The erstwhile royal family of Mysore has threatened to withdraw from this year’s Dasara celebrations unless the Karnataka government stops harassing them.
The Wadiyars have also decided not to name the successor to the late Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, the scion of the Mysore royal family. In the absence of any heir to the royal family, the world-famous Dasara celebrations will be severely hit.
A representative of the royal family, preferably the prince, presides over the durbar and performs poojas in the Mysore Palace as part of the festivities. The royal family still commands tremendous respect in South Karnataka. The Dasara celebrations (October 5-14) are organised by the state government on a grand scale and enjoys state festival status.
Rani Pramoda Devi, the widow of the Maharaja, broke down in front of the media on Saturday, alleging that the state government was harassing the royal family by acquiring property that rightfully belonged to them. Since 1970s, the royal family has been in a legal tussle with the government over the property row.
“The Bangalore Palace, Mysore properties and Bangalore Palace Grounds belongs to the royal family. The government is attempting to acquire them through legislation since 1976. We urge the government to stop making such attempts. What’s the point in naming a successor to the royal family unless the government does not resolve these matters? All these developments have hurt us,” she said.
Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar and his four sisters – Indrakshi Devi, Gayatri Devi, Vishalakshi Devi, Kamalakshi Devi, and Meenakshi Devi – had split the properties in Mysore and Bangalore among themselves.
The sprawling 454-acre Bangalore Palace Grounds was inherited by Srikantadatta Wadiyar. He later allocated 28 acre to each of his five siblings. The market value of the land is over Rs 2,500 crore. Today, the Palace Grounds is home to high-profile weddings, cricket academies, dance floors and equestrian events. A portion of the land is held by several private companies. Srikantadatta Wadiyar’s family continues to stay at the Bangalore Palace, which is also a tourist spot.
In 1996, the Karnataka government, in order to protect the heritage grounds, tried to take over the property by enacting the Bangalore Palace (Acquisition and Transfer) Act, 1996, when H. D. Deve Gowda was the chief minister. There were allegations that the Wadiyars were planning to sell the land to real estate giants.
The Wadiyars questioned the acquisition in the Karnataka High Court, which upheld the government’s decision.
Subsequently, the Wadiyars approached the Supreme Court, which instructed the state government to maintain the statusquo. The matter is still pending before the apex court. The Wadiyars have been maintaining the lifestyle of ordinary citizens. Unlike other members of royal families, they are not known for flaunting their wealth. They are not seen at any high-profile event or social gathering in Bangalore. Of late, there were attempts to grab the properties belonging to the Wadiyars in Mysore.
The princely state of Mysore was among the firsts to sign the Instrument of Accession to join India after Independence. The property including the Bangalore Palace, was handed over to the Wadiyars, as part of the deal.