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The king who had wanted to become a concert pianist

THE ASIAN AGE. | SHONA ADHIKARI
Published : Oct 22, 2019, 1:13 am IST
Updated : Oct 22, 2019, 1:13 am IST

Jayachamarajendra’s piano concerts among friends and family clearly showed his talent.

The many moods of Maharaja Jayachandrajendra Wadiyar
 The many moods of Maharaja Jayachandrajendra Wadiyar

This is the centenary year of Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar Bahadur, a king who had set his heart on becoming a concert pianist and a composer of music. To ensure that his dream would be fulfilled, as a gift for his talented nephew, his uncle Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar bought a large palatial mansion known as Arni House that had been built in 1903. Named after Jayachamarajendra, the Jayamahal Palace was meant to be a place where he would be able to devote his full attention to music. Interestingly, all the Mysore rulers were known to be lovers of art, literature and music and for them it was necessary that all the royal children should have knowledge of music, even if they were not musicians. In this case we would have expected a prince who knew South Indian music, but instead we have one who has learnt only Western classical music!

Jayachamarajendra’s piano concerts among friends and family clearly showed his talent. In 1939, a world tour gave him the opportunity to learn from the maestros of Western classical music. During his travels, he met Nikolai Medtner, a lesser known Russian composer. Realising his genius, Jayachamarajendra introduced Medtner to the Western world — financing the recording of a large number of Medtner’s compositions. Some years later, the pianist dedicated his Third Piano Concerto to the Maharaja of Mysore. Internationally recognised as a real connoisseur of Western music, in 1945 Jayachamarajendra was made an honorary Fellow of the Trinity College of Music and in 1948, he become the first President of the Philharmonia Concert Society in London.

However, his hopes of becoming a concert pianist were cut short by the untimely death in 1939, of his father Yuvaraja Narasimharaja Wadiyar — Krishnaraja’s younger brother and heir to the throne. This was followed soon after by the death of his uncle the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV in 1940 and Jayachamarajendra’s dreams of being a concert pianist had to be pushed to the backburner as it dawned on him that he was the obvious choice for the throne of Mysore.

Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar Bahadur, born on July 18, 1919, was officially crowned as the 25th ruler of the kingdom of Mysore at the Mysore Palace on September 8, 1940 and ruled as the Maharaja till January 25, 1950. When monarchy was abolished in 1950, he continued to hold the title of maharaja until princely titles were abolished in 1971.

As the Mysore Maharaja, Jayachamarajendra soon realised that it was necessary for him to learn the nuances of South Indian classical music. He began his initiation by learning to play the veena and mastered the nuances of Carnatic music under the tutelage of the veteran composer Asthan Vidwan Sri Vasudevacharya — under the assumed name of Chitprabhananda. What is quite unbelievable is that within a few years, he began to compose Carnatic music and over the years composed as many as 94 Carnatic music krutis under another assumed name — Shri Vidya! All his compositions are in different ragas and some are even considered the very first compositions ever made on these ragas.

Jayachamarajendra: tall, handsome, well read, a musician and a sportsman, was what would be considered a real “catch” among royalty. His marriage to Sathya Prema Kumari of Charkhari was celebrated with great pomp in May 1938. Unfortunately, the marriage appears to have failed and there were no children from this marriage. Maharani Sathya Prema Kumari decided to leave Mysore and settle in Jaipur. Leaving the well read, a musician, a sportsman — left without an heir, in April 1944, Jayachamarajendra married Tripura Sundari Ammani Avaru. This was a very successful marriage, with six children — one son and five daughters. His heir, Prince Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar succeeded to the throne after Jayachamarajendra’s death.

Jayachamarajendra was also a keen sports lover. He was a competent horseman and a good tennis player — who is known to have helped Ramanathan Krishnan to be included and participate at Wimbledon! He was also well known for his marksmanship and was highly sought after by his subjects whenever a rogue elephant or a man-eating tiger attacked their immediate surroundings. When, India’s famous cricketer and spin bowler E.A.S. Prasanna was chosen as part of the Indian cricket team to play in the West Indies, Jayachamarajendra was responsible for persuading his father to allow his son to go with the Indian team.

During his reign, Jayachamarajendra encouraged historical research on modern lines and this can be seen in the work of C. Hayavadana Rao, entitled History of Mysore in three volumes, published between 1943-46. Rao’s dedication to the Maharaja in his books is illuminating.

“Dedicated by gracious permission to His Highness, Sri Jayachamaraja Wadiyar Bahadur, Maharaja of Mysore — ruler, scholar and patron of arts and sciences and supporter of every good cause aiming at the moral and material progress of the people — in token of His Highness’ deep and abiding interest in the scientific study of history and pursuit of historical research along modern lines.”

Unfortunately, the author was unable to complete the work as originally intended and had to stop at the year 1949, as the Maharaja had to accede to the wishes of his people and merge his kingdom with the Republic of India in 1950.

It also important to mention that Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar was the first ruler to accede to the merging of his kingdom with the newly-formed Indian Union after India’s Independence in 1947. He signed the Instrument of Accession with the Union of India on the eve of India attaining Independence in August 1947.

The state of Mysore merged with the Republic of India on January 26, 1950. At that time, Jayachamarajendra held the position of rajpramukh (governor) of the state of Mysore from January 26, 1950 to November 1, 1956. After the integration of the neighbouring Kannada-majority parts of the states of Madras and Hyderabad, he became the first governor of the reorganised Mysore state, from November 1, 1956 to May 4, 1964 and was the governor of the state of Madras from May 4, 1964 to June 28, 1966.

Jayachamarajendra died at the young age of 55 years on September 23, 1974. He can be considered the last living person who had been the Maharaja of a state with 21-gun salute status in British India.

The writer is an author, a professional communicator and an intrepid traveller

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