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Maharajah of music

SRIRAM VENKATKRISHNAN

Music was a thread that ran through Jayachamaraja Wodeyar's life.



Jayachamaraja Wodeyar.

The news of Jayachamaraja Wodeyar's passing away was announced in The Hindu dated September 24, 1974. Under the caption, "Jayachamaraja Wadiyar Dead," the news report stated that he had been taken seriously ill on September 22 and had passed away at 9.20 a.m. in Bangalore on September 23. In its tribute the same day, The Hindu noted that he was "an authority on Carnatic and western music and had a number of popular compositions to his credit." The former President of India, V.V. Giri, in his tribute stated that the Maharajah was a great scholar and "his views on matters of fine art were appreciated by everyone not only in India but also abroad." The Prime Minister Indira Gandhi too recalled his contributions to "politics, philosophy and music."

Music was a thread that ran through the former ruler's life. Born as the nephew of Krishnarajendra Wodeyar IV, whose reign over Mysore had been praised by Mahatma Gandhi as a veritable Ram Rajya, Jayachamaraja Wodeyar was exposed to the musical atmosphere at court from infancy. Artistes on the royal payroll included Veena Seshanna, Veena Subbanna, Mysore Vasudevachar, Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar and the cuckoo of Calcutta, Gauhar Jan among others. Jayachamaraja Wodeyar's father, Kantirava Narasimharaja Wodeyar, yuvaraja or heir apparent was a great patron of music. He had in 1938 inaugurated the Music Academy's annual conference when Mysore Vasudevachar had been elected president. One of his last acts, prior to his sudden death in 1941, had been to sponsor the publications of musicologist Hulugur Krishnamacharya.

Patronage to musicians

Jayachamaraja Wodeyar succeeded the Mysore throne on the death of his uncle in 1941. The coronation durbar witnessed the rendition of a tillana in Kapi by Muthiah Bhagavatar created specially for the occasion. In 1944, Tiger Varadachariar was invited at the instance of Mysore Vasudevachar to perform during the famed Dasara celebrations. Both Vasudevachar and Tiger were given the title Sangeeta Sastra Visarada by the Maharajah that year. The medical expenses of Muthiah Bhagavatar were borne by the ruler in 1945, and on his death, the Maharajah ensured that the fragrance loving Bhagavatar was cremated on a pyre of sandalwood.

In 1946, Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar was given the title Gayaka Shikhamani, a title earlier held by Muthiah Bhagavatar. The '46 Dussehra rewarded several musicians including the Maharajah's guru Veena Venkatagiriappa, Titte Krishna Iyengar and Veena Sivaramiah.

In 1945, the Maharajah became a composer with the song "Sri Mahaganapathim" in Atana. He is said to have composed 90 songs of which 78 are named and out of which 50 survive with notations. His mudra was Sri Vidya and he, like Muthuswami Dikshitar, included the raga name in the lyric wherever possible. It is said that Mysore Vasudevachar helped the ruler in his compositions.

Jayachamaraja Wodeyar signed the Instrument of Accession in June 1947 and merged his state with independent India. His titles continued to be recognised by the Government of India and he became the Rajpramukh of Mysore in 1950.

That year, he inaugurated the Mylapore Fine Arts Club in Madras, a leading Sabha of the city today. He was the Governor of Mysore from 1956 to 1964. During this period he was invited to inaugurate the Music Academy's conference in 1957, when T. Chowdiah became the Sangita Kalanidhi. The Hindu reported in full his speech on the occasion.

In October 1962, the Maharajah inaugurated the Music Academy's present building. On July 28, 1963, The Hindu reported the felicitations held to mark Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar's completion of 50 years of service to music.

Jayachamaraja Wodeyar presided over the event which was held at Rajaji Hall in Madras city. Jayachamaraja Wodeyar was Governor of Madras state from 1964 to 67. The Hindu announced his being awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi's fellowship for the year 1966/67 on October 13, 1966. Such a gentle and erudite soul did not have a peaceful personal life. Ill health plagued him and so did sordid palace intrigues over his vast properties.

The abolition of the privy purses hit the Maharajah hard financially and his heart was broken at having to retrench several devoted employees on the palace payroll.

Jayachamaraja Wodeyar's death witnessed a great outpouring of grief and crowds lined the highway as the cortege wound its way from Bangalore to Mysore.

The Hindu dated September 24 stated that thousands paid their homage. A 56-gun salute preceded the cremation which took place very aptly at sunset.

The very next day, an announcement was made in The Hindu that a proposal to purchase the Bangalore City Palace was under Government's consideration. The proposal was for "building a Disney Land type project which people could be impressed with." A new order had taken over.

(The author can be contacted at srirambts@gmail.com)

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