Was the last Maharaja of Mysore really a musical whiz, as his courtiers claim? Or, was the king merely passing off a subject’s work as his own, as R.K. Narayan alleged?

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The centenary anniversary of the birth of the last Maharaja of Mysore, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar (1919-1974), has kicked off in the erstwhile kingdom, in a renewed burst of royalty that is both reverential and revealing.

Public events, art shows, flower shows, etc have all sprung up in memory of the 25th king—45 years after his passing, 48 years after the abolition of the princely title, 69 years after the integration of the princely States in India.

There have also been music shows to commemorate the Maharaja, who is widely credited with composing a number of songs in both Carnatic and Hindustani traditions.

Writing in The Telegraph, Calcutta, the former West Bengal governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi—who inaugurated the birth centenary celebrations in Mysore—doffs his hat to Wodeyar’s skills to compose music but gives an old rumour, that the Maharaja was merely claiming somebody else’s work as his own, fresh oxygen.

The extraordinary novelist, R.K. Narayan, has this to say of Jayachamarajendra:

“The so-called compositions of the Mysore Maharaja were actually composed by Vasudevachar. The Maharaja would call Vasudevachar and say I want these phrases from the Devi Ashtottram and the composer would do his bidding”.

Unconditional admirer as I am of Narayan as a writer and human being, I have to say that his assessment of the composer-King is certainly entertaining but unfair.

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When the prince was born…