Voices Sunday, May 31, 2015 - 05:30
  To put it mildly, the attention the erstwhile royal family of Mysuru received from politicians and the media when it held a private “coronation” ceremony was problematic. Last Thursday, the royal family of Mysuru organized a "coronation" ceremony for Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar. The 23-year-old was legally adopted by Pramoda Devi, whose husband Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar died in December 2013. The couple did not have any children, and therefore, Pramoda Devi adopted Yaduveer earlier this year. Several politicians and including ministers in the Karnataka cabinet attended the event in Mysuru. They included KPCC president G Parameshwara, former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, Home Minister K J George, Revenue Minister V Srinivas Prasad, and Energy Minister D K Shivakumar. Conspicuous by his absence was Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. On the day of the ceremony, when asked why he did not attend the event even though it happened to be in his home district Mysuru, Siddaramaiah told reporters in his typically gruff voice: “Who will conduct the meeting here?” The question was asked in a press conference the chief minister held after chairing a meeting in Bengaluru. When India has been a Republic – meaning a country governed by elected people and not a monarchy – for decades, the participation of elected representatives in the private ceremony of a former royal family is questionable. The entire spectacle of the ceremony resembled a feudal era, where even elected representatives including a former prime minister bowed down to a higher power. This is especially ironic given it was Gowda who attempted to acquire the Bangalore Palace by passing the Bangalore Palace (Acquisition and Transfer) Act, 1996 when he was chief minister. Following the ceremony, the young man “ascended the throne”, which was around six feet higher than ground level. The Mysuru royal family is said to own assets worth Rs 80,000 crore in Bengaluru and Mysuru, some of which is legally disputed. The family has challenged the law in the Supreme Court. Read: Four things you should know about the Mysore royal family''s tiff with the Karnataka government Historian Janaki Nair, who has authored a book titled Mysore Modern: Reconceptualising the Region under Princely Rule, says that the royal family today are little more than “rentiers” – those who live on income from properties. Outlining the history of the royal family, she said that journalists today have little understanding of the history of the royal family’s relations with the people of Mysuru, and also the role the British played in restoring the royal family after they annexed the Mysore kingdom from Tipu Sultan. She says, “Anyone who has trawled through the records of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Mysore cannot but be struck by the voluminous, long-winded and pathetic pleadings of the Wadiyar family to be recognised as the heirs to the Mysore kingdom… It suited the British to bring the Wadiyars back to life, and to thereby extinguish the memories of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.” The story of the Mysuru royal family and the attention it has received from the media and from politicians has come full circle. A politician who initiated a move to acquire two palaces of the family in public interest now attends a “royal” ceremony that is nothing but a symbolic act, and the media both English and Kannada, lap it up with many gushing stories of a modern day “king” – many news reports enthusiastically called Yaduveer the king or “Maharajah of Mysuru”. Regardless of what politicians do, a lack of understanding of history among journalists is likely to harm an understanding of present day politics.