It was my third visit to Mysore, the city of Palaces. Mysore is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the country and boasts of the sobriquet “The cultural capital of Karnataka“. Unlike most other dynasties and monuments of South India, the monuments of Mysore have escaped the atrocities of Muslim invaders and later the British administration and at its prime was perhaps the most flourishing kingdom of South India after the great empire of Raja Raja Chola. I had already visited the major places in the city in my previous trips but two things were missing- the evening illumination of the Mysore palace and the Chamundi Hills. I started from Bangalore at about 9 AM form the Majestic bus stop. There are no direct buses to Mysore from here. There is a shuttle bus service which takes you to the satellite bus stop from where you can get buses to Mysore. There two bus services- the non AC one with one way fare of Rs. 135 and AC Volvo services for Rs.260. It takes about three and half hours to reach Mysore.
The first place I visited was the Philomena Church. The Philomena Catholic church was built in the honour of a 14 year old Greek martyr of 4th century. The church was built in 1843 by the then king of the Mysore, Maharaja Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar which reflects the secular approach of the state. In 1936, the church was reconstructed using a Neo-Gothic architecture. The church has 175 feet twin spires which is inspired from the spires of the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. The relic of Saint Philomena is preserved in a catacomb below the main altar of the church. There is a narrow staircase descending into the crypt just below the main altar where there is a statue of the sleeping saint. Above the main altar are tinted glass panes depicting incidents from the life of Jesus Christ like the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, etc. The church is about 500 m from the KSRTC bus stop. After alighting the bus I walked to the church. Although I had been to this church earlier, yet it was fascinating to revisit this cultural heritage.
Statue of St. Philomena in front of the Church
After the church, I had lunch and then went to the Chamundi Hills, where lies the divine abode of Goddess Chamundeswari, the family goddess of the Wodeyars. There is a bus plying from the Mysore city bus stand (it is different from the KSRTC bus stand) to Chamundi Hills (route no 201) which takes around 30 mins. I reached Chamundeswari temple at 3:30 PM. There is nothing much to see there apart from the main shrine. The temple is poorly managed creating an unnecessary crowd and the temple premises is very dirty. On either side of the doorway are the idols of dwarapalakas or the gatekeepers. As one enters inside, on the right hand side, there is a small statue of Lord Ganesha. Outside the temple, there is a statue of the mythical demon Mahisashur. Little far from the temple, is a black monolithic statue of the Nandi bull. However its difficult to reach there unless you have a vehicle of your own. I somehow managed to convince a family who drove me to the statue and back to the bus stop in their car. I take this opportunity to thank him for the ride. Thank You sir 🙂
I hurriedly boarded a bus and returned to the city bus stand which is just behind the Mysore Palace. Then I proceeded to the cynosure of Mysore:
THE AMBA VILAS PALACE
Amba Vilas Palace or Mysore Palace is the residence of the royal Wodeyar family who ruled the princely state of Mysore between 1399 to 1950. Leaving Taj Mahal behind, Mysore Palace became the most visited tourist place in India as per a latest survey. The palace has a unique Indo-Saracenic (a confluence of Indian, Persian and Gothic ) architecture as evident from the onion domes, chhatris, minarets and open pavilions. It took 15 years (1897-1912) to complete the construction of the palace. The palace area comprises of two sections- one is the area which is administered by the government and consists of the private audience halls, courtyard, king’s chambers, silver thrones, paintings, pieces of jewelry and a few other royal belongings. There are a few oil paintings of the famous painter Raja Ravi Verma. The other part is the residential complex which has a separate entry fee. It has lots of photographs, paintings, swords, armors, musical instruments, palanquins and many other royal artifacts. The palace premises also has 12 temples dedicated to various Hindu gods and goddesses.
I reached Mysore Palace around 4:30 PM. The main entrance of the palace is the east gate and is called “Jaya Maarthaanda”. Public entry is from the west gate called as “Varaha“. The entry fee for Indian adults is Rs.40 and there is half ticket of Rs.20 for children between 10-20 years. For foreigners, the entry fee is Rs.200 which comes with a free audio kit. On reaching inside, there is a free footwear deposit counter where visitors deposit their footwear and proceed inside the palace. The most striking structure inside the palace is an octagonal pavilion decorated with tinted glass panes, beautifully carved mahogany ceilings, white marble floors and intricate aqueous pillars. Although you can take photographs of the palace exterior, cameras are strictly prohibited inside the palace. Inside the palace, there are beautiful chambers, the royal darbar and a large collection of royal artifacts. After exploring the palace, I came out and collected my shoes. From the shoe counter, on walking straight, in the right side is the entrance to the residential section. Here there is another ticket counter and shoe deposit counter. I would suggest not to miss this part of the palace unlike most visitors as it has an exquisite collection of royal artifacts, ceremonial dresses of kings and princes, photographs and oil paintings (including 3D paintings) in the display. There are camel and elephant rides which can be fascinating particularly to children and first time riders.
By the time I completed exploring the palace, it was already dark outside and the palace was now looking like this in yellow lights.
However, the real charm of a lighted Mysore Palace was yet to be witnessed. On Sundays and public holidays, the palace is illuminated with incandescent bulbs in the evening which creates a breathtaking visual delight. Please plan your trip on Sundays or public holidays as your visit to Mysore palace would be incomplete without viewing this amazing evening illumination. I waited until 7 PM when the lights were turned ON much to the delight of the patiently waiting visitors who welcomed it with whistles and a loud cheer. The photographers with their DSLRs equipped with special lenses were ready to capture the grandeur of the palace with these shimmering lights. I waited there for more 20 minutes, clicked few pics myself and then went to the KSRTC bus stop to return back to Bangalore.
Silhouette of the illuminated Mysore Palace
Apart from these three places, the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens (popularly known as the Mysore Zoo) and the Vrindavan Gardens also attracts a huge crowd, especially in the weekends. However, having already visited some of the most famous zoos in the country like the Nandankanan Zoological Park in Bhubaneswar and the Alipore Zoo in Kolkata, visiting a zoo was least of my interests. The Vrindavan Garden is famous for its musical fountain and the park. Although it was popular in the 80s and 90s, nowadays such parks and musical fountains have come up in many other parts of the country and are no more a thing of wonder. Anyway, parks again are not something which interests me so I decided to avoid it too. However, if you have time you can definitely spend some time in these two places especially if you have kids with you.
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