The Kingdom of Mysore (1399–1947 AD) was a kingdom of southern India, traditionally believed to have been founded in 1399 in the vicinity of the modern city of Mysore. The kingdom, which was ruled by the Wodeyar family, initially served as a vassal state of the Vijayanagara Empire. With the decline of the Vijayanagara Empire (circa 1565), the kingdom became independent. The 17th century saw a steady expansion of its territory and, under Narasaraja Wodeyar I and Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar, the kingdom annexed large expanses of what is now southern Karnataka and parts of Tamil Nadu to become a powerful state in the southern Deccan.
The kingdom reached the height of its military power and dominion in the latter half of the 18th century under Haider Ali and his son Tipu Sultan, who deposed the Wodeyars to take control of the kingdom. During this time, it came into conflict with the Marathas, the British and the Nizam of Golconda which culminated in the four Anglo-Mysore wars. Success in the first two Anglo-Mysore wars was followed by defeat in the third and fourth. Following Tipu's death in the fourth war of 1799, large parts of the kingdom were annexed by British which signaled the end of a period of Mysorean hegemony over southern Deccan. The British, however, restored the Wodeyars to the throne by way of a subsidiary alliance and a diminished Mysore was now transformed into a Princely state. The Wodeyars continued to rule the state until Indian independence in 1947, when Mysore acceded to the Union of India.
Even as a princely state, Mysore came to be counted among the more modern and urbanized regions of India. This period (1799–1947) also saw Mysore emerge as one of the important centers of art and culture in India. The Mysore kings were not only accomplished exponents of the fine arts and men of letters, they were enthusiastic patrons as well and their legacies continue to influence music and art even today.
Kingdom of Mysore (1704) during the rule of King Chikka Devaraja WodeyarSources for the history of the kingdom include numerous extant lithic and copper plate inscriptions, records from the Mysore palace and contemporary literary sources in Kannada, Persian and other languages.According to traditional accounts, the kingdom originated as a small state based in the modern city of Mysore and was founded by two brothers, Yaduraya (also known as Vijaya) and Krishnaraya. Their origins are mired in legend and are still a matter of debate; while some historians posit a northern origin at Dwaraka,others locate it in Karnataka. Yaduraya is said to have married Chikkadevarasi, the local princess and assumed the feudal title "Wodeyar" (lit, "Lord"), which the ensuing dynasty retained.The first unambiguous mention of the Wodeyar family is in 16th century Kannada literature from the reign of the Vijayanagara king Achyuta Deva Raya (1529–1542); the earliest available inscription, issued by the Wodeyars themselves, dates to the rule of the petty chief Timmaraja II in 1551.
Autonomy: advances and reversals
The kings who followed ruled as vassals of the Vijayanagara empire until the decline of the latter in 1565. By this time, the kingdom had expanded to thirty-three villages protected by a force of 300 soldiers.King Timmaraja II conquered some surrounding chiefdoms,and King Bola Chamaraja IV (lit, "Bald"), the first ruler of any political significance among them, withheld tribute to the nominal Vijayanagara monarch Aravidu Ramaraya. After the death of Aravidu Ramaraya, the Wodeyars began to assert themselves further and King Raja Wodeyar I wrested control of Srirangapatna from the Vijayanagara governor (Mahamandaleshvara) Aravidu Tirumalla – a development which elicited, if only ex post facto, the tacit approval of Venkatapati Raya, the incumbent king of the diminished Vijayanagar empire ruled from Chandragiri Raja Wodeyar I's reign also saw territorial expansion with the annexation of Channapatna to the north from Jaggadeva Raya – a development which made Mysore a regional political factor to reckon with.
Consequently, by 1612–13, the Wodeyars exercised a great deal of autonomy and even though they acknowledged the nominal overlordship of the Aravidus, tributes and transfers of revenue to Chandragiri stopped. This was in marked contrast to the major chiefs (Nayakas) of Tamil country who continued to pay off Chandragiri well into the 1630s.Chamaraja V and Kanthirava Narasaraja I attempted to expand further northward but were thwarted by the Bijapur Sultanate and its Maratha subordinates, though the Bijapur armies under Ranadullah Khan were effectively repelled in their 1638 siege of Srirangapatna. Expansionist ambitions then turned southward into Tamil country where Narasaraja Wodeyar acquired Satyamangalam (in modern northern Coimbatore district) while his successor Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar expanded further to capture western Tamil regions of Erode and Dharmapuri, after successfully repulsing the chiefs of Madurai. The invasion of the Keladi Nayakas of Malnad was also dealt with successfully. This period was followed by one of complex geo-political changes, when in the 1670s, the Marathas and the Mughals pressed into the Deccan.
Chikka Devaraja (r. 1672–1704), the most notable of Mysore's early kings, who ruled during much of this period, managed to not only survive the exigencies but further expanded territory. He achieved this by forging strategic alliances with the Marathas and the Mughals.The kingdom soon grew to include Salem and Bangalore to the east, Hassan to the west, Chikkamagaluru and Tumkur to the north and the rest of Coimbatore to the south.Despite this expansion, the kingdom, which now accounted for a fair share of land in the southern Indian heartland, extending from the Western Ghats to the western boundaries of the Coromandel plain, remained landlocked without direct coastal access. Chikka Devaraja's attempts to remedy this brought Mysore into conflict with the Nayaka chiefs of Ikkeri and the kings (Rajas) of Kodagu (modern Coorg); who between them controlled the Kanara coast (coastal areas of modern Karnataka) and the intervening hill region respectively.The conflict brought mixed results with Mysore annexing Periyapatna but suffering a reversal at Palupare.
Tipu Sultan (1782 – 1799), took Mysore to the height of its military powerNevertheless, from around 1704, when the kingdom passed on to "Muteking" (Mukarasu) Kanthirava Narasaraja II, the survival and expansion of the kingdom was achieved by playing a delicate game of alliance, negotiation, subordination on occasion, and annexation of territory in all directions. According to historians Sanjay Subrahmanyam and Sethu Madhava Rao, Mysore was now formally a tributary of the Mughal empire. Mughul records claim a regular tribute (peshkash) was payed by Mysore. However, historian Suryanath Kamath feels the Mughals may have considered Mysore an ally, a situation brought about by Mughal–Maratha competition for supremacy in southern India.By the 1720s, with the Mughal empire in decline, further complications arose with the Mughal residents at both Arcot and Sira claiming tribute.The years that followed saw Krishnaraja Wodeyar I tread cautiously on the matter while keeping the Kodagu chiefs and the Marathas at bay. He was followed by Chamaraja Wodeyar VI during whose reign power fell into the hands of prime minister (Dalwai or Dalavoy) Nanjarajiah (or Nanjaraja) and chief minister (Sarvadhikari) Devarajiah (or Devaraja), the influential brothers from Kalale town near Nanjangud who would rule for the next three decades with the Wodeyars relegated to being the titular heads.The latter part of the rule of Krishnaraja II saw the Deccan Sultanates being eclipsed by the Mughals and in the confusion that ensued, Haider Ali, a captain in the army, rose to prominence.His victory against the Marathas at Bangalore in 1758, resulting in the annexation of their territory, made him an iconic figure. In honour of his achievements, the king gave him the title "Nawab Haider Ali Khan Bahadur"
Under Haider and Tipu
Though illiterate, Haider Ali has earned an important place in the history of Karnataka for his fighting skills and administrative acumen.The rise of Haidar came at a time of important political developments in the sub-continent. While the European powers were busy transforming themselves from trading companies to political powers, the Nizam as the subedar of the Mughals pursued his ambitions in the Deccan, and the Marathas, following their defeat at Panipat, sought safe havens in the south. The period also saw the French vie with the British for control of the Carnatic – a contest in which the British would eventually prevail.Though the Wodeyars remained the nominal heads during this period, real power lay in the hands of Haider Ali and his son Tipu.
By 1761, the Maratha menace had diminished and by 1763, Haider Ali had captured the Keladi kingdom, defeated the rulers of Bilgi, Bednur and Gutti, invaded the Malabar in the south and conquered the Zamorin's capital Calicut with ease in 1766 and extended the Mysore kingdom up to Dharwad and Bellary in the north.Mysore was now a major political power in the subcontinent and Haider's meteoric rise from relative obscurity and his defiance formed one of the last remaining challenges to complete British hegemony over the Indian subcontinent – a challenge which would take them more than three decades to overcome.
In a bid to stem Haidar's rise, the British formed an alliance with the Marathas and the Nizam of Golconda, culminating in the first Anglo-Mysore war in 1767. Despite early reverses, Haider Ali drove the British out of most of their forts in the Carnatic and dictated peace terms at the very centre of its power – South Madras (modern Chennai).In 1770, when the Maratha armies of Madhavrao Peshwa invaded Mysore(three wars were fought between 1764-1772 by Madhavrao against Haider, in which Haider lost), Haider expected British support as per the 1769 treaty but they betrayed him by staying out of the conflict. The British betrayal and Haider's subsequent defeat reinforced Haider's deep distrust of the British — a sentiment that would be shared by his son and one which would inform Anglo-Mysore rivalries of the next three decades.
By 1779, Haider Ali had captured parts of modern Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the south, extending the Kingdom's area to about 80,000 mi² (205,000 km²).In 1780, he befriended the French and made peace with the Marathas and the Nizam.However, Haider Ali was betrayed by the Marathas and the Nizam, who made treaties with the British as well. Between May 1780 and July 1781, the Mysorean army overran British territories, either killing or routing key British commanders, until the arrival of General Eyre Coote, when the fortunes of the British began to change.Haider Ali died on 7 December 1782, even as fighting continued with the British. He was succeeded by his son Tipu Sultan who continued hostilities against the British by recapturing Baidanur and Mangalore.
In 1783, even as the Mysore armies stood on the verge of scoring a decisive victory against the British, the French withdrew their support following the peace settlement in Europe.Undaunted, Tipu, popularly known as the "Tiger of Mysore", defeated the British in Wandiwash in 1783, but lost some regions in modern coastal Karnataka to them. He later lost the Kittur, Nargund and Badami territories to the Marathas. The treaty of Mangalore, which is known to have favored Tipu, was signed in 1784 bringing hostilities with the British to a temporary and uneasy halt.A start of fresh hostilities between the British and French in Europe would have been sufficient reason for Tipu to abrogate his treaty and further his ambition of striking at the British.His attempts to lure the Nizam, the Marathas, the French and the King of Turkey failed to bring direct military aid.
Tipu's unsuccessful attack in 1790 on the Kingdom of Travancore, a British ally, resulted in the third Anglo-Mysore war. In the beginning, the British made little progress, winning some ground and losing some. By 1792, seeking aid from the Marathas who attacked from the north-west and the Nizam who moved in from the north-east, the British under Lord Cornwallis successfully besieged Srirangapatna, resulting in Tipu's defeat and the Treaty of Srirangapatna. Half of Tipu's kingdom were seized and distributed among the allies, and two of his sons were held to ransom.A humiliated but indomitable Tipu went about re-building his economic and military power. He attempted to covertly win over support from Revolutionary France, the Amir of Afghanistan, the Sultanate of Turkey and Arabia. However, these attempts to involve the French soon became known to the British, who found in it enough of an excuse for war and in this, were backed by the Marathas and the Nizam. In 1799, Tipu died fighting in the fourth Anglo-Mysore war, heralding the end of the Kingdom's independence.Modern Indian historians consider Tipu Sultan an inveterate enemy of the British, an able administrator and an innovator.
Following Tipu's fall, a part of the kingdom of Mysore was annexed and divided between the Madras Presidency and the Nizam. The remaining territory was transformed into a Princely State; the five-year-old scion of the Wodeyar family, Krishnaraja III, was installed on the throne with chief minister (Diwan) Purniah, who had earlier served under Tipu, handling the reins as regent and Lt. Col. Barry Close taking charge as the British Resident. The British now took control of Mysore's foreign policy and also exacted an annual tribute and a subsidy for maintaining a standing British army at Mysore.As Diwan, Purniah distinguished himself with his progressive and innovative administration until he retired from service in 1811 (and died shortly thereafter) following the 16th birthday of the boy king.
The years that followed witnessed cordial relations between Mysore and the British until things began to sour in the 1820s. Even though the Governor of Madras, Thomas Munro determined after a personal investigation in 1825 that there was no substance to the allegations of financial impropriety made by A. H. Cole, the incumbent Resident of Mysore, the civil insurrection which broke out towards the end of the decade changed things considerably. In 1831, close on the heels of the insurrection and citing mal-administration, the British took direct control of the princely state.For the next fifty years, Mysore passed under the rule of successive British Commissioners; Sir Mark Cubbon, renowned for his statesmanship, served from 1834 until 1861 and put into place an efficient and successful administrative system which left Mysore a well developed state.In 1876–77, however, towards the end of the direct British rule, Mysore was struck by a devastating famine with estimated mortality figures which ranged between 700,000 and 1,100,000, or nearly a fifth of the population.Shortly thereafter, Maharaja Chamaraja IX, educated in the British system, took over the rule of Mysore in 1881, following the success of a lobby set up by the Wodeyar dynasty that was in favour of rendition. Accordingly, a resident British officer was appointed at the Mysore court and a Diwan was to handle the administration.From then onwards, until Indian independence in 1947, Mysore remained a Princely State under the British Raj with the Wodeyars continuing their rule.
After the demise of Maharaja Chamaraja IX, Krishnaraja IV, still a boy of eleven ascended the throne in 1895. His mother Maharani Kemparajammanniyavaru ruled as regent until Krishnaraja took over the reins on 8 February 1902.Under his rule, with Sir M. Vishweshwariah as his Diwan, the Maharaja set about transforming Mysore into a progressive and modern state, particularly in industry, education, agriculture and art. Such were the strides that Mysore made that Mahatma Gandhi called the Maharaja a "saintly king" (Rajarishi).Paul Brunton, the British philosopher and orientalist, John Gunther, the American author, and British statesman Lord Samuel praised the ruler's efforts. Much of the pioneering work in educational infrastructure that took place during this period would serve Karnataka invaluably in the coming decades. The Maharaja was an accomplished musician, and like his predecessors, avidly patronised the development of the fine arts.He was followed by his nephew Jayachamaraja whose rule came to an end when he signed the instrument of accession and Mysore joined the Indian Union on 9 August 1947.