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The Maverick Maharaja : The Life and Times of His Highness Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar Hardcover – 20 July 2022

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About the Author

DR DEEPTI NAVARATNA is a musician-neuroscientist whose interests span the arts, science and history. She is a Chevening Clore Fellow (2021–22) and is recognized as one of the most dynamic cultural leaders across the globe. She is the first Indian woman to have performed at the Parliament of World Religions in 2021. Until recently, she served as the Regional Director, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. Read more about the author at:

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins India (20 July 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 316 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9354892442
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9354892448
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 500 g
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 20.3 x 25.4 x 4.7 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.1 out of 5 stars 10 ratings

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Reviewed in India 🇮🇳 on 29 August 2022
न हि ज्ञानेन सदृशं पवित्रमिह विद्यते ।
तत्स्वयं योगसंसिद्धः कालेनात्मनि विन्दति ॥ ४-३८॥ (Bhagavad Gita)
There certainly is no purifier in the world like knowledge. Who is himself/herself perfected in Yoga(divinity) finds it due course of time.

The Upanishads and Indian philosophy often refer to the lower Apara Vidya(the finite world of the senses) and the higher Para vidya(transcendental) as bifurcations of the knowledge spectrum.

In the 'Maverick Maharaja', Dr. Deepti Navaratna has brought forth the life of a polymath Maharaja who traversed this divide with aplomb. Herself a multifaceted personality who traverses the spheres of music, science and literature with ease, she writes with a rare empathy that allows the personality of Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar to come alive in our imagination with all the pathos and tumultuous experiences that constitute his life story.

Ideal kings such as Janaka also form part of our Puranic lore as well as the Western construct of Plato's 'philosopher-king'. However the mundane and the trivial constitute a large part of our lived experience. Accounts of the Maharajas of India are largely characterized by debauchery or extreme valour, both notable for their extremes. However the Mysore Maharaja veers more towards the Gita ideal of 'Sthitaprajna'(equanamity).

Of all the 580-584 princely states that formed part of the Indian landscape before independence, Mysore with its emphasis and encouragement of Sanskrit, pioneering Yoga gurus such as Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and technical education under the renowned engineer and Dewan M. Visvesvaraya edged closer to the 'Shuddha Sattva' ideal than any other. Unfortunately, present-day democracy has foisted a 'rajasic' worldview on India that has in many places deteriorated into a 'tamasic' descent into 'hellish' realms.

The insightful 'Dewans of Mysore' by D.V Gundappa and the autobiography of the great Kannada writer S.L Bhyrappa(Bhitti) that I've read recently primed me to appreciate Dr. Navaratna's work more as I had some idea of the landscape of what constituted the predecessor of present-day Karnataka.

Other memoirs or biographies like Maharani Gayatri Devi's 'A Princess Remembers', the raunchier and interminably long take on the House of Travancore(The Ivory Throne) by Manu Pillai and the outright ribald 'Maharaja' by Jarmani Dass Diwan also give a fair idea of the relations between the British Empire and the rulers of the princely states.

Spread over '15' chapters, the author tells us a succinct but engaging tale of a king who was equally at home with the symphonic heights of Western classical music as he was with the deeply abstruse intellectual gymnastics of spiritually exalted Samskritam and devotional 'kritis' of Carnatic music.

The author warns us against 'cultural' jingoism and reveals that the 'Maverick' Maharaja JC Wadiyar was of a similar 'bent' always insisting on a 'sane' appreciation of the 'merits' of all traditions while maintaining a reverence and pride for one's own.

Particularly liked her 'deep dive' into the symbolism of the Gandabherunda, the 'official' emblem of the State of Mysore and later Karnataka. Mindfulness in the present and the past, blurring binaries of space and time, the mortal and the immortal the bird is like a 'mystical' overseer of existence.

As the author is an accomplished musician as well, I believe some of the passages in this 'book' are very poetic and lyrical, evoking a 'dreamy' langour that form one of the pleasures of reading in my opinion.

The Maharaja's 'reign' is in the twilight years and the eventual 'sunset' of the Empire, that oversaw the most tumultous years in recent Indian history, along with the brutal partition and its 'rivers' of blood.

Mysore was among the first states to sign the 'Instrument of Accession' to the Indian Union, and the Maharaja comes across as quite adept in dealing with both the British overlords and the Congress leaders who succeeded them.

Of particular note is the setting up of various research institutions such as the Raman Research Institute, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, National Tuberculosis Institute and the Central Food Research Institure under the patronage of the Maharaja.

The author is 'enamoured' of the subject and the book does read like a 'hagiography' at times, but I was glad to read about a erudite, intellectual king who defied the neo-colonial, socialist stereotype in my mind of a 'flagrant' royal.

The legendary 'generosity of Indian kings from Prithviraj Chauhan to the last king of the Vijayanagara Empire, Ramaraya also resonates in JC Wadiyar's story, with his 'remarkable' generosity to the preservation of 'Western Classical Music' at a time when most Indian princes were grappling with an abyss of changing realities as the country became a democratic republic.

He is equally generous with Indic causes, such as the promotion of 'Samskritam' and the translation of the 'Rig-Vedic' Samhita into Kannada.

As the first president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad apart from cofounding it(as per the author) along with Swami Chinmayananda et al, apart from building a few temples in Mysuru, the king actively discharged his 'rajadharma' along with all his more 'material' engagements.

'The Maverick Manodharma' chapter at the end is where the author gives us a delightful insight into the intractable, enigmatic wonderland of the creative mind. In Indian tradition, the revered Goddess of knowledge and the arts gives freely to the rasika or the 'suhrida' much like the bountiful earth, our blue planet.

The author attempts to describe the maverick mindset with gems like life's mystical energies speaking through the aesthete to produce work that remains unboxed, fresh, standalone, and untarnished.

As she mentions, in today's IT parlance, every person is a product of his/her genes, context, education and life experiences that determine their 'Operating System' which can be either closed or open source. Personally, I particularly like the contribution of Bengaluru and old Mysore state in the Indian republic's scientific, technical and space trajectories.

The Maharaja's diverse interests stemmed from his manodharma, a student of knowledge who seeked to construct a worldview based on his experience and equanimity of not trying to reinvent the wheel.

He had king-sized proclivities in everything, including tackling huge texts, difficult metres in Sanskrit prosody and Raagas in Indian classical music, as well as the intellectual rigour of Western classical music.

Encouraging development projects as well as sportsmen including Ramanathan Krishnan and EAS Prasanna reflected a holistic world view. Knowledge for its own sake in my opinion is a worthy trait to imbibe from Maharaja Jayachamrajendra Wadiyar's story.

To sum up, the beautiful embroidered words of the narrative left me with an effervescent 'afterglow' of a wise, intellectual Indian 'Happy Prince' who transcended the Cartesian construct of 'Cogito, Ergo, Sum' to the 'aparoksha anubhuti' of Vedanta in a remarkable, relatively hitherto 'unsung' lifetime. Certainly worth a read.
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