Moving onto Mysore
As we disembark at Mysore, the second largest city in the state of Karnataka, I am already fascinated by this historically significant city. The old world charm of colonial India in all its untold grandeur and glory is interspersed with colour and contrariness and utterly breathtaking. Multi ethnic people, sporting their turbans and unkempt beards walk alongside their countrymen and women in thali’s and flower bedecked hair. Beautiful! The camera captures all this colour and combination in a thousand frames. That night we end up in a very seedy looking motel called Boopies which is famed for its pork curry. We scurry inside, bag and baggage, up three flights of shaky stairs and into a nice big clean room. Just a bed and nothing much else!
Mysore, the capital city of the Wodeyars has always held an enchantment for its quaint charm, rich heritage, magnificent palaces, beautifully laid-out gardens, imposing buildings, broad shady avenues and sacred temples. Mahishur, as it was called then, traces its history back to the mythical past, when Goddess Chamundeshwari of Chamundi Hills killed the wicked buffalo-headed demon, Mahishasura. But, lately, Mysore is more famous for its exotic sandalwood and rich silks.
Our first stop is the Maharaja’s Palace. Considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of India, this magnificent palace is built in Indo-Saracenic style with domes, turrets, arches and colonnades and is a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world. Intricately carved doors open on to luxuriously furnished rooms. The majestic Durbar Hall has an ornate ceiling and many sculpted pillars. The magnificent jewel studded golden throne of the Wodeyars is displayed here during the Dasera Festival.
Our tour is hilariously entertaining with our guide’s accentuations as he patiently explained the history surrounding this palace.
Our next stop is the Brindavan Gardens, one of the most beautifully, symmetrically laid out terraced gardens in the world. An achievement of Sir Mirza Ismail, the former Dewan of Mysore, these gardens are enriched with fountains, terraces, parterres, running and cascading water channels, water chutes, lush green lawns, flower beds, shrubs and trees. As night falls, the whole garden lights up: a mesmerizing sight indeed. The illumination of the musical fountain located in the North Brindavan Garden is well worth the wait. The water, coloured lights and music are synchronized to create a water ballet controlled by an aquatic organ operated through a controller.
The next day, we are up and ready to visit another iconic landmark, Nandi, Lord Shiva’s Bull. This monolith is found at the 800th step on the 335 metre high Chamundi Hill. At the top is the 12th century temple of Chamundeshwari, the patron goddess of the Wodeyars. Another hundred frames of the camera and I still cannot get enough.
After, piously offering flowers and a blessing by the local priest who dabs our foreheads with red ash, we feel renewed and ready to take on our next stop of this multi acceptable city.
Another beautiful sight in Mysore is the medieval architectural styled St. Philomena’s Church. Built between 1933 and 1941, this Church is an imposing structure with stained glass windows and lofty towers. We stop and stare in awe at the huge stained glass windows and the reclining statue of St. Philomena.
The story of St. Philomena dates back to the 3rd century A.D. Philomena was the daughter of the monarch of a small state in Greece. Her parents were childless. They prayed to God and asked Him to bless them with a child and promised to convert to Christianity if their wish was granted. The next year Philomena was born to them. Even in her childhood Philomena showed signs of piety. When Philomena was 13 years old her father took her to Rome to obtain the favour of Emperor Diocletion. The Emperor was enthralled by her beauty and wanted to marry her. But she refused and vowed to give herself to God. Because she refused to marry the Emperor she was tortured and beheaded in Rome.
But that was a long time ago and an hour later, we are at the Kabini River Lodge located on the banks of the Kabini River in the Nagarhole National Park.
Kabini is one of the most popular wildlife destinations in Karnataka, with its lush green landscape surrounding a large picturesque lake, and fantastic sightings of large herds of elephants. That night, we tread out into the vast embankment that makes up the garden of the Kabini Lodge. As we walk across the garden, we feel a squishiness under our feet. It is sheer horror and disbelief to discover millions of frogs, covering the entire ground. This is an annual phenomenon as these frogs come out to spawn, and then die. Unfortunately, Tharu, who has had a lifelong repugnance for frogs, will soon get used to the idea!
Our forays into the Park the next day prove fruitless of any sightings of the inimitable Tiger. Although birds, elephants and deer are in plenty, we are disappointed not to see the magnificent Tiger.
A day later, we are on our way back to Bangalore. On the way, close to the northern fringe of the Mysore fort, we stop at a fenced area where the body of Tippu Sultan, the de-facto ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore was found. Better known as the ‘Tiger of Mysore’, Tippu Sultan was a benevolent and instrumental leader, whose constant valiant efforts against the British oppression in southern India resulted in his name being etched in the annals of Indian history.
This, along with some wonderful memories of India remains etched in my memory. All this reaffirms my two reasons for returning to India: its food and its technicolour of everyday life.