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Jaganmohan Palace in the city of Mysore, India. It was completed in 1861 and initially used by the Wodeyar, kings of Mysore as their home (when the present Mysore Palace (Amba Vilas Palace) was under construction after the previous palace burned down). It is now used as an art gallery and a function hall. The palace is one of the seven palace of the royal city of Mysore.
In 1831, the Kingdom of Mysore, which had been in Subsidiary alliance with the British East India Company since 1800 AD, was seized by that company of tradesmen on a trivial pretext. The Royal Family were compelled to vacate their centuries-old palace and leave Mysore. The Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wadiyar III, took advise from British lawyers and filed a suit against HEIC in British courts, and the matter reached Queen Victoria's Privy Council. In 1858, following the Indian Mutiny, the HEIC was abolished, and the British government took over the administration of India. The Mutiny had taught the British that local aristocracy could be valuable intermediaries and bulwarks for their rule. The Maharaja's case, which continued in the privy council, was now viewed more leniently. By 1861, the Wodeyars were permitted to return to Mysore and live there. However, until the case was finally settled, they would not be given back their palace or other properties.
In these circumstances, the Maharaja (who remained a personally wealthy man, and who also had at his disposal the wealth of his former landed nobility (Arasus, Jagirdars and Zamindars), commissioned the building of a large mansion, with several public and private courtyards, for the use of his family and retainers. This was the future Jaganmohan Palace, for which he selected a site which was only a short distance from the extensive grounds of his old palace. Whereas the old palace looked like a stone citadel from outside, and was mainly made of wood inside, the new palace was designed to have a lighter, more modern look and a more comfortable internal layout. It was constructed of brick and mortar, with many beautiful architectural embellishments, often made of valuable woods and precious stones. In itself, the palace is a work of art.
The Privy Council finally ruled in favour of the Maharaja, and consequently, the "Rendition of Mysore" took place in 1881 by an act of the British Parliament. The old Maharaja was dead, but the kingdom was restored to his adopted son in entirety. The royal family moved back to the old palace, but the Jagan Mohan Palace continued to be used for many purposes, including regular kacheris (siorees of music, dance and poetry) presided over by the young Maharaja.
Only a few years later, an event occurred which again brought the royal family back to Jaganmohan Palace. During the wedding celebrations of Princess Jayalakshmi Ammani, eldest sister of Maharaja Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the old palace, whose interiors were made mainly of wood, caught fire and was very seriously damaged. The decision was taken to demolish that structure completely and build a new palace. The construction of the new palace began in 1897 and lasted till 1912. During this interval, the Jaganmohan Palace once again became the primary residence of the Maharaja and his family. Both personal and official ceremonies, including the Maharaja's daily durbar and major ceremonies connected to the annual Mysore Dasara would be held there. One particular event held during this period merits special mention. In 1902, Maharaja Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar attained his majority and was installed on the throne of Mysore. The ceremony, which was attended by Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, was held in Jagan Mohan palace, in a specially constructed pavilion. The first session of the Legislative Council of the Mysore state was held here in July 1907. The Legislative Council was then called as the Representative Council and was presided over by the Diwan (Prime Minister of the state). The early convocations of the Mysore University were also held in this palace.
HH Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar converted the palace into a trust and opened it for public viewing.
In 1915, the palace was converted into an art gallery. In 1955, by which time the Kingdom of Mysore had been subsumed within the Republic of India, the art gallery was enlarged with the gift of many precious articles by the Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, and it was renamed the Sri Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery in his honour.
The palace is built in traditional Hindu style and has three stories. In 1900, an external facade with a hall behind it was added to the palace. This facade has three entrances and the entablature has religious motifs and miniature temples crafted on it. This mural is the earliest known picture of the Mysore Dasara and has been painted using vegetable dyes. A family tree of the Wodeyars tracing the lineage of the royal family is also painted on a wall. Two wooden displaying Dashavatara, the ten incarnations of the Hindu God, Vishnu is also present in the palace.
The art gallery contains one of the largest collections of artifacts in South India. Most of these artefacts are paintings, prominent among which are those by Raja Ravi Varma, some of which demonstrate scenes from the Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharatha. The collection of paintings in the gallery exceed 2000 in number and these belong to different Indian styles of painting like Mysore, Mughal and Shantiniketan. 16 paintings of Raja Ravi Varma were donated to the gallery by Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar. Another important painting present here is the Lady with the lamp which was painted by the artist Haldenkar and is placed in a dark room where it is the only exhibit. This is to give an illusion that the glow of the lamp is illuminating the face of the woman. Some other painters whose works are exhibited here include Nikolai Roerich, Svetoslav Roerich and Rabindranath Tagore and Abanindranath Tagore. There are beautiful paintings by the Ukil brothers -Sharada Ukil, Ranada Ukil and Barada Ukil. Another collection of paintings by a British Army Officer named Col. Scot on the wars between Tipu Sultan and the British army are said to be the only visual representation of the wars.
Other exhibits here include weapons of war, musical instruments, sculptures, brassware, antique coins, and currencies. Some other unique artefacts exhibited here is a French clock which has a mechanism in which a parade of miniature soldiers is displayed every hour; beating drums mark the seconds and a bugle marks the minute. Paintings made on a grain of rice which can be viewed only through a magnifier are also displayed here.
A new hall was built in 2003 because there was insufficient space available to exhibit all the paintings. The original paintings of Raja Ravi Varma which are over 100 years old are being restored by the Regional Conservation Laboratory (RCL). Syrendri (which had a hole in the canvas), Victory of Meganath and Malabar Lady were some of the paintings of Ravi Varma to be restored. Unscientific stretching of the canvas on which the paintings were drawn was one of the major problems noticed including unprotected exposure to dust, heat and light. Even the murals on the walls had been damaged because of water seepage and these were also restored by RCL.
Despite what is mentioned here regarding the restoration of these paintings, recent visits to the Jaganmohan Palace suggest gross neglect. These priceless paintings are ill maintained and incompetently restored. For example, in the painting of Ravana slaying, Jatayu by Raja Ravi Varma the colors used to restore the painting are different from the ones used in the original painting. The painting is also torn and ridden with holes at the bottom. One can only understand the tragic plight of this extremely powerful painting when one visits the palace. Painting the walls of this room has also resulted in damage to the paintings, with the paint from the walls dripping on the uncovered paintings. These paintings which are already in very bad condition are further affected by the abysmally poor lighting and humidity conditions. The painting of the lady holding the lamp by Haldenkar is also poorly exhibited. The windows are covered by a moldy cloth to supposedly give the effect of "shade" which only ends up ruining the effect due to the poor lighting in the first place. This palace and its contents especially the Ravi Verma paintings are in dire need of attention and very poorly managed.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jaganmohan Palace.|
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