The majestic destination of Mysore, India, also known as Mysuru, is an idyllic leisure destination in tropical South India and home to the Maharajah family. Panayiotis Markides discovers all the destination has to offer.
The drive from Bengaluru to Mysore took a few more hours than expected, but was calm, and surrounded by the tropical environment of the area there was plenty to see. The guide dropped me off at the Radisson Blu Mysore in time for check-in, where I was taken aback by the stunning lobby offset by the gleaming marble that decorated it. I was pleasantly surprised to be informed that my room had been upgraded to a business class room – which was impeccable and spacious. Lunch was delicious and the overall vibe was enhanced as it was accompanied by the resident band playing soft-rock tunes.
My first stop was at Chamundi Hills to see Chamundeshwari Temple and the Mahanandi Temple complex which boasted an amazing elevated vista of the town – it is a truly spectacular location. The temple was being visited by a large crowd of worshippers due to the festivities taking place that day. On the way down we stopped to admire the view of the city from the hill from which many architecturally stunning palaces were visible, as was the town’s horse-racing track. This is certainly a city with a great history, as I was to find out later at The Maharaja’s Palace.
Upon entering the palace, all visitors are told to turn off their mobile phones and photographs are not permitted (although I was given the opportunity to take a photo inside the hunting room). I was taken on a special tour by the palace curator as part of a small group, and as such was allowed to enter rooms normally off limits, such as the weapons room and the hunting room, which was filled with the Maharaja’s many taxidermy trophies – ranging from buffalo, to elephants, to lions and even a mastiff named Brumel. The entire palace is filled with history and reflects the prosperity of the kingdom of Mysuru at its peak. Every inch of the palace represents the height of luxury with rosewood and ivory clad doors, gold leafed pillars supporting the structure and endless artwork commissioned for the walls.
The day was planned around the light show that would take place at the palace later that evening, and in the meantime I was given a tour of Mysore’s many other attractions, including St. Philomena’s Church, Devaraja market and all its colourful wares, such as exotic fruit, vegetables, spices and banana leaves to serve food on. My tour also included a drive to the University campus and the Rail Museum, which had just closed for the day. I discovered Mysore also boasts a zoo and the nearby Brandipur National Park is home to population of tigers, proving there is plenty to explore in this opulent destination.
The light show is a stunning spectacle attracting locals every week into the Palace yard. At the strike on the hour, the palace and all the surrounding buildings light up like Christmas trees and a brass band plays a selection of songs to the crowd in attendance. It is a truly remarkable sight to behold.
I had enough time to make it back to the hotel to get ready for dinner – with Manu Mahalingaiah the director of Skyway Tours who had arranged my entire trip on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism. Manu insisted on authentic food, not hotel food so we ate a delicious outdoor meal at Mysuru Sports Club. The mild climate ensured a perfect evening to accompany a great meal.
In the morning I checked out from the hotel as sadly I wouldn’t be returning. Today was the last day of my journey, and at Manu’s recommendation, I was taken into town for an amazing, authentic Mysore breakfast before visiting the city’s silk factory – a fascinating process resulting in some impeccable silk garments for which the city is well-known.
Next up was Jaganmohan Palace, a former residence of the Maharajah family which has been converted into an art gallery and is home to an array of eclectic works of art from around the world, many of which were gifts to the royal family.
As I was leaving Mysore my final destination was the historic town of Srirangapatna, town located in a river island just a few kilometres outside of the city to learn about the pro-Islamic and anti-Colonial king of Mysuru Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan, who ruled the city from 1768 until 1799, taking over from the Maharajahs. At Srirangapatnam there is a shrine dedicated to Hyder Ali, while a memorial marks where Tipu Sultan was killed by British forces. A further place of interest is Tipu Sultan’s summer place – a serene house featuring much information about the ruler. The pristine gardens also offer a place of relaxation.
On the drive to Bengaluru where I would spend only one night before departing to go home, it was clear to me that a day and a half in the majestic city is not enough – and even a week to spend in a deeply cultural and historical destination such as India is far too short to give it the justice it merits. Meanwhile in my mind I was planning what to do the next time I reach these shores.