After I posted my photo essay on the pink city of Jaipur (see my post dated 14 Oct 2010), I felt rather guilty of not having blogged about my own magnificent home city of Mysore, which strongly rivals the former in many ways. I am making up for it now. Boasting of a strong royal heritage and numerous beautiful palaces, the two cities have much in common and rate as two of the greatest tourist attractions in the country.
I first visited Mysore as a tourist sometime in the mid fifties while studying in Bangalore. The feeling in my highly impressionable mind was indescribably magical – like one of those stories in the Arabian Nights. The great Palace in the centre of the city and the fabled Brindavan Gardens nearby were straight out of Dreamland. Numerous other palaces, heritage structures, gardens and tree lined streets added to the overall effect and I fell in love with the city instantly. When I got a permanent job offer from the NCERT to work in the (then) Regional College of Education in Mysore in 1964, it was with unmitigated joy that I accepted it and reported for my new job on my 26th birthday. It has been my permanent home since then and I can’t dream of leaving it for any reason.
It is often said that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. In my case, nearly half a century of familiarity may have bred some indifference, insouciance and insensitivity, but certainly no contempt for anything associated with the city that has seen its share of ups and downs and the undesirable effects of expansion and modernization. The Brindavan Gardens is no longer the magical place it used to be, but the city still retains much of its glamour and glitz as well as the reputation of being a paradise for retired people.
Mysore and surroundings have far too many great sights to do adequate justice in this photo album; so, as with Delhi, I shall present only a random and rather indiscriminate selection here. Moreover, there are yawning gaps and omissions in my collection which need to be rectified.
[As before, all pictures here can be blown up to their full size by clicking on a picture and opening it in a separate window]
Rebuilt about a hundred years ago, the Mysore palace, with its vast courtyard and ornate entry gates on all four sides, is a stunning building in the Indo-Saracenic style and is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the country, perhaps next only to the Taj Mahal in Agra. Here is an aerial view of the palace shot from a vantage point on the nearby Chamundi Hill, one of the many other attractions of the city:
Here are two close-up pictures of the palace from two slightly different angles near the southern gate, one of the three entry points for tourists. The central dome of the palace seen in the first picture and barely visible in the second is actually much taller than it appears, as can be made out from the aerial picture.
Visitors can see some of the spectacular sights inside the palace for a modest entry fee, but cannot photograph any of them. They have to deposit their cameras at the entry gate for safe keeping! This is how many of the great heritage places in the country are sought to be protected from prying electronic eyes!
Those who feel frustrated at not being allowed to capture the interior of the palace with their cameras can find great solace in performing a virtual tour of it through a truly remarkable website which opens up the whole palace in all its splendor and glory to the discerning viewer. Here is its URL: http://www.mysorepalace.tv/360_Eng/index.html
The ten-day annual Dasara festival is the time when Mysore and its palace put on a special show for visitors. The festival culminates in a great procession on the Vijayadasami day, showcasing the culture and history of the city and the state, watched by a sea of humanity occupying every vantage point along the route starting from the palace courtyard. The period also marks a number of special events at different locations, including a music concert that can be watched from the palace courtyard every evening. Here is a picture of the front part of the palace with seating for paying visitors to watch these special events.
During the Dasara festival season, the palace and various other buildings as well as the main thoroughfares of the city are brightly illuminated at night and create a magical atmosphere. An illuminated palace can be seen even at other times, usually on all Sundays and special holidays. Here is a frontal view of it from just outside the eastern gate:
The age-old practice of using the energy guzzling and hugely wasteful incandescent electric bulbs for the illumination is still continuing. It is time that the authorities wake up to the possibilities and benefits of modern LED lighting.
A notable feature of the Dasara festival is the display of “heritage wheels in heritage city” within the palace courtyard. It features a large number of vintage cars and other vehicles owned by distinguished citizens of the city. Here is a photograph of one such venerable car with heaps of history behind it.
Now managed as a five-star hotel, Lalith Mahal palace is one of the most spectacular buildings in Mysore. It strongly reminds me of a few of the great buildings of its type in both Paris and London. The vast open space in front of it used to be maintained much better than it is now; still it is a great place to visit. Here is a picture of it:
The major facilities of the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), a unit of the central Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) are housed in another spectacular palace of the bygone era. Here is a picture of it taken on a glorious sunny day, something that is plentiful in the city:
The District Office
The office of the Mysore district commissioner is located in a palatial building whose rear view can be seen in the following picture:
The University of Mysore is one of the oldest in the country and its administrative headquarters is located in Crawford Hall, another palatial building with peaceful surroundings in the heart of the city. It is just across the DC’s office. It may be remembered that the nation’s former president Dr Radhakrishnan was on the faculty of this university. Here is the frontal portion of this huge building:
Oriental Research Institute
Another great heritage building in the city, the Oriental Research Institute administered by the University of Mysore is located across Crawford Hall. The following is a picture of its front side. A short stretch of double road starting from the law courts to the rear of this building is one of the highlights of the city.
The Zilla Parishat office is located in a small but beautiful palatial building with a very rich garden in the foreground as seen in the following picture:
Located opposite the main city palace is the Town Hall, called Rangacharlu Memorial Hall. Once in a state of disuse and appalling neglect, it has been restored to its former glory as can be seen in the following picture. There is a good looking clock tower (not shown) opposite this building and I have never seen it showing the correct time. Perhaps it is more appropriate to say that it shows the exact time just twice a day!
The Mysore Railway Station is yet another heritage structure and has seen a lot of renovation in recent months. Even before this spurt of activity, it was an impressive sight as can be made out from the following picture.
The Mysore University campus, called Manasagangothri, occupies a vast area west of the Crawford Hall and includes the Kukkarahalli Lake, a popular destination for morning walks and evening relaxation. The centerpiece of this campus is yet another palace of the bygone era, shown in the following picture:
The Chamundi Hill overlooking the city is one of its great landmarks and a popular destination for most tourists. On the way up the hill one encounters a statue (see picture below) of Mahishasura the rakshasa from whom the name of the city appears to have been derived. Earlier, one also encounters a large monolithic statue of Nandi the bull (not shown). The poor maintenance of the area on top of the hill is in sharp contrast to a good road leading up to it. This is despite, or may be because, of the existence of the famous Chamundeshwari temple (shown below) at the top, visited by huge crowds, especially on holidays. Its architecture is typical of most south Indian temples. There is an impressive palace too on top of the hill and it is not clear what it is being used for. The temple and this palace are two features prominently visible to anyone looking at the hill from the city.
KRS & Brindavan Gardens
The Krishnarajasagar (KRS) Dam built across the river Kaveri near Mysore in 1924 is the handiwork of the legendary engineer, architect and statesman Sir M Visveswaraya. The reservoir provides water for irrigation to a vast stretch of fertile land in both Karnataka and Tamilnadu states. Under the administration of Sir Mirza Ismail, the Dewan of the then princely state of Mysore, the other side of the dam was converted into two magnificent stretches of terrace garden on either side of a central artificial lake, with a walkway connecting the two parts. It has become famous all over the world for its sheer beauty and grandeur and is a fantastic sight, especially when fully illuminated after sunset.
The following photograph shows the original entrance gate to the gardens over the narrow uppermost stretch of the nearly 2 km long dam. On the left one could see the vast reservoir and on the right one could see a wide stretch of canal for the released water to flow into the main river. The southern part of the garden could be seen just beyond the canal after a sloped descent for both pedestrians and small vehicles. A picture of the water in full flow with all crest gates fully open during the monsoon season is also shown here.
Due to a huge increase in tourist traffic coupled with some security concerns, the main gate is no longer in use except by maintenance staff. Instead, tourists are diverted to a much larger entrance at the eastern end of the gardens after crossing a poorly built bridge over the river. Visitors can now see only the gardens, without being able to walk over the dam from which a spectacular view of the gardens below was earlier possible. Until these restrictive changes were introduced, I used to visit the KRS and the Brindavan gardens twice or thrice every year and enjoy long periods of contemplation and introspection, soaking up the serene atmosphere. Now these visits have become rather scarce.
The following four pictures show the fabled gardens from different vantage points, both north and south of the lake. Portions of the long dam can be seen in all of them. The focus however is on the rich greenery and flower beds laid out in beautifully symmetric style.
I appear to have lost my collection of pictures of the illuminated gardens without which any reference to KRS would be severely deficient. To that extent at least this photo album is incomplete and I hope to make up for the lapse sometime in future.
Mysore has been home to a number of frontline educational and research institutions in the country. One such institution is the Regional Institute of Education which I joined in 1964 and from which I retired in 2000 after a 36-year long period of unbroken service, except for some short periods of stay abroad and a three year long study leave in Bangalore. The institution is located in a beautiful 130 acre campus close to the Mysore University and adjacent to a few institutions of a similar character. In celebration of my fond association with it, I sign off with a picture of its main building surrounded by tall trees and rich greenery whose roots, though younger, are stronger and more durable than my own.