Mysuru, The new Mysore

-Preet

Mysore History Entwined

The modern city of Mysore stands where the capital of the prosperous Wadiyar kingdom of Mysuru stood for six centuries. The Wadiyars being patrons of art and culture contributed heavily to the opulence of culture and art & history Mysore boasts of to this day. Mysore is the anglicised name of what once was called Mahishasūru, named after Mahishasur, the buffalo-headed demon the Hindu goddess Chamundeshwari is said to have slain. The temple of Chamundeshwari, is located 13 km uphill to the east of Mysore.

 

The First Planned Asian City

The Wadiyars built the Mysore Fort, which is now famous as the Mysore Palace, in 1524. Chamaraja Wadiyar III built the fort and passed the dominion of the village then known as Puragere to his son. Initially, a vassal state of the Vijayanagara Empire, the Mysore Kingdom gained independence and became a sovereign state under the rule of King Narasaraja Wadiyar, in 1637. While the city of Srirangapatna had been the capital since 1610, the capital eventually moved back to Mysore in 1799. What transpired in between was a rapid expansion of the kingdom under the two Wadiyar kings Narasaraja I and Chikka Devaraja, followed by the Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. This story, however, concluded in great bloodshed in the four Anglo-Mysore Wars, defeat in the last two of which resulted in the death of Tipu Sultan and a British control of the province. The previous rulers, the Wadiyars were reinstated as the Maharajas to be puppeted by the colonising British Raj.

After the outbreak of the bubonic plague that killed nearly half the population in the city, 1903 saw the establishment of the City Improvement Trust Board that made Mysore one of the first Asian cities to undertake the planned development of the city.

 

Mysore After Independence

Mysore had front row seats to the Indian Independence Movement. After India gained its independent, the city remained part of Mysore state that later went on to be known as Karnataka, and the then king Jayachamarendra Wadiyar was appointed the governor of the state. A centre for tourism, Mysore is largely peaceful.

Geographical Sphere

The city is located 770 meters above sea level, and sprawls over 129 sq kilometers, at the base of the Chamundi Hills in southern Karnataka.

Mysore has a tropical Savanna climate, with summers from March to June, monsoons from July to November, and winters from December to February. The highest recorded temperature of Mysore is 39.4°C The saving grace, however, is a large number of lakes in the city. One of the lakes, Karanji has the biggest walk-through aviary in the country. The city’s average rainfall is measured at 804 cm, majority of which comes from the return-monsoons.

Attractions of Mysuru

Tourism is the major industry. Just as prolific is the handloom and handicrafts industry that makes Mysore home to weaving, sandalwood carving, bronze work and the production of lime and salt. What makes it a sweet spot for the backpacking demographic is the vast array of purposes it serves. It’s a hub of history and culture, a center of commerce of unparalleled standards, a center for Ashtanga yoga, home to the nation’s largest aviary, and is riddled with hostel housing like-minded travellers. Mysore has something for everyone. Doesn’t get much better than that! Among the multiple attractions that make Mysore the cultural capital of Karnataka, the notable are-

 

  • Somnathpur Temple
    Built-in 1268 by Dandanayaka Somnatha, the general of King Narasimha III, in the Hoysala reign. Built in the Hoysala architecture style, Chennakeshava Temple is Trikuta Shrine, built on a raised platform on the banks of the Kaveri. There are various intricately carved stone plates and star-shaped folds on the walls. Other walls in the temple are also decorated with carvings of various God and Goddesses’ as well as depicting instances from Hindu sacred literature such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, the childhood of Lord Krishna, etc. One can also see the names of the sculptors carved on their works, a common and import practice during Hoysala rule. The central wall space is one of the most attractive features of this temple. Another striking aspect of Chennakesava Temple is the sixteen different types of ceilings, with each showcasing a different stage that goes during the blooming of plantain.

 

  • Maharaja’s Palace
    Also known as the Ambika Vilas Palace, or the Mysore Palace, this palace was the residence of the Wadiyar royal family. The architectural style of domes of the palace is commonly described as Indo-Saracenic, with blends of the Hindu, Mughal, Rajput, and Gothic styles. The palace is surrounded by a large garden and the entrance gate and arch sport the emblem and coat of arms of the kingdom of Mysore, around which is the kingdom’s motto in Sanskrit- “न बिभॆति कदाचन,” meaning “never terrified.”

 

  • Melkote
    In the 12th century, a Srivaishnava saint Ramanuja is said to have taken up residence at this spot for 14 years and hence this is now a popular Srivaishnava shrine. Also notable is the 12th-century Cheluvanarayana Temple, with its rose-colored gopuram and ornately carved pillars. It’s quite a hike to the hilltop Yoganarasimha Temple, which offers fine views of the surrounding hills. It’s an hour and a half’s ride from Mysore, and the KSRTC buses cost Rs. 100 each way.

 

  • Srirangapatna
    A rocky island formed by the Kaveri, this city was once the majesty of the Mysore kingdom. This island is littered with many historic and religious monuments. The nostalgic air of its glorious past hang around what’s left of the old capital of the Mysore kingdom- Jibi Gate, Ranganathaswamy Temple,Narasimha Temple, Gamgadharesware Temple, Water Gate,  Masjid-e-ala, Bangalore Gate, Mysore Gate, Daria Daulat Bagh, Abbe Dubois church, Bailee’s Tomb, Cauvery confluence (Sangam), and Gosai Ghat.

 

  • Chamundi Hill bull statue and the Chamundeshwari Temple
    The hill houses the temple of Chamundeshwari, the Hindu goddess that according to lore slew the demon Mahishasura and saved the townsfolk. The temple was built by the Vijayanagar rulers of the 17th century. In 1659, a flight of one thousand steps was built leading up to the 3000-foot summit of the hill. There is a huge granite Nandi on the 800th step on the hill in front of a small Shiva temple a short distance away. This Nandi is over 15 feet high, and 24 feet long and around its neck are exquisite bells.

 

  • Jamia Masjid MosqueOver 225 years old, this earthen yellow mosque was built in 1797 by Tipu Sultan. And it’s known to have been used regularly by him for prayer. On the terrace is a solar clock, exemplary of Tipu Sultan’s ingenuity and innovative nature. There are about 200 steps that go to the top of the tower.The mosque is still functional in part and has an ongoing Madrasa attached.

 

  • Sand sculpture museumThe brainchild of sand sculptor M. N. Gowri, this is the only museum of sand sculpture in the country. Located at the foothills of Chamundi Hill, the museum is spread over 13,500 sq feet. The museum hosts over 16 themes of sand sculptures.

 

  • Sivasamudram
    Home to the twin waterfalls of Barachukki and Gaganachukki, and the site of India’s first hydroelectric project (1902), it’s a place where you can spend a quiet time. Located 75 km to the east of Mysore, this is naturally bountiful.
    Stonesthrow away is the Hebbani village, where the affable Hatherell couple and their dogs run the relaxing Georgia Sunshine Village- a superb family getaway with accommodation in cozy bungalows, a sparkling swimming pool and delicious homemade food. Treks (guides are INR300) and fishing trips can be arranged on request.
    Frequent buses run from Mysore (Rs. 55 each way) to Malavalli, 14km away. The Hatherells can arrange an auto rickshaw pick-up for INR 150. You should call well in advance.

 

  • Biligiri Rangana Temple Wildlife Sanctuary
    Spread over 570 sq kilometer, it was declared a tiger reserve in 2011. Elephants, leopards, sloth bears and dholes (wild dogs) also roam the hills here. The Kyathadevara Gudi Wilderness Camp has a campsite in the forest, with grazing warthog and spotted deer. Accommodation pricey but includes all meals, a safari, guided walks and all taxes. It’s a 4½ hour drive from Bengaluru. It’s best to hire a vehicle although it is theoretically possible to get there by public transport. You can either catch a direct 7.45 am-bus from Mysore to Kyathadevara Gudi, or otherwise a bus to Chamarajanagar and connect to a 1.30 pm bus to Kyathadevara Gudi. From Chamarajanagar you can arrange a jeep for Rs. 700.

 

  • Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya(Museum of Natural History)
    Established in 1995, this museum was set up to demonstrate the relationship between Flora and Fauna and the abundance of diversity in this part of the country. It also serves in an academic capacity to students.

 

  • Mysore Zoo
    Spread over 64 hectares, this is one of the oldest zoos of the country. It holds 1320 animals, for the pleasure of people with an interest in fauna.
    It was established in 1892 on 4 hectares of the summer palace of Maharaja Sri Chamaraja Wadiyar, and was originally called the Palace Zoo. It was originally set up by G.H. Krumbiegel, a German landscaper and horticulturist. Over the next 10 years, the zoo was expanded to 18 hectares with spacious enclosures that are still in use. The zoo was opened to the public in 1902, and now includes a bandstand and an artificial lake. It was given to the Department of Parks and Gardens of the Mysore State Government in 1948. It was expanded further with another 20 hectares first, and then another 61 hectares, with the acquisition of the Karanji reservoir, which houses an artificial island created as a sanctuary for birds. It was handed over to the Forest Department in 1972 and was entrusted to Zoo Authority of Karnataka (the first autonomous organization in India to manage a zoo) in 1979.
    Indian elephants, leopards, giraffes, tigers, zebras, swans, American white pelicans, white rhinos, gaur elephants, white tigers, lions and pythons are just a few of the 168 species that inhabit this zoo.
    The zoo had completed 100 years in 1992.

 

  • St Philomena’s Cathedral
    Built in 1936, this cathedral is modelled in the Neo-Gothic style, similar to the Cologne Cathedral in Germany from which it draws its main inspiration. Designed by the French architect who went by the name Daly, this is considered the second largest church in Asia. Stunning stained glass windows depicting scenes from the birth of Christ, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ, and spires that stand at a height 53 metres, make this cathedral a remarkable architectural accomplishment, in addition to a demonstration of blending cultures and religious harmony.
    A church stood at the same location. Built in 1843 by Maharaja Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, it had an inscription which was found at the time of laying the foundation of the present church in 1933 that said- “In the name of that only God – the universal Lord who creates, protects, and reigns over the universe of Light, the mundane world and the assemblage of all created lives- this church is built 1843 years after the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Enlightenment of the World, a man.”
    In 1926, Sir T. Thumboo Chetty who was the Huzur Secretary to the Maharaja of Mysore, Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar obtained a relic of the Saint from Peter Pisani, Apostolic Delegate of the East Indies. In his speech on the day of the inauguration, the Maharaja of Mysore said: “The new church will be strongly and securely built upon a double foundation — Divine compassion and the eager gratitude of men.”
    The relic is preserved in the catacombs below the main altar.
    There is no entry fee at St.Philomena’s Church, Mysore.

 

  • Government House
    Built-in 1805 as the official residence of the British representative in the Mysore kingdom, the architecture is distinctly colonial. A Tuscan Doric building,  surrounded by almost 50 acres of parkland, it still holds its regality with authority. Visitors can stroll up to the Government House and see the halls and rooms in which governors and residents once did the business of the state. Look out for the oil paintings and dark furniture, which add to the overall ambiance of the building.

 

  • “Dodda Gadiyaara” Silver Jubilee Clock Tower
    Set on the northern side of the main palace, it was built in 1927 to celebrate the 25 years completed rule of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV. The cost of construction was borne by the staff of the palace as a token of their respect, and affection for the popular King. It is popularly known as ‘Dodda Gadiyaara’ (big clock.)
    The numerals on the clock are written in Kannada.

 

  • Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Centre
    Located in Mysore, this institute is the birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga as we know it today. Roots of power yoga and Jivamukti yoga can be traced back to this school as well. Details of their programme and their fee structure can be found on their website. http://sharathjois.com/

Address: #235, 8th Cross Road, 3rd Stage, Gokulam, Mysore, Karnataka 570002. Phone: 098801 85500

 

The Best Dassara

Among other things, Dussehra is a major attraction in Mysore. The festival falls in the month of October and goes on for 10 days. Since Chamundeshwari temple in Mysore bears the legend of the Indian goddess Chamundeshwari slaying the Mahishasūru demon that the city of Mysore derives its name from, the festival of Dussehra is celebrated with great pomp there. The Mysore traditional celebrations include ritualistic worship and display of the state sword and elephants and horses also with the goddess in her warrior form. The ceremony and the procession are presided over by the king of Mysore. The city celebrated the 400th anniversary of the festival in 2010 as evidence suggests it began in the 15th century by the kings of the Vijayanagara Empire. The Mysore Palace is breathtaking in its grandeur during the Dussehra celebrations. The procession is essentially a statue of the goddess Chamundeshwari placed on a mantapa weighing 750 kilos, made of gold on a decorated elephant and parades around town. The idol is worshipped by the royal couple and music and dance bands and decorated camels and horses and elephants also form part of the procession.

Mysore, a city that has been the crowning jewel of an illustrious empire for centuries and continues to be a major point of pride in India’s cultural history to this day, deserves every accolade it has ever been showered with and then some. Visit Mysore and let yourself get swept up by the grandeur of its glorious past.

Reaching Mysore:

 

  • Flights can be found in Mysore from most domestic airports of the metropolitan cities of the country.
  • Bandipur

Fare (INR) 77 (O)  Duration (hr) 2  Departures 11 daily via Ooty

  • Bengaluru

Fare (INR) 123 (O)/209 (R)/299 (V)
Duration (hr) 2-3
Departures every 30min

  • Bengaluru Airport

Fare (INR) 739 (V)
Duration (hr) 3½-4
Departures 12 daily

  • Channarayapatna

Fare (INR) 83 (O)/160 (V)
Duration (hr) 2
Departures hourly

  • Chennai

Fare (INR) 632 (R)/1026 (V)
Duration (hr) 9-11
Departures 6 daily from 4.30pm

  • Ernakulam

Fare (INR) 739 (V)
Duration (hr) 8-9
Departures 3 daily from 6pm

  • Gokarna

Fare (INR) 478 (O)
Duration (hr) 12
Departures 1 daily

  • Hassan

Fare (INR) 112 (O)
Duration (hr) 3
Departures hourly

  • Hospete (Hospet)

Fare (INR) 381 (O)/608 (R)
Duration (hr) 9-12
Departures 7 daily

  • Mangaluru

Fare (INR) 245 (O)/390 (R)/502 (V)
Duration (hr) 6-7
Departures hourly

  • Ooty

Fare (INR) 131 (O)/193 (R)/529 (V)
Duration (hr) 4-5
Departures 12 daily

Index: (O) Ordinary, (R) Rajahamsa Semideluxe, (V) Airavath AC Volvo

  • Bengaluru  Train No & Name: 16518 Bengaluru Express
    Fare (INR) 2AC/3AC 695/490
    Duration (hr) 3
    Departure Time 5.30am

Train No & Name 12008 Shatabdi Express
Fare (INR) AC chair/AC executive chair 305/770
Duration (hr) 2
Departure Time 2.15pm daily except Wed

 

  • Chennai

Train No & Name 12008 Shatabdi Express
Fare (INR) AC chair/AC executive chair 1280/1845
Duration (hr) 7
Departure Time 2.15pm daily Thu-Tue

 

  • Hospete (for Hampi)

Train No & Name 16592 Hampi Express
Fare (INR) 3AC/2AC sleeper 840/1205
Duration (hr) 12
Departure Time 7 pm

  • Hubballi

Train No & Name 17301 Mysore Dharwad Express
Fare (INR) sleeper/2AC 275/1065
Duration (hr) 9½
Departure Time 10.30pm

 

Train tickets can be bought from the Mysore railway reservation office.

For an idea of what you could do on  a short trip to Mysore, you could check- Mysore Video

For information on the Ashtanga yoga center in Mysore check out our blog about Yoga in India- Read Blog

For hostel bookings in Mysore, and around India, check- Aao Hostels

Happy travels!

“Say yes, and you'll figure it out afterwards” – Tina Fey.

Booking for Mysuru, The new Mysore