EXPLORING MYSURU – THE CULTURAL CAPITAL OF KARNATAKA

As you know, I am quite addicted to travelling. Previously, I have shared with you my travelogues about visiting North East India, North India and parts of West Bengal. However, I had not visited the Southern part of my vast country earlier. This travelogue I am sharing with you, was infact my first venture to the southern part of India.

While deciding on where to visit in South India, one would come up with the idea of visiting ‘God’s Own Country’ Kerala…. but I thought otherwise and decided to visit Ooty, another very popular hill station, instead. Due to unavailability of train tickets to Ooty, I had to choose the option of travelling there via the heritage city of Mysuru. Infact it gave me the option of exploring yet another wonderful location along with its world renowned heritage!

As was planned, I alongwith my best travel companion and better half, Mita, boarded on the train to Mysuru and thus started our first trip to South India…. A journey whose wonderful memories we would cherish for a long long time!!

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MYSURU

The name Mysuru or Mysore comes from the vernacular Kannada word Mahishuru which literally means the abode of the Mahisha (Mahisha is the Sanskrit word for Buffalo). Here, Mahisha refers to the mythical demon king Mahishasura who, according to Hindu Mythology, was once believed to rule the ancient Mysore kingdom, the then Mahishaka! According to the legend, Mahishasura was defeated and killed by Goddesses Cahmundeswari. You would find a temple dedicated to the Goddesses on top of Chamundi Hill, one of the major attractions of Mysuru.

Much later, Mahishuru served as the capital city of the Kindom of Mysore from 1399 to 1956 and was ruled mostly by the Wadiyar dynasty. For a concise period of time the Kingdom was also ruled by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. The name of Mahishuru became Mysore under the influence of the British. The city was eventually renamed Mysuru on 1st November 2014.

WHAT TO EXPLORE IN AND AROUND MYSURU?

So the obvious question that arises is what are the places of attraction in and around Mysuru? Well… our trip to the city was a brief one and my itinerary allowed me just two days to explore the Cultural Capital of Karnataka.

DAY 1: BANDIPUR NATIONAL PARK & SRIKANTESWARA TEMPLE

BANDIPUR:

Day 1 of our journey began the very same day we reached Mysuru. Infact we reached Mysuru around 6 A.M. in the morning and after taking brief rest at the hotel room we began the first phase of our tour on Day 1 with a visit to the Bandipur National Park.

Bandipur National Park is located about 73 Kms from Mysuru on the Mysore-Ooty highway and is a beautiful place to visit if you love forests! The place is surrounded by the Nilgiris and is covered by dense forests. It forms an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

A sunflower field on the way to Bandipur

The Royal Bengal Tiger and the Asiatic Elephant are to two famed residents of Bandipur National Park! If you are lucky enough you can catch a glimpse of these two famed residents during the jungle safari (sadly, we were not that lucky!). Apart from Tiger and Elephant, Bandipur is home to various species of Deer, Indian Bison or Gaur, Sloth Bear, Jackal, Rock Python and a large variety of birds including the national Bird of India, Peacock.


Bandipur National Park
A group of spotted deer @ Bandipur
Bandipur national Park
Indian Bison or Gaur @ Bandipur
Bandipur National Park
Sambar Deer @ Bandipur
Bandipur National Park
Lunch Time!!
Bandipur National Park
Need a guide for Jungle Safari??
Bandipur National Park
A peacock showing its grandeur

We saw Spotted Deer, Sambar, Peacock, Indian Bison, Sloth Bear etc during the safari. The jungle safari is organized by the Forest Department and tickets can be purchased either physically from the counter located at Bandipur or booking can also be done online (link shared in later part of the blog). Both Jeep and Bus safari are conducted here. You can try out either of the two depending on your budget.

  • Bus safari is conducted between 6:15 AM to 9 AM and 2:15 PM to 5 PM. It costs around Rs.350/- per person.

  • The Jeep Safari is conducted between 6:15 AM to 8 Am, 8 AM to 9:45 AM, 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM and 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM. It costs around Rs.3000/- per person.

  • Click here for Online Booking of Jungle Safari.

  • Bandipur can be reached easily by bus from Mysuru. Cabs on rental basis are also available on affordable rates.

However, on a personal note, I felt that the buses used for the jungle safari creates a lot of noise which may drive away certain animals. The concerned authority must take note of this fact and try to improve the facility in future.

SRIKANTESWARA TEMPLE NANJANGUD:

After completing the jungle safari at Bandipur, we commenced our return journey to Mysuru. On the way back, our cab driver suggested that we visit the Srikanteswara Temple at Nanjangud. I have to admit that I had never heard about this place before and it was on our driver’s recommendation we visited this historical temple! The Srikanteswara temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is also known as the Kashi of South!

Srikanteshwara Temple Nanjangud
Srikanteshwara Temple

Due to its location, i.e. Nanjangud, the deity is also known as Nanjanudeshwara. The temple stands on the bank of the Kapila River, a tributary of River Kaveri. Rising at an impressive height of 385 feet, it is the biggest temple in the state of Karnataka. According to the hindu mythology, Sage Gauthama laid the foundation of this temple. After this, several dynasties have ruled this part of India and have contributed remarkably in architecture of this temple. From the Gangas during the 9th Century to the Hoysalas in the 13th Century and Wadiyars in the early 19th Century, every dynasty has made significant contribution in decorating this temple. When I entered the temple, I felt that time actually has stopped inside! Compared to the more decorated architecture outside, inside of the temple actually gives you the feel about how ancient it really is!

· Temple Timings: 6.00 P.M. to 1.30 P.M. & 4.00 P.M. to 9.00 P.M. (Monday to Saturday) 6.00 A.M. to 10.00 P.M. (Sunday)

This concluded the first day of our Mysuru tour. On the way back to our hotel, much to our delight, we saw the illuminated Mysore Palace! The second day was all about local sightseeing.

DAY 2: EXPLORING MYSURU AND THE OUTSKIRTS

CHAMUNDI HILL & CHAMUNDESWARI TEMPLE:

Day 2 of our tour began with a visit to the Chamundi hills and offering prayer to the tutelary deity of the Mysuru Kingdom, Goddess Chamundeswari. Chamundi hill is located 13 Kms from the city of Mysuru at an elevation of 3489 feet. The Chamundeswari temple is situated atop the hill and is also very ancient one. After offering prayers to the Goddesses we also visited the other attractions around the temple, i.e. the Nandi Bull statue and the Mahishasura statue.

Chamundi Hill
Nandi Bull Statue
Chamundi Hill
The city of Mysuru from top of Chamundi Hill
Chamundi Hill
Mahishasura Statue

· Click here to know more about the history of Chamundeswari Temple.

· Chamundeswari temple visiting time is 5:30 AM to 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM daily. Devotees can offer their prayers during these times.

· Chamundi Hill is well connected by various means of transport and can be reached easily.

· The entire area has been declared PLASTIC FREE ZONE. Hence, anyone visiting Chamundi Hill is requested to comply with the rules.

MYSORE PALACE:

The Mysore Maharaja Palace or the Amba Vilas Palace stands in the heart of the Mysuru city and is the residence of the Royal Family of Mysore, the Wadiyars. It is considered to be one of the largest palaces in India. The first palace was built during the 14th century, only to be demolished and rebuild several times. The current palace was built during 1897 to 1912 by the British architect Henry Irwin after the previous palace was completely burnt down during Dussera festival. You need to purchase tickets to get inside the palace. The architecture is a fine example to Indian and European variety. The main places to visit inside the palace are the Durbar Hall, Klayan Mantapa (the place for hosting Royal weddings), Dolls Pavilion or Gombe Thotti, the Art Gallery etc. The Palace is illuminated at the evening during the weekends and public holidays. It is a sheer visual treat to watch the illuminated Mysore Palace!

Mysore Palace, Amba Vilas Palace
Mysore Palace during the day
Mysore palace
Entrance gate of the palace when illuminated
Illuminated Mysore Palace
Illuminated Mysore Palace
Illuminated Mysore Palace
Illuminated Mysore Palace

Palace Entry Fee: Adults Rs.40, Children (10-18 yrs) Rs.20, Foreign Tourist: Rs.200. Timing: Mon-Sun 10 AM to 5:30 PM.

· Light & Sound Show: Adults Rs.40 Adults Rs.40, Children (7-12 yrs) Rs.25 and Foreign Tourist: Rs.200. Timing: 7 PM to 7:40 PM Mon-Sat.

· To know more about the palace and its fascinating tales, I would suggest you to hire an authentic guide.

· The Mysore Palace is illuminated during the public holidays and the weekends, i.e, Saturdays and Sundays.

MYSORE ZOO:

Our next stop was Sri Chamarajendra Zoolgical Gardens or simply Mysore Zoo. The zoo is very well maintained and is considered as one of the most popular tourist attraction inside the city! This zoo has a vast collection of animals which makes this place very attractive indeed.

Mysore Zoo
Leisure time
Mysore Zoo
Gaur
Mysore Zoo
A different king... the King Cobra!

· Click here for more details about the Zoo, timings, ticketing etc.

JAGANMOHAN PALACE & ART GALLERY:

The Jaganmohan Palace was built during 1861 as an alternate to the Mysore Palace by the then ruler of Mysore Kingdom, Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. This historic palace also contains many artifacts. The Art Gallery is one of its major attractions which contain paintings by many renowned artists.

Jaganmohan Palace
Jaganmohan Palace

ST. PHILOMENA’S CATHEDRAL:

St. Philomena’s Cathedral or simply St. Philomena’s Church was originally built during 1840 and was known by the name St. Joseph Chavez. The church was later rebuilt in 1933 and was known by its current name since then. It is considered to be one of the tallest churches in Asia.

St. Philomena's Cathedral
St. Philomena's Cathedral

TIPU SULTAN’S SUMMER PALACE AND SRIRANGAPATNA FORT:

After having lunch, our journey commenced, this time to visit Srirangapatna on the outskirts of Mysuru. Our destination was Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace. The construction of the Palace was originally commenced by Hyder Ali, the father of Tipu, and was completed during Tipus rule around 1791. After Tipu Sultan’s death in the fourth Anglo-Mysore War, the British turned this place as secretariat building. At present, the A.S.I has converted the palace into a small museum which contains historical artifacts related to Tipu Sultan and other artifacts related to that era.

Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace & Garden
Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace & Garden

Next up, we visited the Srirangapatna Fort, yet another place connected with the history of this region. The fort was originally believed to have been built by Timmanna Nayaka, a ruler of the Vijayanagar Empire, around 1454 A.D. History tells us that the possession of the fort would change hands in years to come starting from the Wodeyars to the Marathas to Hyder Ali and eventually to the British. The fort can be visited anytime between 9 AM to 6 PM Monday to Sunday.

RANGANATHASWAMY TEMPLE, SRIRANGAPATNA:

Our next destination was the Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangaptna. This ancient temple is another marvel of architecture and a visual delight to say the least. As per historic records, the temple was first consecrated during 984 A.D and since then several dynasties ruling in this region have contributed in beautifying the temple’s architecture. The main deity of the temple is Lord Vishnu. Click here to know more exiting facts about the temple.

Ranganathaswamy Temple Srirangapatna
Ranganathaswamy Temple

BRINDAVAN GARDEN:

Brindavan Garden is located about 12 KM north-west of the Mysuru city and it was our last destination for the day. The garden covers an area of about 60 acres and is designed beautifully in three terraces eventually ending up in a horse shoe shape. There are different kinds of plants and flowers which add up to the beauty of this place. Additional attraction of this place is ofcourse boating and musical fountain in the evening.

Brindavan Garden Mysore
Brindavan Garden
Brindavan Garden Mysore
Musical Fountain

· Entry fee to Brindavan Garden is Rs.15/- for adults and Rs.5/- for children (5-10 yrs).

· The garden is open every day from 6 AM to 8 PM.

· Musical Fountain timing is 6:30 to 7:30 PM (Mon-Fri) and 6:30 to 8:30 PM (Sat-Sun).

By the time our trip ended, it was already evening and on our request our cab driver dropped us infront of the illuminated Mysore Palace. It was the second day in a row that we enjoyed viewing the Mysore Palace at night. After spending some time there we went back to our hotel. It was a hectic day of travelling to say the least but we enjoyed every moment of our stay at Mysuru. The next morning we would begin a new journey towards Ooty…. A story I will share again sometime.

SOME USEFUL INFO:

  1. Mysuru is well connected by air, rail and road transport. The city has airport, rail station and there are numerous bus services run by KRSTC for convenience of the travelers.

  2. There are budget friendly hotels in the city for accommodation.

  3. Mysuru is famous for products made of Sandalwood and also for Mysore Silk saris. If you wish to buy a souvenir, I would suggest buying from the State Emporiums as they are authentic products.

  4. Once in Mysuru, don’t forget to try out the Mysore Pak, Mysore’s special sweet dish.

  5. The festival of Dussera is celebrated in grand way in Mysuru. You can visit during this time to enjoy the festivities.