No fire safety for Mysore Palace
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No fire safety for Mysore Palace

May 20, 2024

The world-famous Mysore Palace, over a century old and attracting lakhs of visitors, surprisingly lacks fire safety measures, raising concerns over the conservation of priceless art, valuables paintings and other paraphernalia associated with the Mysore royal heritage.

Despite the illumination of the Palace with over one lakh incandescent bulbs during Dasara and other occasions, necessary fire safety precautions have not been taken. Even though the Fire and Emergency Services Department has offered to provide fire safety, the Mysore Palace Board and successive State Governments have reportedly shown disinterest by not responding.

The illumination of Mysore Palace began in 1942 during the rule of Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, originally using 30-watt bulbs mounted on teak wood planks. These have since been replaced with 15-watt bulbs supported by a network of power cables.

A spark from a short circuit could quickly ignite the wooden planks, making fire tenders crucial in rapidly extinguishing any flames to prevent a  major disaster.

The Wooden Palace succumbed to fire in 1897, leading to its reconstruction with bricks and cement. However, even today, 20 percent of the Palace structure contains wood, including quality teak used for steps, doors, pillars and more.

In the event of a fire, authorities must call fire tenders from distant stations, increasing response time. With the fire’s rapid spread, there’s an urgent need for permanent fire tender deployment at the Palace. While some fire extinguishers are present, they are insufficient to contain a major  fire quickly.

A fire tender parked in the Mysore Palace premises to extinguish the ATM fire on May 11 – 2017.

Will seek information: Deputy Commissioner

Deputy Commissioner Dr. K.V. Rajendra, who is also the Palace Board Executive Officer, stated that he would seek input from officials regarding any prior correspondence regarding fire emergency services for the Palace. 

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Emphasising the importance of having a permanent fire tender stationed at the Palace to address fire emergencies, he pledged to take appropriate action based on feedback from his subordinates.

Ready to provide fire tenders, staff 24×7 says fire safety officer

District Fire and Emergency Services Officer K.P. Gururaj stated that the Department is prepared to offer fire safety services to the Palace. However, they have not received any proposal from the Palace Board regarding this matter. Once the proposal is accepted, the Department will arrange for the stationing of a fire tender and deploy staff 24×7.

Despite having prepared a comprehensive report outlining necessary measures for Palace fire safety in 2018, the Palace Board responded that there was no provision for constructing a new shelter to station a fire tender within the Palace premises, he said. 

Gururaj highlighted the importance of such arrangements, citing similar provisions at significant Government buildings in Bengaluru like Vidhana Soudha, Vikasa Soudha and the High Court.

Wooden Palace got burnt down in 1897

The history of Mysore Palace dates back to 1799 when it was initially constructed out of wood by Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, who had made Srirangapatna the capital of the Wadiyars.

However, following the destruction of the Srirangapatna Palace by a British official in 1799, Mummadi transported the dismantled wood to Mysuru to build a magnificent Palace at the current site. The cost of building the wooden Palace then amounted to Rs. 7,41,816.

Wooden Palace got burnt down in 1897.

The wedding of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar’s elder sister Jayalakshmammanni with M. Kantharaje Urs took place in this Wooden Palace. An accident occurred during the wedding when a domestic help negligently discarded hot coal, igniting a fire that engulfed the entire Palace. Despite the efforts of fire tenders rushed from Bengaluru, it took three days to extinguish the flames, resulting in extensive damage.

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Following this, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar initiated the construction of a new Palace using bricks and cement at the same location, starting in October 1897. The construction was completed in 1907, with the official ‘Gruha Pravesha’ ceremony taking place on June 5, 1907. However, the full completion of the Palace occurred in 1912, with the total cost amounting to Rs. 41,47,913.

ATM fire on May 11, 2017

The Palace experienced its second fire incident on May 11, 2017, when a fire broke out at the ATM counter located at the entrance gate due to a short circuit.

A fire broke out at the ATM counter located at the entrance gate of Mysore Palace on May 11 – 2017.

By the time fire tenders from the Saraswathipuram fire station arrived, the fire had already engulfed the entire ATM structure, causing significant damage to the architectural and heritage design of the Palace entrance. 

This incident prompted concerns among the public, who felt that having a fire tender stationed at the spot could have mitigated the damage. 

When C. Shikha, serving as the Deputy Commissioner and also holding the position of Palace Board Executive Officer, had initiated efforts to improve fire safety at the Palace. However, progress stalled after her transfer in 2016.

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