Following is an Exclusive Interview with Srikantadatta Narasimharaja
Wodeyar, scion of the erstwhile Mysore Royal Family, who is
committed to restoring the Bangalore palace to its original
Bala Chauhan talks to Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar:-
The king shall have his palace
looks out of the small window into the expansive greenery
outside. The trees look freshly bathed in the downpour. The
sun has just set and the evening sky is orange and grey.
The colours are intense, a fitting requiem to the day that
is slowly going to bed. His gaze moves inside, at the painted
glass on the window and his finger gently runs on the wooden
frame. "It's all eaten by termites. Very soon it will
fall. But I will not let it happen," he looks away, at
the masons and artisans working on the walls of the Durbar
hall. "Get me the frame that we did on the plaster of
Paris," he asks the head mason.
"I will have everything done the way it was. From the
artistry on the walls to the roofing, woodwork, furniture,
upholstery, painting. The palace has to look the way it was
when I was young and growing up," he shows the plaster
of Paris frame, which was taken from the patches of the original
work on the walls for restoration.
Narasimharaja Wodeyar, scion of the erstwhile Mysore Royal
family is committed to restoring the Bangalore Palace to its
original glory. He recently started the work with the two
prime areas of the palace; the Durbar Hall and the Ball room.
"The floor boards had broken at several places, the
wood was termite eaten and the floor had become rough out
of negligence and misuse. We got it re-done in its original
wood - the teak wood. The doors, made in rosewood are being
restored along with the other things. The brass work on them
is being polished," he says while pointing at the entrance
door to the Ball room.
The room, which was once the venue of royal parties and dances,
echoes a thousand memories of the band that played, the nobility
which enjoyed the music, the top government and military officers
who danced to the rhythm with their partners. That was then.
Today, the palace, built in 1887 AD by Mysore Maharajah Chamaraja
Wodeyar in Tudor-style, is literally crumbling under the attack
of termite and years of disuse.
palace fell into a state of neglect after the demise of the
erstwhile Maharajah Jai Chamraj Wodeyar, father of Mr Srikanta
Dutta Wodeyar, in 1974. "The property fell in the hands
of a private party. We finally got it back in 1994. By then
it was already in a bad shape," he says. Later, the dispute
between the government and Wodeyar over its ownership was
one of the major reasons for its further neglect. However,
with part of it restored to the family now, he wants to bring
its pristine glory back to the Tudor edifice.
The palace has an interesting history to it. The 45,000 sq
feet mansion built on 428 acres of land was bought in 1873
from one Mr Garrett at a cost of Rs 10 to 12 lakh. It is said
that the construction cost of this exquisite palace was just
over Rs 1 lakh.
"The Maharajah of Mysore had no place to stay in Bangalore
hence he bought this property and renovated it. The entire
palace was completed in 1938. The furniture, which was neo-classical,
Victorian and Edwardian in style, was bought from John Roberts
and Lazarus. Mr Krumbiegel, the horticulture specialist looked
after its gardens. The palace had 35 rooms; most of them were
bed rooms with small, compact rest rooms. Some of them didn't
have doors. They were added much later. My great grand father
lived in the South-West wing of the palace and my father lived
in the North-East wing. I also grew up in the rooms on the
first floor in the Northern-Eastern wing.
we lived in Mysore, we used to spend some time in Bangalore
during summer and Christmas vacation. I used to look forward
to coming here because this palace, compared to the Mysore
palace is far more small and compact. We had more freedom
to move around and there were more places to shop in Bangalore.
Moreover, we had our second cousins here and we made a great
team. We used to go for walks and attend the garden parties
that my father threw now and then for the top government and
The band used to play the old Mysore State anthem. Few hundred
people worked here and the military police was in charge of
the security. We had a posse of Maharajah's guards, who would
present the guard of honour, as late as 1963," he revisits
his childhood and adolescent years. His words bring to life
time gone by.
Standing in the heart of the city, near Vasanthnagar, the
palace is a regal slice of medieval England and its architecture.
The structure has fortified towers and its interiors embellished
with elegant wood carvings and Tudor-style architecture, complete
with aesthetic Gothic windows, battlements and turrets. The
interiors have awesome floral motifs, cornices, moulding and
relief paintings on its ceiling.
At the entrance, leading to the Ball room and Durbar hall
are banisters in rose wood lined with statues of sinewed men.
A bust of one of the royal scions resonates the era when the
palace was the centre of politics, business, art and literature.
the portion in which Mr Wodeyar lives has been maintained
to some extent, the insides of the palace spread out like
pages of history, rarely visited and touched.
The patio surrounded by rooms on the ground and the first
floor echo out the emptiness and silence, rarely disturbed
by the sound of masonry or carpentry in the Ball room and
The darkness of the sky fills inside the palace and a staff
member switches on the light, which falls on the dusty pictures
and photographs of the Mysore Maharajah and their relatives
stacked on the floor.
A matter of time
"It's a matter of time. I will make this place every
inch a palace," Wodeyar's promise resounds the walls.
Outside I hear the train chugging on the tracks, of time and
an era that can only be restored, and revisited only in its