Mysore is the second biggest city in Karnataka State with a population of 0.88 million people. Mysore is a Tourist Hub and annually about 3.5 million tourists visit this place. The Wodeyars ruled from 1399 until Independence, except for the 38-year rule of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan in the 18th century. Under their patronage Mysore became the Cultural Capital of the South. The continuous support of the Kings in every field led to the evolution of a distinct style known as the “Mysore Style” in all the fields like painting, architecture, music, poetry, etc. Mysore art and handicrafts reflects the rich heritage and cultural aura of the city which includes paintings, yoga and silk textiles.
Mysore is a land of artists and is known to people for their skills. Historically, rulers of Mysore had a strong passion for visual arts, which included in architecture and painting. Mysore region is rich of natural resources like Sandal wood, silk, the best quality Jasmine flowers which are referred to as Mysore Mallige. Mysore sandal wood is reputed all over the world for its
quality and fragrance. Mysore silk is known for its extraordinary quality and performance of luster. It is an integral part of the Mysore culture.
Other known Crafts of Mysore includes Rosewood Inlay, Metal embossing, Soapstone Carving, Ganjifa cards, Mysore Painting, Mysore Silk, Mysore Peta, Chennapatna Toys, Cart making, Bamboo basketry, wood turning, zari zerdoji work etc. Most of the crafts of Mysore are produced by using traditional methods. Moreover, these crafts have been going on for generations. They are an integral part of Mysore, despite the rapid social and technological changes that are taking place.
Heritage city’: Mysuru, being rightly called the ‘Princely State’ for two centuries, has over two hundred structures identified as ‘Heritage buildings’. The city has always been an embodiment of Culture and Heritage. The ‘Pete’ areas which hosted commercial activities, the familiar ‘Tongas’ available on hire at every corner of the city, prominent ‘nodes’ such as K.R Circle, Sayyaji Rao Circle etc., the non-strife ‘residential precincts’ of Agraharas and Mohollas and last but not the least, the grand ‘Dussehra’ procession witnessed by millions of people from all around the world, are the characteristics of a true heritage city. Apart from buildings and precincts, Mysuru also boasts of ‘Cultural diversity’ amongst people, their activities & way of life and ‘Cultural richness’ in music, fine arts and allied disciplines.
Mysuru as a ‘Educational Hub’: The “Princely state Mysuru” is a pioneer in modern education. The need for women’s education was uppermost in the minds of rulers of Mysuru State, so called Cradle of women’s education and also Maharaja Chamarajendra Wodeyar took an initiative to develop an Industrial School in Mysuru to support the artisans to market their products and to earn fame & accolades from those who visited Mysuru. There are a large number of English as well as vernacular medium schools in Mysore. The students in the various schools of Mysore are trained and educated by efficient and knowledgeable teachers. Some of the most famous schools in the city of Mysore are Maharani school and college for girls, Yuvaraja college, Chamarajendra College of Visual Arts, Al Kabir School, Avila Convent Girls High School, Christ the King Girls High School, etc. The State Government is taking more interest in this, so as to improve the infrastructure of the city. The system of education in Mysore is taken care of especially to attract more IT professionals and companies to the state. The City hosts, University of Mysore, Mysore Open University, Dr. Gangubai Hangal
University of music and performing arts.
Mysore State was the first and foremost factor to bring the glorious Hindustani music to North Karnataka. Today there are numerous Music Schools and University in Mysore following the traditional music of Mysore such as Karnataka State Dr. Gangubai Hangal Music and Performing Arts University (KSGH Music and Performing Arts University), Music university
Dr.L Annapoorna writes-
“The ascent of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar marks the beginning of the golden age of music in Mysore. There were abundant musical activities during this period. Mummadi Krishnaraj Wodeyar, Nalvadi Krishnaraj Wodeyar (Krishnaraj Wodeyar IV), and Jayachema Raja Wodeyar were great patrons of music. Music reached its peak of excellence during this period. During
Navratri, music of all varieties, like Carnatic, Hindustani, Western, light music, folk music found their place in the palace. Members of royal family learnt music form ‘Sthan Vidvan’ (Court Musicians).
Mysuru as a ‘Planned city’: After the Hoysalas came the Vijayanagar Kings and then the Mysore Yadu dynasty came to power in 1399A.D. They were the feudatories of the Vijayanagar Kings. This dynasty also contributed to temple building in Mysore.’ Bettada Chamaraja Wodeyar’s, the Raja of Mysore rebuilt the fort of Mysore and made his headquarters and called the city 'Mahishura Nagara' meaning the city of ‘Mahishur’. Many inscriptions done in the 17th century and later refer to Mysore as 'Mahishuru'. Raja Wodeyar moved the capital from Mysore to Srirangapatna. After the death of Tippu Sultan in 1799, Mysore became the capital of the Wodeyars once again. During the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III the town of Mysore expanded and moved beyond the walls of the fort. Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV developed Mysore into a beautiful city with excellent planning by establishing Mysore City Improvement Trust in 1903. Under his reign Mysore became famous for its wide roads, magnificent building and elegant parks. Today Mysore is a modern city that has managed to retain its quaint old-world charm.
The city has long boulevards radiating from a well-defined central axis, with well recessed public buildings balanced on either side, can be a model for any town planner. Architectural heritage includes not only individual buildings of exceptional quality and their surroundings or group of buildings providing a special setting by virtue of uniqueness of their architectural style, but also all areas and settings of cities which have historic or cultural interests.
Their architectural and urban design elements like vistas, focal points, landmarks, avenues, plazas etc., make it undoubtedly the most important tradition city in India. Albert – Victor road is beautifully laid down street, has a pathway beautifully laid within the Curzon park which and hugging the palace gate and fort with a moat on northern side of the palace as a landmark, represents the vista with edges. The townscape of the city viewed from Chamundi hills present a skyline of clock tower, statues, palaces, mansions depicts the beauty of the city.
Mysuru as a ‘Clean & Green city’: The Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India, annually publish National City Rating under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan scheme. The rating includes around 500 cities, covering 72
percent of the urban population in India.
Until 2017, India was divided into five zones for the purpose of this survey and each city was scored on 19 indicators. The cities were classified into four colours: green, blue, black, and red, green being the cleanest city, and red the most polluted. None of the cities was rated as green—the best category in the exercise. However, during the 2017-18 senses survey, the parameters of assessment were modified, and cities were categorised, based on population, into metropolis, large, medium, and small cities, and assessment took place according to this categorisation.
In the year 2009-2010 Mysuru had obtained the second rank as the cleanest city in INDIA with rating of 70.65%. In the year 2015 and 2016 Mysuru stood first in the listing under the Swachh Sarvekshan evaluated the work done in the following six measurable aspects of sanitation and hygiene:
Strategy for Open Defecation Free town (ODF) and Integrated Solid Waste Management (SWM), Information, Education and Behaviour Change Communication (IEBC) activity. Sweeping, door to door collection and transportation (of solid waste), Processing and disposal (of solid waste), Provision of public & community toilet seats, Construction of household
In the year 2017 under Swachh Sarvekshan Mysuru secured the 5th position in an extensive sanitation survey across 500 cities in India. The performance of each city was evaluated on five key thematic parameters-Municipal solid waste - sweeping, collection and transportation, Municipal solid waste - processing and disposal of solid waste, Open defecation free/toilets,
Capacity building and eLearning, Provision of public & community toilet seats, Information, education and communication, and behaviour change.
Mysuru is ranked amongs the top ten on green city index in India for its palaces, gardens -Brindavan Garden,shady avenues and sacred temples. As it is also located at the base of the sacred Chamundi Hills, a powerful Goddess Chamundi temple situated close to the famous palace of Mysore.
Mysuru as a ‘Health Destination’: Ayurveda was the only system of medicine popular in the district till 1500 A.D. It was followed by Unani with the advent of the Muslims. Many Ayurvedic Pandits of accredited ability were invited to Mysore by Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. A particular pill termed ‘Kuppi Matre’ popularly manufactured by these Pandits was used in cases of emergency and its effect was also most instantaneous and startling. In 1832-32, there was an allopathic Durbar Surgeon attached to the court who supervised the His Highness Hospital at Mysore. The Palace Dispensary started in 1832 in the first allopathic institution in the district to administer the allopathic medicines. In 1871, the Government of India established a Native subordinate Medical Department. The earlier Allopathic Hospitals started in Mysore city were the Krishna Rajendra Hospital in 1876, the Cheluvamba Hospital in 1881, the Holdworth Memorial Hospital in 1904, the Princess Krishnarajammanni Sanatorium in 1921. There are other medical institutes like Ayurveda medical college, JSS hospital, JSS medical college etc.
The yoga tradition that evolved through the patronage and participation of the Wodeyar royal family, rajas of the kingdom of Mysore,has today supplanted or affected a majority of the yoga teaching traditions primarily through the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar and his students.
Mysore has recorded Guinness World Record attempt for ‘yoga performance at a single venue’ on the International Yoga Day on June 2017.
As a WCC member, this is an opportunity for Mysore city to boost the local crafts as well as craftsmen and share its living heritage with the world and support other cities towards the same aim. With this objective Karnataka Government wants Mysore to be associated with World Crafts Council and showcase its potential on a global platform.
Key crafts of Mysore with their History, Origin, Process, Usage, and Market are given below:
Many arts and crafts were born in Vijayanagara era. Kinnal craft is one of the crafts encouraged by the King during 15th and 16th century. “Chitragar” is the community involved in this work. After the decline of the empire, Chitragar (Artist) communities migrated to places like Kinnal, Kanakgiri and Ananthpur, and were supported by the Nawab of Koppal, the Desais of
Kinnal and the Nawabs of Hyderabad helped to develop the craft. Later the craft got famous from Kinnal and named as Kinnal craft. Kinnal is a small village gifted by the Kings of Vijayanagara to support the craft. It is a small village in Koppal district of north Karnataka.
Kinnal painting is a culturally rich, which is hand-painted on the wooden frames with colourful emboss used in temples and house decoration. Kinnal craft has rich artistic heritage practiced, which is also known as Chowki work. Chowki work is one of the art works that was popularized during the Vishwa Kannada Sammelana in 1985. The craft is mainly done on wood, depicting
the figures of Gods, Goddesses, birds and animals in the centre of wooden piece. The work includes embossing (gesso) work with magnificent colours. These craft also has exquisite carvings on wood representing local folk cultures. The art can easily be differentiated from other forms of arts by its intricate design. The craft is done by both men and women artisans. As the craft is not very popular among the youth currently, the artisans of Kinnal craft are conducting many workshops and training sessions to teach and educate other young artisans to take forward the art innovatively.
Mysore District has an eventful history and has rich cultural traditions. The rich and varied flora might have been encouraged the local carvers for sandalwood articles and garland making craft. Rulers of Mysore patronaged this meticulous craft.
Later after the Independence the Government and Non-Government agencies have extended their helping hand to protect the sandalwood craft. Sandalwood carving is an ancient tradition and has been a part of Indian culture and heritage and finds mention in the Ramayana. The wood is used to carve idols, and the roots are rich in oil which is used for medicinal purposes. This craft is practiced by a community of craftsmen called the Gudigars who specialize in the art of carving sandalwood, ivory and stone. Having migrated from Goa during the Portuguese invasion, the Gudigars settled in Uttara Kannada (North) and Mysore regions. The types of carving done on sandalwood are relief, chipping, incising and piercing. The chisels used are different from those generally used for other wood. The products carved consist of idols of gods and goddesses and boxes with interlacing foliage and scroll-like patterns interspersed with animal or bird figurines that are characteristic of Karnataka.
Mysore is well known for decorating hard- woods with ivory or plastic in the inlay technique. In the 18th century, the craft had received patronage from Tipu Sultan and the Wodeyar rulers who had shifted their capital to Mysore. Shapes cut in ivory, bone or plastic are inset into recessed forms in rosewood and embedded with glue. According to the catalogue of the Indian Art Exhibition held in Delhi in 1903, inlay work of Mysore was most artistic and was peculiar because the ivory was ornamented—a pattern scratched on the ivory surface was smeared with black lac and fused with heat. Due to the ban on ivory, woods of different colours, and bone or plastic are being used in inlay today. Portraits, landscapes, Jewellery boxes, Animal
figures carved in the round are also inlaid with designs using bone or plastic.
Sheet Metal Embossing:
Traditionally idols, pillars, doorways were adorned with embossed silver, gold or bronze. The prabhavalli, backdrops or arches behind the idols in temples, are made of embossed sheet metal and so are the accessories and embellishments. On special occasions stone idols are partly or fully covered with embossed metal in temples. Mandi Mohalla in Mysore city is the hub for artisans where many crafts are practiced. Sheet metal embossing here has taken a contemporary form and is used on trophies, and are panels of deities sometimes inlaid in wood. Blocks are made of forms on which the metal sheet is placed and hammered. Details are added later by both embossing and engraving. Silver and gold blocks are first made into sheets by rolling machines before embossing.
Stone carving has held a very good position in the history of Mysore. This can be witnessed in the numerous attractive temple sculptures and palaces. The Rulers of Mysore, the Wodeyars were great patrons of arts and crafts and encouraged these activities.
Mysore and H.D. Kote are the main craft pockets of stone carving craft in the district. The soft stone and granite stone is found in the quarries of H.D.Kote had impressed upon the craftsperson to take up the carving activity. Since Mysore is in close proximity to Tamilnadu lot of carvers have come and settled and carrying on the carving activity.
Mysore district had privilege of patronage from rulers to various crafts. After the downfall of Vijayanagar Empire Mysore Kings welcomed the craftspersons to Mysore.Forefathers of Late Shri. Shilpi Siddalingaswamy, Shilpi Siddanti, Modern Jakanacharya migrated from Vijayanagar to Mysore. Siddalingaswamy was a great saint who had brought name and fame to the
stone carving craft. He erected a great temple of Sri.Kamakameswari in Hoysala style. Even today Goddess Kaveri in granite and Radhakrishna in marble stone in K.R.Sagar and Goddess Sri.Chamundeswari at Jog falls stand as testimony to the great art. He sketched the drawings for great work of sculpture the ' Manasara' and wrote Shri.Macchilpa Vidya Rahasyopani- shat
and Shilpa Mahima.
Late Shri.Nagendra Stapati, great , son of Shri.Siddalingaswamy followed the footsteps and contributed to the royal craft of stone carving. Maha- ganapati, Bhairawaswamy, Veerabhadra, Maheswaraswamy, Subramanyaswamy Suryanarayana, Mahavishnu, Dakshinamurty and other
works could be seen in Sri.Kamakameshwari Temple of Mysore. He sculpted more than 500 figures. Later, late Shri. Shilp Mahadevaswam^ brothers’ son of Shilpi Siddalingaswamy as well as disciple had also contributed a lotto the craft. Late Shilpi Shri. Vishakanthacharya had also devoted himself to the development of this great art. Late Shri.Basavanna Shilpi Carving on
soapstone has been practiced since antiquity. An array of products such as cooking utensils and statues were carved, and are produced even to this day.
Soap- stone is a very soft mineral consisting mostly of talc. The Hoysala Temples at Belur and Halebid, the Jain site of Shravanabelagola stand testimony to the tradition. In Mysore, a large number of craftsmen are employed in soapstone carving and produce some very intricate work. The process of carving is traditional, wherein the stone is cut at the quarry by men children are a major workforce and do the finer finishing and polishing.
The fall of Vijayanagara Empire in 1565 AD resulted in the loss of royal patronage for traditional painters. However Raja Wodeyar (1578–1617 AD) of Mysore helped rehabilitate several families of painters of the Vijayanagara School in Srirangapatana. Mysore and Tanjore traditional paintings are offshoots of the Vijayanagara school of painting. Episodes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana and Jain epics are popular themes. Traditional Mysore Painting was normally done on paper pasted on cloth or wood. After the sketch was made, a distinctive relief world called gesso was done in the areas where jewellery and other ornamentations were to be painted. Gesso was done to enhance these areas. These areas were later covered with 24K gold leaf and then the painting was given the final touches. After the painting was completed it was allowed to dry thoroughly. Then a thin paper was placed on top of it and rubbed with a soft smooth stone to enhance the richness in the relief work done with gold foil. In those days artists used vegetable dyes and mineral colours and prepared all the materials they required by themselves.
The traditional Mysore school of painting brings to one’s tend the glorious style of age old art. This style sustained during the Vijayanagar Empire and followed almost as assiduously by the Mysore Jhuers before the conquest of the country. The style had reached its pinnacle of perfection at the time of Krishnadevaraya, the ruler having been a patron of fine art promoted this style with all its decorative overtones, after the downfall of the Vijayanagar, artistes migrated to the royal seat of Mysore. This art of painting for a decorative purpose was given a new lease of life by the learned administrator of Mysore who was a connoisseur of arts and crafts. He gave place to these artists in palaces at Srirangapatna and Mysore. Unfortunately
with the death of Shri. Mummadi Krishna raja Wodeyar, the dynasty ended with the beutiful patronage, which had paved the way of a number of artists and Vidwans. A rare contribution of Shri.Mummadi Krishnaraja is a treatise containing thousands of coloured pictures relating to the Hindu scriptures and line drawings.Late Shri. Shilpi Siddalingaswamiji an exponent of Arts 8 Crafts was also master of traditional painting, especially paintings of Chamundeshwari Gayathri, Lakshmi, Sarswathi, Bhuvaneshwari, Ganesh, etc. A are still displayed in the Mysore palace. Shlipi Siddanti Mahadevaswamy had also contributed to the craft. His popular paintings of Ganesha,Saras wathi, Rudresha, Ardhanareeshwara are in the personal collection of Shri.B.P.Wadiya of Bombay. Late Shri. Y. Subramanyaraju had also contributed a lot for popularising the art and trained several persons.
Some of the famous artists are Shri. Vishwesh wararaju, Krishnandaraju, M.J.Kamalakshi, Shri. Ramanasaiah, T.Sreehari of T.Narsipura. Consequent on the establishment of Jaganmohan palace in 1861 and the Chitrakala school of painting in 1875 many paintings were got done for display including Raja Ravi Varmas. These paintings can be seen to this day at the Jaganmohan Palace.
“Ganjifa” is the name given to an ancient Indian card game. Historically the game is believed to be brought to India during the Mughal period. The name Ganjifa comes from the Persian word “Ganjifeh” which means playing cards. The specialty of these cards is that they are traditionally hand-painted. The cards are typically circular although some rectangular decks have been
produced. This was a game that was popular and played across Medieval India. Each region in the country had its own form of the game. There was the Sawantwadi-Ganjifa from Maharashtra, Navadurga-Ganjifa from Orrisa, Rajasthan and GujratGanjifa, Kashmir Ganjifa, Nepal Ganjifa and the Mysooru-Ganjifa. Mysooru-Ganjifa was extensively patronised by the Mysore Royal Family – The Wodeyar Kings. Given that the main aim of the game was to teach, learn and tell stories from the ancient scriptures and holy books, all the 18 games in the Mysooru-Ganjifa Style were set to stories and shloka’s from the Hindu Purana’s, stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. The Dashavatara-Ganjifa which is a series based on the 10 different forms of the Hindu God Vishnu was the most popular of the 18 Ganjifa games. The
Dashavatara-Ganjifa has a set of 120 different playing cards. Today, apart from mythological subjects the artists have also started to paint subjects like portraits of maharaja.
Ganjifa cards enjoyed the royal patronage of the kings of Mysore—Tipu Sultan and later the Hindu rulers of the Wodeyar lineage—as ganjifa was a favourite pastime amongst royalty. The game dealt with high stakes, the word ganj is Persian meaning treasury, wealth and money. Traditionally, the base of the cards was made of cloth, leather, mica, palm leaf, sheet of sandalwood, birch leaf, ivory or paper. The colours used were natural, extracted from plants and vegetables. Prominent colours included rust, cream, yellow, black, red and green. Mythological motifs from the Ramayana and Mahabharata and Dasavatara or reincarnations of Vishnu are popular ganjifa themes. Most of the ganjifa cards were varnished and sizes varied from a diameter of 5–7 cm.
Mysore Silk Peta:
Traditionally Mysore Silk Peta are used to honour the distinguished guests. Besides sandalwood handicrafts, sandalwood agarbathis, perfumes, talcum powder and Mysore sandal soap is famous worldwide.
Mysore betel leaf:
Mysore betel leaf is a variety of heart shaped betel (Piper betel) leaf grown in and around the region of Mysore. It is consumed as a betel quid or as paan, with or without tobacco. A sheaf of betel leaves is traditionally offered as a mark of respect and auspicious beginnings. Mysore betel leaves are said to differ from other betel leaves because of their smooth texture and hot taste.
Mysore Nanjangud banana:
The Nanjangud banana is said to have a unique taste and aroma due to the black clay alluvial saline soil found in and around Nanjangud and the unique method of organic cultivation.
Mysore silk, with its unique sheen and regal look, amazing drape, pure yarn and zari, has held its own among all other silk fabrics from India and abroad. Karnataka's 200-year-old silk industry owes its origin to Tipu Sultan who ruled Mysore. He showed a very personal interest in sericulture and also established 21 centers in his dominion to rear the silk. The raw silk yarn filatures are obtained from the T. Narasipura factory, 25 kms away from the Mysore silk
saree making factory. A single cocoon produces 800-900mts. of yarn, but usable yarn is only up to 400-600mts. The unit manufactures raw silk yarn and transfers it to meet the raw material requirement of silk weaving factory in Mysore. The silk is dyed using natural pigments and woven into intricate but subtle patterns featuring motifs of birds and fruits. The weight and the content of gold and silver thread used mainly in the intricate border and pallu or the
headpiece; determine the price of the sarees. A saree usually weighs between 400 and 600 grams.
Mysore silk is woven into a range of cloths, like Mysore peta, shawls, saris etc. The most famous of them are Mysore silk sari and Mysore silk peta (Turban).
Mysore grows one of the most fragrant jasmine flowers, which is used for religious purpose and by woman on religious basis.
The Mysore Pak one of the recognised sweet, prepared by besan is an intangible heritage. This is being prepared for last 205 years.
Mysore Sandal Soap / Oil:
The Maharaja of Mysore Nalwadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar and Diwan M Visvesvaraya set up the Government Sandalwood Oil Factory in Mysore to extract sandalwood oil from sandalwood in the year 1916. Mysore sandal soap is famous for its aroma, so also to sandal oil.
The objects are purchased both by domestic and international tourists and patrons from variety of shops, government public and private and emporiums. The products are marketed in trade fares, Dasara annual event which is conducted for a period of 10 days every year and such practice is in existence for more than 408 years. There is Urban Hath in Mysore which also
exhibits such products.
The crafts are predominantly produced in work sheds, craftsmen home. The products are sold in retail locations in museums, stores, markets etc. Predominantly the trades are passed down in the family or in the community. Government of Karnataka does recognize excellence in such craftsmen and do confer with Rajyotsava Award annually. It is interesting to note that these
craftsmen are living in a particular concentrated area of the city and the products have international reputation.