Mysore : Where history speaks to you

Travel tales

It was during a trip to Bangalore last year in the course of my meeting some of my batchmates that we decided to have a reunion in Bangalore instead of Delhi or Chandigarh, where most of the officers of my batch are based and where we usually gathered.

We, the batchmates of 12th batch of Directly Appointed Gazetted Officers commonly known as DAGOs in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) had joined it as Deputy Superintendents of Police on September 11,1972. While in service we all gathered for reunion on completion of 25 , 30 and 35 years of service. But consequent to the retirement of all batchmates by 2011, we have been gathering for the reunion every year with our spouses at different places.

Having checked into the CRPF Officers’ Mess at Yelahanka in the periphery of Bangalore, we set out on our trip to Mysore, organised by our batchmates C J M Alberts and K Shankar on a bright sunny morning. On the way we picked up another batchmate T A Abdul Hakeem who had just arrived at Yelahanka Railway Station from Kannur.

Wading our way through the heavy morning traffic, we were on the Mysore Road after over an hour long journey. A quick breakfast at a roadside restaurant, and soon we were speeding towards Mysore.

By mid-noon we were in Srirangapatnam. Our first visit was to the Ranganatha Swamy Temple. Small tea shops and sellers of other sundry items line the entry to the temple on either side.

Initially built by a Ganga chieftain Thirumalaraya in 894 AD, the temple was expanded in subsequent years with liberal contributions from the Vijayanagara and Hoysala rulers and even Tipu Sultan and his son Hyder Ali. Significant contributions came from Mysore’s Wodeyars – the royal family. A massive statue of Lord Vishnu reclining majestically on the coils of the serpent Seshanag with multiple hoods is the main attraction here.

Encircled by fort-like walls, the temple has intricately carved gopurams and the architecture is a mix of Hoysala and Vijayanagara styles. The main entrance has four pillars of the Vijayanagara period sculpted with 24 forms of Vishnu, while a monolithic garudastambha of the late Vijayanagara period adorns the entrance to the main shrine.
Among many other shrines in the temple complex are those dedicated to Ranganayaki, Narasimha, Sudharshana, Srinivasa, Gopalkrishna and Ramanuja Desika.

On way to the next destination, I spot an obelisk and stop the bus. The obelisk reads “The body of Tipu Sultan was found here”. Quickly I capture the spot in my camera and
we move on to Dariya Daulat Palace, also known as the summer palace of Tipu Sultan.

Built in Indo-Saracenic style with teak wood in 1784, the palace is set in a beautiful garden known as the Dariya Daulat Bagh. The walls, canopies, pillars and even the arches covered with frescoes draw the attention of all visitors. While the outer walls have frescoes of battle scenes and portraits, the inner walls have thin foliage and floral patterns.

On the top floor is a museum displaying the Persian manuscripts and European paintings and Tipu’s memorabilia. We are told by the guide that there are eight armouries within the fort precincts. One of them that is coming in the way of doubling of railway tracks, is being shifted in a manner that would be the first of its kind in Asia. Using the best of modern technology, hitherto unknown in our country, the 900-tonne armoury is being shifted about 100 yards away within the precincts of Ranganatha Swamy Temple.

We move to the famous Mysore Silk Factory outlet, a shop more fascinating for the women. Our spouses move around selecting sarees and silk lengths while the men confabulate near the entrance.

With less time at our disposal, we make a quick trip to the St Philomena Church on our way to the Mysore Palace. A word about the Church.

Consequent to the move of the Capital from Srirangapatna to Mysore after the death of Tipu Sultan, many British soldiers too had to settle in Mysore. Since they did not have a place to worship, Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar gave them a piece of land to construct a church. Subsequently, with the increase in the strength of the congregation, the present structure came up in October 1933. Designed by Daly, a Frenchman, the church has two prominent spires rising to a height of 175 feet.

At the Mysore Palace, a local guide traces the history of the palace and takes us on a guided tour of the palace.

The city of Mysore derives its name from a buffalo-headed monster by the name Mahishasura. To escape the atrocities of the demon, Goddess Parvathi is believed to have taken birth as Chamundeshwari and annihilated Mahishasura atop the Chamundi hill, not too far away from the town. With passage of time, the name Mahishasura got distorted as Mysore. The present name Mysuru got its name after the present government decided to revert to old names of some of the cities of Karnataka including Bengaluru (earlier Bangalore).

Ensconced right in the middle of the city, Mysore Palace draws crowds in droves throughout the year, more so during the grand festival of Dussehra when the King goes out in a procession astride an elephant.

Designed by British architect Lord Henry Irwin, the palace in its present form was constructed in 1912 over a period of 15 years. The palace that existed at that spot prior to the present one got razed to the ground by an accidental fire.

Entering the palace through the ‘Gombe Thotti’, meaning the Dolls’ Pavilion, we come across several sculptures among which is the tightly-secured sculpture of an elephant adorned with 84 kgs of gold. Apart from scores of palace guards, closed circuit cameras are placed at all vantage points to monitor the movements of all visitors.

Within the precincts are the Amba Vilas Palace and the Jaganmohan Palace. It was in the Kalayana Mandapa in the Amba Vilas Palace that the present Maharaja – Yadhuveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wodeyar – was consecrated on May 28 last year. He ascended the silver throne known as ‘Bhadrasana.

During Dussehra this year, he will ascend the golden throne and preside over the “khasa (private) durbar”.

The armoury section houses the arms and weapons used by the royal family between the 14th and 20th century.

We move to the last spot in our itinerary – the famed Brindavan Gardens -- once a popular spot for film shooting among the South Indian film producers.

All roads seem to lead to Brindavan Gardens in the evenings as the illumination lights up the entire garden, covering an area of 60 acres. To Mirza Ismail, the then Dewan of Mysore goes the credit of creating the exquisitely designed garden with fountains and mini waterfalls.

The Krishna Sagar Dam speaks volumes of the engineering skills of Sir M Visvesvarayawho designed it in 1924 and used used a mixture of limestone and brick powder instead of cement to construct the 3 kms dam at the confluence of Cauvery River.
The colourful, musical dancing fountains that rise and fall to the rhythm of music is a delight to watch and one would be lucky to get a vantage point to view the spectacular show from close quarters considering the massive crowd that surrounds the fountain area. After nearly an hour-long display of the dancing fountain, we head back for Bangalore, stopping to dine at a roadside restaurant.

Other places one must see in Mysore but we missed due to paucity of time are the Mysore Zoological Garden, the Chamundeshwari Temple, the Bull statue, the Gumbaz or the mausoleum of Tipu Sultan and his parents –Hyder Ali and Fathima Begum and the Sangam where Lokapavani River joins the Cauvery.

There is always a next time and we hope to see the other places then.
One would be well advised to buy not just silk material from Mysore but also other items like the incense sticks, sandalwood, inlay works with ivory (artificial) and even rosewood artifacts for which the place is well known.

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