About the place
Also called Mysuru, The City of Palaces is a 3.5 hrs journey by road (150 km) from Bangalore. The Wodeyar dynasty ruled Mysore for almost five and a half centuries. The city is very old and has a lot of structures that are huge and remind you of the days of Rajas. The Wodeyars were patrons of art and culture and evry must-see spot in the town will prove that – the 4 palaces, chamunda temple, art gallery, zoo, lakes, gardens etc. The place is also famous for Mysore Pak (a sweet) and Mysore silk-saree (a garment). Climate is cool (max 33 deg C in summers ie. Mar-Jun) throughout the year. Best time to visit is during the Dasara festival, usually in October.
What to see/do
Mysore Palace: Mysore Palace is one of the most visited monuments in India, even beating Taj Mahal [Source]. Also called Ambi Vilas, the Palace is the center of the city of Mysore. The royal family of Mysore formerly resided here and also presided over the ceremonial meetings. Designed by British architect Henry Irwin, the three storied Palace was constructed in Indo-Saracenic style at the cost of INR 4,200,000 at 1912. There is a large space (comprising a large garden, staff quarters, residential museum, several temples and a place where you can enjoy camel and elephant rides) that surrounds the Palace. The Palace has four gates on four sides. It is open to public from 10 am to 5 pm everyday.
The open spaces are open to photography. But you cannot go inside the Palace with a camera. The security is pretty tight, so don’t try sneaking your camera in any way. You’ll have to shell INR 15 for keeping your camera at a stall outside and INR 20 for Palace entry fee. Also, you’ll have to keep your shoes outside at another stall (INR 0.50 per pair). The decorations, designs and architectural patterns inside the palace will give you several ‘aha’ moments. The view outside from the Durbar will enable you view the palace sprawl. The palace also houses 12 temples built at different periods (oldest: 14th century, latest: 1953), with Someshwara Temple being most famous. You may also visit the armory of the royal family. Sunday evening (7pm to 8pm) the Palace is illuminated with 100,000 bulbs of 100W and looks regal. The entry into palace grounds is free, however you cannot enter inside the palace after 5pm. The view attracts thousands of visitors every Sunday evening.
Jaganmohan (Jayachamarajendra) Art Gallery: It was built by the royalty when their earlier palace was burnt down. It is a three storied palace with stained glass shutters. It was converted to an Art Gallery in 1915. The gallery houses several paintings of Raja Ravi Verma and portraits of the royal family, most of which are life-like. Some paintings depict sari-clad women in their full fledged shape and glow. The gallery also houses several furnitures, artifacts and musical instruments of the royal family. Besides the royal paintings, I liked “Glow of Hope” painting the most. The display arena of the painting is darkened, which heightens the nuances of the painting.
Philomena Church: Inspired by Cologne Cathedral in Germany, this half a century old church is built in Neo-Gothic style. The Maharajah of Mysore laid the foundation in 1933, but it took more than two decades to complete its construction (probably due to independence related turbulence in India). The Church is extremely large and exudes an old-world charm. Someone there told me the twin spires of the Church somewhat resembles Cologne Cathedral (Germany) and St. Patrick’s Church (New York). The main altar preserves the relic of Saint Philomena. There are several paintings on the stained glass windows inside the Church. Camera is not allowed inside, however, you may use the camera just outside the church building (and hence the adjoining picture).
Chamundi Hills: This 1000m high hill is around 10km from Mysore bus-stand (city center). The hill presents a panoramic view of the Mysore city. Atop the hill, is a bus stand and Chamundi Devi (also called Chamundeswari, Chamundeshwari) Temple nearby. There is another route to the Temple – climbing 1000 steps (I only saw the steps, don’t really know any other detail though; may be next time). The temple is very popular, with thousand of devotees thronging the place on weekends and holidays. There are three types of entry – free, INR 20 and INR 100. The temple houses diety of Goddess Mahisasurmardini (slayer of demon Mahisasur), or Durga. The deity is taken on an elephant during the famous Dasara festival. Other must-see stuff are the monolithic statues of Mahisasura and Nandi Bull and Godly Museum. Food (South Indian) is available at some local shops. En route to the Temple, you may see Lalitha Mahal (a palace), race course, Mysore Palace, Rajendra Vilas Palace (momentarily closed to the public due to renovation) and Karanji and Kukkarahalli Lakes.
Vrindavan (Brindavan) Gardens: Almost 15km from Mysore bus-stand, lies this attractive garden beside the KrishnaRajaSagar Dam (KRS Dam built on river Cauvery, or Kaveri). The garden was completed in 1932 and is visited by almost 2 million tourists per year. Entry fee is INR 20 per head, and another INR 50 if you want to take a camera along. The Garden has three terraces comprising fountains and several breeds of flowers (I could only identify two – Bougainvillea and Marigold) and trees. A lake (and a very massive one) divides the park into two. Boats ferry people from one side to another, there’s a bridge as well in case you want to walk. During the evening, there’s musical fountain from 6:30pm to 7:30pm. As the name says, the water is synchronized with the music. The show draws major crowds and traffic comes to a stand still when all the vehicles leave at the show’s end. There’s an adjoining 75 acres fruit orchard as well. Buses ply from Mysore at every 30 min from Mysore local Bus Stand.
Other attractions: Mysore has several other attractions like Karanaji Lake, Rail Museum (houses Maharani’s Saloon), Mysore Zoo (dates back to 1892), Folklore Museum (inside University of Mysore campus) and Oriental Research Institute. These places are recommended if you are on a 2-day tour to Mysore. For single day tourists, only the first five venues are advisable. Other nearby places are Srirangapatna, Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary, Sivasamudra Falls, Talakad and Bylakuppe.
How to get there/local transport
From Bangalore: Regular buses (20 min) from Majestic; Fare is INR 80 on BMTC buses; takes around 3/3.5 hours. There are 9 trains between Bangalore and Mysore (Times from Bangalore – 0430, 0500, 0625, 0700, 0735, 1415, 1815, 2055, 2355 hrs and times from Mysore – 0400, 0710, 0805, 0930, 1005,1045, 1645, 2115, 2355 ). For bookings go here. You may also decide to ride on a bike or have a personal vehicle.
Local Transport: Mysore has two bus stands – city BS and main BS, both near the Mysore Palace. Buses ply from the city BS to every tourist spot – Chamunda Hills, Brindavan Gardens, Philomena’s Church etc. Enquiry office guys are really helpful. Autos are also available and charge reasonably. Alternately, you may rent a taxi for city tour.
Where to stay
If you are on a 1-day tour, no need to stay. If you have to stay, there are several hotels around the bus-stand area, take a call according to your budget.
One-day trip: Leave Bangalore early morning (this avoids any delay due to traffic and also gives you ample time) and reach Mysore by 9 am. Visit the Chamunda hills first. Stop enroute (ask anyBus conductor for directions) to visit Lalitha Mahal. Then move towards the temple. Have breakfast and drive down to the city. Next, visit Philomena’s Church, Jaganmohan Art Gallery, Mysore Palace in sequence. Next, take a bus (or personal vehicle, but not auto) to Brindavan Gardens. Experience the beauty, boating and musical fountain there. Come back to Mysore city and then back to where you came from.
Two-Day Trip: Do the above and also visit five places mentioned in ‘other attractions’. Alternately, you may want to combine Srirangapatna-Mysore in two days. Leave Bangalore early to reach Srirangapatna at 9am. Follow TravellersDiary recommendations for Srirangapatna and then leave for Mysore. Visit the market (buy Mysore Pak, silk sarees etc) and stay in a hotel.And yes, do take a lot of photographs.
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