It was in 2015 that Yaduveer Krishnadatta ‘Chamaraja Wodeyar’ was coronated in a grand, traditional ceremony that took place at Kalyana Mantap in Amba Vilas Palace in Mysuru. The adopted son of Pramoda Devi Wodeyar, Yaduveer has been educated in the US. Following the death of 60-year-old Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, the 23-year-old ‘King’ ascended the throne ‘bhadrasana’ at an auspicious hour in the midst of Vedic chants and slogans.
The new heir isn’t Srikantdatta’s biological son, but a distant nephew, as the former king and his wife, Pramoda Devi Wadiyar, didn’t have any children.
Of course, the Wadiyar dynasty of Karnataka – rulers of the erstwhile Mysuru kingdom – do not run the state or collect taxes today, but besides their royal titles, there another, more intriguing inheritance that they haven’t been able to shed over the generations. The mythical ‘Curse of Alamelamma’ dates back about 400 years and 19 generations, and though it can’t be verified, it does start doing the rounds every time the royal family is without heir – and this is apparently every alternate generation, when the Wadiyars, childless, are forced to adopt an heir or crown a relative.
Legend has it that Alamelemma was the second wife of Tirumalaraja, of the Vijayanagara empire, and was on her way to Talakad to visit the ailing king when Raja Wadiyar attacked Srirangapatna, a part of the empire, and crowned himself king. Alamelamma broke free and escaped with all the royal ornaments in her possession and went on to reside in the adjoining village of Malagi for a while before Wadiyar’s army tracked her down.
She refused to part with anything except a pearl nose ring despite their insistence, and the king’s men, further infuriated, persisted in their attempt in fear of the king’s wrath. At this point, Alamelamma is said to have made a run for it and escaped through the back door, with the king’s men at her heels. She ran like her life depended on it but eventually broke momentum and slowed down as she approached a cliff overlooking the Cauvery. Realising that it was now a matter of handing over the jewels or impending death, she uttered a curse that, translated from Kannada, says, “May Talakadu be deluged in sand, May Malangi become a whirlpool, and may the Mysore kings never beget children.”
She then flung herself off the cliff and plunged into the watery depths of the Cauvery.
The effect of the curse didn’t take much time to manifest itself and on the ninth day of grand Dusshera celebrations that year, the king lost one of his sons. The grieving ruler decided to continue the celebrations but ordered for the erection of a statue of Almelamma as a sign of worship to the woman who had cursed him.
Today, this has become Wadiyar tradition and the royal couple has been devoted to Almelamma since. It is only after paying their respects to her on the ninth day is Vijayadashami or the Dasara finale celebrated. All four of Raja Wadiyar’s sons ended up dying though, and he adopted his nephew Chamaraja Wodeyar V, who succeeded him on the throne. Chamaraja’s son, Raja Wodeyar II, had no offspring and also had to adopt an heir. And thus, every alternate generation of the royal Wadiyar family has since been afflicted with a childlessness that seems to be beyond their control. The temple at Talakad remains inundated in sand no matter how many efforts are made to clear it up and as for Malangi, the place where Alamelamma is said to have jumped to her death, a dangerous whirlpool remains to this day.