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Sunday, November 1, 1998
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Pomp and show of a royal age recreated

Mysore is the second largest city in Karnataka. At least two days are required to see the wonderful sights the city has to offer, says Kuldip Dhiman

The majestic Lalithamahal at the foot of Chamundi HillIT is city of gods and demons; it is the city of maharajas; it is the city of palaces and temples; it is the city of art and culture; it is the city of festivals; it is the city of lights; it is the city of silk, sandalwood and incense sticks. It has it all. It is Mysore.

When the atrocities of the demon Mahishasura became unbearable, goddess Chamundeswari beheaded him in a duel and brought relief to her beleaguered devotees. To commemorate this victory the devotees renamed the town Mahisha-surapura. In the Mahabharata it finds mention as Mahishmati, and during the Mauryan age (3rd century BC) it was popular as Purigere. From Mahishasurapura it later got corrupted to Mysore. It used to be the administrative capital of the erstwhile Mysore state from 1799 to 1831.

And now Mysore is the second largest town in Karnataka (either called Mysore state). It is a must-see for any tourist visiting Karnataka. At least two days are required to see the wonderful sights the city of Mysore has to offer.

No other time is better to visit Mysore than the month of October, when the world- famous Mysore Dasehra is celebrated.

A regal pageant of horses, camels, elephants, chariots, soldiers, generals, ministers, court officials, priests and musicians moves through the streets of the city. The royal age of the past with all its pomp and show is literally recreated.

Folk dances, classical dances, music and a host of other cultural activities are held. Artists and scholars are honoured. The entire city is lit with colourful lights, and Mysore becomes a dreamland for about a fortnight.

The centre of attraction during the Dasehra festival and indeed during the rest of the year is the magnificent Mysore Palace. In 1897 a devastating fire reduced the old palace to ashes. The king commissioned Henry Irwin to design a new palace.

After 15 years of hard work the new palace was finally completed in 1912, and to this day visitors marvel at the grandeur of its architecture. The Mysore Palace is now a museum housing priceless paintings, sculptures and artifacts. The Durbar hall has the royal throne that weighs 280 kg. It is believed that the throne was brought to Mysore from Vijayanagar in the 16th century. Others believe that it was a gift from Aurangzeb. Paintings by Raja Ravi Verma are the prized possessions, and so are the panels and panels of oil paintings depicting the Dasehra procession. The famous tiger-claw of Chattrapati Shivaji and the swords of Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan are other important exhibits. You need at least three hours to see the interior of the palace hurriedly. If you want to study each object properly, at least a week may be required.

Not very far away the Mysore Palace is the Jaganmohan Art Gallery and Museum that was constructed in 1875. Specially built for the royal wedding in 1861 of Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the palace and its exhibits give us some idea of the lifestyle of the royals in the last century. Haldekar’s famous painting. The Woman with the Lamp is very popular with the visitors because it is so realistically painted. Raja Ravi Verma’s mythological paintings transport you to the world of myths and legends. There is a large collection of musical instruments. Another popular exhibit is the exquisite French clock that displays a parade every hour. You have the miniature soldiers beating drums to mark the seconds, blowing a bugle to mark the minutes.

The majestic Lalithamahal at the foot of the Chamundi Hill was built by Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV in 1930. In sharp contrast to the other brightly coloured palaces of Mysore, the Lalithamahal is painted white. The grandeur of its architecture can be better appreciated from the top of the Hill. This marvelous structure stands out with all its splendour against the lush green countryside.

The Chamundi Hill was named after Durga, who is also called Chamundeswari because she slayed two dreaded demons, Chanda and Mundi. As you climb up the Chamundi Hill you come across the monolithic statue of the Nandi bull.

The idol of the ferocious demon MahishasuraFarther up on the top you are greeted by the idol of the ferocious demon Mahishasura. Adjacent to it is the40-metres-high Chamundeswari temple. The seven-storey gopura of the temple was constructed 300 years ago, but the deity is believed to be 2,000 years old ! Not very far away is the beautifully sited Rajendra Palace that commands such an excellent view of the Mysore city and its countryside.

The Rajendra Palace has been a favourite with horror film-makers. The better way to enjoy the magnificence of the beautiful hill and its surroundings is to walk up the hill by taking the four-and-a- half kilometer short-cut that was paved in the seventeenth century.

An hour of your time could be set aside for the Chamarajendra Zoological Garden which is very popular with children. Those with money to spare may go to the town centre and buy silk saris, sandalwood handicraft, and incense sticks. Beware of fake sandalwood and silk. The Cauvery Arts and Crafts Emporium on Sayaji Road can be relied on for genuine goods.

The neo-Gothic St. Philomena’s built in 1931, is an awenspiring structure. St. Philomena’s feast is celebrated in August every year by taking out a procession through the city. The Railway Museum, the Folk Art Museum, the Lokranjan Mahal are the other attractions.

An evening at the Brindavana Gardens is clearly the best way to round up your Mysore trip. If you have seen everything in Mysore, but not the Brindavana Gardens, then your visit is considered incomplete. Where else in India can you have such a dazzling display of flood-lit fountains? The most popular of the fountains is the musical fountain, that appears to dance to music. Actually, the flow of water is controlled with the aid of computers and this makes the fountain to dance.

The performance is held every half hour and everyone in the garden rushes to the spot to watch it. At other times you might relax and marvel at the layout of the terraced garden, or recall how many films you have seen that were shot here. Towering above the gardens is the magnificent engineering feat — the Krishnaraja Sagara Dam, built across the Cauvery. The project was conceived by the genius M. Visveshwaraya. The work was started in 1911 and completed in 1931.

As there are no direct flights or trains to Mysore, Bangalore is a convenient place to make your first stop. One day can be set aside for a conducted tour of the capital city.

From here you hire a cab, or make a one-day conducted tour to Srirangapatnam and Mysore. If you have more time and money you might opt for a three-day or a six-day tour to Mysore that will include camping on the Kabini, elephant safaris in the forest of Bandipur, and three days at the picturesque Ooty.


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