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 It’s early to see why Mysore, at an altitude of 770 metres, is popularly with travellers since it’s friendly and easy-going with plenty of shady trees, well-maintained public buildings, clean streets and a good climate. The contrasts with the state capital, Bangalore, couldn’t be greater. Mysore has chosen to retain and promote its heritage while Bangalore is hell-bent on confronting the 21st century.    
Mysore is also a crafts center, and there are numerous shops selling a large range of sandalwood, rosewood and teak carvings, and furniture. Probably the most stunning display can be seen at Cauvery Handicrafts in the center of town.
      Until Independence, Mysore was the seat of the maharajas of Mysore, a princely state covering about a third of present-day Karnataka, and their attraction. Just south of the city is Chamundi Hill, topped by an important Siva temple. North of the city lie the extensive ruins of the fortress of Srirangapatnam, built by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan on an island in the middle of the Cauvery River. Tipu Sultan fought the last of his battles with the British here in the closing years of the 18th century. To the east is the beautiful temple of Somnathpur while to the west, below the Krishnaraja Sagar (Dam), are the Brindavan Gardens, a popular attraction with Indian tourists.

National Parks  
Accommodation and transport for the national parks of Bangalore (80 km south of Mysore) or Nagarhole (93 km south-west) should be booked with the Forest Officer, Woodyard, Ashokpuram (near the Siddhartha High School in a southern suburb of the city). Take an auto-rickshaw or a No 61 city bus. 

Mysore Palace  
Also known as the Amba Vilas Palace, the beautiful profile of this walled Indo-Saracenic palace, the seat of the maharajas of Mysore, graces the city’s skyline. An earlier palace burnt down in 1897 and the presence one was completed in 1912.
           Inside it’s kaleidoscope of stained glass, mirrors, gilt and gaudy colours. Some of it is undoubtedly over the top but there are also beautiful carved wooden doors and mosaic floors, as well as a whole series of mediocre, though historically interesting, paintings depicting life in Mysore during the Edwardian Raj. Note the beautifully carved mahogany ceilings, solid silver doors, white marble floors and superb columned Durbar Hall. The palace even has a selection of Hindu Temples within the palace walls including the Varahaswamy Temple with a gopuram which set the pattern for the later Sri Chamundeswari Temple on Chamundi Hill. The former maharaja is still in residence at the back of the palace.
The main public rooms of the palace are open to the public although the crowds can sometimes rival the departure lounge of a major international airport.
On Sunday nights (and on some holidays) 97,000 light bulbs spectacularly illuminated the palace between 7 and 8 pm. 

Chamundi Hill  
Overlooking Mysore from the 1062-metres summit of Chamundi Hill the Sri Chamundeswari Temple makes a pleasant half –day excursion. Pilgrims are supposed to climb the 1000-plus steps to the top but those not needing to improve their kharma will probably find descending more sensible than ascending! There is a road as well as the pathway to the top, and riding up then walking down has the added benefit of avoiding the pilgrim-packed buses which tend to be more crowded coming down than going up.
The temple is dominated by its towering seven-storey, 40-metres-high gopuram. The goddess Chamundi was the family deity of the maharaja, and the statue at the car park is of the demon Mahishasura who was one of Chamundi’s victims. The temple is open from 8 am to noon and 5 to 8 pm.
After visiting the temple start back to the car park and look for the top of the stairway, marked by red-and –white striped stone posts and a sign proclaiming ‘Way of Bull’. It’s a pleasant walk down, there’s some shade on the way and the views over the city and surrounding countryside are superb. Two-thirds of the way down you come to the famous Nandi (Siva’s bull). Standing five metres high and carved out of solid rock in 1659, it’s one of the largest in India. It’s always garlanded in flowers and constantly visited by bevies of pilgrims offering prasaad to the priest in attendance there.
From the bottom of the hill it’s still a couple of km back into the center of Mysore but there are usually auto-rickshaws waiting to ferry pedestrians back to town.

Devaraja Fruit & Vegetable Market  
Stretching along Sayaji Rao Rd from Dhanvantri Rd the Devaraja Market is one of the most colourful in India and provides excellent subject material for photographers. 

Jaganmohan Palace & Art Gallery  
Just west of Mysore Palace the Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery in the Jaganmohan Palace has a collection which includes junk and some weird and wonderful musical machines downstairs, paintings including work by Raja Ravi Verma upstairs and rare musical instruments on the top floor. The palace was built in 1861 and served as a royal auditorium. It’s open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm.

Railway Museum  

Across the line from the railway station is a small railway museum with a maharani’s saloon carriage, complete with royal toilet, dating and around 1888. It’s open daily from 10 am to 1 pm and 2 to 6 pm.

Other Buildings  

Mysore is packed with fine building in a variety of architectural styles. Dating from 1805 Government House, formerly the British Residency, is a fine ‘Tuscan Doric’ building, owes nothing to its India setting and still has 20 hectares of gardens. Facing Government House is Wellington Lodge where the Duke of Wellington lived after the defeat of Tipu Sultan.
In front of the north gate of Mysore Palace, a 1920 statue of Maharaja Chamarajendar Wodeyar stands in the New Status Circle, facing the 1927 Silver Jubilee Clocktower. If he glanced sideways he’d see the imposing town hall, the Rangachariu Memorial Hall of 1884. The next traffic circle west is the 1950s Krishnaraja Circle (K R Circle) with a statue of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar.
Built between 1933 and 1941 in neo-Gothic style St Philomena’s Cathedral, originally St Joseph’s, is one of the largest churches in India but is not particularly interesting. It stands north of the center. Converting maharajas’ palaces into hotels is a popular activity and the Lalitha Mahal Palace of 1921, on the eastern side of town, is a prime example. The Metropole Hotel also started life as guest house of the maharajas. The Rajendra Vilas Palace on Chamundi Hill, dating from 1938 but actually a copy of an 1822 building, has been a hotel and there are plans to make it one again. The 1910-11 Chaluvamba Vilas on Madikeri Rd was another maharaja’s mansion, while the ornate 1891 Oriental Research Institute in Gordon Park originally housed the university’s Departmental of Archaeology. 

Dussehra Festival  
This 10-day festival in the first and second weeks of October is a wonderful time to visit Mysore. The palace is illuminated every night and on the last day the maharaja leads on of India’s most colourful processions. Richly caparisoned elephants, liveried retainers, cavalry, and the gaudy and flower-bedecked images of deities make their way through the streets to the sound of jazz and brass bands, and through the inevitable clouds of incense. 

Places to Stay  
LALITHA MAHAL PALACE HOTEL, (Government Approved) Heritage Grand
HOTEL RAMANASHREE, (Government Approved) 3 Star
KAYNES HOTEL, (Government Approved) 3 Star
THE VICEROY, (Government Approved) 3 Star

Things to Buy  
Mysore is famous for carved sandalwood, inlay works, silk saris and incense. The best place to see the whole range is at the Cauvery Arts & Crafts Emporium on Sayaji Rao Rd. It’s open daily from 10 am to 1:30 pm and 3 to 7:30 pm. It accepts credit cards, foreign currency or travellers’ cheque and will arrange packing and export. 

Around Mysore  
The Sri Channakeshara Temple stands at the edge of the tranquil village of Somnathpur, 33 km east of Mysore. Built around 1260 AD during the heyday of the Hoysala kings, it’s an extremely beautiful and unspoilt building, although not as large as the other Hoysala temples at Belur and Halebid north-west of Mysore. Unlike these, though, it is complete.
The walls of the star-shaped temple are literally covered with superb sculptures in stone depicting various scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita and the life and times of the Hoysala Kings. No two friezes are alike-the carved frieze which goes around the temple has sic strips, starting with elephants at the bottom, followed by horses, a floral strip, scenes, crocodiles or lions and finally geese.


Sixteen km from Mysore on the Bangalore road stand the ruins of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan’s capital from which they ruled much of southern India during the 18th century. In 1799, the British, allied with disgruntled local leaders and with the help of a traitor, finally conquered them. Tipu’s defeat marked the real beginning of British territorial expansion in southern India.
Srirangapatnam was built on a long island in the Cauvery River. There isn’t much left of it as the British did a good job of demolishing the place, but the extensive ramparts and battlements and some of the gates still stand. The dungeon where Tipu held a number of British officers has also been preserved. Inside the fortress walls there’s a mosque and the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, a popular place of pilgrimage for Hindus. Non-Hindus can go all the way inside except to the inner sanctum, where there is a black stone image of sleeping Vishnu. The population of the town inside the fort is about 20,000.
One km east of the fort, across the other side of the main road, stands the Daria Daulat Bagh (Tipu’s summer palace), set in well- maintained ornamental gardens. It is now a museum housing some of Tipu’s belongings as well as many ink-drawing of him and his family. It also has ‘artists’ impressions’ of the last battle, drawn by employee of the British East India Company. All around the internal walls of the ground floor are paintings depicting Tipu’s campaigns, with the help of French mercenary assistance, against the British. The gardens are open daily; the museum hours are from 9 am to 5 pm daily.
Two km further is the Gumbaz, or mausoleum, of Tipu and his father, Hyder Ali. This impressive, cream building with its onion dome and inlaid doors was built by Tipu for his father and his family. 

Ranganathittoo Bird Sanctuary  
This sanctuary is on one of three islands in the Cauvery River, three km upstream from Srirangapatnam. If you’re interested in birds this is a good place to see storks, ibises, egrets, darters, spoon bills and cormorants. It can be visited at any time of year, though it’s best between July and August. Access is by a motorable road, open all year, and there are boats available. There is no accommodation.

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