The Kingdom of Mysore was an independent state until the British colonized it. Their original boundary made up most of South-western India from the late 1300’s to 1700’s, and was the largest state of its kind in India. Although it originated as a “principality of the great southern Hindu empire of Vijayanagar” it was eventually able to establish its sovereignty (Mahadavaswamy and Kumar 3). The Kingdom’s capital city Mysore was of great importance due to the Maharajas residing in the palace there. The Wodeyars founded it, although many other families held sway in parts of the kingdom, the Wodeyars ruled for many centuries. Mysore was eventually dissolved into what is now modern day India by colonial Britain (Ikegame 2).
The Mysore Kingdom consisted of nine specific districts: “Mysore, Bangalore, Shimoga, Mandya, Chitradurga, Tumkur, Chickmagalur, Hassan and Kolar” (Mahadavaswamy and Kumar 1). Of these nine districts, the capital city of Mysore remained the cultural capital due to the presence of the Maharajas, despite Bangalore surpassing the capital city in population in the 1800’s (Ikegame 20). Mysore remained the capital city of the state until 1610 when the capital was moved to Srirangapattana, under the rule of Raja Wodeyar I. This strategic move was an attempt demonstrate his power over lands that had once belonged to another kingdom (Ikegame 20). Due to the size of the princely state, there was an increased demand for social and political services (Mahadavaswamy and Kumar 1). This demand resulted in the establishment of a representative assembly, which would become the first of its kind in India. (Mahadavaswamy and Kumar 3). Later on, educational and health facilities, as well as effective administration, trained manpower, and more entrepreneurship were created and established under the rule of Shri Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV (Mahadavaswamy and Kumar 3). As the Kingdom of Mysore grew, so too did the demands for services and modernization of the districts, resulting in a liberalized, modern society. This benefited the capital greatly when the British took over, as it became a model state due to industrialization and other modernization efforts (Ikegame 17).
The first Maharajas of Mysore ruled the kingdom as vassals of the great state of Vijayanagar until its decline in the mid-1500’s (Nilakanta 253). As Vijayanagar started to decline, the Maharajas of Mysore began to gain power through the acquisition of land (Ramachandriah 28). Maharaja Raja Wodeyar I, is best remembered for gaining control of Srirangapatna from the Vijayanagar governor during the battle of Talikota (1565), and by the time Maharaja Narasaraja Wodeyar took the throne in 1637, Mysore had succeeded in its efforts to become an independent state (Kamath 228).
Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan temporarily destroyed the Wodeyar regime in the late 1800’s. In order to do so, they destroyed massive parts of Mysore City and overthrew the Wodeyars through many years of warfare (Hasan 8). These wars are called the Anglo-Mysore wars; during this time, the kingdom split up into different factions, the Nizams and Marathas, who sided with the British originally but were swayed by Hyder and Tipu’s gifts of Jewels and elephants (Hasan 9). Eventually, after the death of Tipu Sultan, the lands returned to the control of the Wodeyar family, although the British who technically had control over the state arranged this (Ikegame 17).
The late 1700’s brought about the end of the Wodeyar regime, with the signing of the treaty to dissolve Mysore into India (Ikegame 17). This treaty benefitted the East India Company (Britain) far more than the former state; the treaty forced the former state to pay large subsidies and ensured the superiority of the British regime (Ikegame 17). Due to these conditions, the Mysore political leaders were left with very little control over the territory, this eventually lead to an uprising in 1857, which resulted in power being restored to the Maharajas in 1881 (Ikegame 18). However, this was mostly a farce as the power relationship between Britain and the former Kingdom of Mysore remained more or less unchanged (Ikegame 18). Although the British moved the state capital back from Srirangapattana to Mysore City, Mysore City was relegated in power much like the rest of the Kingdom. Despite its status as the state capital, all administrative and political work was done in Bangalore city after 1831 (Ikegame 18). Dissolving the Kingdom of Mysore into Colonial India resulted in a decline of local political power, but the state itself continued to modernize and flourish under British occupation.
Religion in pre-colonial and post-colonial Mysore closely resembled that of traditional Hinduism, although there were a few differences. The British, in their effort to separate the church and the state, diminished the power of the Maharaja; in doing so, the Maharaja’s role as a religious leader who protects the Dharma of the Kingdom became ambiguous (Ikegame 23). In pre-colonial times, the king would have been considered an important religious figure. The temples in surrounding Mysore Palace reflect this by facing the palace rather than east which was traditional; this composition demonstrates the importance of the king in Mysore not only as a political leader, but as a religious one as well (Ikegame 15). However, the dissolution of this practice brought many temples under control of British leaders, rather than under the control of the palace, though this had limited success. This limited success is attributed to officials who were placed in charge of the institutions regularly deferring judgment to religious officials (Ikegame 27). Despite Britain’s best efforts, Mysore successfully resisted and was able to keep much of their religious traditions.
The Kingdom of Mysore was a modern flourishing state in its heyday; this allowed it to integrate better with the British model of liberalization and modernization. However, the State resisted the religious changes the British had attempted and was able to remain relatively traditional. The city of Mysore still exists in India today and is a major tourist attraction due to the number of temples, palaces, and other cultural sites.
Hasan, Mohibbul (2005) History of Tipu Sultan. Delhi: Aakar Books.
Ikegame, Aya (2007) “The Capital of Rajadharma: Modern Space and Religion in Colonial Mysore.” International Journal of Asian Studies 4 #1(January): 15-44.
Kamath, Suryanath U. (2001) A concise history of Karnataka: from pre-historic times to the present. Bangalore: Jupiter books.
Mahadavaswamy, D, and Kumar R. (2016) Socio-economic Development in Princely State of Mysore: Historical Perspective. Mysore: University of Mysore.
Nilakanta, K.A. (2002) A history of South India from prehistoric times to the fall of Vijayanagar. New Delhi: Oxford.
Ramachandriah, N.S. (1962) India the Land and People: Mysore. New Delhi: National Book Trust.
Satyanarayana, A (1996) History of the Wodeyars of Mysore, 1610-1748. Karnataka, Directorate of Archaeology and Museums.
Stein, Burton (2016) “Notes On ‘Peasant Insurgency’ in Colonial Mysore: Event and Process.” South Asia Research 5 #1(May): 11 – 27.
Subrahmanyam, Sanjay (2016) “Warfare and state finance in Wodeyar Mysore, 1724-25: A missionary perspective.” The Indian Economic and History Review 26 #2 (May): 203 – 233.
Related Topics for Further Study
Temple sects residing around Mysore Palace
East India Company
Raja Wodeyar I
Raja Wodeyar II
Shri Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV
Article written by: Kassidy Doucette (March 2017) who is solely responsible for this content