Monday, August 22, 2005

Mysore : the city of palaces

Mysore, called the City of Palaces, is about 135 km from Banglore city. We had started at around 8 am from Bangalore to be able to come back comfortably. One can also think of staying at Mysore for a night to cover everything worth a visit. However, normal daily tours conducted from Bangalore by KSTDC returns to Bangalore by 11 in the night. We reached Mysore at around noon after stopovers at Srirangapatna and also for lunch on the outskirt of the city. Myosre was the capital of the Wodeyar dynasty that had ruled here since the 15th century barring a brief period of three decades when they lost power to Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. British put up a puppet king from Wodeyar dynasty after the defeating Tipu and the kingdom enjoyed the British patronage till 1831. The town bears many historical buildings, built under British architectural expertise in the late 18th and early 19th century. So most of these buildings are in quite good shape. This is what we could see in Mysore in a days time (actually in about a half days time).

The Mysore Palace:
Among all the buildings in Mysore, the Palace stands out. This is the star attraction of Mysore. Designed by the English Architect, Henry Irwin, the Mysore Palace dominates the skyline of Mysore. A three storied structure in the Indo-Saracenic style built between 1897-1912, the palace is an exquisite piece of architecture. It has been converted into a museum. It has quite a good number of display. The huge paintings and other displays gives you a feel of the opulence of royal life. The place is crowded as everyone going to Mysore can not miss it.

A board manages the palace. It is money spinner for the descendants of the royal family. You are to pay many times inside the complex. Entry fee to the palace is Rs.20/-. Cameras are not allowed and you have to deposit cameras at the gate and also pay Rs.10/- as custody charge. Then you need to pay for keeping your shoes. There also exist within the complex another old palace that seemed like a wooden structure. You need to pay another Rs.20/- per head for entering that. If you are in a large group, you will avoid it as I did. I bet you will not find another such site where you will have to face the greed of the people managing it. Foreign tourists are also seen taking elephant rides around the complex. My recommendation is that visit the main palace as you do not get such opportunity to be in a royal palace which is in such good shape and skip the old one. Most of such palaces in good condition in India had been converted into five star hotels. But just keep in mind that the people who owned this palace were collaborator of the British and helped the British in their war against Tipu just to be in power. Inside the palace you can feel the British patronage. While most of Tipu’s valuables were plundered by British army and took them to Britain, valuables of the Wodeyar kings are still in display here.

The palace looks magnificent when lighted at night. The palace is illuminated on Sundays, Public Holidays as well as during the Dassera Celebrations when 97,000 electric bulbs are used to illuminate it.

Lalitha Mahal :
We had purchased a pack of postcards to know about places worth seeing. Lalitha Mahal is also an important building of the city landscape. It has been converted into a 5 star hotel. The white coloured building looked magnificent from distance. So we went there. The guard at the gate told that only customers are allowed in. However he let us in when we promised to pay him 10 bucks. We took a detour of the complex and came out. We did not pay the guard the 10 rupees and he shouted at us.

Chamundi Hills :
Thereafter we proceeded to the famous Chamundi Hills around 12 km from the city. At the top there is an eleventh century Chamundi temple. But the main attraction there is the statue of Mahisasura located in the parking area. Photographs taken with the statue of Mahisasura in the backdrop uniquely identifies that place as Mysore. Look at the photo on the right. I bet you have seen a lot of them. The white coloured dome of the temple looked beautiful. I did not went inside the temple. There are dharamsalas here for if someone wants to stay. Wodeyar kings had constructed a stairway of 1000 steps to the temple from the foothills in the town.

Then we came down to watch the Nandi statue which is located exactly halfway down the hills. Towering at a massive 5 meters, carved from a single rock in 1659 this sculpture is really a must-see.

The St. Philomena Church:
We came back to the town to have a look at the ST. Philomena Church. This is a beautiful gothic structure with twin spires, 175ft. in height. Built in 1933, it is said to have been modeled on the gothic Cathedral at Cologne. The church building was stunning. The altar bears the statue of St. Philomena,a third century saint from Greece. This one should not be missed.

Brindavan Gardens :
I had heard a lot about this place. I am sure you also have heard about those colourfull musical fountains of Brindavan Garden of Mysore. The park opens for public at 7 pm. We sped through the 17 km distance from the city to be there on time. The place was crowded right from the parking area. We had to walk down half a kilometer to buy tickets @ Rs.10/- per head and paid another Rs.10/- per camera. Once inside, a tedious journey wading through surging crowd started. It was like in a mela where you have no option but to follow the sea of crowd at their pace. To my estimate there should not be less than 15 / 20 thousands people there. We had to walk down at least 2 km along the Krishnarajasagar dam to get the sight of the first fountain. But where are the lights and more importantly where are the waters! Some tourist had to ask the officials present there. They said that most of the fountains had to be shut down due to lack of water. Cauvery can hardly feed the Bangalore city and Tamil Nadu is always crying for more water. It cannot feed these fountains anymore for your aesthetic pleasure. So why is the garden for without fountains and water. It was such a big disappointment. We were told that some of the fountains actually flow even now when it rains. We managed to reach the reservoir. On the other side of the reservoir, we could see lights from some fountains that may be running. Flashes were clicking there. But after the disappointment of coming this far of nearly 2.5 km, we were in no mood to walk down another one km. So did many other tourists. I must say, that this was the biggest disappointment I ever had visiting such a famous tourist destination. My advice is: do not go there. But you may still not resist the feeling of skipping Brindavan Garden. Imagine how much money the garden is making daily as gate fees! In lakhs. You will not only waste your money but few hours going there.
We finally came back to Bangalore at about midnight having dinner on the way. Bangalore is a nice city and even good restaurants are available along the Bangalore - Mysore Highway. The biggest advantage I found in Bangalore is that it is the only city in South that uses Hindi. This time no phone nos. of hotels as I had stayed with my brother. But here is the KSTDC website.

1 comment:

Raja said...

Your ignorance of history and facts is palpable! The palace is being managed by the Government of Karnataka and it being a money spinner for the Royal family is a figment of your imagination.

To say British put a puppet on throne in 1799 is incorrect. They were under no obligation to do that having conquered Mysore in a War. They could have ruled it directly if they wished to do so. In 1992, Mysore War III, they had Tipu on his knees and still gave him a chance to Rule by giving him back a Reduced Territory. Yet they chose to restore the Kingdom back to the Wodeyar's as Hyder and Tipu were just employees of the Ruler and had usurped the powers. Tipu himself had corroborated with French and Afghan and Turkey. Mind you British were the first to leave the country followed by French and Portugal. Everyone lived and fought for their own Kingdom in those times.. There was no unified India till British united unwittingly and made it into a nation. The person whom you refer to as a puppet at that time was only a boy of 5 years. During his minority it was tipu's right hand man Purniah who managed the affairs. After Duke of Wellington left India, the powers at Chennaih wanted to get hold of Mysore as the Maharaja had no legal heir. So on a false allegation of misrule they took over the power in 1931. But Modern Historians feel the British Commissioners like Cubbon and Bowering did a commendable job. Besides the contribution of Maharaja Mummadi Krishna Raja Wadiyar to Religion, Art and Culture and language etc are monumental and no one in the History of Karnataka and India has ever done.He took his fight to get the Kingdom restored to British parliament and won the battle. British restored the Kingdom back to Wodeyars in 1881 and there after the Mysore was known as a Model State and Mahatma Gandhi called it as Rama Rajya. So don't be blinded by the secular post independence historian's glorification of Tipu. Neither can you call him as someone who fought for the Independence of India. If you go by the history of Post Independence all the Musilm Kings wanted to align with Pakistan (Hyderabad, Junagadh, Bhopal etc). If Tipu's progenies had Ruled Mysore till Independence, then South Pakistan may well have been a possiblity.Besides Tipu was a riddle and man of many parts but certainly not a benevolent ruler as Wodeyar's were. If Wodeyar's were not victims of a Curse the history of Mysore would have been different