Mysuru Dhoregalige Makkalagade hogali!
These prophetic and terrible words, uttered by a distressed woman in 1610 AD, will complete 400 years next year, in 2010. The “curse of the Wodeyars” also known as the “curse of Talakad” as well as “curse of Malangi” is said to have played havoc on the town of Talakad, village of Malangi and the lives of generations of Wodeyars. But does the curse really exist? There are many people who believe it does and there are many proofs of this. But living in 21st century, can we believe something which has no rational and scientific basis? Should we not use rationality and scientific mind to challenge long held assumptions based on a 400 year old tale.
Based on some interesting books and articles written by historians, archaeologists, geologists and genealogists, I have attempted to find the REAL truth behind the story of this curse. First we look at the story of the curse, its effects and loopholes in the story, followed by a detailed scientific and historic analysis, the findings of which shall surprise you.
The story of the curse:
Raja Wodeyar was the founder of the royal Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore. The Vijayanagara empire was in its full decline and Raja Wodeyar was one of its chieftains aiming and jostling for power. In those days, the Vijayanagara Viceroy named Tirumala held court at Srirangapatna and Raja Wodeyar was his vassal. Tirumala was getting increasingly wary his powerful feudatory. He hatched a cunning plan to invite all chieftains under his suzerainty for Hindu festival of Dusshera to Srirangapatna and put them to death. Unfortunately for Tirumala, Raja Wodeyar discovered this plot and attacked Srirangapatna and captured it overthrowing Tirumala and establishing his rule. Tirumala fled to a village of Malangi with his wife, Rani Alamelamma. This is where the story of the curse actually begins.
Raja Wodeyar wanted to take revenge against his defeated foe and hence ordered all the Tirumala’s property confiscated. Rani Alemelamma had brought with her all her jewellery which she would lend to the Sriranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangapatna. To reclaim these jewels, Raja Wodeyar sent his soldiers to Malangi. The soldier arrived at Rani Alamelamma’s residence on banks of Talakad. The Rani was taken by surprise. She put all the ornaments she could find in a chest and made a secret exit from the palace. When Raja Wodeyar’s soldiers barged in Rani’s apartments, they saw a dazzling apparition making its way towards the riverside. Sensing that Rani might escape, they pursued her. But by then the Rani had climbed a cliff that overlooked the torrents of Cauvery.
She cried to the troops in loud voice “Go tell your viceroy that in life in vanquished us but not in death. Honour is more important to us than life and he has tried to acquire it.” The with folded hands and closed eyes, she prayed to Lord Venkateshwara and said “O’Lord, if I have been ever sincere to you as a devotee and a faithful wife of my husband, grant me this dying wish that would be a curse for the arrogant Viceroy of Srirangapatna. –
Mysuru Dhoregalige Makkalagade hogali!
I curse Talakad to be submerged under creeping sands
May a cruel whirlpool be a scourge of Malangi
And the kings of Mysore suffer the pangs of Childlessness!
And then, Rani Alamelamma leapt to her death in the torrential waters of Cauvery. When Raja Wodeyar heard of the incident at Malangi, he was overcome by remorse. To repent, he had a bronze idol of Rani Alamelamma made which is worshiped by the Wodeyars on the 9th day of Dusshera every year.
Effects of the Curse:
The chilling effects of this curse can be seen in the following ways:
1. The historic town of Talakad was completely submerged by sand dunes and was abandoned. The sand covered historical temples can be seen to this day.
2. River Cauvery generates fierce whirlpools near the village of Malangi, which has partly been consumed by the river.
3. Every alternate generation of Wodeyars had problems with heirs including the current Maharaja of Mysore, Srikantadatta Wodeyar.
Archaeologists, geologists, genealogists, historians and rationalists all have a different explanations on this curse. While the first two parts of the curse can be explained by natural geological reasons, but how do you explain the lack of heirs among the Wodeyars even today, in 2009, almost 400 years after the family was cursed?
Loopholes in the story of the curse:
As rationalists, we need to investigate the story which has many loopholes. These unexplained answers and facts are as follows:
1. The jewellery of temples is always considered sacred. It is extremely uncommon for anyone to “lend” their jewellery to the temples on Tuesday and Thursdays.
2. Raja Wodeyar wanted the jewellery which belonged to the temples. If Rani Alamelamma was a very devout woman as the story suggests, she would not have refused to hand over the same.
3. Why did Rani Alamelamma curse the village of Malangi? What did the village where she found solace, do anything to her?
4. It is highly unlikely that anyone would curse the city of holy temples. However, people claim that as a result of her curse, the temple city of Talakad was submerged under the sand.
5. The third part of the curse was that Wodeyars would be childless; then why did the curse change its effect over time, so as to skip a generation?
A Rational Analysis of the Curse:
I have analyzed the three prophecies of the curse based on a variety of sources including Mr. Vikram Sampath’s “Splendours of Royal Mysore” as well as several articles in the CURRENT SCIENCE Magazine. The analysis is as follows:
1. Talakadu Maralaagali “I curse Talakad to be submerged under creeping sands”
Let us analyze the first part of the curse, about the historic town of Talakad to be submerged under creeping sands. Now why would a “devout” woman as Rani Alamelamma curse a holy city which had historic temples? What had Talakad ever done to her? Well, there is no answer available. There have been several researches carried out by Geologists to investigate the phenomenon of sand dunes. CURRENT SCIENCE Journal in its December 2007 features one such article.
Images of the historic temples in the town of Talakad covered by sand dunes, a phenomenon attributed to the "The Curse of Wodeyars".
Thus, the sand which we see covering the town of Talakad is a consequence of movement of particles from the river path which was amplified by the sharp turn of the river. Gradually, over a period of a century, the town was slowly abandoned by its residents due to accumulation of sand and not as a result of some curse.
2. Malangi Maduvaagali “May a cruel whirlpool be a scourge of Malangi”
About the second part of the curse, Geologists have actively demonstrated that there is an active but a minor fault running along the path of the Cauvery River. Accordingly, owing to a major geological shift, the river Kaveri shifted its course as all rivers do. Plus, river Kaveri takes a sharp turn at several places including one at Talakad and Malangi. On one bank of the turn is Talakad and on other bank is Malangi. The bank of river which faces Malangi faces the rapidly flowing face of the river which cuts into it. This is the reason why Malangi is being eaten up by river Kaveri. Not as a result of any curse.
3. Mysuru Dhoregalige Makkalagade hogali! “And the kings of Mysore suffer the pangs of Childlessness!”
About the third and the most important part of the curse, the lack of heirs in the Mysore royal family. Most people including myself, believed in the curse only because of this third effect. I would ask “ Yes, the first two may be geological reasons, but how do you explain the every alternate generation of Wodeyars not having heirs.?” To me, this confirmed the existence of curse. That is, till now. Apparently, Rani Alamelamma cursed that Wodeyars shall not have any heirs, but did not say anything about skipping a generation! Did she have powers to change the curse in retrospect?
The answer is no. This part can be explained as part genetics and part coincidence. The funny part is that the very man who was cursed, Raja Wodeyar had several sons! While it is true that many Wodeyar rulers have had lack of heirs, they did have sons from their concubines. So what explains this?
In those days, genetic defects due to close intermarriages were not well known. Like most Indian rulers, Wodeyars married within their own “Urs” community. There were only around a dozen “well bred” inter married Urs families from which all the spouses of the Wodeyar family came from. This may have caused what is called “inbreeding depression”. Point to note is that out of the 19 rulers, only 10 rulers had lack of heirs. All adopted rulers had heirs but their second generation did not, caused by “enhanced inbreeding depression”. Thus, as well see, there is a strong medical reason which explains the lack of heirs of the Mysore family.
So what is this curse all about?
As analyzed above, the curse did not take effect immediately. The three syndromes of the curse were already visible during that time and historians believe that the curse was intelligently moulded by someone with a vested interest. But what could this vested interest be? It is interesting to see the timing of the first mention of this curse and similar other curses. While it was a part of local folklore, it makes appearance only in early 1830s and 1840s. What surprised me most was that very similar such curses of childlessness have emerged around the same time from other royal durbars. Suddenly every royal family like Gwalior, Jaipur, Porbander etc appears to be cursed! Why?
Lord Dalhousie, whose infamous “Doctrine of Lapse” forced royal families to concoct stories of curses.
A little investigation throws some light on this. In 1830s and 40s, Lord Dalhousie was the Governor General of India and the notorious “Doctrine of Lapse” was in existence. Mysore had already been taken under British rule for maladministration and there was a real possibility that state would be annexed of the ruler died without heir. I suspect this may have forced the Mysore durbar to concoct the story of the curse, adding what is called in India “Mirch Masala” (spicing it up). This theory is highly plausible many other durbars did the same. The point was to tell the British “Oh! We do want to have heirs, but what can we do? We are cursed”.
Based on our analysis, there are three conclusions, first is that due to the construction of a check dam, the sand accumulated on banks of Cauvery for millions of years go exposed. The strong winds carried it towards the town of Talakad which eventually forced then inhabitants to abandon it over a course of a century. Second, ecological degradation as well as shifting of the course of the river forced a part of Malangi to be submerged under water. And third, intermarriages between the closely knit Urs community caused “inbreeding depression” resulting in lack of heirs. And then, to prevent the state from being taken over by the British, the Mysore durbar concocted the story of this curse. Despite these very rational reasons, today, almost 400 years after the so called curse was made, most people will still believe that this curse exists. To conclude, I want to ask, is this blind faith in religion and superstition, the real “curse” which affects Indians?
By Akshay Chavan.