After the 1880s, Mysore was established as the home of the royal family. Despite its interrupted and uncertain status as a “capital” city, it became the site of an experiment in ornamentalism by the 20th century. It was among the first cities in India to have a City Improvement Trust in 1903, a few years after the Bombay Improvement Trust was set up in 1898. In the Trust’s negotiations with the municipality on the one hand, and the Palace establishment on the other, we see a specific form of material and temporal “ordering” that drew as much on the sovereign power of the monarch — though mediated by an increasingly powerful bureaucracy — as on a creative adaptation of the diverse forces, techniques, and devices more properly associated with “governmentality.” How does the invention of Royal Mysore challenge existing conceptions of the colonial city as a site of modernity?
Janaki Nair, Professor of History, Jawaharlal Nehru University