Mysuru, more fondly known as the ‘City of Palaces’ doesn’t hold back when it comes to royalty taking the front seat. The grandeur of the palaces, the rich, flavourful Mysore Pak and the city’s inherited legacy have a certain charm. A charm that often makes you wonder if you are missing out on much while living in a metropolitan city. My maiden visit to Mysuru, nothing short of a royal experience, was reminiscent of the bygone days when kingdoms ruled the country. Keen on exploring the city as locals do, I had the chance to take up a heritage walk with Gully Tours and my informative host, Sachin, made sure that he did not miss out on giving me minute details about his city.
When in Mysuru, one can often spot installations and statues within the city, at the railway station as well as the palaces. The secrets of these convoluted knots are Arun Yogiraj’s prized possessions. Mysuru’s modern architect, Arun, comes from a family of sculptors. I had the chance to visit his workshop, also his home, and came back with in-depth knowledge about his art form.
Arun, from his childhood had the chance to witness his father and grandfather work. Arun's grandfather, B. Basavanna Shilpi was a recognised artist of the palace and it is through him that his interest in the art form developed.
Sculpting, an intricate form of art, involves precision, patience and perseverence. According to Arun, if one pays attention, they can carefully spot the differences between the sculpting methods and styles from different states. As I walked through Arun's workshop, I realised that as an art form, sculpting is nothing less of a miracle of deft hands at work.
Arun's grandfather had an exceptional reputation that he passed on to his father. He was a national award winner and earned the praise of not only Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, but also caught the attention of late Prime Minister, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru.
Arun initially led a corporate life, but soon realised his heart and mind were set far away from four-walled structures. He got into sculpting and since then has delivered various works including life-size white marble sculptures of Dr B. R. Ambedkar, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa as well as that of Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar (which was a whopping 14.5 ft).
He uses his grandfather's designs (done on paper at that time) as references. Arun relies equally on marble and granite but sometimes also uses softer stones that are easier to cut into for carving. The time taken by him to complete the sculpture can vary anywhere between two weeks to a month, depending on the size.
His workshop gives way, through a narrow path, to his house which is adorned by a rangoli in white (similar to the designs that can be spotted outside most houses in South India). His house is almost 200 years old. It was initially used as a place for auditions for performers at the Royal Palace. Later it was given to his family and they've been here since.
Arun's latest project in the city have been the statues at the Mysuru Railway station which have garnered attention and appreciation from hundreds of people that pass through every day.
“My father and grandfather wanted to keep alive every stone, their every stroke on furlough made an impression on me," he says. showing various images of his family's work. "I would say that they carved me into a beautiful sculpture. So, my house itself became my first school."