Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar was a ‘nonconformist maharaja’ who ruled Mysore and the world of music
In 1948, as Europe struggled to get back on its feet after World War II, German composer Richard Strauss wrote his last piece, Last four songs, with the hope that Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad would interpret it. He died the following year, his wish dissatisfiednever knowing that in an independent India emerging from partition, a young Maharaja of Mysore, now Mysuru, would be instrumental in realizing his dream.
Patron of Carnatic and Western music, scholarly writer, avid tennis player, humanitarian and statesman â few left such a lasting and extensive legacy as the 25th and last Maharaja of Mysore, Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar. Through his victories in artistic, political and philanthropic work, the Maharaja, has lived up to the prefix attached to his name – ‘Jaya’ – added to his date of birth July 18, 1919 to commemorate the success of the Allied forces in the First World War.
From his coronation in September 1940 until his death in September 1974, the Maharaja’s life was characterized by change. He ascended the throne at age 21 after the death of his paternal uncle, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, who had adopted him as his son.
By the time the last Maharaja of Mysore was 31, he had seen most of World War II and the New Order after the Cold War. He survey a Mysore battered by a war economy and the ramifications of the Great Famine between 1876 and 1878 – which claimed 20% of its population according to the elder Dewan CV Rungacharlu in 1881.
On August 9, 1947, he became the first Maharaja to sign the Instrument of Accession, which facilitated the merger of Mysore with the Indian Union. With this, he rose from being Maharaja of Mysore to his rajpramukh (constitutional head or governor) until he became governor of Madras in 1964.
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While riding the waves of political change, Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar has also built a formidable cultural legacy as a musician, writer and scholar.
In 2006a compilation of his compositions including 94 krite in 94 different ragas of the Carnatic musical tradition was made available. It was set up by S. Krishnamurthy, grandson of Mysore Vasudevachar, who was a guru in Wadiyar.
âWhat is masterful about his less than 100 compositions is that two-thirds are in rare ragas, existing and new. But the element of innovation is very much there,â said neurobiologist and singer Deepti Navratna, who wrote a book about Wadiyar titled Maverick Maharaja, Told The Hindu. He is also credited with co-founding the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s leading performing arts body.
Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar’s musical interests crossed the borders of Mysore
and even India, as he was also a renowned patron of Western music. His
mother, Kempu Cheluvarajammanni, the form in Western classical piano, and it
It is said that without his duties as a king, he would have become a
driver. Wadiyar acquired a license in piano performance from the
Guildhall School of Music and Drama and received an honorary scholarship from
Trinity College London in 1945.
The Maharaja allowed Richard Strauss to Last four songs be performed by the very soprano that Strauss wanted. During a trip to Switzerland in search of a student of the composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, he financed a large series of recordings for the little-known German composer Nikolai Medtner. Although the two did not meet, the Maharaja helped found the Medtner Society in 1949, through which Medtner dedicated his third piano concerto to him. He also offered a annual grant of Â£10,000 for the revival of the Concert Society and the London Philharmonic Orchestra (of which he was the first president in 1948).
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A literary pioneer, a true pedagogue
A brilliant man in every way, Wadiyar also displayed a flair for academics. For
For example, he received five gold medals after graduating from Maharaja’s College, Mysore University in 1938. He went on to receive a doctorate in law from the Hindu University of Banaras (1945), a doctorate in literature from Annamalai University (1955) and the University of Queensland in Australia (1963).
Passionate about wildlife conservation, Wadiyar served as the first chairman of the Indian Wild Life Board. “I think one of the reasons JCW was selected was that unlike a number of other royals he wasn’t happy or crazy about trophies,” said Congressman Jairam Ramesh during Wadiyar’s birth centenary celebrations in 2020. He has also served as chancellor of the universities of Karnataka, Madras and Annamalai.
The writer’s translations and notes reveal his vast knowledge and deep dedication. The writer is not just a theoretical student but a practicing disciple, a sadhakaâ; wrote India’s second president, S Radhakrishnan, in an introduction to Wadiyar’s book, Dattatreya: The path and the goal.
A true reformer and pedagogue, Wadiyar created multiple institutions during his
time, including Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the National Tuberculosis Institute in Bangalore, among others. Moreover, it is said that during his reign, the number of primary and middle schools increased, adult education classes were organized, government subsidies increased, and fields like medicine, health, industry, and agriculture experienced improvements.
Even before Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar signed the Instrument of Accession with India in 1947, Mysore had a the story of democratic administration – it was the first state to set up a representative assembly (1881) with an upper house (1907) and an elected majority (1913). Under the last Maharaja of Mysore, this government became responsible to the people.
“The torch of constitutional progress which has been passed on to me as a family heritage is my ambition, as it is yours I am sure, to ensure that its light is not extinguished, but that it always shines brighter with the passage of time,â Wadiyar said, in his 1941 speech at the joint session of both houses of the state legislature at the inauguration of the reformed Constitution of 1940.
After the government of Indira Gandhi abolished private scholarships in 1971, the finances of the royal family began to dwindle, coupled with the deterioration of the Maharaja’s health. On September 23, 1974, shortly after the death of his daughter Gayatri Devi, the last Maharaja of Mysore died aged 55 at Bangalore Palace. He was succeeded by his son, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar.
Thinking back to the life of Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, the famous Kannada poet Kuvempu lines on him true: “Every monarch in history became king by ascending thrones, while he became the greatest king by descending.”
(Editing by Zoya Bhatti)