Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV – A Saintly King


Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. Photograph during childhood (1895), Portrait painting in 1906, Photograph during 1930s.

If Karnataka is today considered as a pioneer in software industry & Knowledge hub, part of the credit must go to Maharaja Krishna Raja Wodeyar IV.
Born in 1884, he lost his father when he was just 11 years old. His mother ruled the state till he attained the age of majority in 1902 which heralded a new era for the erstwhile state of Mysore. He wasted no time in triggering a slew of reforms with emphasis on education & industrialization.

One of the most admired qualities of the Maharaja was his art of delegation which was rarity among leaders those days, but it is now recognized as one of the top lessons in management. With the interests of the state in mind, he would put all the necessary efforts into understanding a project and identify the right person who had relevant qualities & qualifications for that project. He would then delegate the project to that person and give him complete freedom (and necessary motivation as well without interfering in the job) to carry out the project. For example, when Sir M Visvesvaraya (Sir MV) was serving as engineer for British India, it was Maharaja Krishna Raja Wodeyar who pursuaded Sir MV to quit his job and offered him the post of Dewan of Mysore (Prime Minister) and give him complete authority to carry out large scale projects including infractructure, industrial, banking & more. Similarly, he identified the right people for promoting Yoga, Music, Arts, Education, Infrastructure and delegated such projects to them.

More about Sir MV:

His public service was applauded across the globe and mentioned in international magazines as well. For example, the following excerpt from an American magazine issue dated 1908 says “Mysore is spending on education more than three times as much per capita as is British India“.

Education, Industry, Music, Fine Arts, Indian culture & heritage were some of the fields which were given high imporatance during his rule. Lets look into each one briefly.

Education: When Jamshetji Tata expressed his interest in establishing a high tech institute, Maharaja Krishna Raja Wodeyar wasted no time and generously donated 400 acres of lush green land (near the newly formed Malleshwaram, Bangalore) for the project. That was how IISc (Indian Institute of Science) was established in 1909. The Maharaja was instrumental in starting Mysore University, which was the first ever university in India outside the scope of British administration. Sir MV, under the auspices of Maharaja of Mysore was instrumental in establishing several new educational institutes including engineering colleges & polytechnics.


IISc Campus, Bangalore.

Infrastructure: The Maharaja of Mysore was one of the few visionaries of early 20th century who had realized the significance and long term economic impact of infrastructure & tourism projects. The KRS dam built by Sir MV under the auspices of the Maharaja resulted in irrigation of vast tracts of land and also helped Mandya turn into “Sugar city” by enabling sugarcane cultivation & industries (built by Sir MV) for processing sugar. Since the Maharaja knew the importance of tourism, he was able to turn even an infrastructure project like a dam into tourism destination by commissioning large & beautiful parks (Brindavan Gardens) with fountains & recreational activities near the KRS dam to attract tourists.

When it came to building a Palace for himself, he commissioned some of the best engineers & architects to build one of the grandest palaces in India and promoted it as a tourist destination. Even travelers from Europe during the British era had recounted the splendid glory of the palace (and the city in general) during Dasara celebrations which had actually helped the state generate revenues and provided livelihood to thousands of locals through hotel industry for tourist accommodation along with cottage industries including handicrafts, silk, sandalwood etc producing goods & wares which were adored (and purchased) by tourists, adding to the economy & prosperity. Even today, Mysore Palace is one of the top tourist destinations in the world and in the recently released New York Times list of highly recommended tourist destinations, Mysore has been featured among top 5 in the world for consecutive years.

Apart from tourism, there was emphasis towards modernization of infrastructure as well which included laying of concrete roads for arterial routes, upgradation of railways, Shivanasamudra hydroelectric project, electrification of cities. In fact, Bangalore become the first city in India to get electricity (in 1905).

Industry:Industrialize or Perish ”  was the call given by Sir MV, under Maharaja’s rule. Several industries catering to most of the needs & requirements of the state were developed to turn it into a self-sufficient & prosperous state. Some examples include Mysore Bank, Mysore Silk, Mysore Lamps, Mysore paper mills, Mysore chemicals, Mysore soaps, Mysore paints and more. Not just in Mysore but industries were setup even in other parts of the state. For example, the Iron & Steel factory at Bhadravati and also the Maharaja was instrumental in setting up advanced industries like HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited), Bangalore for aviation.

Fine Arts, Culture & Heritage: Himself being a connoisseur of Carnatic & Hindustani music, the Maharaja ensured that the state flourished with hundreds of great composers and some of them went on to the international stage. In Yoga, the Maharaja promoted Sri T.Krishnamacharya who in turn taught Yoga to BKS Iyengar & Pattabhi Jois who are now considered as the foremost Yoga teachers in the world. Sanskrit language & literature was also encouraged during that time.


Due to these reasons, his reign is often described as the ‘Golden age of Mysore’. His state was considered as the role model state and was often a subject of study for other administrators who used to visit Mysore to study his system of administration & try to implement in their respective states.

Some testimonials from around the world:

“Mysore is the best administered state in the world” – Lord Sankey.

“Krishna Raja Wodeyar is a Rajarishi (saintly king) & his state is Rama Rajya (ideal kingdom)” – Mahatma Gandhi.

“One felt that he was giving to society not more than a fraction of himself” – Dr. S. Radhakrishnan.

“Krishna Raja has rescued philosophy from those who would make it a mere refuge from disappointment, and converted it into a dynamic inspiration to higher action for service” – Paul Brunton (Philosopher & Traveler).

He ruled the state till his death in 1940, after which Jayachamraja Wodeyar took over and continued ruling with the same spirit as that of Krishna Raja for the next 10 years till he signed the accession papers to accede to Independent India. It was because of such service to society, the people of Mysore hold the Maharaja with high regard and even today, is worshiped in households. In fact, due to public demand, the Maharaja of Mysore was the only Prince (among the 565 Princes in total) in India to be given the post of Governor for a State in Independent India.

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