Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hidden Fort of Jhansi: The Star Fort



As a history researcher, there are very few what I call “Eureka” moments, when while going through drab history books, you suddenly discover something very interesting and think to yourself “Hey! Why are others not talking about this? Do they even know?”

I too had similar such “Eureka” moment during a casual phone conversation with a TOI journalist from Jhansi. During our conversation, he casually mentioned existence of a “second fort” in Jhansi which no one knew about. My ears could not believe it and my heart was beating fast with excitement. This was the scoop I knew my blog readers would love to read. And I needed to find more about this “secret” and “hidden” fort of Jhansi which hardly anyone knew about.

Infact, this fort is such an enigma that that even Archaeological Survey of India did not about its existence till recently. Nor were locals aware of it. Incredible, isn’t it? But what is so secretive about this fort that has remained hidden for so long. Does it hide any dark secrets? Who built this secret fort and why?

Unfortunately, there are too many questions and too few answers. Passing by the narrow by lanes of Jhansi, as you cross the Sadar Bazar area and enter the cantonment area, you need to look carefully. Carefully hidden behind row of houses, you will slowly start seeing walls and battlements of a fortification. However, they have been built in such a way that it is well camouflaged and almost impossible to photograph. But what you are seeing is actually the “hidden fort” of Jhansi, also known as the Star Fort due to its star like shape.



Satellite Image of Star Fort of Jhansi. The fort has been hidden it such a way, that it makes it very difficult to photograph. It is under Army’s possession and a forbidden area.

The magnificent six contoured star fort is of extremely peculiar shape, perhaps being the only monument in the country in shape of the star. Such a design is no peculiar to India. It was seen in castles in Italy and France. This special star shape makes the fort least vulnerable to artillery attack.

Little is known about the circumstances in which this fort was built. The Third Anglo Maratha war ended in 1818. During that time, Raja a Ramchandrarao Newalkar was ruling Jhansi as a subedar on behalf of Peshwa at Pune. After the fall of the Maratha empire, Raja Ramchandrarao signed a treaty of friendship with British East India company represented by John Bean Chapp. As per this treaty, the British stationed subsidiary force in Jhansi. To house this army, a fort was built. It is this very star fort. Built around 1.4 acres of land, it was used to house treasury and magazine (arms and ammunition depot) and also used to house 14th cavalry, mainly comprising Indian soldiers under Captain Campbell.


A very rare image of Star Fort of Jhansi taken by a British Photographer in 1890s

According to some historians, this fort has played an importance role in the revolt of 1857. It is claimed that it was here where the revolt of the East India company sepoys actually began in Jhansi. The 14th Cavalry revolted, attacked the British who took refuge in the main Jhansi fort. They then marched to Rani Mahal and proclaimed Rani Lakshmibai as their leader.

Today, this fort is under the control of the Indian army and entry to this fort is restricted. However, to commemorate the events of 1857, the fort was opened to civilians for first time in 153 years. Local historians in Jhansi hope that more and more people would get aware of this unique piece of India’s heritage.

Completely ignored by historians and public, this intriguing story of the hidden fort of Jhansi is dying to be told. I hope that this blog article spurs interest in this forgotten piece of history. And I hope my readers go away from this blog enriched with something new.

By Akshay Chavan

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mysore State Anthem: Kayo Shri Gowri

A national anthem is an generally patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions and struggles of its people, recognized either by a nation's government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people. In 1947, “Jana Gana Mana” was recognized as national anthem of India. But did you know, before 1947, every major princely state had its own state anthem which would be played on state occasions and sung in schools. These included “Gaekwadi” of Baroda state, “Jai Jai Maharaja” of Nawanagar, “Jai Bhawani” of Kolhapur, “God save the Maharaja” of Jammu and Kashmir, “Ya rab humare badshah ko” of Hyderabad. Most of these anthems were soon forgotten after the states were abolished. However, one state anthem still retains its popularity till this day and is a personal favourite of mine. “Kayo Shri Gowri”, the Mysore State Anthem.


Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar of Mysore, in whose reign the Mysore anthem was composed.

Story of the Mysore state anthem

In 1831, the princely state of Mysore was taken under British rule on pretext of maladministration. 1881, after much deliberation, it was decided that the state would be given back to the Wodeyars. The princely state of Mysore was reconstituted and restored to Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar by the "Rendition of 1881”. To commemorate this occasion, Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar asked Basavappa Shastry, the court poet of Mysore durbar, to compose a state anthem. 


'Kannada Nataka Pitamaha' Basavappa Shastry (1843-1891) who composed the Mysore state anthem – “Kayo Shri Gowri”.

Basavappa Shastry (1843-1891), a native of Mysore was well known as ''Kannada Nataka Pitamaha''. Basavappa Shastry was just 18 years old when he became part of the Mysore Palace court and served as rajaguru, asthana vidwamsa and rajapurohit (important royal decorations). He published a compilation on Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar titled ‘Krishnarajabhyudaya’. He wrote as many as 28 books including 11 translations, 12 works in Sanskrit and five works in Kannada.

The composition “Kayo Shri Gowri” by Basavappa Shastry is in Sanskrit, written in Kannada script. It is an invocation to Goddess Gowri or Chamundeswari – the titular deity of the Mysore Royal Family. By non- Hindus, the word Gowri used to be substituted by Devaru ( God) as a prayer made to the Great God and Father of Mankind . As stated earlier, the Mysore state anthem was composed during the reign of Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar. The tune was a personal favourite of the Maharaja. It was set tune with the help of Maharaja’s Band Master, Mr. Bartels and Vainika Sikhamani Seshanna. 
In the course of time, became extremely popular with the Mysoreans. It was sung daily by thousands of School Children and to herald the arrival and departures of the reigning Maharaja at any public function. Even today, many Mysoreans of older generations become nostalgic on hearing the anthem as it reminds them of their school days.

Lyrics of the Mysore State Anthem:

In Kannada:
ಕಾಯೋ ಶ್ರೀ ಗೌರಿ ಕರುಣಾಲಹರಿ
ತೊಯಜಾಕ್ಷಿ ಶಂಕರೀಶ್ವರಿ
೧. ವೈಮಾನಿಕ ಭಾಮಾರ್ಚಿತ ಕೊಮಲಕರ ಪಾದೇ
ಶ್ರೀಮಾನ್ವಿತ ಭೂಮಾಸ್ಪದೆ ಕಾಮಿತ ಫಲದೇ
೨. ಶುಂಬಾದಿಮ ದಾಮ್ಬೋನಿಧಿ ಕುಮ್ಬಜ ನಿಭ ದೇವಿ
ಜಮ್ಭಾಹಿತ ಸಂಭಾವಿತೆ ಶಾಂಭವಿ ಶುಭವೀ
೩. ಶ್ರೀ ಜಯಚಾಮುಂಡಿಕೆ ಶ್ರೀ ಜಯಚಾಮೆಂದ್ರ
ನಾಮಾಂಕಿತ ಭೂಮೀಂದ್ರ ಲಲಾಮನ ಮುದದೆ


In English:
Kayo Sri Gowri, Karuna lahari, Thoya Jakshi, Shankareeshwari
1. Vaimanika Bhamarchitha Komalakara Padhe
Shreemanvitha Bhoomaspade Kamitha Phaladhe
2. Shumbadima Dhambhonidhi kumbaja nibha devi
Jambhahitha Sambhavithe Shambhavi shubhavee
3. Sri jaya jamundike Sri Jayachamendra
Namankitha Bhomeendra Lalamana Mudade


Mysore State Anthem; during Maharaja Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV:

During the lifetime of Late H.H. Maharaja Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV {1895 (Regency of His mother)-1902-1940} , the third stanza was modified as under:

ಶ್ಯಾಮಾಲಿಕೆ ಚಾಮುಂಡಿಕೆ ಸೊಮಕುಲಜ ಕೃಷ್ಣ
ನಾಮಾಂಕಿತ ಭೂಮೀಂದ್ರ ಲಾಮನ ಮುದದೇ ||೩||

Shyamalike Chamundike Somakulaja Krishna
Namamkita Bhumindra Lalamana Mudade ||3||

Mysore State Anthem; during Maharaja Jaya Chama Raja Wadiyar:

During the rule of the last King, Late HH, Sri. Jaya Chama Raja Wadiyar (1940-1950), the last charana was further modified and was set to music in Raga: shaMkarAbharaNa in trishrajAti Eka tALa, by the famous maestro Late Vainika Praveena V. Venkatagriyappa

ಶ್ರೀ ಜಯಚಾಮುಂಡಿಕೆ ಶ್ರೀ ಜಯಚಾಮೇಂದ್ರ
ನಾಮಾಂಕಿತ ಭುಮೀಂದ್ರ ಲಲಾಮನ ಮುದದೆ |೩|

Sri jaya jamundike Sri Jayachamendra
Namankitha Bhomeendra Lalamana Mudade |3|

Influence on Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore:

 Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore was highly influenced by the Mysore Anthem

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore was highly influenced by this anthen. In 1919, Sir Albion Banerjee was the first councillor under Diwan Sir. M.Kantharaj Urs. On his invitation Tagore visited Bangalore on January 12, 1919 to deliver a lecture  on ‘The Message of Forests’. Mysore Anthem is based on Raga- Dheerashankarābharanam. It is known as Bilawal in the Hindustani music system. The Western equivalent is the C major scale, Ionian mode. Hence this rāga is one of the most popular scales across the world, known with different names in different musical styles. The national anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana’ is also based on the same Raga and the same scale, perhaps a sign of its influence!

Versions of the anthem

The full version of the Mysore anthem (all three stanzas)


The popular version sung in schools (third stanza only)


The old and slow version of the anthem (all three stanzas)


Mysore Anthem Today

Thanks to social media and Youtube, Mysore anthem ‘Kayo Shri Gowri’ has enjoyed a revival. There are several versions available on Youtube for everyone to enjoy. A part of Karnataka’s cultural history and a befitting tribute to a great dynasty!

By Akshay Chavan (Based on information provided by Mr Raja Chandra of Mysore)