The drive from Bangalore to Mysore would be at best, 3 hours plus. That's assuming one isn't driving at break-neck speed, which regrettably, many do. It's a reasonably good road except for pockets here and there, one passes through very green and fertile land on either side. Take a break and enjoy some tender coconut water from the many roadside vendors one comes across along this stretch. You'll be glad you did, because, as you enter Mysore city, it's hot, humid and pretty dusty, just like any other small city in India.
But all that's soon forgotten, when you start your trips to various places of interest and Mysore - also called the "Sandalwood City" - has plenty to offer. It's rich in heritage, see some exquisite architecture, walk around those beautiful and expansive gardens and shop for various handicrafts from silk to sandalwood.
The Mysore Palace
In the heart of the city, not too far away from the crowded bus stand, stands this majestic palace, built in the Indo-Saracen style and once the home of the Maharajahs who ruled this princely state. It's innumerable domes, painstakingly carved arches, massive columns and the sprawling courtyard; the palace stands tall and is a magnificent sight indeed. The main durbar is a spectacular hall with a stained glass ceiling, artistically carved wooden doors, mirrors reflecting all around and fine flooring of elegantly patterned mosaic.
The palace today, is a museum and an art gallery. Colourful paintings and murals depicting the ancestors of the Maharajas, tracing the history of olden days, artifacts and other personal articles belonging to rulers of the Mysore kingdom can be found here. Don't miss the fabulous paintings of Raja Ravi Verma housed in a big hall at the palace.
The Wodeyar dynasty ruled here for well over five centuries and it is to their credit that Mysore has attained a significant place in history and legend. Though the pomp and grandeur of the erstwhile rulers is now a thing of the past, till this day, glimpses of this can be seen during the 10-day Dasera celebrations, when the whole city is spruced and lit up for the "Navarathri" festival, as it's religiously know.
On this hill, not too far away from the city, is the oldest temple of Chamundi that dates back to the 13th century. Legend has it that the goddess Chamundi - the consort of Shiva - destroyed the demon Mahishasura atop this hill and brought about peace and tranquility to the people. The conical temple structure is particularly striking because of the fine carvings all around and reaching up to the sky is the gold-topped gopuram, with the reflecting sunlight adding magnificence to the temple.
Once, there was a time when most Hindi or regional language films made in this country had a dance sequence shot in these gardens. As if it was mandatory. Thankfully now with a ban on movies being shot here, one can enjoy the scenic beauty of the gardens in real life than on celluloid.
It all started with the construction of the Krishnarajasagar dam across the river Cauvery, during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar. As the sun sets behind the mountains on the western side, its orange reflections on the lake is a very absorbing sight.
On the other side of the dam lie the Brindavan Gardens. Vast expanses of well laid out lawns, bright, colourful flowers and fountains surround the small lake that has a musical fountain in its midst. At 7.00 p.m each night, the lights are switched on and once the "oohs" and "ahs" from the visitors have subsided you are witness to a spectacle that even fairy tale writers would find hard to describe.
History books record this name as "Seringapatnam", (situated just 20 kms from Mysore) which was once the capital of Mysore during the rule of Hyder Ali, a soldier of extraordinary genius and courage. Hyder Ali hated the British and after his death in December 1782, it appeared to have given the British some advantage. Regrettably, this was not to be. For there was a new "Tiger of Mysore" on the scene - Tipu Sultan, who seemed to have inherited from his father this hatred over the English. Tipu, who had fought some of the wars along with his father, became an even bigger thorn in the British flesh. However, despite a treaty with the French, who were contributing to the military action against the British and keeping Tipu's hopes alive, the fourth and last Anglo-Mysore in 1799 was decisive. In a war that was ruthless, Tipu Sultan fell fighting in his capital, Seringapatnam.
Here - in now called Srirangapatna - is Daria Daulat Bagh built of wood and often referred to as Tipu's Summer Palace. Inside here, one can see paintings of war scenes of some famous battles fought in these parts. Nearby is the fort where Tipu eventually fell, albeit, in ruins. And not too far, is the Gumbaz, where lie the bodies of Hyder Ali, his wife and Tipu Sultan. For sheer historical reasons, these monuments are worth the visit, though there isn't much to see otherwise.
Other places of interest in Mysore
The Jagan Mohan Art Gallery is housed in one part of the palace itself and here one can see some spectacular paintings, which have been well preserved.
The Latitha Mahal Palace is situated towards the east of Mysore city and can this magnificent, white palace can be spotted on the way to Chamundi Hills. This palace was the summer sojourn of the Maharajahs and has now been converted to a star hotel.
The Mysore Zoo is another favourite halt for tourists, who come here to see some fine species of animals like the tiger, lion, elephants, reptiles, etc. This well-maintained zoo is a brainchild of the Maharajah of Mysore.
You cannot miss this tall structure of St. Philomena's Church, especially if you are driving into Mysore from Bangalore. The architectural beauty of this church with the tall steeple is worth a visit and in the underground chamber of the church is a beautiful image of Philomena.
The famous Nandi, built from a single black rock. This monolithic figure of the bull is a place of worship and is situated on Chamundi Hill.
|Karnataka Tourism can do lot more|
Karnataka State is so full of history that tourism potential could be exploited to the hilt. Unfortunately, this is not the case. None of these tourist stops in Mysore or Srirangapatna have even a brochure or a booklet available that would serve as some sort of detailed guide to their history and culture. This is something any tourist would wish to have and infact, essential when they visit these spots. The roads that lead to the Brindavan Gardens are miserable. Also, no signboards could be seen guiding you to the gardens from Mysore city. One has to resort to stopping frequently asking for directions.
The Government of Karnataka needs to address itself to this problem of promoting tourism in the State more aggressively. As of now, it's a pretty average job that's being done. There are more touts, roadside vendors and unscrupulous agents on the prowl in these places targeting the tourists, especially the foreigners, with the specific objective being to fleece them. Significantly, a government-controlled system is nowhere to be seen.