All roads lead to Mysuru this Dasara

Mysuru Palace: A jewel in the crown

The cultural capital of Karnataka, Mysuru, needs no introduction. Having existed in some shape or form since the 14th century with the original name of Mahishuru, Mysuru is a stately city steeped in history and set among lush forests, emerald fields and life-giving rivers. Once the capital of the State of Mysore, it retains relevance even today, lending its name to many timeless classic luxuries like the unique sweet dish Mysore pak, the crisp and spicy Mysore masala dosa, the flower Mysore mallige, the tender Mysore kudi yele, the fragrant Mysore sandal soap, the elegant Mysore silk, etc. And of course, Mysore Dasara and Jumboo Savari are famous all over the world.

While the Dasara celebrations are not to be missed in Mysuru, there is a lot to see and do in the city throughout the year. Whether you want to be a tourist and visit as many historic and scenic places, or you want to be a traveller and experience a different ethos and culture, you are bound to be fully satisfied.

If you are a tourist, you’re in luck. Not for nothing is Mysuru known as the ‘Heritage City’ and the ‘City of Palaces’. It is home to not one, not two, but seven palaces — Amba Vilas Palace, Jaganmohan Palace, Lalitha Mahal Palace, Rajendra Vilas Palace, Cheluvamba Mansion, Karanji Mansion and Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion.

The most famous of all is the Amba Vilas or Mysore Palace, located in the heart of the city. Built in the Indo-Saracenic architectural style, the palace has domes that blend Hindu, Mughal, Rajput and Gothic styles. The opulence and sheer artistry of the darbar halls, the kalyana mantapa, and the Golden Throne are a feast for the senses. The collection of sculptures, ceremonial objects and the golden elephant howdah are not to be missed. While you’re there, don’t forget to view the private collection of Maharani Pramoda Devi, wife of late Maharaja Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar. Permission to visit it may be obtained near the camel and elephant ride ticket counters.

Just across the street is the Jaganmohan Palace, which houses a magnificent art museum. This museum is most famous for three special art treasures — 16 original paintings by Raja Ravi Verma, a musical clock or French Calendar Clock and a watercolour masterpiece painting called ‘The Glow of Hope’ by HL Haldankar. Of course, a visit to Lalitha Mahal Palace, which functions as a hotel these days, is a not-to-be-missed stop on your itinerary.

Of the other palaces, Karanji Mansion, located in Nazarbad, hosts a unique Postal Museum. And Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion, situated in the University of Mysore campus, is home to the Folklore Museum which boasts of an extensive collection of nearly 6,500 indigenous artefacts obtained from all over Karnataka. Smaller museums in Mysuru are Regional Museum of Natural History, Sand Sculpture Museum, Railway Museum and Wax Museum.

Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel, Mysuru

Saris & soaps

When you tire of musty museums, there are some unique places you can visit. Karnataka Silk Industries Corporation or KSIC Factory on Mananthavadi Road, which manufactures Mysore Silk saris, is an essential stop for the lovers of the incomparable Mysore silk saris. Here, you see silk go from thread to sari, all under one roof. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful, so it’s a fun place to visit. There is even a showroom in the factory complex where you can buy these saris. And as long as you are in that part of town, you can also visit Mysore Sandal Factory, where you can see how the famous Mysore sandal soaps are made.

If you want a spiritual experience, you’ve definitely come to the right place. The temple of Goddess Chamundeshwari on top of Chamundi Hill has been in existence for over a thousand years and is worth visiting, both for its religious significance and the scenic views that can be obtained from there. The temple complex in and around the Mysore Palace, which houses 12 different temples, also offers a unique religious experience. There is also St. Philomena’s Church that is built in the Neo-Gothic style and houses a relic of the saint herself.

Interested in nature? Well, then a visit to Ganapathi Sachidananda Ashram is clearly indicated. This religious place also houses Shuka Vana or Parrot Park, which is a rehabilitation centre for birds. It has numerous rare and colourful species of parrots from all over the world. There is also a deer park. The nearby Kishkinda Moolika Bonsai Garden is spread over four acres and has more than 100 specimens of miniature trees.

Speaking of trees, Mysuru is also famous for its heritage trees, the most famous one being the 260-year-old banyan tree in Chikkalli, the ageless beauty of which will remind you of the poetic line — ‘Only God can make a tree’.

For those who love exotic animals, a visit to Mysore Zoo is definitely indicated. It is one of the oldest and most popular zoos in India. It allows visitors to adopt an animal or bird for a fee. There are also two lakes in Mysuru, Kukkarahalli Lake and Karanji Lake, which are prime bird-watching spots. Karanji Lake also has a butterfly park.

Authentic experiences

In the heart of the city are fun places to visit, like Dufferin Clock Tower, Silver Jubilee Clock Tower, the teeming Zam Zam Bazaar and the bustling Devaraja Market. To tour these places, you can take walking or cycle tours. You can also borrow and return bicycles at different points of the city. You can even take a cooking tour, where you can learn to cook an authentic South Indian meal in your host’s kitchen.

Mysuru can also serve as a base camp from where you can visit other tourist attractions. Srirangapatna, Ranganathittu, Talakkad, Somnathpura, Karighatta and Nanjangud lie within a 30-km radius. Coorg and Hassan are about 120 km away. Day trips can also be made to spectacular waterfalls at Shivanasamudra, Chunchanakatte, Balmuri, Mallali, Chelavara, Iruppu and Abbey.

Mysuru is known as the ashtanga yoga capital of the world, and there are many places that offer courses in it. It is also a centre for Ayurvedic medicine. So, a trip to Mysuru could also make you fitter and healthier.

However, whatever be the purpose of your visit, when you leave, you will find that it is the spirit of Mysuru that lingers. The broad avenues, the huge campuses, spreading trees, free-flowing traffic, fading elegance, great food, and a laidback people — these are the things that will make you fall in love forever with ‘Namma Mysuru’.

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