On a recent visit to the much-publicised and extremely touristic Mysore Palace, I found that many hundreds of people are actually coughing up a lot of money only to visit a relic of the Wodeyar (or Wadiyar) family. As we all know, the unfettered powers of anachronistic monarchies were pounded into bits and melted into the grand canons democratic laws and practice gradually since independence, and definitely with the abolition of privy purses by Indira Gandhi in 1971.
Puffed up as they might imagine themselves to be, and their professed affiliations to democratic parties apart, these “rajahs” of yore and their descendants are obscure personalities today, largely devoid of special attainments in education and culture, and even less in democratic practice.
I have no knowledge of the attainments of Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar Bahadur, who is the descendant of the Mysore family, although Wikipedia makes some claims about his accomplishments and political affiliation to the Congress party. He has also consorted with the BJP earlier and contested elections under that party’s banner.
My interest here is less about the man and his lineage. I am focused on the monstrous British-designed palace that his family has built at the expense of the commoner.
I visited this vulgar and loudly decorated palace recently and discovered that it has been turned into a earning machine, one that exploits people’s curiosity about the cruelly opulent lifestyle of another era. The entry fee is a stiff Rs. 20 per head. You are not allowed in with footwear, and to store that, you must pay a small amount. If you have a camera, you must not carry it into the Palace, although you would discover that only after you are near the ticket counter; the visitor then has to go back to the gate and place it in safe custody, for which again, one must pay a charge.
The final rule is that you must switch off your mobile phone, although one cannot imagine why a few semi-literate, boorish staff must feel slighted by citizens taking the odd call or sending a text message.
I did not know until after my visit that an enactment of legislature was made in Karnataka, titled The Mysore Palace (Acquisition and Transfer) Act, 1998, ( No. 32 of 1998 ) which received the assent of the President of India and came into force on 30.11.1998.
After coming to know that I am among the owners of this Palace, as a citizen of India, I am outraged that the average citizen is subjected to virtual harrassment by those in charge of the administration. For one, the public are prevented from taking photographs inside the palace, of mere architecture. It is incomprehensible that a palace acquired as a monument by the Government cannot be photographed – if there are treasures that need to be safeguarded, these could be kept separately and that area earmarked. But why should not the stained glass and the symbols of royal hedonism inside the palace be photographed?
In the event, I could make a couple of photographs of the interiors, using a Nokia 3500c mobile phone. This was noticed by a khaki-clad person, and he questioned me about it. I told him that this was an insignificant issue, and if he wished, I could remove the images. As you can see, I did not remove the images, because I believe that this sort of senseless rule has no place in a civilised society. Museums around the world allow you to take photographs. I have pictures of the displays at the Louvre, at the British Museum and the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia. What makes the Mysore Palace any more special or particularly vulnerable because of a photograph?
Actually, I found the answer when I was exiting the Palace central area. Those running the Palace now, either the staff of the Government or the Wodiyar family, have put their own photographs of the interiors up for sale! So a little protectionism in the form of a curb on photos helps with the business.
To defy such protectionism, I am putting up the two pictures that I took here, both as thumbnails and as full sized images. Feel free to download and circulate them. They represent an assertion of your own ownership of this palace and a blow to crass protectionism, whether of the royal or the Governmental variety.
The text of the Palace acquisition Act is here, taken from the Karnataka National Informatics Centre website. I do not find any clauses in it that prohibit photographing of any aspect of the Palace. If the restriction is being placed officially, it appears to be prima facie illegal.