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Mysore

karnataka destination Mysore

Located at the foot of the Chamundi Hills, southwest of the state capital Bengaluru, Mysore is famous for the palaces of its royalty and the the festivities that take place during the Dasara festival when the city receives a large number of tourists. The town also lends its name to the Mysore style of painting, the sweet dish Mysore Pak, the Mysore Peta (a traditional silk turban) and the garment known as the Mysore silk saree.

Bustling Bazaars, wide roads fringed by historical buildings, serene residential suburbs, hospitable people and a laid back lifestyle are the hallmarks of Mysore.

Mysore is also sometimes referred to as ‘the City of Palaces’ because of seven grandiose homes of the Wodeyar dynasty – erstwhile ruler of Mysore, dotting different parts of the town. Among the most noteworthy examples are Amba Vilas, popularly known as ‘Mysore Palace’, the Jaganmohan Palace, which also contains a popular art gallery, Rajendra Vilas, also known as the ‘summer palace’, Lalitha Mahal, which has been converted into a hotel and Jayalakshmi Vilas. Today, Mysore is also an important information technology hub with many of the major companies in nearby Bangalore opting to shift their facilities here. The Brindavan Gardens situated near Mysore is also a popular destination on tourist itineraries.

Maharaja’s Palace (Amba Vilas Palace)

mysore Maharaja’s Palace (Amba Vilas Palace)

Amba Vilas Palaces is the official residence and seat of the Wodeyars — the erstewhile royal family, who ruled the princely state of Mysore from 1399 to 1950. In 1897, the owners commissioned the British architect Lord Henry Irwin to rebuild the palace which had been destroyed in a fire.

The palace contains a bewildering array of courtyards, gardens, and buildings besides two grand durbar halls (ceremonial halls of the royal court). The architectural style of domes of the palace is Indo-Saracenic and the rest of the structure incorporates a gamut of Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic styles. Built with a combination of three stones the edifice is topped with marble domes and a tall five-story tower.

Above the central arch is a sculpture of Gajalakshmi, the goddess of wealth, prosperity, good luck and abundance with her elephants. The palace complex is surrounded by a large garden and contains 18 temples. Every autumn, the Amba Vilas palace is the venue for the famous Mysore Dasara festival, during which leading artistes perform here. On the tenth day of the festival a parade with caparisoned elephants bearing the idol of goddess Chamundi and floats carrying tableaux originates from the palace grounds.

Devaraja Market

mysore Devaraja Market

For a visitor to this city, a trip to the Devaraja market is ideal to get a feel of the local culture. With more than 100 years of history, this market is entwined with the heritage of Mysore – colourful, noisy, vibrant and chaotic. During the peak hours trading spills over from inside the market complex out on to the neighboring streets with many hawkers putting out their wares outside the entrance to the market that faces the Dufferin Clock Tower.

Chamundi Hill

mysore Chamundi Hill

Named after goddess Chamunda, the Chamundeshwari Temple sits atop the eponymous hill with an ancient stone stairway of 1,008 steps leading to its summit. Approximately halfway to the summit is an enormous statue of a bull named Nandi, carved out of a single piece of black granite. From here, one is rewarded with a panoramic view of the city – the Mysore Palace, the Karanji Lake and several smaller temples are all visible down below.

The temple has a quadrangular structure and the main feature within is a statue bearing a sword in his right hand and a cobra in the left representing a character from Hindu mythology. Worshipers at the temple hold the belief that the yogic posture of the presiding deity, if mastered, will provide a seeker an extra- dimensional view of the universe.

Jaganmohan Palace

mysore Jaganmohan Palace

The Jaganmohan Palace is perhaps the most beautiful contribution of the Wodeyar kings to Mysore during their regime. Constructed in 1861, the palace served as an alternate retreat for the royal family when the Amba Vilas Palace was being reconstructed.

The design of the palace bears all the characteristics of the traditional Hindu style of architecture. The facade features three entrances. Columns and eaves, friezes and cornices with religious motifs and representations of miniature temples adorn the interior. The walls inside are painted with murals in the classical Mysore school, using vegetable dyes and represent scenes from the Dasara festival -the earliest known depiction. In 1900, an additional external facade with a hall behind it was added to the main structure. An art gallery in the palace contains one of the largest collections of artefacts in South India besides an extensive collection of paintings by the legendary Indian artist Raja Ravi Varma.

Karanji Lake

mysore Karanji Lake

The lake is surrounded by a nature park consisting of a butterfly park and a walk-through aviaryThere is also a museum, the Regional Museum of Natural History which is located on the banks of this lake.Karanji Lake is situated on the migratory birds paths of birds like herons and egrets, grey pelicans, painted storks, ibis, cormorants and egrets which nest on trees in the islands present in the lake. Recent survey of birds have indicated the pesence 147 species.The butterfly park has been created on a small island within the Karanjilake. About 45 species of butterflies have been identified here. With the help of a botanist, appropriate species of host plants and nectar plants essential for the breeding of butterflies were selected and planted within the island.

Once a part of the Mysore Zoo, the Karanji Lake (also called Karanjikere in the local vernacular) is now surrounded by a verdant nature park that contains a butterfly park, an aviary and the Regional Museum of Natural History. Situated on the migratory paths of numerous species of birds, visitors to the park may spot herons, ibis, cormorants and egrets in addition to ducklings, darters and during the winter season, pelicans, painted storks, spoonbills. At the last census more than five dozen species, both indigenous and migratory, were identified. The delightful butterfly park on a small island in the lake on the other hand is home to about 45 species. The large aviary in the park, quite possibly the largest in the country contains a large number of peacocks, wildfowl and geese. A separate enclosure houses numerous Saurus Cranes, the largest birds found in India.

At a jetty visitors may rent boats, with or without a boatman and ride to the islands traversing them and return. Situated at one end of the park is a bird watch tower with spectacular views of the park and its plumed denizens. Opposite the aviary is a tree lined grassland that is perfect for picnics. Nearby is a park for children to play in and a coffee shop.

Lalitha Mahal Palace

mysore Lalitha Mahal Palace

A splendid view of the Chamundi Hill to one side and the Mysore city in front of the palace greet visitors from the balcony upstairs.

The palace was built in 1921 for the Viceroy of India then. Today, it is a heritage hotel. Designed in the architectural style of the renaissance in Europe, reminiscent of English manor houses and Italian Palazzos, the two storeyed structure is painted a pristine white and is considered an adaptation of the St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, particularly the central dome. Decorative stained glass in the skylights, doors, windows and ceilings adds a muted but colorful elegance to the interiors. The palace also contains an exquisitely designed viceroy room, a banquet hall, a dancing floor and an Italian marble staircase, all embellished with exquisite ornamentations that are influences from various palaces in Britain. And then a visitor will see full length portraits of the Wodeyar Kings, Italian marble floors and Belgian crystal chandeliers, stain glass windows and doors, ceiling and skylights, delicate cut glass lamps, heavy ornate furniture, mosaic tiles and a couple of exquisite Persian carpets – all reflective of the lifestyles and history of the erstwhile rulers of Mysore.