THE CAPITAL OF RAJADHARMA: MODERN SPACE AND RELIGION IN COLONIAL MYSORE 1
Mysore Fort, now situated in the centre of Mysore city, former capital of Mysore princely state, was effectively the city itself in pre-modern times. During the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, however, the fort changed its form from a residential town into a modern garden or empty space where now only the palace and several temples remain. This transformation was intended to serve not only to improve the sanitation and hygiene of the city but also to beautify and glorify it as the capital of a Hindu kingdom. In the process, the modern western idea of “improvement” and the traditional Hindu idea of dharma (moral order) were somehow reconciled and mutually strengthened. This paper aims to demonstrate how the two concepts worked together during the period of indirect rule. More broadly, the transformation of space in Mysore city reveals the nature of Hindu kingship under British rule. The colonial power did not simply diminish the authority of the Indian kings, but rather enhanced their presence at a supra-local level. The fundamental paradox of Hindu kingship, in which kings have to be transcendent, above society, and at the same time to be rooted in society, remained a conundrum for Indian kings to resolve.
(Published Online January 17 2007)
1 The research for this study was carried out with grants from the Kyoto University Foundation, and the Toyota Foundation, and under a fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Sciences. An earlier version of this article was presented at a conference on “Sacred spaces in South Asia” organized by the project “Structural changes and network in South Asia” in December 2000, in Kyoto, Japan.