The name sounds royal and so is the city. Located in the south Indian state of Karnataka, Mysore is the third largest city of the state. It was the royal seat for nearly six centuries from 1399 until 1947.Mysore owes its rich culture and heritage to the rule of the “wodeyars”who made significant contributions to the cultural growth of the city. Now the third largest city of Karnataka, Mysore is considered to be the cultural capital of the state. Along with tourism, as the most per capita income generating sector, information technology has also rooted itself deeply in the state.
Traditionally, it has been a home to sandalwood fragrances, weaves, carving bronze and commercial production of lime and salt. The city mainly thrives on tourism and attracted about 3.15 million tourists in 2010. The numbers are growing day by day. The most notable of the many events that keep happening in the city is the period of “Dasara”, which is called “Mahanavami “in the local language. An Indian festival celebrating the triumph of truth over evil, the demon with ten heads, representing the ten forms of evil, is burned in a pyre of fire. This is when the city, for a period of ten days, is decorated for every nook and corner, and so all is very busy and crowded throughout.
When To Go:
Catch a local bus or a train through the interstate connections, and you can enjoy a scenic stretch of the state. With a typical savanna climate, there are three distinct weather classifications. The summer is from March to June followed by the monsoons which end in November. The winter can be enjoyed from December to February every year.
The highest temperature to be ever recorded in Mysore was 38.5 degrees Celsius and the lowest it has ever dipped to is 7.7 degrees Celsius. You are welcomed in Mysore at any time of the year but the major tourist footfall happens during summers and winters. Tourists do generally avoid the Monsoons, due to the rainfall which hinders many sightseeing tours and caravans. Mysore also has a domestic airport attributed to it. So unless not urgent, a relaxed travel on road is suggested. Not only does it let you enjoy the state as a whole but the routes which pass through the rural areas give you a taste of the suburban South India.
These are the top
things to do
while in Mysore…
The Dasara Procession
Initiated by the Wodeyars, this custom is still being followed today. The royal sword is first purified and then worshipped by the Religious heads of the community. Then a procession is carried out on the ninth day of the ten day long celebrations. Carried on decorated elephants, horses and camels, this procession is repeated on the tenth day with the idol of Goddess Chamudeshwari being honorably led on decorated caravans of horses and elephants. There are dance troupes and music bands that lend voice to the devotion of the devotees. These festivities culminate on the night of the tenth day with a torch parade which is commonly called the “Panjina Kavayatthu”.
This procession, though started by the royals, is still in practice. Maximum numbers of tourists try to catch a glimpse of this procession of the ten day celebration which falls in the months of September and October every year. It is not the idols which garner the attention, but the dedication and the devotion that follows it, which makes it a world class event. Every detail about the decorations, the music, and the safety of the people is a huge task, which is accomplished successfully year after year.
KrishnaRaja sagar Dam
Falling at a short distance from the main city, spending an evening here is a delight. The light and sound fountain dance which is planned every evening in the nearby Brindavana Gardens is a soulful dance of water. Though the gardens were initially built to increase the aesthetic sense of the dam which was built for conservation of water, the Mysore royals beautified the place for their recreational purposes also.
You may have been in a boat before and that too more than once. But boating in a river or a sea is a separate experience. When you skim in the waters beneath a dam, you are actually below a mountainous structure of humongous altitude. Now that is what makes this experience special. With you in a boat beneath the dam, and the musical dance of the fountains nearby, spending an evening cannot get better.
Mysore Sand Sculpture Museum
Manmade with over 115 truckloads of sand, this museum is a sand crafters delight. It houses more than 150 sand made structures. The sheer precision and craftsman ship is notable in every little detail your eye could notice. The first of its kind in India, the sand museum is just the place to visit if you want to spend your day, gazing at the creativity, a small grain of sand can create.
Wax Museum – Melody world
There is one wax museum in London which is famous for its real life statutes of the various celebrities and artists that deserve to be preserved for life. And then there is a wax museum in Mysore. Themed upon the musical instruments, this museum houses more than 300 types of real life sized duplicates of musical instruments. The music lovers visit this place to experience the thrill behind the concept; whereas the non-musicians go to see this museum in true light of the Honour that it has received so far. And who amongst us does not like music anyway?
Visit the museum for the visual treats of the instruments. Trust the fact that you would have not even known, that there were so many instruments that could make so much distinct music. You would have fun guessing the names of the instruments. Tour it out now, and test your skill of guessing the instrument. You would know how to make a better score.
The Mysore Zoo
Locally called the Chamarajendra zoological garden, this is the most frequently visited tourist spot in this royal city, where the lineage has many legends of bravery embedded in it. The elephants have been the royal symbols and the horses the strength of the armies. The zoo houses animals in their natural habitat and is one of the oldest zoos in the world. Every animal can be caged and let out for display. But then that animal knows that it has been caged and does not display its true wild nature. The best view of the animal and its life is obtained when the animal is just protected, not caged.
This is why the Mysore Zoo has earned repute for being one of the most considerate homes for wildlife. Easily accessible by the local transport, a day spent at the zoo will make you rethink the benefits of being what you are.
The Bandipur National Park, the Ranganathittu and Kokrebellur bird sanctuaries are famous for Gaur, chitals, elephants, tiger and Indian Leopards, and lie within a radius of 100kms from the Mysore Zoo.
The Mysore Palace
If you have not visited Mysore, you have not touched South India. So much is the influence in culture that it symbolizes the true colours of the southern part of this subcontinent .Rich in heritage, the best example of the royal status that Mysore enjoyed can be seen on visit to the Mysore Palace. This palace was the royal throne of the Wodeyar Dynasty which eventually merged with the country in 1947.The palace is built on sprawling lands and is best decorated during the Dasara festival. The lights and the illumination every Sunday make it seem divine. Then interiors have been done on a religious scale of Hindu, Muslim and Gothic styles of architecture. The broad hallways and vast rooms make this palace one of the most magnificent in India. You cannot deny the fact that Mysore may have been a very rich princely state, seeing the grandeur of this palace.
Apart from the unique rooms that have distinct features in the palace, the palace also houses many temples that have been dedicated to the Hindu Gods and local Deities. Entry to the palace is open every day and the guides are available to take you around the entire property. Though the major portion of the palace is now with the government of Karnataka, the western portion of the palace is still with the royal family of the Wodeyars.
Jayachamarajendra Art gallery
What would you find better than the Mona Lisa or the expert brush strokes of Picasso. But it varies. The forms of art and the efforts of the craftsmanship are clearly visible in the paintings of Mysore. The Mysore school of painting is a different art altogether. The paintings though made through sheer artisan eyes, reflect the love of the painter for the paintings. Very delicate brush strokes , and subtle colours which would leave you mesmerized and the mixing of the various forms of art, are enough to make you lucidly dream about them.
Centered on religious Hindu Gods and Goddesses, these paintings reflect devotion and purity. A visit to the Jayachamarajendra Art gallery is a must. Though an ancient monument, it is so alive with the paintings, almost as if they would start talking to you. The mute colours and attention to detail in the paintings is just so ever defined. Click the pictures and get them printed. You would not forget this for a long time to come.
St. Philomena’s Cathedral
We have spent our childhood sitting and spending some quiet moments with God in a church. No matter whether it was of an archeological importance or not, the church and the sanctity associated with it is never missed. The serenity and the peace that comes when you fold hands and vent out your inner fears to God is a relief for those whose hearts are burdened. This church lies in the heart of the city and is quite crowded.
Yet one step into the church and magically you are transported to a place where the surroundings just do not matter. High rise architectural roofs and the large Venetian windows make this church just the place to be in, on a sunlit day. Enjoy yourself and your peace in this beautiful church which would make you feel the faith the stand up and walk again. A neo-gothic church, this church is a symbol of Jesus in the midst of a city hustle bustle.
A jogger’s stretch, this run around the lake will easily make your heart pump more blood for the activity of 3-4 kilometers. Ideal for the children and safe for the senior citizens, this lake is majorly a hub of people wanting top physically exercise their bodies. The running stretch is smooth and so are the waters. Though not much activity happens within the water , the area around the lake is filled with shacks of street food that you can try.
Mysore does offer you the thrill of splashing water also. So after you have enjoyed the serene chirping of the birds here, move on to the GRS Fantasy Park. If bird watching is your hobby and photography your forte, this lake is where you ought to be in wee hours of the morning to catch the snuggly birds at their best.
GRS Water fantasy Park
As mature grownups, we enjoy the rides and the walks, but then the children with us and within us want some of the shrieking kind of fun too. A visit to the GRS fantasy park will fulfill this for you. A water adventure park based on the hi-end technology theme, is superb when it comes to the rides and the swings.
Entry based on tickets ,you can enjoy a full house of rides within water and let your head go numb for a while .Spread over a lush 30 acres of farmland , this luxury water park has been entertaining the tourists for the last thirteen years now. Come and have a fun filled day. Who knows, you may just rediscover the child in you.
Situated a top the Chamundi Hill, this Hindu Temple is considered to be a “Shakti peeth”. It is one of the 18 Shakti peeths all around. Dedicated to the goddess of Shakti or endurance, this temple is every faith followers’ heaven. They say if you ask for anything with a pure mind, your wish is fulfilled in this life. So as the religious texts say, King Daksha had organized a yagya (religious ritual) and did not invite his son in law, the Lord Shiva himself, thinking that Shiva was too unpolished for a gathering like this.
Seeing this King Daksha’s daughter, Goddess Sati immolated herself in the same pyre of fire where the yagya had to happen. Carrying his beloved in his arms, Lord Shiva carried Sati over the heavens and parts of her burning body fell at different places which are called the Shakti Peeths. A Shakti peeth is considered to be the most pious religious spot for Hindus. A visit to this temple is a must for the visual display of power and sanctity combined together.
So now that you have been traveling, then tasting the local cuisine is also as good as learning the local culture. What is the fun of travelling if you were to eat the food that you would eat out of your own kitchen? Experiment with your taste buds and enjoy the local cuisine. Once the royal cook was asked to make something sweet and he mixed, ghee (clarified butter), cardamom, sugar and gram flour. This sweet which is today the identity of Mysore is called the Mysore paka. Literally translating to the word “the Mysore sweet”, this was named so because the cook had no other name in mind.
Another delight that can make your mouth water is the “dosa” A fermented crepe made out of batter of rice and black lentils, this crisp dish is so relished with a mixture of potatoes which are sweet and sour. To compliment it chutney (paste) of coconut is made. This is one dish, which will make you want to learn the recipe, so that you can treat your loved ones to this delicacy when you return home. Symbolic of the south Indian cuisine, the food in this part of the country is cooked with a different set of spices and a lot of coconut.
Mysore has a sense of mystery around it which you identify from the by-lanes and the narrow fairways of the city. Older than the stories and older than the legends, this city knows how to entangle you in it. Be it the shopping for Mysore silk of the brass ware, the choice of souvenirs in not limited. And once you leave, you would still find some element of Mysore in your lives ahead.
As Anita Desai has said “wherever you go, becomes a part of you somehow”…