Lansdowne building and Devaraja market, Mysuru - two heritage sites facing demolition!!

Crumbling Lansdowne building, Mysore,

Lansdowne building built on November 19, 1892, is an important landmark in the heritage city of Mysore (present name Mysuru), the home of the Wadiyar royal family, once the ruler of Mysore kingdom. The Devaraja Market building is also equally old.   The past Mysore administrators established the commercial space for the benefit of the people. Subsequently, a  new building was constructed  and  named for  Lord Lansdowne, 5th Marquis of Great Britain, in his honor when he visited Mysore in his capacity as  the Viceroy of India (1888–1894)that year.

After the death of Tipu Sultan in 1799 in the final Angelo - Mysore war (one of the leading commanders was Duke Wellington whose troops first entered Tipu's fort through the Cauvery Gate)  at Srirangapatna,  the East India company transferred the state to the Wadiyar royal family from whom Tipu's father Hyder Ali seized the kingdom. The Wadiyars  reigned the kingdom for several centuries prior to Hyder Ali.

Lansdowne building, Mysore,

When Mysore was a powerful and rich princely state, many British  dignitaries  never failed to call on the Maharajah. Further, they had a British Resident officer stationed here to keep an eye on the activities in the kingdom.  The British never wanted to lose their grip on the ruler and the princely state.  After 1858  the Mysore rulers maintained a cordial relation with new government under  the British Crown administration.  As for the Maharajah, to express his gratitude to them,  he  had built many buildings etc.,  and named  after them. In Mysore city, there are places like the Lansdowne buildings, Curzon Park, Dufferin Clock Tower, Albert Victory Road, Irwin Road, Daly Avenue etc. 

Dilapidated Lansdowne builing, Mysore.

Above image; 127 year old  Lansdowne building, Mysore in poor state. In January 2019 the MCC Council approved demolition of Devraja Market (124 year old) and  Lansdowne building (127 year old).  The shop keepers of the market and he Mysuru royal family expressed their strong protest  against the Mysuru City Corporation Council's resolution to demolish the two heritage land marks.  Because of lack of quick action since 2012 the structures are crumbling fast; this being due to red tape and  no maintenance all these years. Demolition  will set a precedent for other old monuments across the country  that need immediate attention. Aesthetics and heritage are an integral part of Mysore city......... .....................

Lord Lansdowne who had held various position in some countries and   powerful political positions in England  came to India as the  Viceroy and Governor-General of India.  He brought about several changes and reforms during his tenure, his handling of Manipur insurgency  was a tough one. As it was his wont, he  also toured many Indian States, including Mysore. His visit was  in November 1892, two years prior to his retirement as the Viceroy of India. Mysore ruler was very particular about honoring Lansdowne, a well-educated man and good administrator. The English man  has many honorific names in countries like Canada (Vancouver, BC), Australia, etc.   The summer hill station Lansdowne Town   in Himachal Pradesh is named after him.The Maharajah  Chamaraja Wadiyar, arranged for a series of celebrations  to welcome him.  The Lansdowne  Bazaar building, close to the Mysore palace built in Gothic style, came up  to coincide with his visit. On his visit Lord Lansdowne profusely heaped  praises on the ruler and his dedicated services to the cause of the people of Mysore. He cited examples such as the Railways, education  and improved irrigation system, etc., in the state.

Viceroy Lord Lansdowne,

Above image:  Lord Henry Charles  Lansdowne,  (born January 14, 1845, London, England—died June 3, 1927) was an Irish nobleman and British diplomat who served as Viceroy of Canada and of India, secretary for war, and foreign secretary. He began his service in India as undersecretary (1880).  He took an active role in the British  Parliament when an  attempt was made by some conservative members to slow the growth of indigenous Indian industry (1891) and a series of political  failures  that largely attributed to the Indian Civil Service's "lack of sympathy for those they ruled.  When Indian nationalism was in full swing as an administrator Lansdowne legitimized the work of the Indian National Congress in an official circular (1890). He said  freedom struggle was an inevitable by-product of British administration.  His  relations with Congress leaders were not always smooth, but Lansdowne never  overstepped on their legitimacy  and faith in India's political advancement. It was Conservative Prime Minister Lord Salisbury who appointed him Viceroy of India.(

Location map, Mysuru.

This shopping complex,  on the Sayyaji Rao road, had  shops and establishments. This one and the Devaraja Market form a huge commercial complex.  One of the oldest shopping complexes in south India,  the structures were in bad shape due to poor upkeep and in 2012, the roof slab in one of the shops caved in. Later, Lansdowne  building was closed and earmarked for demolition by the corporation. Since then it had been in a dilapidated state and needed urgent work to restore it back to old glory. 

Heritage and monuments lovers made protests  not to demolish the building and after a long period of time, decision was taken by the Mysore corporation to focus on restoration of the old  heritage structure that had a leaky roof. Rs.6 crore was allotted for the work - Rs. 3 crore for water-roofing, painting, woodwork, etc., and Rs.3 crore for additional facilities like toilets, drainage work, concreting, etc.

 In the last week of August 2016 when the restoration was on in the midway an arch of Devaraja Market  collapsed. The work was stopped, considering the safety of construction workers.  As the overall structure was in good shape, according to conservation specialist, the idea of demolition of the building at that point (already four people died) was given up for good and much attention  was given to restoration work with quality  construction materials as it was used in the past.  The total restoration cost now according to the heritage committee of the state task force  was around  Rs. 8.8 crore  and the state government had already provided Rs. 2.8 crore. The restoration work began on 11 January 2015 with a ground-breaking ceremony, the progress was very slow.   Sometime back,  Pramoda Devi Wadiyar, wife of the late royal scion Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar in 2018-19 had urged the Corporation to restore the crumbling two heritage structures of Mysuru.  However, the heritage lovers were in a state of shock because in January 2019 the Mysore corporation was in favor of rebuilding market and demolishing the old structures. The buildings can be saved only if the state government comes forward and sets things right so that these two  structures can be saved for the posterity. If demolition is imminent along with the buildings will be lost Mysore city's rich history, legacy  and the link with the former royal rulers.


The following  are some interesting facts about Lansdowne building, Mysore: 

01. This building is named after Lord Lansdowne, then the Gov. General of India. He visited this place in November, 1892

02.  On account of heavy rain, the Viceroy  had to formally inaugurate i the building from  the Jagmohan palace where a luncheon was held in honor for him. The Mysore ruler did not want to see the highest dignitary getting wet on the soil of this city.

03. The construction materials used in the building were bricks,  limestone, wood and iron. It is said 200 girders were used to support the structure.  The walls are thick 350mm and  the roof is Madras terraced 

04.  Prior to it the  building was known as Range Bazaar and it became a major converging point for  freedom fighters of India. There were a few Khadi shops selling Khadi clothes, book shops, etc.  

05. On the first floor  a primary and middle school was  functioning  under the auspices of Sharada Vilas institution.  A major part of the floor was occupied by the school.  

06.  The bazaar was inaccessible to the public  after the roof collapse of a portion of the shopping complex.

07.  Many famous people including the story writer R.K. Narayan, Bendre, Karanth and others used to be  regular visitors. There used to be a few good book stores.

08.  This  historic building had 97 shops on the ground and first floors. It is a big market complex extending up to Dufferin clock tower On Devraja road.