news Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute | September 17, 2014 | 3.39 pm IST The royal family of Mysore and the state government have been sparring over the upcoming annual Dasara celebrations.  Srikanta Dutta Narasimharaja Wadiyar was the head of the royal family until his death in December last year. His wife Pramoda Devi, now heads the royal family until a successor is appointed. The royal family has not yet decided on a successor to the late Srikanta Wadiyar. His late rites had been performed by his eldest sister Gayathri's younger son, fueling speculation that he could be one of the names considered. With just a week to go for the festival to begin, there is much uncertainty over the activities of both the state government and the royal family. Here’s a look at the main areas over which the celebrations have run into trouble: Picture courtesy- Facebook page of Maharani pramoda devi fans of mysore state Dasara vs Nada habba The head of the royal family Pramoda Devi said on Tuesday that the government could not use the word “Dasara” and should instead use the term “Naada Habba” (roughly translated as state festival) to describe the cultural activities that are a part of the celebrations. In an interview to The Times of India on Tuesday, she explained what she meant. She said: “What do you mean by Dasara celebrations and take charge of the festivities? If you mean the cultural programmes held in front of the palace during the 10 days, well that is not Dasara. That is a Nadahabba conducted by the government. Dasara is actually a religious celebration observed by the royal family — a thanksgiving festival in the form of worship, to be precise, which the government cannot do, given its secular nature. The tradition is that back in the day, the fest would be held just after the summer and monsoon, as a token of gratitude to the gods for sparing the king and his people from summer diseases and for the rains that will ensure a good harvest. It is a very spiritual time, with the king praying on behalf of everyone and then himself, which continued even after India become a republic.” The role of the heir and period of mourning The Dasara festivities have three basic components. The government conducts cultural activities, the royal family performs a private pooja and the king symbolically ascends the throne for nine days. According to historian Nanjaraj Urs, the government has been conducting the cultural programmes since the 1970s, but date back to 1799. Pramoda Devi has asked the government not to conduct the cultural programmes in the front of the palace as the family is still in mourning over the death of her husband. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has refused to intervene in the matter, and has said that the head of the Dasara committee would communicate with the royal family. The durbar is a tradition in which the king symbolically ascends the throne for nine days and is carried out with traditional ceremony. Pramoda Devi has said she will not preside over the private durbar as there was no precedent of a female member having assumed the role of a king in 400 years.  Pramoda Devi has said that she was considering one or two members, but the final decision would be taken after consulting the family. She also said that she was unwilling to name a successor until all the litigation was resolved. The pooja is conducted in private by the royal family along with other ceremonies. The battle over land The Mysore royal family and successive governments in the state have been embroiled in many land tussles. The bone of contention is the ownership of the Bangalore Palace, Mysore properties and Bangalore Palace Grounds. Though there have been attempts since the 1970s by governments to take over the property. In 1996 that the then Karnataka government under CM H D Deve Gowda and Deputy CM Siddaramiah enacted the Bangalore Palace (Acquisition and Transfer) Act, 1996 and later the Mysore Palace (Acquisition and Transfer) Act, 1998. The royal family dragged the government to court. Though the High court of Karnataka upheld the acquisition, the Supreme Court asked the government to maintain status quo. The royal family has time and again accused the government of trying to take over the land despite the Supreme court order. There are also ongoing disputes between the government and the royal family over five properties in the outskirts of Mysore at Kurubarahalli worth many crores. BJP MLC has also claimed that private parties in collusion with the district administration, had encroached upon 100s of acres of land owned by the royal family in Chamundi hills. An inquiry is being conducted into this, while the Lokayukta is separately investigating the status of two other properties.  Acquisition Acts- a thorn in the flesh Pramoda Devi wants the government to withdraw the Bangalore Palace Acquisition Act 1996 and the Mysore Palace Acquisition Act 1998, which the family believed is a government ploy to take over property rightly owned by the royal family. The interesting angle here is however that current Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was instrumental in introducing the Palace Acquisition bills in the state assembly during 1996-1997 1998 when he was the Deputy Chief Minister in the Janata Dal government, and has currently refused to directly deal with the royal family. Pramoda Devi has openly said that the reason for not declaring the heir of the royal family and conduct of Dasara festival was directly linked to the withdrawal of the Mysore Palace (Acquisition and Transfer) Act, 1998.
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