UMass graduate crowned head of 600-year-old Indian kingdom

By Stuart Foster

The Mysore Palace, India (photo - Jim Ankan Deka)
The Mysore Palace, India (photo – Jim Ankan Deka)

Recent University of Massachusetts graduate Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar has become the maharaja, or king, of Mysore, a 600-year-old kingdom in southern India.

Wadiyar, who graduated from UMass in May with a degree in economics, became the maharaja in a two-hour ceremony on May 28.

Wadiyar is the grandnephew of Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, the former maharaja of Mysore. Srikantadatta Wadiyar, who died in December 2013, left no heir to the throne of the Wadiyar dynasty. The 23-year-old, formerly known as Yaduveer Gopalraj Urs, was adopted by Srikantadatta Wadiyar’s widow Pramoda Devi Wadiyar last February to allow the Wadiyar dynasty to continue.

Wadiyar said while he found the decision to become maharaja overwhelming initially, he was quickly able to consider it more clearly.

“Once I was past this initial phase I was able to comprehend and fully understand the various responsibilities of the position,” he said. “I didn’t have to anticipate taking up the responsibility until very recently.”

He said he feels he is adapting well to his new position, but his modern education did not prepare him for many of the subject matters necessary for a maharaja to understand.

Wadiyar cited Indian religious scriptures and elements of Vedic philosophy, which are “uncharted territory” for him, as extremely important subject matters to a maharaja’s responsibility.
While many of his goals as king are traditional, he expressed an interest in sustainability as well.

“The areas I would like to focus on are cultural tourism, heritage protection, development and understanding of Indian spirituality and most importantly environment related initiatives,” he said.

While the Wadiyar dynasty lost their official and legal powers with India’s independence, they still hold significant cultural influence within the kingdom of Mysore. Wadiyar said that he is responsible for handling daily rituals and customs, in addition to managing annual festivals as part of Mysore’s culture.

“Additionally, one has to look after the affairs of the family, including hospitality, education and other trusts,” he added, referring to the holdings of the Wadiyar family.

Wadiyar has also been thrust into a legal dispute with the government of Karnataka, the Indian state where Mysore is located. Karnataka wishes to acquire many palace properties currently owned by the Wadiyar family.

“I am aware of the legal proceedings and the issues pertaining to the dispute,” said Wadiyar. “We will pursue the matter within the legal framework available to us.”

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster.