assets,estimated at Rs 1,522.5 crore in his 2004 Lok Sabha poll affidavit.

But this property was the source of significant legal trouble. Along with his sisters,he often challenged decisions of the government,particularly with regard to the ownership of the Mysore and Bangalore palaces.

Like other princes,Wodeyar too entertained entrepreneurial ambitions. He would make grand announcements about setting up hotels,establishing a private university,digitizing Mysore palace library holdings,or starting a private airline. With the exception of occasional forays into fashion designing and promoting Mysore silk,none of these projects came to fruition.

In the last decade,cricket administration was his only substantial involvement in public life. A keen cricketer,Wodeyar had led the Mysore University cricket team.

In 2007,Wodeyar was elected Karnataka State Cricket Association president after a bitterly fought campaign. However,in 2010,he lost to Anil Kumble in a close fight only to triumphantly return by defeating Kumble’s nominee this December 1.

His close associates lamented that the exertions of the elections may have proved fatal since his doctors had strictly instructed him to rest.

Wodeyar’s more notable preoccupation had been the legacy of his family. He spiritedly contested a script written by Lingadevaru Halemane,a Marxist playwright and linguist,which was to be used for a “sound and light” show at the Mysore palace. Wodeyar contended that his family’s history and accomplishments ought to be highlighted as the singular factor in creating modern Mysore.

He demanded that everything else,including the contributions of people such as Sir M Visvesvarayya or the history of Hyder and Tippu,be deleted.

Wodeyar’s inheritance was immense. His legacy isn’t.

His royal counterparts from northern Indian states have had greater success in politics and business. Such success may have eluded him but in Mysore he remained a simple but significant presence,especially during the Dasara celebrations. Even though the government organised the event,he had a significant ritual role to perform. Despite occasional tension with the new representatives of democratic Mysore,the old prince took care of his responsibilities. He will be remembered primarily for that.

Shobhi is a social historian based in Mysore

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