Devaraja Market and Lansdowne buildings: ‘To be or not to be’ dilemma faced by the authorities
Abracadabra By K. B. Ganapathy, Columns

Devaraja Market and Lansdowne buildings: ‘To be or not to be’ dilemma faced by the authorities

April 28, 2022

The Mysuru District Heritage Committee presided over by its Chairman Dr. Bagadi Gautham, who is also the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Mysuru, took a very special and important decision in its meeting held on 14th of this month. The decision was to demolish over a hundred-year-old Devaraja Market building and the Lansdowne building, considered heritage buildings but in a highly dilapidated and collapsible condition.

It was decided that after demolition these two buildings would be constructed anew, keeping its architectural features. Many of those who have been following these two ‘sick’ buildings that were in ‘death beds’ for over a decade, expressed their countenance to this most realistic and even futuristic decision. After all, the authorities need not worry about these reconstructed buildings for another 100 years if the tenants therein co-operated in maintaining these buildings. Let it be.

Surprisingly, when this news came out in the newspapers, for some vested interest groups it was as if the hell had broken loose and come down. They wanted these buildings to be repaired and restored as heritage buildings and conserved as such.

While many have expressed their opinions for and against this decision, one Nagendra of Vidyaranyapuram has made a very pertinent point in response  to those who wanted restoration of these two buildings; not demolition and reconstruction.

According to him, he has no objection for preserving these two buildings as                                                             heritage buildings but on one condition — these two buildings should be preserved after conservation by heritage experts only as monuments for tourists to see but should not be given back to the shop-keepers and tenants for commercial purpose.

Imagine what would happen if the building collapses and disaster takes place like it happened earlier during monsoon taking away four lives. In such an eventuality, there is a risk not only for the shop-keepers but also to the customers who go there. They may lose their lives or break their bones.

The fact that a part of the Devaraja Market building had collapsed after some conservation work was done, as per the advise of the consultants on heritage building conservation, is proof that there is no guarantee the same tragedy will not happen if the building is repaired and restored.

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After all, some Civil Engineers say the building is beyond repair and restoration considering the materials used those days for constructing these buildings.

By the way, after these buildings are renovated or repaired and allowed to remain as monuments for the tourists, would the tourists (who have seen the world) find anything extraordinary aesthetically to wonder and admire? Then, will it not amount to our City Corporation denying its tax-payers the most important infrastructural facility in the heart of the city? Time to ponder over this question also.

Already, Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar of the Mysore Royal family has joined those who were protesting against the decision of the Mysuru District Heritage Committee. Majority of those who were in the protest meeting were those who are the owners and tenants of the shops therein. They had even closed the market for half-a-day from morning till 2 pm in the afternoon.

Added to this, the Mysore Royal family has in great flourish said that if the Government permits, they would repair these two buildings preserving their heritage character.

In that protest meeting it was also said, if it was the way the Mysuru District Heritage Committee took the decision regarding the heritage buildings, then one day in the future, even the Mysore Palace might be demolished.

Public memory could be short as they say. But, let it not be forgotten that there is some truth in the saying ‘Time and tide wait for no man.’ As I remember, some years back, an IAS Officer, I think, of the Archaeological Department had declared that the public Durbar Hall of the Palace where music programmes used to be held with hundreds of people seated on either side of the main stage, that the Durbar Hall cannot take the weight of so many people as its flooring is structurally weak due to age. Much discussions were held about this IAS Officer’s opinion. However, finally, the authorities accepted the opinion of the IAS Officer and stopped holding the music concerts from this venue. What does it suggest?

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The same fate is facing the Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion in Manasagangothri. This building was constructed in 1910. Due to reasons of non-maintenance, the Mansion became dilapidated and was in the danger of collapse. When this condition of the heritage building was brought to the notice of Sudha Murty, the then Chairperson of Infosys Foundation, she pumped in a few crores for its restoration in the year 2004-05. Sadly, the building has returned to its pre-restoration condition now and the Government is likely to spend some more crores to restore this building as it wants to shift the Classical Kannada Language Centre to this Mansion. Wonder how long this patch-work business will last, GOK.

Be that as it may, talking about Devaraja Market and Lansdowne buildings, the authorities should give up the mindset of the Prince of Denmark in Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet’  — “To be, or not to be, that is the question.”

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2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Devaraja Market and Lansdowne buildings: ‘To be or not to be’ dilemma faced by the authorities”

  1. Mann Ki Baat! says:

    ” After all, the authorities need not worry about these reconstructed buildings for another 100 years if the tenants therein co-operated in maintaining these buildings. Let it be”
    Mr Ganapathy must be living in another planet to claim that any reconstructed building or any building built to day in Mysore, with the poor quality material and workmanship- one could see a number of examples around, would last for another 100 years!! Anyway, it will be a good opportunity for the 40% brigade of politicians and ministers to line their pockets in

  2. Gautam says:

    Mr Ganapathy according to his anecdotes arrived to settle in Mysore in 1977, claiming that it was a pensioners ‘paradise, stuff and nonsense, as it was a a city of professionals who were working, and all y relatives including my parents were not retirees. By then, the city had extended beyond Yadavagiri, new housing extensions at the foot of Chamundi Hill and elsewhere came up very fast, the population had already doubled. 2-wheeler scooters and cars were on the road in large numbers every where.
    Devaraja Market and Lansdowne shops priced themselves out by 1977, as many street markets emerged in the newer extensions, selling fresh fruits and vegetables, and the Devavaraja Market location was no longer at the centre of this expanding city; the shop owners in Lansdowne building including my tailor retired by that time, the shops got closed. The newer businesses wanted larger spaces, and more parking spaces.
    So, Mr Ganapthy had not experienced the thrill of sipping the ice-cold soft drink from the cool-drink shop, whose owner prepared quality soft drinks hygienically for his regular customers, who he knew by their names. The seats were nicely arranged , not impeding the pedestrians on the footpath there.
    Mr Ganapthy,had no opportunity to buy first/ second hand books, like Murthy’s, who knew every engineering and medical student, and gave them new books on year-lease ,helping their education; Neither Mr Ganapathy ,had the experience of buying textbooks for children in the Devaraja market front book shops, whose owners knew what years your children were studying and had already ordered the books expecting you to arrive. Nor, Mr Ganapathy had the experiencing of strolling through the fruit and vegetable shops inside the Devaraja Market, whose owners knew you as regular customer/often as a high school class mate. Choice mangos resulted! This Devaraja Market was more than a shopping centre. It was the place where you met your high school teacher of yester years, a friend who you have not seen for years etc.- More of a social gathering place..
    The above experience were unique to Devaraja market and Lansdowne building, and their heritage made them special.
    One cannot demolish icons-after not serious effort was made to renovate them, and then rebuild it claiming that it was the building with the heritage! The buildings NOT the ground on which it stands is of heritage value.
    Time to bring in UNESCO experts, who have the experiencing of restoration of heritage structures-not the civil engineering contractors in Mysore, who cannot build a building that can last 2 decades, without massive repairs in the interim years! Pramodoa Devi Wadiyar is rightly exercised about the decision by the DC and his committee , who are merely the puppets of the Basavaraj Bommai government.
    Why bother with reconstruction of buildings, which will never be the same, certainly will not last for 3 decades,? Just demolish them,, build muliti-story car parks for the likes of Mr Ganapathy’s Mercedes, and many other audis, porsches, and even lamborghinis and maseratis that the Keralite Gulf states-based crime gangs can bring ( they are targeting Mysore and one can see masses of Keralites buying properties/constructing them already) thanks to their thriving smuggling business , with expanded Mysore airport, helping to serve their businesses in Greater Mysore

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