A mention of Mysore conjures up various images in mind. In foodies, it is of the delicious Mysore Masala Dosa while in those mainly with sweet tooth; Mysore Pak is the immediate visual. A number of us associate the city with the famous Mysore silk sarees. In art lovers it summons up images of the graceful and intricate Mysore paintings as well as Mysore rosewood inlay work. Then, there is the beautiful Mysore Palace, an absolute delight for any tourist to the city.
Travellers get to see and experience all the above and much more when they set out to explore Mysore city. On our recent visit to the city, we found it to be both fun and informative. Mysore happens to be the Cultural Capital of Karnataka and one of the Cleanest Cities in India. In the survey of 2019, Mysore bagged third spot behind Indore and Ambikapur. Going around the city, the last one was amply evident. Cleanliness was seen everywhere and without doubt, it was heartening.
There is a variety of sightseeing options – both manmade and natural. Though we couldn’t explore all the attractions, we did manage to cover a lot of them. The first day was spent exploring the beautiful Chennakesava Temple of Somnathapur, the fascinating Talakkad and the splendid Shivanasamudra Waterfalls. The next day we set out to explore Mysore city attractions and Srirangapatnam, the details of which is given below. But first let’s go back and know a bit about the history of this city.
A Brief History of Mysore
Historically, Mysore was a part of the Ganga dynasty and later of the Cholas, the Chalukyas and the Hoysalas dynasties. The Wodeyars gained control of the region in the end of 14th century. At that point of time, Mysore served as a vassal state of the big Vijaynagara Empire. Eventually, as the Vijayanagara Empire’s fortune declined, Mysore became independent. It grew and prospered. It remained with the Wodeyars up till Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan came into picture. During their period, the duo led four Anglo – Mysore war by the end of which Mysore became a part of British Empire. The Wodeyars were reinstated as Maharajas by the British. Post-independence, Mysore became a part of Karnataka state.
Exploring the Attractions
Chamundi Hill & Temple
We started off our day with a visit to the Chamundi Hill (a good view of which we got from our hotel room as well) and Temple.
Mysore is located at the base of Chamundi Hills and the presiding deity here is Goddess Chamundeshwari. According to a legend, Mysore gets its name from the evil buffalo headed demon Mahishasura who reigned over the area in ancient times. He was killed by Goddess Chamundeshwari and thereafter the place came to be known as Mahishapura. Mahishapura gradually became Mahishura, Mysore and eventually Mysuru. Devi Chamundeshwari stayed at the hill which later on came to be known as Chamundi hills.
A temple dedicated to the Goddess is located at the top. It is a big one and the gopuram, visible from a distance, is intricately carved. Expect heavy crowd here as a number of people come to worship. There are a number of stalls selling garlands and sweets.
The View Point
Driving down back to Mysore city, we stopped at a view point from where a bird’s eye view of Mysore could be seen. A number of monkeys roam around here so it is good to be a little careful.
The Bull Temple
Next halt on way down the hill, was at the Bull Temple. A humongous sculpture of Nandi Bull, carved out of single black granite, sits here adorned with flowers.
A little different from the rest of the attractions, the museum is one of my favourites in Mysore city. It showcases beautiful sand art by M N Gowri, an MFA in Sculpture. The elaborate sand sculpture inside include those of Lord Ganesha, Devi Chamundeshwari, Lord Krishna, Laughing Buddha and Santa Claus. Apart from these, there are also scenes from Arabian Nights, Marine Life and ancient Egypt. The museum is first of its kind in India and does not take more than half an hour to explore. Moreover, because of its location, taking out some time to visit it is not difficult.
It was now time to visit the most important landmark of the city – the Mysore Palace or the Amba Vilas. The current structure is pretty recent one and is wonderful to explore. The two durbar halls look lavish. A series of paintings adorn the wall of the hallway and there are a number of other exhibits on display. A Sound and Light show is organized every evening. Every Sunday the palace is beautifully illuminated for the locals and tourists. This is perhaps the best time to enjoy the palace. Read details about Mysore Palace in one of my other posts.
A visit to Srirangapatna is a must when you want to explore Mysore city and its surrounding area completely
A river island, Srirangapatna is both historically and religiously important. The town is located in Mandya district and draws its name from the famous Ranganathswamy temple which is dedicated to Lord Ranganath. The temple is located within the fort which occupies the western portion of the island. The fort premises also houses the place where Tipu Sultan was killed and Colonel Bailey’s Dungeon. Dariya Daulat Bagh or Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace along with the Gumbaz which houses remains of Tipu, his parents and relatives are other attractions of Srirangapatna.
St Philomena’s Church
The last stop of our Mysore day trip was St Philomena’s Church dedicated to St. Philomena and St. Joseph. The church preserves the relics of St Philomena, daughter of a small Greek ruler. She was killed by an enraged Roman Emperor Diocletin after she turned down his wish to marry her since she was devoted to the God. After her death, Philomena was declared a saint and a number of churches came up around the world in her honour.
The church which is one of the oldest and largest churches in India was initially a smaller one meant for Europeans who came to Mysore after capital of Mysore state shifted from Srirangapatnam to Mysore. With the passage of time, need for a bigger church to accommodate the growing number of devotees arose. So the ruler Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV made way for the construction of a bigger church.
The church built in Gothic style, has a floor plan of a cross. It looks beautiful, specially its spire. Inside shoes are not allowed. Also any kind of photography inside is prohibited.
It was a good day where we spent a considerable time to explore Mysore city attractions. There were a few left for which we could not find any time, still we managed to cover a lot of it.