Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV – A Saintly King:A remarkable development occurred in October 1936 when the Maharaja of Mysore, though a strictly orthodox Hindu, admitted members of the oppressed classes to participate in Dasara festival for the first time. How this striking breach affected the age-old caste traditions can be appreciated only by those who had seen its rigidity on the spot. This landmark decision of admitting the dalits into the royal palace during the Dasara celebrations was taken by king Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV. This has been recorded in Encyclopedia Britannica. Though the Dasara festivities are being celebrated for the 400 years by the Wadiyars after the fall of Vijayanagar empire, dalits were kept out of the cultural extravaganza for 336 years.
They were denied proper facilities and barred from joining the Palace army too. Governor General of India Lord Wellesley was invited to Mysore for the coronation of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III in 1803. In his accounts, he has described long roads, a small and beautiful wooden palace, a fort, the elegant entrance arch, palace personnel and police with pleasant costumes. Wellesley has also mentioned that he had heard that the people from oppressed sections were not recruited in the army.
However, as years passed, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV left a mark and surprised many, including the members of the royal family, by inviting members of Adikarnataka Sangha of Adikarnataka Pura, now Ashokapuram, to participate in the Navaratri durbar at the palace. He also invited wrestlers from Ashokapuram and oppressed sections to contest in Dasara wrestling competition, patronised by the royal family.
The king, respected by one and all for his social welfare measures, was called ‘Raja Rishi’ by Mahatma Gandhiji.
He introduced reservation in recruitment against the wishes of many including, the then Dewan Sir M Visvesvaraya. As the key posts in the palace and government were occupied by those belonging to upper castes, particularly from Madras, there was a growing discontent among the majority communities.
Meanwhile, the Veerashaiva Mahasabha, Vokkaligara Sangha and Central Mohammedan Associations came into existence. They also started submitting representations to Maharaja building up pressure demanding posts for non- Brahmins in the administration. Meanwhile, Visvesvaraya, serving in Mumbai known as upright Engineer, joined the Mysore State as Chief Engineer following the king’s request. He reported to duty only after the king accepted three of his conditions – promotion of technical education, industrialisation and the use of his vast experience for the development of the state.
Visvesvaraya won the confidence of the king with his dedication and vision. The king elevated Visvesvaraya to the post of Dewan soon after the retirement of Dewan Anand Rao.
As various caste groups started coming together and built up pressure, the king ensured that the elementary school bill was passed. The royal family opened an elementary school for girls.
Education was made compulsory to women. The king also thought of encouraging people from rural areas in education and wanted to give priority for dalits, women and backward communities in recruitment. Dewan Visvesvaraya opposed this idea as he felt that talent, eligibility and performance should be the only yardsticks for jobs. He also thought this kind of recruitment might affect the administration.
As Visvesvaraya opposed the idea of reservation, the backward communities and dalits came together under the banner ‘Prajamitra Mandali’ launched a movement to bring pressure on the king for reservation in recruitment. The king was in a fix over the adamant attitude and opposition from his own Dewan. He decided to constitute the first-ever commission headed by Mysore High Court Chief Justice Lessely Miller in August 1918, to study the reservation provisions for oppressed sections, relaxation to the backward classes and dalits with an objective of bringing them to mainstream of the administration .
The king was also keen to know what percentage of the posts should be reserved for these sections.
The king, soon after Justice Miller committee submitted its report in August 1919, circulated it among the top officials and sought their opinions.
He also directed Dewan Visvesvaraya to implement the recommendations of the committee. However, Visvesvaraya turned them down. The king dropped three among the six names recommended by Visvesvaraya for the post of Assistant Commissioners and included names from the backward communities and dalits.
Visvesvaraya later resigned as Dewan and senior minister M Kantharaj Urs took over as the new Dewan to implement and execute the recommendations of Miller’s committee report which included reserving 50 per cent of the posts in seven years and register all the applications submitted for different posts. A committee was constituted with members from Rajya sabha (Council) to look into the implementation of the recommendations of the committee.
FREE SCHOOL FOR DALITS
The Mysore kings have the distinction of staring first English school in 1833, setting up People’s Representatives Assembly in 1881, banning child marriages and Devadasi system, introduction of SSLC examination system and adult education programme, starting Agriculture Bank in 1894, Mysore Civil Service Examination, opening the first technical institute and a free school for Panchamas (dalits). The royal family started a school for dalits in Nazarbad, with free boarding and lodging, books, clothing and also introduced scholarships. It is also said that the Mysore kings were influenced by the Maharajas of Baroda who had funded education of dalits, including Ambedkar. Mahatma Gandhiji was impressed by all these measures. During his visit to Mysore, he visited the school and hostels of dalits and interacted with students. He had also called upon upper castes to fund the education of the poor and oppressed classes. The king was sensitive towards social issues, education and health. He started the K R Hospital for tuberculosis, Braille Printing Press for visually challenged, came out with a law in favour of widows stating that they have equal rights on in-laws’ property and banned prostitution and funded education of widows.
Gandhians Tagadur Ramachandra Rao, B R Jois, M N Jois and their family members had started civic and social organisations and had stepped up campaign and also started visiting and teaching in schools run for oppressed classes. The social reformation gained momentum as many, including journalists Venkatakrishnaiah, Agaram Rangaiah and others, came up with write ups and also translated editorial and columns of Gandhi in Young India and Harijan newspapers. The newspaper called Rationalist also came out in favour of social reforms.
ON THE PATH OF PROGRESS
The Mysore state, with education and reservation for oppressed classes, contributed for literacy and upliftment of downtrodden classes much before India gained independence.
Consequently, the conditions of these people improved and it also prevented the atrocities against dalits to a large extent. Mysore state progressed and became one of the better administrated states in the country. The king’s vision to promote education turned Mysore into a hub of academic institutions for all sections of the society.
Writer and academician M N Javaraiah says Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV was the first to give space for social justice concept.
“The king’s commitment for the upliftment of dalits also impressed Ambedkar during his visit to Bangalore in 1956,” he added. The king also encouraged dalits to sing ballads (Lavani) in the palace. The singers from Dalit communities praised the king for mixing with people, visiting dalit colonies and the concern for the poor. The reservation concept through Millers committee would have also inspired the founding fathers and architects of the Indian constitution, Javaraiah explained.
Historian P V Nanjaraj Urs says the king laid the foundation stone for modern Mysore state on social ethos. “He exhibited commitment by accepting Visvesvaraya’s resignation and implementing Miller committee recommendations besides coming out with with many pro-people laws,” he noted.
Courtesy: IBNLive, Oct/ 4/11
Some testimonials from around the world:
“Mysore is the best administered state in the world” – Lord Sankey.
“Krishna Raja Wodeyar is a Rajarishi (saintly king) & his state is Rama Rajya (ideal kingdom)” – Mahatma Gandhi.
“One felt that he was giving to society not more than a fraction of himself” – Dr. S. Radhakrishnan.
“Krishna Raja has rescued philosophy from those who would make it a mere refuge from disappointment, and converted it into a dynamic inspiration to higher action for service” – Paul Brunton (Philosopher & Traveler).