Devaraja Market and Lansdowne Building, Mysuru - as to their restoration, the wrangling persists


Devaraja Market in Mysuru,

Devaraja Market in Mysuru,

Devaraja Market, Mysuru,

Above images: The 135-year-old Devaraja Market on Sayyaji Rao Road built in the 1890s is a busy place and is a symbol odf Mysore Royalty and culture of this city.  In June 2019 there was a protest by the tenants of the Devaraja market as the city authorities misinterpreted the HC orders. The court asked the city authorities to explore possibility of preservation of the old structure and its aesthetics. The Heritage Committee already informed the structure of Devaraja market is not weak and strong.So the traders took the cudgels against the mayor for her clarification.  The history of the market goes back to  the 24th Maharajah, Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. Built in indo-saracenic architecture the complex has 800 to 900 shops. The municipal corporation has considered the building unsafe............................

As to the the landmark buildings 129-year-old Lansdowne Building and 137-year-old Devaraja Market in Mysuru why a viable action was taken to restore those structures Urban Development Minister Byrathi Basavaraj in response to questions  said on the floor of the Assembly the outcome would depend on the  report from the Special Heritage Committee as well as final orders of Karnataka High Court.

Lansdowne Building with shops, Mysuru

1892 Lansdowne Building, Mysuru,
Above image: Newly-built Lansdowne Building ready for inauguration in 1892. Gov. Gen. Lansdowne with wife  Lady Lansdowne and his staff visited Mysuru  officially in November 1892. He was the second Viceroy to visit Mysore after rendition -restoration of administrative powers to Chamaraja Wadiyar. Earlier in 1886, Lord Dufferin had visited Mysore. Construction of the Lansdowne Bazaars, a two story structure was built in honor of Lansdowne. Styled after European market, the four-block structure stretching 1050 ft forming shopping boulevard has  three separate staircases for each elevated block to reach the upper level. Spacious covered frontage with steel railing supported ''Chaija'' gives protection from the sun and rain.........................  .

More than a decade the state government and the MCC have not taken the right step over the fate of Lansdowne Building and  Devaraja Market that represent the legacy of the Mysore royal family as well the British Raj with which the royal family had a close rapport and understanding. These wranglings among the government departments coupled with court stays, etc have made the issues more complicated. Quite sickening is the surfacing of conflicting reports, one favouring their demolition and reconstruction in the same style while the other opposing it and supporting their restoration.

The MCC the Mysuru City Corporation and the Heritage Committee expressed their divergent views on the two buildings and there no sign of any reconciliation on either side.  So a  Special Heritage Committee was entrusted with the task of coming up with their view after their studies weather to conserve or demolish them.  In the last one and half years neither the government nor the Heritage committee or the newly formed Heritage committee came up with an acceptable  remedy  to put an end to the stalemate, debate and discussion. Both buildings are wilting under age and are becoming weak as days go by. 

If you go down the memory lane way back to  August 2012, a portion of Lansdowne Building fell down and four people died on the spot. This led to the closure  of the building after vacating the shops. A few years later when the dispute had been on on without any result in sight in the near future  in August 2016, yet another accident took place. This time a portion of the Devaraja Market on Dhanvanthri Road side caved in, fortunately none was hurt. 

In the case of  public accidents, it has been a customary norm for the netas to visit the affected sites and  talk to  the victims. A sort of publicity bonanza.  After the visits they put the blame on the ruling parties and exchange irrational remarks. A few weeks  later netas will forget the mishap and the situation will turn back to zero. In the wake of  accident in the latter case,  two Chief Ministers, Siddharamaiah and H.D. Kumaraswamy  visited the spot and made their presence quite visible across the state. The net result was zilch. 

The onus is on the Mysuru City Corporation (MCC), the Heritage committee to restore the only the present two structures at any cost but also  other heritage sites that face a dismal situation. They should not relegate the old structures to the yellow pages of history.