When you wander the quiet streets of the city of Mysore, you travel back in time. This city of big blue skies, grand pavilions, glittery palaces and age old markets was once the capital of the Mysore State, renamed to Karnataka in the year 1973.
I’ve been to the city a number of times and have always loved to linger longer than I planned. It’s a convenient escape from the more metropolitan hustle of Bangalore. It also provides a useful base to explore the hill stations of Coorg and Ooty and the National Parks of Bandipur and Nagarhole.
The cool air and the quiet, lazy pace of the city often lulls me into doing nothing. The food is great in every restaurant you go. From the melt-in-your-mouth dosas at Vinayaka Mylari to fiery Andhra thalis at RRR to the filter coffee at Cafe Aramane, one could spend entire days just eating and drinking.
But the city packs a gallery of easily accessible delights that enable even a lazy soul like myself to do some “sight-seeing”. Some of the places I genuinely enjoyed in my travel to Mysore are…
The biggest attraction in the city is, of course, the Mysore Palace. It’s the erstwhile residence of the Kings of the Wodeyar Dynasty and among the grandest buildings in India. Ornately carved ceilings, graceful arches, glittery chandeliers, mosaic tiles and historic paintings fill the colorful interiors furnished in the Indo-Saracenic style. The audio guide, available at the ticket counter, does a great job of making the Palace come alive with details.
The sprawling complex is populated with wide, open spaces and ancient temples. Elephants and camels roam around the green, expansive grounds of the Palace. Crowds of tourists lounge about and take selfies. And if you like solitude, there are plenty of nooks and corners where you can walk around peacefully.
On Sundays and public holidays, thousands of bright light bulbs illuminate the Palace in the evenings from 7 pm. They make an already beautiful monument even more spectacular.
The busy, chaotic, aromatic market in Central Mysore might be over a 100 years old but it attracts customers in droves. Here you find flower sellers, vegetable vendors, fruit stalls, hardware, kitchenware, metalware, silk and sandalwood stores jostling for space.
This is the only place many of the city’s residents like to shop. Busy, bustling shoppers throng the shops, making small talk while haggling for deals. The vendors and customers have a knowing bonhomie because of relationships that have been cultivated over many generations.
Sadly, this is perhaps the most fragile of the city’s attractions. The market has endured innumerable fires and disasters and plans are afoot to demolish it altogether to make way for a new one.
Outside the market, there’s a large public square, perfect for people watching. It revolves around the historic, colorful Dufferin Clock Tower named after the Viceroy of India in 1884. Around the tower, more vendors sell fruits and vegetables, often at rates cheaper than inside the market.
Town Hall and Clock Tower
The Mysore Town Hall is an imposing monument with white walls and tall Corinthian columns. It’s also known as Rangacharlu Hall, named after the first dewan of Mysore.
Quaint old fashioned horse carts lounge on the gates outside. One of the gates leads to the statue of Chamarajendra Wodeyar in the wide traffic circle outside the Mysore Palace. The other takes you to the Big Clock Tower, a lot taller and grander than the Dufferin outside Devaraja market.
No travel to Mysore is complete without a trip to the ancient Chamundeshwari temple in the Chamundi Hills. While the weather in the city is suitably pleasant for most of the year, the air around the temple is suitably cleaner and cooler. Here, street vendors sell coconuts, flowers and ritual items to devout Hindu pilgrims. Groups of monkeys prance around stealing food freaking people out.
The other attractions around the temple are a monolithic sculpture of Lord Shiva’s bull Nandi a few steps down the hill and a colorful statue of the demon Mahishasura in the main traffic circle. The views of the city of Mysore below are spectacular from just about anywhere in the vicinity of the temple.
The exercise freaks might want to take the 1200 stairs leading up to the temple. But the lazier ones can take bus 201, which takes you right up to the temple.