This is my compilation contributed for Star of Mysore and published on 21st October, 2004.
The information was gathered from various sources and the picture below is from a book borrowed from the Curator of Jagan Mohan Palace, Dr.Narasimha Iyengar.
MAHARANI KEMPANANJAMMANNI OF VANI VILASA SANNIDHANA
The name of 'Sri Vani Vilasa' is to Mysore what Queen Victoria is to the British. Maharani Kempananjammanni of Vani Vilasa Sannidhana [in full] occupies as high a place as any in the annals of Mysore history. Her contributions to the citizenry, in her roles of Maharani-regent and as mother of Nalwadi Krishnarajendra Wadiyar, one of the most illustrious rulers of our country, stand aloft. She was considered as a rare gem in our erstwhile princely state.
Kempananjammanni was born in 1866 to Narase Urs and Kempananjammanni [same name] of Kalale. When she was five, an efficient teacher was engaged to educate her on Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavatha. She was a brilliant girl with amazing gifts of sharp memory and grasping power. People adored her unique skill of memorization of stories on Sita, Savitri, Draupadi, Damayanti and Ahalya and also for her remarkable qualities like patriotism, humility, nobility, kindness, affection and generosity.
When Kempananjammanni was 12 years old, her mother decided to get her married. Since Narase Urs was known to the Royal family and also that her fine prowess had reached their attention, a proposal was made for the young Maharaja Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar. Both parties agreed.
The Palace was in debts due to drought in Mysore at the time, 1878. But it was decided to proceed with the marriage in spite of the prevailing conditions. As it so happened, the rain-god rescued the situation with a great bounty just a couple of days before the royal wedding which took place on 26.5.1878 and appeased everybody.
In 1881, the famous Rendition of Mysore was carried out and the British handed over the rule back to the natural prince [Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar was now 18], after 50 years. In 1884, Nalwadi Krishnarajendra Wadiyar was born to the royal couple. In quick succession, they also had another son in Kanteerava Narasimharaja Wadiyar and three daughters.
Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar, on one of his annual visits to Calcutta in 1894 [to the Court of Viceroy who resided there], developed diphtheria and died there, thus abruptly cutting short, a promising reign that lasted only 13 years. He was just 32 and had already left his mark as an excellent leader. His death suddenly created a void as prince Krishnarajendra Wadiyar IV was still in minority. The unexpected tragedy was regarded as a great national misfortune throughout India and was deplored by the British Government as an Imperial loss. The royal family plunged into great sorrow and the citizens felt orphaned. Such was his stature.
The burden fell on Maharani Kempananjammanni. It was here all her sterling, divine qualities came to the fore, as she courageously stepped forward to play her beloved husband's responsible role in such a crisis. She was nominated as Maharani-regent, a post this saviour faire held for eight tough years [1895-1902] and served the people with great aplomb, dignity, devotion, discipline and distinction. She earned the respect of one and all for the fabulous way she held fort.
It was fortunate that the services of such great intellects as Diwan Sir K.Seshadri Aiyar was on hand at that time. His excellent guidance to the Regent helped Mysore recover from slump. Progress in all fields resulted from their efficient administration and beatified the entire citizenry. To mention a few, generation of electricity from river Cauvery, construction of Mari valley anicut, construction of the new Palace [after a fire tragedy], extension of new localities in Mysore, water supply through pipes and laying of foundation stone of Victoria Hospital in Bangalore were enough testimony. Also, the Maharani-regent's concern for mankind shone like a diamond.
Maharani Kempananjamanni was a great believer in women's education and under her patronage Maharani's College got all its due attention. She was a staunch follower of Hinduism, but respected all faiths equally.
When her son Nalwadi Krishnarajendra Wadiyar came of age, it was time for her to retire. On 8.8.1902, he ascended the throne that marked the end of a memorable regency and the beginning of what was to become Mysore's 'golden era', an era that came to be known by the encomium 'Ramarajya'. All her exemplary qualities that had been imbibed on the young prince was in full glow during his long reign of 38 years hence. That he was reckoned as a 'Rajarishi' was ample proof. In recognition of her fine regency, the British Government awarded her with a 'C.I.'. She continued to share her wisdom till the end.
After a brief illness, 69-year old Maharani Kempananjammanni died on Saturday midnight, 7th July 1934 [ekadashi, uttarayana], believed to be an auspicious and rare moment. It is said that the end comes at such moments only to great persons, of purity, calibre and stature.
For a girl born in a poor family and achieving what she did in a most praiseworthy manner, considering Mysore's predicament in that period speaks for itself, her greatness, which few have equaled. Rao Bahadur R.Narasimhachar, paying tributes had said, "…there are three jewels in Mysore's history, who have struggled for the country's good. Maharani Lakshamanni, Sri Sitavilasa Sannidhana and Sri Vani Vilasa Sannidhana. She was not only a mother to Nalwadi Krishnarajendra Wadiyar, but also to all the citizens. For the contributions they have made, their names deserve to be written in golden letters…"
Prefixing 'Vani Vilasa' to a Mohalla[locality], Water Works, Maternity Hospital, Girls High School, Bridge, Ladies Club and a Road [now mercilessly being attempted to superimpose with that of *Mahatma Gandhi's name] is a privilege Mysoreans [and ruling netas] are fortunate to have. We must never ever forget the invaluable role of this "Mahamatrushri" to our city. Such a name has to linger for ever!
* Vani Vilasa Road got back its name and Mahatma Gandhi's name was removed following a strong objection from esp. the Ursu families. Rightly! It is Vani Vilasa Road from Law Courts up to Old Agrahara and its extension that passes near Lalith Mahal Palace [eastwards] got the name of Mahatma Gandhi. I'm proud to be a resident on 'VV' Road. There are numerous accomplishments during her reign, but just a few have been mentioned above.