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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mysore chronicles

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A trip to Mysore is considered mandatory if you are staying in/visiting Blore. So, after taking up residence in India's IT capital for nearly two years, we traveled to the cultural capital of Karnataka over the last weekend. We took the same route on which we had travelled to Coorg, except that being a Friday it was much less crowded once we hit the outskirts of the city.

We started around 7:30 am from Marathahalli and made the first stop at Kamat Lokaruchi around 10 a.m.. After a princely breakfast ( had to order those 'Moode' Idlis once again ) and some really great tea, we hit the road again. Feeling tempted by all those food outlets that dots this stretch, we grabbed some more snacks at a Macdonalds outlet.

It was around 12 that we reached Srirangapatnam. It is a city of magnificent ruins and the ancient gate ( which one of the entrances to the fort of Srirangapatnam) that one takes to enter the city is simply spell-binding. The straight road took us the place where Tipu Sultan's body was found after the battle of Seringapatnam(1799). A simple marble memorial marks the place. As one goes further, one can see the 'Water Gate', and the destroyed palace which has been turned into a park. At a short distance, one can see the Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple, This ancient temple is a major tourist attraction and photography is strictly prohibited inside the premises. A massive stone idol of Lord Vishnu in a reclining posture is located in the inner chamber of this temple. Many other idols have also been installed and are being worshiped.

From the temple, we went straight to the Summer Palace and Museum of Tipu Sultan. A simple structure standing amidst a huge garden, it is covered with green blinds on all sides. The walls are richly decorated with frescos/murals depicting various wars and processions but most of which are currently in different stages of deterioration. Some are faded, while others seem to have been attacked by moss/fungus/dampness. Very few remain intact. The displays consist of sketches, portraits, weapons and artifacts used by Tipu Sultan himself. Some of his old robes are also on display. I was particularly captivated by the furniture which was so well maintained that it almost looked new. I guess it is very good quality teak wood that went into the making of those pieces. Most of the palace itself is made up of wood which is a great heat insulator. It did feel quite cool inside the structure.

As we walked back to the car, it started raining heavily and we were almost drenched by the time we covered the distance between the main structure and the entrance. We decided to skip the Gumbaz where the bodies of Hyder Ali ,Tipu Sultan and their family members are laid to rest. It has some beautiful structures, including a mosque. I had already been to this place during a college trip and it is a must see. But we had to skip it due to the heavy downpour. On the way out, we passed by the Jamia Masjid, the mosque built by Tipu Sultan. He is said to have offered his evenings prayers here.

Image - Courtesy Google

We reached the hotel around 1 pm. Kings Kourt is a simple hotel located on Jhansi Road. Though nicely done up, it is an old structure( something you will not notice if making the reservations online). Though the had provided a LED tv and a small fridge, the room was not as per our expectations but since we had made an advance reservation and it was just a matter of a single night, we decided to stay there. Thankfully the lunch was good (though room service was quite expensive) and they served it within 45 mins.

After lunch and a quick nap, we started off for the Chamundeshwari Temple around 3:30 pm. Situated on top of a hill, A revered Shakti Peeth, it is regularly thronged by devotees. According to the legends, Shakti peeths are spots where the body parts of Devi Sati (Lord Shiva's consort) fell on earth. Since the hair of Sati is said to have fallen on this spot, the deity here is named as Chamundeshwari Devi. While there was a long queue as it was a friday but it took a relatively short time to get the darshan. The actual statue of the goddess is small but made up of gold. She is further decked up in various ornaments. The doors to the inner chamber are also made up of silver or atleast silver-plated. I loved the elaborate flower decorations that adorned the entire temple. Their fragrance literally filled the whole place.

Since the temple is situated on a hilltop, it gets quite chilly here. We were just warming up with some hot corn-on-the-cob and bhajiyas when the downpour started yet again. It was as if the rain gods were playing pee-a-boo with us. Canceling the plans to see the famous 'Nandi' statue which is situated a little distance from the temple, we returned to the safety of our vehicle and started off towards our last destination for the day.

It was almost 6:30 by the time we reached the St Philomena's church which is supposed to be the second largest one is Asia. Built by the Wodeyar kings,it is a imposing monument ( btw its spires were also visible from our hotel room) in gray which looked quite surreal thanks to the dark clouds which loomed over it. It is built in the Gothic Style and preserves the 3rd century relic of St. Philomena in a catacomb below the main altar. The beautiful stained glass paintings depict scenes from Christian folklore like the birth of Jesus Christ, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ. It was still raining quite heavily and the evening service has just started. We joined the prayer for 10-15 minutes and it felt wonderful. I guess we all need a bit of soul-cleansing (something akin to a dip in the holy Ganges) everyday.

Image- Courtesy Google

We returned to the hotel as we were half-soaked and feeling very cold. Though it was just 7:30 pm, there was no tea available. The hotel staff was busy with the preparations for dinner and said that it would an hour to get the tea ready. Feeling irritated, we decided to head out and have dinner it some restaurant. Our driver who was a local guy took us to a place a RRR. Though it seemed small, there were people waiting to get a table. Finally when our biryani arrived on a banana leaf, we were thankful the guy. It was very delicious and so was the 'Chicken 64'. Yeah, it is not a typo. They had mentioned it as 'Chicken 64' instead of  'Chicken 65'. But sadly, we could not tell the difference between the two. After the meal, we directly returned to the hotel as all the shops had downed their shutters. Mysore is a city that sleeps early.

The last and the best was left for the second (and also the last) day of our trip. The famed Mysore Palace (or Amba Vilas Palace) is undoubtedly the first on every tourist's iternary. It is said to have been demolished and rebuilt four times by the Wodeyar kings. The current structure which is gray and gold with red marble domes, is just over a hundred years old. We reached there around 10:30 am when the crowds had just started to form. Depositing our footwear at the entrance, we made our way inside it. Passing through cavernous halls, the first display that caught our attention was that of various dolls and the 'Golden Howdah' or the throne on which Goddess Chamundeshwari is carried during the Dusshera procession. It is known as the Gombe Thotti or Doll's Pavilion. It was followed by another display of the invites/mementos that the various Wodeyar kings had received. This is the casket room. As we walked from one room to another, we occasionally stopped to admire the walls that were decorated with various murals and paintings. There was a Portrait room filled with the portraits of the various kings, queens and princes/princesses. Another had silver chairs and a mirror stand on display. As we entered the public Durbar Hall, it was a sight that caught us off-guard. Apart from the paintings of various goddesses and the richly engraved/painted pillars, even the domed roof of the hall displayed rich paintings depicting Indian mythology. There was another private Durbar Hall on the floor above it. This one was even more opulent and awe-inspiring with beautiful gold and blue shades. The ceiling was intricately craved and even the doors was decorated with rich cravings. There was a silver door for the private Durbar hall. A beautiful marriage mantap where the royal marriages used to take place is another must see.

There are three large temples outside the palace but located within the premises. Also there is a private residential museum located behind the main palace building. This one was being skipped by most tourists but we decided to have a dekko at it. It is quite modest and looks more like an old wooden house rather than a palace. The guide mentioned that it is around 600 years old. It contains some items of clothing, footwear, various carriages (palanquins), furniture, , pooja items and household items used by the royals. There are a lot of paintings of gods and goddesses which are less opulent than the ones we see in the main building. Some weapons, including a golden sword were also displayed here.

It took us more than two hours to cover the palace premises and left us exhausted (more so from having to carry a toddler). We immediately started off from Mysore (around 1 pm) and stopped only twice on the way, once at Kamat for lunch and another halt at Channapatna for picking up some wooden artifacts. Taking the exit from Kengiri to Electronics city, we had to pay Rs 70 as the toll but managed to avoid most of the traffic. Finally we reached home around 4 pm.


  1. Good one. Thanks for sharing. Jhansi means 'blurred shadows'. This name has been derived from the shadows of the lofty forts built by the Rajputs in the city. Jhansi is part of Bundelkhand, the cultural region of Madhya Pradesh-Uttar Pradesh which was ruled by the Bundela Rajputs since the 16th century. Check out all hotels in Jhansi also.


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