Kengal Hanumanthaiah, a Constituent Assembly member from Mysore, died 37 years ago on 1st December 1980. He was an active Congress party member since his student years.

In the Constituent Assembly he advocated for the autonomy of States and argued against a strong centre. His most popular intervention in the Constituent Assembly was his speech on 17th November 1949, when he remarked : “we wanted the music of Veena or Sitar, but here we have the music of an English band”, expressing his disappointment about the lack of  indigeneity in the Indian Constitution.

After his tenure in the Constituent Assembly, he went on to become the second Chief Minister of Karnataka (erstwhile Mysore State) in 1952. As the Chief Minister of Karnataka his most noteworthy contribution was the building of the Vidhana Soudha, the permanent seat of Karnataka’s legislative assembly and other public offices.

Some historians note that the Indian provinces carefully selected architecture while building a new capital or a legislative assembly to secure statehood on linguistic basis and to further provincial pride. Ramachandra Guha, a historian,  argues that the motivations behind commissioning the Vidhana Soudha was to generate Kannada pride and to make the case for the creation of Mysore State stronger (Ramachandra Guha, ‘India After Gandhi’, Page 199, First Edition).

The plan to build a separate seat for the Karnataka Legislative Assembly was initiated by K.C.Reddy (first Chief Minister of Karnataka) in 1951. As per his plan, Rs. 33 lakhs was allocated to build a simple structure and Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the foundation for this building. But Hanumanthaiah who was became Chief Minister in 1952 wanted to raise a monumental structure in the Dravidian style to counter the colonial remnants in Mysore. He even sought to demolish the Karnataka High Court (also known as ‘Attara Kacheri’) for representing colonial vestige in India but he was denied the requisite permission. 

Hanumanthaiah set up a Committee for the construction of Vidhana Soudha and instructed it on the architecture to be used:

"Power of rule now vests with the people and therefore the design of the House of Legislature should be such as to convey this idea of power and dignity, the style being Indian, particularly of Mysore and not purely Western”.

Image Credits : Wikipedia Commons, (C)2014 {Bikash R Das}


Janaki Nair, a historian, argues that it was the view that India’s encounter with colonialism was a ‘humiliation’ rather than an ‘oppression’ or ‘domination’ that heavily influenced architecture in post-independence Mysore. She provides a popular apocryphal account - Russian delegates on their visit in Bangalore asked Hanumanthaiah, "Have you no architecture of your own? They are all European buildings”. This could have been another motivation for having an indigenous styled seat of legislature in Karnataka.

Read more about Kengal Hanumanthaiah’s biography here.