The Wodeyars, the rulers of Mysuru kingdom, have a long history, from the time the kingdom was founded in 1399. From great wealth to magnificent palaces, exquisite artwork, musical instruments, and even a 400-year-old curse, the Mysore Wodeyar royal family has it all. They have seen the dynasty through the times of the British, Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. The illustrious family is also the only royal family in India who has reigned for over five centuries from 1399 to about the 19th century (although there is no monarchy in India now, they still maintain their royal status).
The rulers of the Wodeyar dynasty may have lost their privy purses and titles, but they still live on in the hearts of the Kannadigas. Their contribution to the development of social and cultural spheres, as well as science and technology, is immeasurable. Their dedication towards the development of their kingdom can be seen in their pro-people policies and prompt action in times of necessity.
Origin Of The Mysore Wodeyar Dynasty
The beautiful Maharajah’s Palace in Mysore, Karnataka, India
Wodeyar, alternatively spelt Wadiyar or Odeyar, as the members of the Mysore royal family were addressed by their subjects, translates to ‘lord’ or ‘king’ in Kannada. According to legend, the royal family is descended from Krishna of Dwaraka. Legend says the Wodeyars made Mysore their abode upon seeing the natural beauty of the place. But according to historians, the Wodeyars adopted Puranic legend to claim themselves as direct descendants of the legendary Lunar Dynasty.
Raja Vijaya Raj Wodeyar, who established the dynasty in 1399 and later came to be known as Adi Yaduraya Wodeyar, was a local feudal lord. The Mysore Wodeyar family and its descendants continued to rule the kingdom under the Vijayanagar empire until the fall of the Vijayanagar empire in 1565. The Mysore kingdom then became an independent kingdom until 1799, when it came under the reign of the British Empire during the reign of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III.
Expansion Of Mysore Kingdom
The Kingdom of Mysore was initially a small empire that was a vassal of the Vijayanagara empire. As the Vijayanagar empire disintegrated, the ninth king Raja Wodeyar I, expanded the borders of the kingdom and changed the capital city from Mysore to Srirangapatna. Subsequent kings of the Wodeyar dynasty expanded the frontiers till Trichy in Tamil Nadu. The dynasty reached its peak under the reign of the fourteenth king, Chikka Devaraja. Under his capable rule, the administration of the empire was reformed and a new, coherent system of taxation was also introduced.
Golden Era Of The Mysore Kingdom
Krishnaraja Sagara Dam, Mysore India
During the reign of the 24th king of the Wodeyar family, the kingdom of Mysore witnessed a golden era. Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV was a philosopher-king, who heralded an important phase in the making of modern Mysore. He set up an educational infrastructure and worked towards alleviating poverty, improving rural reconstruction, public health, industry and economic regeneration. The king, an accomplished musician himself, was also a patron of the fine arts. During his reign, the grand kingdom of Mysore made several strides in development.
Mysore was the first Indian state (In 1905, Mysore was a princely state and known as the Kingdom of Mysore. The country hadn’t yet been divided into states then) to generate hydroelectric power in Asia in 1902, and street lights were installed in Bangalore, making it the first Asian city to have street lights in 1905. Several educational institutions also came to be during his reign, including the University of Mysore and the acclaimed Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. The infamous Krishna Raja Sagara (KRS) dam was also built during his reign. Victoria Hospital, Cheluvamba Hospital and Minto Eye Hospital were all projects started during Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar’s rule and still live on today.
Such was the progress of this kingdom during his reign that Mahatma Gandhi hailed him as a ‘Rajrishi’ (saintly king) and called his kingdom ‘Ramrajya’ (an ideal kingdom comparable to the one ruled by Rama). Lord John Sankey acknowledged his noble and efficient reign and called Mysore “the best-administered state in the world” at the Round Table Conference in London in 1930. During his reign, princes from other royal houses from across India were sent to Mysore to learn administration.
Curse Of The Mysore Royal Family
Vaidyeshvara Temple, 1000 AD at Talakad
Of all the stories of their history and accomplishments, the most intriguing is the one of the curse laid upon the Wodeyar dynasty. Raja Wadiyar, the ninth king of the Wodeyar dynasty conquered the island fortress of Srirangapatna and took over the fort from Tirumala, the Viceroy of Vijayanagar at the time. Tirumala is said to have retired to Talakadu with his two wives. One of his wives, Alamelamma was a staunch devotee of the goddess Sri Ranganayaki. The goddess is believed to be the consort of Sri Ranganatha, the presiding deity of the Adi-Ranga temple in the fortress of Srirangapatna.
Tirumala, who was suffering from a terminal disease, died. The widow Alamelamma, who possessed a great deal of jewellery, including a fine nose ring studded with a large pearl, donated the jewellery to the temple of Sri Ranganayaki. The statue of the goddess was adorned with the pearl-studded nose ring and other precious jewellery every Tuesday and Friday. For the rest of the week, the jewellery was given to Alamelamma for safekeeping.
The temple authorities, who wanted custody of the jewels, approached the king to ask for them. Raja Wadiyar assumed that Alemelamma, a widow without issue would have no use for the jewellery, and sent emissaries to her home in Malangi to request her to give the jewels. But Alamelamma sent the emissaries back with only the pearl-studded nose ring. The enraged king sent his army to ask her again and with the order to seize the jewels by force if she refuses. To escape the wrath of the king and his army, Almelamma fled with her jewellery and uttered the legendary curse that changed the fate of the Mysore royal family.
“ತಲಕಾಡು ಮರಳಾಗಲಿ, ಮಾಲಂಗಿ ಮಡುವಾಗಲಿ, ಮೈಸೂರು ದೊರೆಗಳಿಗೆ ಮಕ್ಕಳಿಲ್ಲದೆ ಹೋಗಲಿ – (Talakadu maralagali, Malangi maaduvagali, Mysuru Doregalige makkalillade hogali)”
“May Talakadu turn into a barren expanse of sand, may Malangi turn into a whirlpool, may the Mysuru Kings never have children.”
Having uttered the legendary curse on the Wodeyar dynasty, Alamelamma jumped into the whirlpool in the river Kaveri at Talakadu with the rest of her jewels and killed herself.
Upon hearing about Alamelamma’s extreme step and her curse, the king became truly repentant. He had a statue made of Alamelamma in gold and installed it in the palace, and a remnant of her hair was preserved in a box. To this day, members of the Mysore royal family worship the statue as a diety. Alamelamma’s huge pearl nose-stud can be seen adorning the goddess Ranganayaki and Alamelamma to this day.
Whether the curse is actually true is, of course, a matter of conjecture. But Talakadu still lies buried in a vast expanse of sand, whereas the nearby towns or villages remain unaffected. The Kaveri river is at its deepest and most treacherous in the whirlpool, in Malangi. Since Raja Wadiyar, none of the rulers of the Mysore royal family with the exception of Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar could beget natural heirs. And for the past 400 years, the natural heirs born to the king could not beget children and have had to adopt heirs. This includes Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wodeyar, the current king of Mysore and the head of the Mysore Wodeyar dynasty (Wadiyar dynasty). He was adopted by Pramoda Devi, the widow of the previous king, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar.
Wodeyar Family Tree
Over the five centuries that the Wodeyar dynasty (or the Wadiyar dynasty) reigned, the kingdom of Mysore was ruled by 25 kings. Here’s the list:
1. Adi Yaduraya (1399–1423)– Adi Yaduraya Wodeyar or Raja Vijaya Raj Wodeyar was the first King of Mysore. He established his rule by defeating and killing Delavoi Mara Nayaka of Karugahalli, who had usurped Royal power in Mysore.
2. Hiriya Bettada Chamaraja Wadiyar I (1423–1459)– The second raja of the Kingdom of Mysore from 1423, Hiriya Bettada Chamaraja Wadiyar I faced a political crisis, with successive and frequent assassinations of the Sangama emperors when he ascended the throne.
3. Thimma Raja Wadiyar I (1459–1478)– Having ascended the throne after his father’s death in 1459, Thimma Raja Wadiyar I served under two emperors: Mallikarjuna Raya and his cousin, Virupaksha Raya II.
4. Hiriya Chamarajarasa Wadiyar II (1478–1513)– Ruling for 35 years, Hiriya Chamarajarasa Wadiyar II is known to be long-reigning monarch was mandated for the dynasty and kingdom’s survival by looming peril of Mughal and European invasions.
5. Hiriya Bettada Chamaraja Wadiyar III (1513–1553)– The fifth king of Kingdom of Mysore, Hiriya bettada Chamaraja Wadiyar III was the last ruler to rule as feudal king under the Vijayanagara Empire.
6. Thimma Raja Wadiyar II (1553–1572)– Succeeding his father in 1553, Thimma Raja Wadiyar II formally declared the independence of the Kingdom of Mysore from the Vijayanagara Empire.
7. Bola Chamaraja Wadiyar IV (1572–1576)– Taking over the kingdom of Mysore at the age of 65, Bola Chamaraja Wadiyar IV was struck by a lightning and was reduced to baldness, thereafter nicknamed Bola (the bald).
8. Bettada Chamaraja Wadiyar V (1576–1578)– The eighth King of Kingdom of Mysore, Bettada Chamaraja Wadiyar V reigned only for two years between 1576 after his uncle’s death and 1578 until his demise.
9. Raja Wadiyar I (1578–1617)– Ruling from 1578, until his death in 1617, Raja Wadiyar I furthered his father’s expelling the Vijayanagara ambassadors and envoys.
10. Chamarajarasa Wadiyar VI (1617–1637)– Chamarajarasa Wadiyar VI ruled for 20 years from 1617 to 1637. During his reign, the Vijayanagara Empire collapsed drastically and Mysore kingdom expanded quickly.
11. Raja Wadiyar II (1637–1638)– Raja Wadiyar II briefly ruled Mysore and was assassinated by poison on the orders of his dalvoys (commanders-in-chief) in 1638, just after a year after his coronation.
12. Ranadheera Kanteerava Narasaraja Wadiyar I (1638–1659)– The 23-year-old Ranadheera Kanteerava Narasaraja Wadiyar I continued to expand the Mysore dominions just like the two wodeyars before him. He was also the first wodeyar to create the symbols associated with royalty, such as the royal coats of arms, establishing mints, and issuing coins named Kanthiraya (corrupted to “Canteroy”) that were to remain part of Mysore’s ‘current national money’ for well over a century.
13. Dodda Devaraja Wadiyar (1659–1673)– Dodda Devaraja Wadiyar was the thirteenth Raja of Mysore. He abrogated his nominal allegiance to Vijayanagar and declared his kingdom to be independent of all connexions
14. Chikka Devaraja Wadiyar (1613–1704)– Eldest son of Dodda Deva Raja, Chikka Devaraja Wadiyar was the fourteenth maharaja. During his rule, centralised military power increased to an unprecedented degree for the region and the Kingdom uniformly expanded in size.
15. Kanteerava Narasaraja Wadiyar II (1704–1714)– Born deaf, Kanteerava Narasaraja Wadiyar II was succeeded to the throne through the influence of the prime minister, Tirumala Iyengar.
16. Dodda Krishnaraja Wadiyar I (1714–1732)– Ruling for 18 years, Dodda Krishnaraja Wadiyar I was married nine times but all direct descents in the Wodeyar lineage stopped with him.
17. Chamaraja Wadiyar VII (1732–1734)– The seventeenth Maharaja of Mysore, Chamaraja Wadiyar VII ruled for two years. He was deposed and imprisoned with his wife for opposing the dalvoys.
18. (Immadi) Krishnaraja Wadiyar II (1734–1766)– Crowned in 1735, (Immadi) Krishnaraja Wadiyar II reigned under the control of dalvoy Devarajaiya Urs, who was in charge of Mysore rule from 1724 to 1746.
19. Nanja Raja Wadiyar (1766–1770)– The nineteenth Maharaja of Mysore, Nanja Raja Wadiyar ruled for only four years, as a puppet under sarvadhikari Hyder Ali.
20. Bettada Chamaraja Wadiyar VIII (1770–1776)– Ruling for six years, Bettada Chamaraja Wadiyar VIII was the second son of Krishnaraja Wodeyar II and succeeded on the death of his elder brother Nanjaraja Wodeyar.
21. Khasa Chamaraja Wadiyar IX (1766–1796)– Son of Chikka Devaraj Urs of Arikuthara of the Karugahalli family, Khasa Chamaraja Wadiyar IX was the twenty-first Maharaja of Mysore. Like his three immediate predecessors did, he ruled under the controls of Sarvadhikari Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan.
22. (Mummudi) Krishnaraja Wadiyar III (1799–1868)– (Mummudi) Krishnaraja Wadiyar III was the twenty-second maharaja and ruled for nearly seventy years.
23. Chamaraja Wadiyar X (1868–1894)– Ruling for a brief time, Chamaraja Wadiyar X instituted the Representative Assembly of Mysore Kingdom in 1881. He also sponsored the famous journey of Swami Vivekananda to Chicago and gave primacy to women’s education.
24. Vani Vilas Sannidhana– A queen of Chamaraja Wadiyar X, Vani Vilas Sannidhana was Regent from 1894–1902. She is considered as one of three rare gems in the history of Mysore queens.
25. (Nalwadi) Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV (1902–1940)– The twenty-fourth Maharaja of Kingdom of Mysore, (Nalwadi) Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV was a philosopher-king. At the time of his death in 1940, he was one of the world’s wealthiest men in the world.
26. Sri Jaya Chamaraja Wadiyar XI (1940 – 1947)– Ascending the throne on 8 September 1940, Sri Jaya Chamaraja Wadiyar XI was the twenty-fifth maharaja of the Kingdom of Mysore. He followed democratic methods in his administration.
27. Srikanta Datta Narsimharaja Wadiyar (1953 – 2013)– The Twenty-sixth head of the royal family of Mysore, Srikanta Datta Narsimharaja Wadiyar was a fashion designer and promoted the sale of Mysore silk saris under his brand, Royal Silk of Mysore.
26. Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar (2015 – )– Born as Yaduveer Gopal Raj Urs, Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar is the twenty-seventh head of the erstwhile ruling family of the Kingdom of Mysore and head of the Wodeyar dynasty.
Remembering The Wodeyars: The Entrepreneurial Kings Who Put The People First
The contribution of Mysore Wodeyar rulers in the fields of education, social justice, science and technology, medicine, culture and fine arts has been immense. Throughout history, the Wodeyar dynasty’s kings continued to patronise the rich culture of the land just like the rulers of the Vijayanagar empire. The Mahanavami festival celebrations, now known as the infamous Mysore Dasara celebrations, were started by Raja Wodeyar I in 1610. The celebrations included a large procession of elephants carrying the Maharaja of Mysore in a howdah. The procession included dance performers, tribal artists, daring acts, and music, and the tradition continues to this day. The Wodeyar kings’ deeds and vision pioneered a new age, which showcased not only their kingdom but India as well to the world.
The Mysore Royal family lives in the Mysore Palace.
Adi Yaduraya Wodeyar or Raja Vijaya Raj Wodeyar was the first king of Mysore.
The Wodeyar dynasty was established in 1399 by Adi Yaduraya Wodeyar.
The present king of Mysore is Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar.
The curse on the Wodeyar Family dates back to 1612. It was believed to be cast upon the Wodeyars by Alamelamma, wife of Tirumala, then king of Srirangapatna, who cursed the king before jumping to her death that the Royal Family won’t be blessed with natural heirs. The article elaborates this story further.