Once upon a time, in the agraharas and mohallas

GOURI SATYA writes: In about circa 1800, Mysore was a small place located within the fort walls of the Palace surrounded by one or two Mohallas or extensions.

Most of the population lived around the Palace in small country-tiled mud houses. The mud-and-brick palace was also smaller in size than the present structure. It had been built after the capital was transferred from Srirangapatna to Mysore, when Tipu Sultan was killed on May 4, 1799 in the Fourth Mysore War.

Apart from the crowded houses around the Palace, the Fort Mohalla just outside the Palace, was perhaps the oldest of the extended city. It was a small Agrahara with rows of small houses of the traditional Mysore style.

After the three or four lanes of houses, was the Purnaiah Chattra or choultry, built by Dewan Purnaiah, for pilgrims coming to Mysore and students studying in the Maharaja’s Sanskrit College.

Beside the big choultry, there was the Ane Karoti, the place where the Palace elephants were stationed along with the fittings and dressings required for decorating them on festive occasions, like the Dasara. Mahouts could be seen moving about feeding the elephants tied to the big trees.

The Ane Karoti looked like a small forest. Behind the Ane Karoti was the sprawling Villedele Thota or betel-leaf garden, which extended up to the Nanjangud Road.

The choultry and the Ane Karoti have disappeared. Instead, we find the modern JSS Hospital. The only small structure of this period left is the small shrine in the middle of the M.G. Road, which was then a part of the Purnaiah choultry.

On the opposite side was Nazarbad, built by Tipu Sultan with a fort. This was on an elevated place. Kesare, Eranagere and other places around it were small villages. Tipu intended to build a new city here.

Lashkar Mohalla and Mandi Mohalla, the two other old mohallas, were mainly for the Muslim population. The army men of Tipu and Mysore resided in this Mohalla,
in the former in particular.

One such street continues to have the old name of ‘Benki’ Nawab, an army chieftain under Tipu who was famous for his valour and fire-like attacks on the enemy.

Devaraja Mohalla, in the midst of which today stands the D. Devaraj Urs Road, also had very small houses with very narrow lanes. The weekly Mysore ‘santhe’ was
conducted here. Villagers from around Mysore came here to sell their produces and products. Subsequently, the Devaraja Market was built in memory of Devaraja

Devaraja Wodeyar was a famous ruler, who emulated the Vijayanagar kings and built irrigation canals around Mysore, like the Devaraya, Virija and other canals, which continue to bring water from Krishnarajasagar for the benefit of farmers in Mandya district. A few of the small houses, which were built around this period, are seen behind the buildings on Devaraj Urs Road.

Krishnaraja Mohalla is another old Mohalla of the city, which was added later with the construction of the Vanivilasa Market. The mohalla was named after Krishnaraja Wodeyar and the Vanivilasa Market, after the Maharani and the regent, Vanivilasa Sannidhana. Vanivilasa Sannidhana initiated the modern water supply scheme to Mysore by building the pumping station at Belagola.

When Mysore City Municipal Council was constituted, Mysore had only these five mohallas with a population of a little over 80,000.

There were four major tanks around the city for the benefit of the people residing in these mohallas. The Chola kings built the Doddakere or the Chola Kere, when Mysore was part of their domain. It provided drinking water to the people residing within the fort and for bathing, washing clothes, etc.

On the other side was the Karanji kere, which fortunately continues to survive as a small water body. On the northern side of the city was the Jeevanarayana Katte or J.K.Grounds. The Kukkarahalli Kere, which is also surviving, though in a depleted area, is on the western side. Besides drinking water, it also provided water to the Sandalwood Oil Factory.

It is interesting to know that near the four tanks were built four watchtowers, to protect people who came to these tanks for bath etc. in the early mornings. The Doddakere watchtower was located opposite the Gun House, where there is a small park now.

The Karanaji Tank watchtower was on the northern side of the present Chamundi Vihar Stadium, near the road towards the Police Commissioner’s bungalow. This bungalow is known as the Ridge House.

The present ACP (Traffic) building in Shivarampet was the old watchtower for the Jeevanarayana Katte tank and the watchtower of the Kukkarahalli lake was demolished recently when the JLB Road was widened. It was at the corner of the MUDA Circle. For a long time, it housed the Jaya Scout Group and the Ramblers’ Scout Group and later the Contractors’ Association. Near the four watchtowers were temples for people to worship while returning to their houses, after a bath in the tanks.

Then Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, who built the Agraharas and the watchtowers, erected boundary-stones around the city in the 19th century to mark the city’s boundary. Over the years, Mysore has outgrown these boundary markings. These boundary markings stand now in the heart of the city. A small town, which was of the size of less than a square km in 1800s, is fast expanding beyond 10-12 km distance.

Some boundary stones are still seen on Ramavilasa Road. Three boundary stones stand near the Ahobila Mutt temple corner. When the Ramavilasa Agrahara was extended for providing more houses for Agrahara Brahmins on the Sitavilasa Agrahara, two boundary stones were put up, one at the corner of Sadvidya School and the other at the Shila Rama Mandira, now managed by the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam.

An enterprising person has erected a small shrine for the boundary stone standing at the Sadvidya School corner. He comes late in the night when there are not many people on the road and quietly pockets the day’s collection!