Exhibiting its glorious historical past, magnificent palaces, temples and gardens, Mysuru, the cultural capital of Karnataka is fast emerging as a modern city.
Mysuru, the capital city of the Wodeyars, has always enchanted admirers with its quaint charm, rich heritage, magnificent palaces, beautifully laid-out gardens, imposing buildings, broad avenues and sacred temples. There’s an old world charm about the city that reaches out and touches everyone. One of the cleanest cities of Karnataka, Mysuru is famous in the world for its sandalwood and rosewood artefacts, stone sculptures, incense sticks, inlay work with ivory and exquisite silk saris. The name Mysuru originates from the word Mysooru, which is derived from the word Mahishasurana Ooru, referring the town of Mahishasura in Kannada language.
The Royal story
Mysuru is commonly described as the ‘City of P alaces’. There are about seven palaces in the city.
Mysuru has a number of historic palaces, however, the Mysuru Palace is the largest and the most opulent of all palaces located in the city center. It is also called the Amba Vilas Palace. Commissioned in 1897, its construction was completed in 1912. Showcasing the Indo-Saracenic style, one can see a pleasant blend of Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic styles of architectural elements here. The interior of Mysuru Palace is richly carved, intricate, colourful and architecturally thrilling. The famous sweet, Mysore pak, was first prepared in the kitchens of the Mysore Palace during the regime of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, by a palace cook named Kakasura Madappa. He made a concoction of gram flour, ghee and sugar. When asked its name, Madappa having had nothing in mind, simply called it the ‘Mysore pak’.
Located in the tropics, the city has a moderate climate. Every autumn, the Palace hosts the famous Mysuru Dasara festival during which leading artists perform stage shows. On the tenth day of the festival, Vijaya Dashami, a parade with caparisoned elephants and other floats originate from the palace grounds. The magnificent jewel-studded golden throne of the Wodeyars is displayed here during the festival.
Lalitha Mahal Palace
The second largest palace in Mysuru, it is located near the Chamundi Hills, east of Mysuru. The palace was built in 1921 at the orders of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, for the exclusive stay of the then Viceroy of India on his visit to Mysuru. Built on a raising ground, the palace was fashioned on the lines of the St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and is one of the imposing structures of the Mysuru city. Set amidst sprawling landscaped gardens below the Chamundi hills, the palace was planned by E W Fritchley, the architect from Bombay. In 1974, it was converted into a heritage hotel.
Built in 1861, this palace housed the royal family when the old wooden palace was gutted in a fire in 1897. This three-storied main structure was converted into an art gallery during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. Its ornamental front portion with a hall was added to the main building at the time of the marriage of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and hence was called the Wedding Pavilion. It has a collection of rare artefacts.
A delightful zone
From silks and sculptures to incense sticks and flowers, Mysuru is a shopper’s delight.
Go to Devaraja Market for its colourful, pungent and noisy atmosphere. The best area to shop is on Sayyaji Rao Road, which is the main shopping area. There are also many craft shops on Dhanvantari Road.
Karnataka contributes to nearly 70 per cent of the country’s total mulberry silk which is mainly grown in the Mysuru district. Mysuru silk, is a light, soft, smooth variety of silk with a distinctive sheen. Under the royal patronage, the first Mysuru Silk Factory was established in 1912, for which the Maharaja of Mysuru imported looms from Switzerland.
The Mysuru silk sari is inlaid with golden zari thread in patterns and borders to give it an ultimate grand look. An authentic Mysuru silk sari always has an embroidered number on one edge.
In 1917, a Sandalwood Oil Factory was established in Mysuru, that inadvertently became a centre for producing sandalwood oil and other products related to sandalwood. It is the best place to see how the wood is harvested and oil extraction takes place. Here you can also buy the famous Mysuru sandalwood soap and perfumes infused with sandalwood fragrance.
Rosewood inlay artefacts
Royal patronage helped various art and crafts to flourish in Mysuru. During the time of Tipu Sultan, rosewood was used extensively. At that time, the sculptors and master craftsmen came up with the concept of inlay for enhancing the rosewood sculptures and articles. The inlay included precious things as ivory, horn, mother of pearl and sandalwood. Wood inlay works have a universal appeal.
Mysuru paintings are known for their elegance, muted colours, and attention to detail. The themes for most of these paintings are Hindu gods and goddesses and scenes from Hindu mythology. What makes it distinct is the gesso work.
Around the city
Besides its numerous palaces and royal buildings, Mysuru city is also known for proximity to several other places of inter est.
1) Brindavan Gardens
Located at the Krishnasagar Dam, Brindavan Gardens is one of the finest gardens in South India. Spread over 150 acres, Brindavan Gardens has provided the backdrop for many Indian films. Special attractions include the ‘Dancing Fountains’.
2) St. Philomena’s Cathedral
This beautiful Cathedral, reminiscent of medieval architectural style, is one of the largest churches in the country. Built between 1933 and 1941 in Gothic style, the Church is an imposing structure with stained glass windows and lofty towers. The main feature of this church is the reclining statue of St. Philomena. The statue is taken out for a procession in the city streets during the festival.
3) Bandipur National Park
It is about 80 km from the city of Mysuru on the route to Ooty and is another major tourist destination. Established as a tiger reserve, it is one of the most beautiful and the better managed national parks of India.
Situated at 15 km from Mysuru city, the place is known for the mausoleum of Tipu Sultan, his fort and the famous Ranganathaswamy Temple.
One of the most popular and picturesque hill stations located at 126 km, Ooty’s landscape is marked by rolling hills covered with dense vegetation, smaller hills and plateaus covered with tea gardens.
6) Coorg or Kodagu
Coorg or Kodagu, 120 km from Mysuru, is an unspoilt ‘place of million hills’, situated on the slopes of the Western Ghats. It is known as India’s coffee bowl owing to its coffee plantations. The two hours drive from Mysuru is worth it as one can enjoy miles of greenery, thick forests, acres of coffee estates and shimmering streams.
Shivanasamudra at 80 km from Mysuru, is a segmented waterfall with several parallel streams. The island divides Kaveri river into two parts that form two waterfalls – one is Gaganachukki and the other is Bharachukki. Collectively they are called as Shivanasamudra Falls. This place offers a breathtaking sight in monsoon.
Know the City
Mysuru is the land of heritage, culture and wildlife. It comes under top five cleanest cities of India.
Karanji Lake, owned by the Mysuru Zoo, is one of the biggest walk-through aviaries (a large enclosure of birds) in India. The lake also has a Butterfly Park, which makes it one of the must visit tourist places in the city.
LOVE FOR BOOKS
The city has one of the oldest libraries of India, known as the Oriental Research Institute. A wonderfully preserved building, the library has a collection of around 50,000 palm leaf manuscripts, which are collected from personal collections across South India.
Mysuru Paints and Varnish Private Ltd. (MPVPL) is the company that produces and supplies the indelible ink that is used in every election in India. The ink is used to mark the index finger of all voters to denote that the particular citizen has exercised his or her voting right. The mark helps to avoid fraudulent or multiple voting and malpractices.
TIPU AND MYSURU
Tipu Sultan, also known as the Tiger of Mysore, was the legendary ruler of the Kingdom of Mysuru. After his death in 1799, his sword was gifted to Major General Baird by those serving under him. In 2003, businessman Vijay Mallya, bought the legendary sword of Tipu Sultan at a private auction in London and brought it back to India. Since then, the sword is displayed for public viewing for a week every year on the occasion of Tipu Sultan’s anniversary at his dargah in Srirangapatnam.
AHEAD OF TIME
In the 1780s, it was in Mysuru that the first metal-cylinder and iron-cased rocket artillery were created. It was developed by Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali. These rockets were much more advanced than what the British had ever seen.
Words: MIA GANDHI