Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV – The Philosopher Bahujan King of Mysore


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While all over India citadels of royal families crumbled before the might of British onslaught, the Wodeyars of Mysore through their liberal, progressive and secular outlook and policies retained their domain till 1947. In the long history of Mysore it was under Sri Krishna raja Wodeyar IV who ruled from 1902 to 1940 that the state came to be referred as ‘Model State’ by the British and ‘Rama Rajya’ by Gandhiji.

Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV was born on 4th June 1884 in Mysore to Sri Chamarajendra Wodeyar X and Maharani Kempananjammanni Vani Vilasa Sannidhana. After the death of his father he was installed on the throne on 1st February 1895 and his mother was proclaimed the Regent. Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV was tutored under Sir. Stuart Frazer and in 1900 married Pratapakumari Devi, the second daughter of Rana Jhala Bane Singhji of Vana in Kathiawar. On attaining majority he assumed direct responsibility of ruling the state on 8th August 1902. With the herald of 20th century Mysore witnessed the two World Wars, the great economic depression of 1930s, the nationalistic upheaval and communal animosity in British ruled India, all having its repercussion in Mysore. Besides within the State there was clamour for job reservations by the socially unprivileged and responsible government by the assertive liberals. Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV overcame all these socio-political complexities with suave and sobriety. In this endeavor he was ably assisted by high profile Diwans like Sir.M.Visveswara and Sir Mirza Ismail, whose visionary policies resulted in Mysore earning the epithet ‘Model State’.

Progress in Education and Industries

In June 1911, Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV inaugurated the Mysore Economic Conference with the object of associating men of enlightenment, public spirited citizens, prominent agriculturalists, merchants and others with government officials to deliberate policies which would stimulate economic progress in the state. As a consequence, apart from a network of railways traversing the state, the Iron and Steel Works, Cement and Paper Factory at Badravathi, Government Soap Factory, Metal Factory, Central Industrial Workshop, Porcelain and Glass Factory, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, all at Bangalore, Sugar Factory, Fertilizer Plant (being the first in India), Sandal Oil Factory and a host of industries cropped up during his reign. To raise resources from the state for development of trade and industries, the Bank of Mysore Limited was started in 1913. The manpower required to run these industries made the Maharaja give high priority to education. Mysore University became the first University to be established in a princely Indian state (1916). Apart from introducing compulsory primary education, the government also initiated scholarship for students belonging to backward communities to pursue higher education. Engineering and Medical colleges and technical institutions were opened and women’s education encouraged. The total expenditure on education which was Rs 6,99,000 in 1902 rose to 46,80,000 in 1927 with 8000 schools and 5,15,000 pupils.

Electric power being the impetus to industrialization, Mysore was the first Indian state to generate its own electricity. The Shivanasamudra Hydro Electric Project was the pioneering scheme which provided electricity to Kolar Gold Fields in 1902 and in 1905 Bangalore became the first Indian city to be electrified. In December 1937 the Maharaja laid the foundation stone for the Shimsha Hydro-Electric Project at Shimshapura.

To free the farmers from the mercy of the vagaries of monsoon and to provide irrigational facilities the Maharaja commissioned the construction of the world famous Krishnarajasagara dam under the direction of Sir. M.Visveswaraya. The Bhadra Reservoir Project and the Markonahalli Reservoir Project were also started with the above object.

Social justice and Communal harmony

One of the most remarkable achievements of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV was the social and communal amity which he created through his various policies and measures. In 1913, a regulation introducing compulsory primary education was passed by the government. In 1915, the government passed an order asking the head masters of public schools to admit dalith students with a view that no pupil should be denied admission to government school or schools maintained out of public funds on the ground of caste. This resulted in the higher castes including Muslims to withdraw their children from schools where dalit students were admitted. However the government remained firm in its resolve and in its government order dated 29-11-1918 mentioned that the government cannot uphold the view that anyone shall be excluded from public schools on the ground of caste as schools maintained from public revenues are intended for the benefit of all classes of the people in the state in the same way as hospitals, courts of law, railways and other public institutions. In another government order dated 10-6-1924, the Chamarajendra Sanskrit College at Bangalore was opened to students of all communities.

On 6th December 1917, representatives of the Backward Community in the state founded the Praja Mitra Mandali with H. Channaiah as president. They submitted a memorial to the Maharaja to provide equal representation for all communities in legislative bodies, government services and facilities for education. Replying to their address, on 24th June 1918 the Maharaja spoke thus- “It is my earnest desire to see all classes of my subjects represented in just proportion in public services. At the same time I must tell you that it is far from my desire that any community should in any way be penalized on account of its caste simply because it has worked hard and utilized fully the opportunities for the advancement which are open to all my subjects. Among my loyal subjects include the Brahmins. Nor can I for a moment forget the eminent services rendered in the past and are still being rendered to my house and state by the representatives of this gifted community.”

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In August 1918 the Maharaja constituted a committee with Justice Miller as the head and it recommended that steps should be taken to see that within seven years half of the higher appointments, administrative and ministerial and two-third of the subordinate appointments be held by those other than non-Brahmins.

Eclectic in religious beliefs, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV laid foundation stones to churches and mosques as freely as temples. He liberally contributed towards the cost of rebuilding the St.Marks church in Bangalore Cantonment and St. Luke’s church in Bangalore town. On 28th October 1933 he laid the found stone of St. Philomena church at Mysore. On 6th April 1927, the Maharaja inaugurated the Jumma Masjid at Mysore which was renovated by the state government at a cost of Rs.38,000. To encourage education among Muslims, the Maharaja constituted the Muslim Education Advisory Committee. In the Mysore Representative Assembly there were 20 Muslim members while ten percent of the members of the Mysore Legislative Councils were Muslims. The Maharaja was an eloquent speaker in Urdu apart from Kannada and English. Muslims dignitaries like Jinnah, Mohammad Iqbal, Dr. Anasari and others were accorded warm welcome whenever they visited the state by the state government similar to that accorded to Gandhiji and other nationalist leaders of British India. When the whole of British India was vitiated with communal disharmony after the failure of the Khilafat movement, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV reposed faith in a Muslim by appointing Sir Mirza Ismail as the Diwan of Mysore 1926. This raised many eyebrows and during the Silver Jubilee celebration of the accession of the Maharaja, some miscreants threw chappals at the howdah carrying the Maharaja, Yuvaraja and the Diwan as they considered it a sacrilege for a Muslim to accompany a Hindu Maharaja in the royal howdah. But the Maharaja stood firm and Mirza continued in his position till 1941.

Art and Culture

Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV patronized musicians, scholars and artists. Musicians like Vidwan Subbanna, Vasudevacharya, Veene Seshanna, Venkatagiriappa and T.Chowdiah adorned his court and his rule was called the golden age of music. The Maharaja himself was an expert in music, both western and Indian and capable of detecting minutest errors in composition and execution. It is said once he spotted a very small flaw in a gramophone record of a well-known company which had not been noticed by their experts and that the company thereupon withdrew the entire stock of it from the market. Artists like B.Venkatappa and Siddalinga Swami were patronized by him. Mysore witnessed cultural renaissance during his rule and dramatists like Gubbi Veeranna and Varadaachar and scholars like Dr. R.Sama Sastry, Prof. Hiriyanna and Dr. R. Narasimhachar were some of the stalwarts who contributed immensely in their respective fields during Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV’s reign. With a view to achieve the unification of all Kannada speaking areas and to promote the cause of Kannada language, the Kannada Sahitya Parishad was established in 1915. The Maharaja was also the first Chancellor of the Benaras Hindu University.

Personality and Tastes

Known for his modesty, austere habits, sense of justice and courteous nature, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV was considered as a lodestar of the princely order. Dr. C.R.Reddy, who had worked with the Maharaja at close quarter, says that filial piety was ingrained in his nature that he hardly ever breakfasted without his mother’s company. He was highly spiritual minded but not superstitious. The Maharaja was a good sportsman well versed in tennis and polo. He used to get early in the morning and involve himself in physical exercise and horse riding. He loved dogs and horses and used to watch the training of the latter in the stables. The successive brilliant Diwans whom he appointed shows that he was an unerring judge of men. Once he got the right Diwan he gave them a free hand and did not interfere with their policies. Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV passed away on 3rd August 1940 and was succeeded by his nephew Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar.

Author – Tata Sivaiah, National President, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule & Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Educational Circle, Convener, OBC Student Force – Phule’s Caravan, Article first appeared on Countercurrents .org

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