Mysore is the perfect place to start exploring Karnataka. Positioned at a strategic location geographically, Mysore offers an unbelievable variety of places to visit and explore. The city itself has a good chunk of the state’s royal history, having been the state capital for several dynasties. A few hours drive from Mysore will take you to wildlife sanctuaries, heritage centers, rivers, temples, the coast and hill stations; all you have to do is pick your destination.
The Mysore Palace is built in Indo-Saracenic style and is a repository of exquisite carvings and works of art collected from all over the world. Designed by an English architect, Henry Irwin, the new palace is an interesting combination of Hindu and Muslim styles of architecture. Known as the Amba Palace, it was formerly the residence of the royal family, the Wodeyars.
Chamundi Hills form an excellent backdrop to the city. A mere 13km away, the summit offers a panoramic view of Mysore’s lakes, parks and palaces. Atop the hill is the 12th century Chamundeshwari temple, adjoining the gigantic statue of Mahisasura, the buffalo-headed demon. Legend has it that goddess Chamundeshwari; the patron deity of the Wodeyars killed Mahishasura on these very hills, thus bringing peace to the land.
Commonly called the Mysore Zoo, the Sri Jayachamarendra Zoological Gardens was established in 1892 and is home to a variety of rare animals bred in captivity. It is also a repository of over 110 species of plants and trees from several countries.
In a city seeped in tradition, the St. Philomena’s Church, reminiscent of medieval architectural styles blends in perfectly, providing just the right amount of contrast and intrigue.
The Jagan Mohan palace houses the Jaya Chamarajendra Art gallery that boasts an excellent collection of paintings by renowned artists like Ravi Varma and Svetoslav Roerich, along with traditional Mysore gold leaf paintings.
The Folklore Museum at Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion in the Manasagangotri campus is a storehouse of folk culture with its collection of costumes, dolls, handicrafts, implements, utensils, and even articles of daily use.
A few yards from the railway station is the Rail Museum. The museum contains a number of interesting exhibits- like the vintage Maharani’s Saloon built in the UK in 1899 and a Kitchen-dining car built in Mysore in 1914.
The Regional Museum of Natural History provides a unique opportunity to explore the natural world. There is also a ‘Temporary Exhibition Hall’ and a ‘Discovery Centre’ where learning about nature is made fun and enjoyable.
While in the vicinity of the university campus, you can also picnic at the Kukkara Halli Tank, located close by. Depending on the time of the day, joggers and picnickers are often seen here.
In October, the sedate city of Mysore gears up for the annual Dussehra celebrations. This festival is celebrated with pomp and pageantry for ten full days-with fairs, cultural events, dance performances and musical concerts being the order of the day.
The Brindavan Gardens, laid out in typical Mughal style is adjacent to India’s first irrigation dam- the Krishnarajasagar Dam, across the river Cauvery. One of Mysore’s most popular attractions, the garden is totally transformed after sundown into a wonderland complete with colored lights and musical fountains.
SHOPPING IN MYSORE
Mysore is renowned for its fine silks and exquisite artifacts in sandalwood and rosewood. Brightly colored Mysore paintings are also a favorite of souvenir shoppers and art collectors. The best places to shop are Sayyaji Road, the main shopping area, Dhanvantri Road and Ashoka Road. For Saris, the Government Silk Factory on Jhansi Lakshmi Bai Road is the place to go.
GETAWAYS FROM MYSORE
Kabini River Lodge
On the banks of the Kabini River in Karapur village is the Kabini River Lodge- one of the top five wildlife resorts according to Tatlers guide. Built around the erstwhile hunting bungalows of the Maharajas of Mysore, the resort is developed by Jungle Lodges & Resorts, a unit of the Karnataka Tourism Department. Jeep safaris, elephant rides, coracle rides, and nature walks are easy ways to awaken the naturalist and the wildlife enthusiast in you.
Chennavakeshava Temple, Somnathpur
Situated in the tiny village of Somnathpur, 35km from Mysore, the Chennakeshava temple with its characteristic Hoysala architecture, the stellar platform, is the best-preserved monument of that style.
Located 45km from Mysore, on the Eastern banks of the Cauvery River, in the T. Narasipura Taluk, Talakkad is an ancient temple town that now lies buried under sand dunes. Famed for its Kirthinarayana temple, the town comes alive once in twelve years when thousands of devotees throng to Talakkad for the Panchalinga Darshan.
Nanjangud takes its name from the Nanjundeshwara temple set on the banks of the Kapila River. Built in Dravidian style, the massive temple has an imposing Rajagopuram. Nanjangud is 23kms from Mysore and famous for Sadvaidyashala– the first Ayurveda Centre in Karnataka and also the local Rasbale (bananas).
Within this historic island fortress of the legendary warrior king, Tipu Sultan is a mosque, the Temple of Ranganatha Swamy, revered by the Sultan, the Wellesley Bridge and the dungeons where British officers were once imprisoned. Tipu’s summer palace- Daria Daulat Bagh, set amidst a lovely garden is now a museum. It is truly a tribute to the sultan’s fine sense of aesthetics. The museum houses Tipu’s memorabilia- his weapons, a map of his fort, an assorted collection of old paintings, coins, European paintings, Persian manuscripts written on handmade paper, a model of Srirangapatnam frescos and murals depicting the splendor of his kingdom.
Even more evocative of the era is the ornate white-domed Gumbaz, or mausoleum, of Tipu and his father, Haider Ali. It is an imposing structure with rosewood doors inlaid with ivory leading to the tombs of Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan.
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
Situated about 5km upstream from Srirangapatna, where the river Cauvery flows around a string of tiny islets, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is an all- season picturesque preserve for water birds, cormorants, spoonbills, river terns, plovers, open-billed storks, white ibises, egrets, darters and herons. An early morning boat ride is a great way to watch birds here. Watch thee winged visitors building nests or plunge into the water.
Come December, birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts make a beeline to the tiny hamlet of Kokkrebellur, in the sugarcane-rich Mandya District, to witness a dramatic spectacle enacted year after year with unfailing regularity. The normally quiet village comes alive with the arrival of the spot-billed pelicans and painted storks that nest here. You can see the birds in their breeding plumage, building and guarding their nests, incubating the eggs, nursing and feeding the young ones. It is fascinating to observe the birds living in perfect harmony with the villagers and enjoying their protection.
Explore this region 65km East of Mysore in the monsoon season, when the falls are at their heaviest. The combination of forested hills and lush green valleys form a perfect setting for the Cauvery River as it hurdles down from a height of 75m into a deep, rocky gorge to form two falls, Barachukki and Gaganachukki. 1.5km from Shivanasamudram is Shimsha, Asia’s first hydroelectric project, established at the behest of Sir. M. Vishveshwaraya in 1092. While there, stop by the Ranganatha temple and Someshwara temple. Ideal for a day trip during the wet season, it is advisable to carry a picnic hamper, as there are not many eateries here.
A scenic hill town known for its shrines, monasteries, Iyengar puliyodarai and the Academy of Sanskrit Research. Melkote is also the site of the 12thcentury, Cheluvarayaswami temple. The history goes that Ramanuja, the Vaishnavaite saint ercovered the lost idol of the main deity and installed it here. Hence, Ramanuja is worshiped along with Vishnu in the Narayana temple here. The temple is now is an important for his followers.
The main attraction at Melkote is the annual Vairamudi festival, when the deity is adorned with the legendary diamond-studded crown belonging to the former maharajas of Mysore and taken out in procession through the town.
Road: Bangalore- 140km.
Rail: there are several passenger and express trains linking Mysore with Bangalore, Chennai and other towns. It’s a 3 hour journey from Bangalore.
Air: Bangalore- 140km.