The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word Mysore is Dasara. The grandeur of heritage and architecture of Mysore is well known to everyone. An empire left behind by the Wodeyars, stands proudly, boasting of its magnificent history, royal palaces, museums, and art galleries. Though Dasara is the peak visiting season in Mysore; it still remains the best time to visit Mysore, as one gets to relieve its history. Oh, the glory of the durbar (royal assembly), the Jambu sawari (procession of the royal sword and the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari on a golden throne) is majestic.
Our visit to Mysore was a short one- on the third day of Dasara (luckily a weekend), assuming it to be a safe bet with regard to the coterie of tourists. We caught an early morning train from SBC (Bangalore) to Mysore that took approx 2.5 hours to reach. During our journey, we had the privilege to befriend this little angel- Janvi, who loved playing the game of choosing a different name for herself as per her whim.
A friend lived in the city and let us crash at her place, also allowing us to borrow her scooter- A boon in disguise. The major attractions are spread across the city, and having a vehicle at your disposal reduces the efforts of advanced planning. Having begun our exploration at noon, we decided to randomly ride across town, instead of playing the tourist.
The first thing that captured our attention was Karnataka Kalamandir standing in solitude, across the Mangalore-Mysore highway. It hosted a display of paintings, photographs, miniature models by different artists.
The surroundings of the gallery were embellished with sculptures and a larger than life sized peacock- built entirely from wood and coconut branches.
In the very same campus exists Rangayana- An institute that promotes theatre and stage craft.
Vividly colored bamboo sticks placed vertically at various points imitated a maze like pattern and scintillating head-shaped clay pots were positioned on the ground or were hung from poles across the entire path which led to an open ground where we caught a glimpse of the scenes of an act, played by a small gathering of students.
Their mentors’- two women, one in her early thirties and the other in her late twenties, emanating an aura of wisdom and discipline guided and corrected them, by and by.
The play was to take place each night during the Dasara festival in the open air theater- Vanaranga. The wonderful decorations were set up to create a wonderful ambience when lit up by bright colored focus lights at night.
After a satisfying lunch, we rode to the Mysore palace- the first overcrowded destination of our day. The scorching sun didn’t allow us to explore the grounds.
Hence, we chose to take shelter inside the walls of Jaganmohan Palace, dipping our senses in the ocean of paintings, monuments, grandiose architecture, and history. I would never be able to justify in words, what I witnessed in reality. If you are a true lover of art and architecture, history and monuments, you’ll realize that the Palace itself is too small to encompass the richness of the Wodeyar Empire. On the outer gardens of the Palace, one can take a small tour across the grounds on an elephant, or hunt for souvenirs in gift shops.
Later that evening, we proceeded to the sand museum, located on the way to Chamundi Hills. Intricate sculptures of Srikantadatta Wodeyar, Jambu sawari, Lord Ganesha, Goddess Chamundi, Laughing Buddha, Islamic Culture, Geetopadesh, ancient civilizations and tribes have been molded in the sand with fabulous precision. The interesting fact is that the artwork was created by a budding art student- MN Gowri, in 5 months. Unlike most sand sculptures that are put on display for a temporary period, this museum is here for the long run.
A day in Mysore can never be concluded without a visit to the enchanting Chamundi Hills. Since it was Dasara- the peak tourist season, the cops had blocked the way to prevent private vehicles from traveling uphill, as it would cause congestion. Instead, there was an alternative option of traveling via the royal public transport- Buses. We waited in line for more than an hour, until we could finally board one (My only concern was that we would miss the sunset at the peak, thanks to all the waiting). Just, a few meters away from our boarding point, the government had stationed a landing pad, and a Helicopter facility that offered rides (at a fair price) across the city. Though, it was post sunset when we made it to the top, the view was breathtaking. Colorful miniature lights adorned trees and street corners, creating a festive atmosphere.
The soothing wind combined with the pleasant music playing from tea stalls made our short visit magical. I befriended a dog, after I shared a lump of my ice-cream with her. But she kept following me around with no remorse, as if I was the gingerbread man. (Isn’t it shameful, when one can’t even shoo away a dog?) On returning, we made our way back to the Palace grounds to witness the marvelous view of the palace lit up at night, backed by a carnatic music concert.
Every building in its own shadow proclaimed its stories into the dark that night- A tale of a royal dynasty thriving through centuries ruling an empire witnessing love, loss, curses, wars and famines. One whose love for art and architecture transcended boundaries, whose richness and prosperity was a common knowledge to people, even across the oceans.
Until next time,
The Hippie Soul