Mysore: Exploring different facets of the cultural capital of Karnataka

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A trip to south India is incomplete without visiting the historic city of Mysore. Mysore, also known as the city of palaces, is a popular destination among tourists because of its fabled oriental splendour.  Its historical and cultural importance makes it the cultural capital of Karnataka. Mysore gets its name from the wicked buffalo headed demon Mahishasura.

It is the place where Goddess Chamundeshwari killed Mahishasura. So for this reason the place holds a mythological importance. Being the capital of the Wodeyar rulers the city has a rich heritage which makes it an place of untold grandeur and glory. In addition to the  numerous palaces and royal buildings being the centers of attraction, it is also known for its sandalwood products, beautiful silk sarees, rosewood carved articles and the Dasara festival that is held every year. A visit to this enchanting city leaves one captivated with its quaint charm, grand palaces, rich heritage, sacred temples, history museums, imposing buildings and broad shady avenues.

Geographical location of Mysore:

Looking at the geographical location of Mysore one finds that is located at 12°30′N 76°65′ E, at an average altitude of 770 meters in the southern region of Karnataka, at the base of of Chamundi Hills. It is the second biggest city of Karnataka being 140 kms from Bangalore. Located in the tropics,  the city offers a moderate climate throughout the year which makes it a suitable destination for tourists in summer as well as in winter. Its proximity to several other places of interest such as  Srirangapatnam, Sivasamudram Falls, Coorg, to name a few further, makes it a must visit place.

How to reach Mysore

My journey to Mysore was divided into two parts. A plane journey till Bangalore airport, near Devanahalli, (170kms from Mysore) as the Mysore airport is yet not operational and is expected to be operational till September 2010. From Bangalore airport I took a prepaid cab till Mysore as we were a group of six people so on a sharing basis the fare was reasonable. By road the journey was comfortable as well as fast with the road being a four-lane highway.

The other options available are taking a cab or bus till Bangalore railway station and then taking a train to Mysore with Tippu Express being the most popular train covering the distance of 140 km in 2.5 hours. It leaves Bangalore at 3 PM and reaches Mysore at 5:30 PM.

The next available option is to take a cab or bus till Bangalore bus station and then take a bus to Mysore. Buses run every five minutes from Bangalore. The fare is very reasonable and the buses are very comfortable, especially the Volvo coaches.

Main attractions: Palaces of Mysore:

Landing in the city of palaces we could breathe the aroma of the old-world charm that the city carries. People over here mostly spoke Kannada, Tamil, English and Hindi. Not knowing Kannada or Tamil our best solution was conversing in English with the locals.

Being the city of palaces the main attractions were the magnificent palaces with the “Mysore Palace” being the most popular destination. Being the official residence of the emperor and his family it is still bathed in a royal ambience, architectural excellence and splendid craftsmanship all speaking of the rich heritage of which it is a mark. The rosewood, ivory and marble work on doors and ceilings and the paintings of  royalalty is enough to make one immerse oneself in in the past.

The palace is lit with several thousand bulbs between 7 – 8 PM on Sundays and national holidays. The opulent view is enough to leave one gasping after getting struck with its grandeur in full display. Other palaces of interest that we visited were the “Lalitha Mahal Palace” which has been converted into a heritage hotel and “Janganmohan Palace” which is converted into one of the best art galleries in south India.

Other tourist attractions of Mysore:

After visiting all the palaces of Mysore I, along with my friends, made way to “Chamundi Hills” which provides a breath taking aerial view of the whole city along with providing a visit to the temple of Goddess Chamundi. Walking a few feet from the temple we saw a huge statue of “Nandi bull” which is also very well known. Though we were tired to bits, the beauty of the place was such that \we couldn’t resist exploring the place further and headed towards “Brindavan Gardens”.

The musical fountain amidst well laid out gardens presents a serene view. I must tell you that the light and music show which begins with dancing lights at the time of sunset is something worth visiting. Returning from the Gardens we were completely famished so we stopped at a restaurant for a hearty meal which comprised the famous Mysore dosa and idli with sambhar and coconut chutney. The best part of the meal was a famous and sumptuous dish identified with Mysore: the bisibelebath, which is a combination of rice, lentils, tamarind, chili powder and spices. For dessert we had the famous delicacy – the Mysore Pak.

Visiting Mysore, having Mysore Pak is a must. After a satisfying meal we made way to the next destination in our must see list which was the Mysore Zoo,  the oldest zoo in the country. It has animals from more than 40 countries with exotic species like the white tiger, African rhino and white peafowl… to name a few. After visiting the zoo we headed for St. Philomenas Church. It is a beautiful cathedral and is famous for its 175 feet spires and for its neo-Gothic architecture.

Exploring Srirangapatnam: The city of Tippu Sultan:

Having visited popular destinations in Mysore, the next day we thought it to be a good idea to visit Srirangapatnam which is about 14 kms from Mysore. Srirangapatnam is known for its historical monuments of Tippu Sultan. There are seven main monuments that one can visit.

On reaching Srirangapatnam we hired an auto rickshaw which charged us Rs 200 and allowed us to visit the seven main sight seeing destinations. First we visited the dungeons where British soldiers were kept in captivity. The captives were kept in water up to their necks and which came into the dungeons from an opening through which the water of river Cauvery came in. Then we visited the place where Tippu Sultan died while fighting the British. Our third destination was the palace of Tippu Sultan – Daria Daulat Bagh which is now a museum. It got its name from the fact that it was surrounded by a river or daria, was rich in decorations which symbolizes daulat and had well laid gardens meaning bagh.

It is known for its colorful frescoes and paintings. There is not even a single inch in the palace which has not been painted. Then we visited the Gumbaz, which has tombs of Tippu Sultan, his father Hyder Ali and mother Fathima Begum. Near it is the Juma Masjid. Then we visited the place called Sangam which is the confluence of two rivers River Lokapavani and River Cauvery. Our next destination was Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary which is a home to millions of migratory birds. Last but not least was visiting the Ranganathaswamy temple which is a very old temple built in the 14th century and is known for the idol of Lord Vishnu as Ranganatha reclining on the serpent Ade Shesha.

Culture of Mysore:

Visiting Srirangapatnam revivedold memories of watching the serial Sword of Tippu Sultan when I was a kid. I could correlate certain things that I remembered and they left a strong imprint on my mind. Seeing these  these engravings made me all the more proud of India’s  rich artistic heritage

The culture of Mysore itself is so vivid, with the different flavors of religions and cultures, that it provides a rich heritage for various art forms and styles. With the passage of time this distinctive culture come to be known as the Mysore Style in fields such as paintings, architecture, cuisine, music, poetry, etc. It was this unique culture of Mysore and the simple and helpful nature of its people which made our journey all the more enjoyable and comfortable.

It was one of those trips that left a strong imprint on my mind and helped me explore the grandeur of India clubbed with the modern amenities on offer  yet suffused with old world charm.

So what are you all waiting for now….add Mysore to your must see  list today itself to get lost in reminiscenes of the past while living in the present.

Manisha Rana

Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/ananth/253914900/]

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