A GUIDE TO THE GRACE AND GRANDEUR OF MYSURU
WORDS BY RASHMI GOPAL RAO
Often dubbed the cultural capital of Karnataka, Mysore (aka Mysuru) has always been famous for its silk sarees, jasmine flowers (called ‘Mysore mallige’), bustling markets and, more recently, as a centre of Ashtanga yoga. It has also been voted one of India’s cleanest cities.
Historically, Mysore is synonymous with royalty and resplendence. ‘The City of Palaces’ is steeped in heritage and history. One of the three largest Princely States during the British Raj, it is home to no fewer than 200 heritage buildings — a high density given its area of just about 150 sq km.
If you’re a fan of the architecture of bygone eras, the legends of the Maharajas, and the rich legacy they left behind, you will love exploring Mysore’s noble past.
Amba Vilas Palace
Built in the Indo-Saracenic style, the stunning Amba Vilas Palace was the seat of the Wodeyar kings. The structure features influences of the Mughal, Gothic, as well as Rajput schools of architecture. The palace was completed in 1912 after the original wooden structure was destroyed in 1897. With three main entrances, it is a mammoth structure that has two durbar halls and several temples apart from multiple courtyards and gardens. Within, it is replete with exquisite stained-glass windows, elaborate ceilings, world class paintings, and ornately carved doors.
The palace is lit after dusk, every Sunday, and on public holidays, and few sights are more compelling. It’s no wonder it clocks more than 6 million visitors each year, fewer only than the Taj Mahal.
Built in 1861 during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, the Jaganmohan Palace served as an alternate residence for the king’s family when a fire gutted the original palace in 1897. Characterized by an ornamental entrance with a beautiful garden, the three-storeyed building has a decorated facade with arched balconies and detailed domes on top.
Once the location of several important events — including the first few convocations of Mysore University and the first session of the Legislative Council of the Mysore state way back in 1907 — the palace has since been converted into an art gallery.
Now known as the Sri Jaya Chamarajendra Art Gallery, it houses several paintings and sculptures, amongst which a set of statues depicting the Dashaavatara and a detailed painting of the Dussehra festival in vegetable dyes are significant. Visitors will also enjoy its enviable collection of rare paintings from several accomplished artists including the famous Raja Ravi Varma. Brassware, coins, antiques, weapons and musical instruments are also displayed in the art gallery.
Lalitha Mahal Palace
An elegant structure in pure white, the Lalitha Mahal Palace is yet another spectacular Mysuru landmark. Located a little away from the city centre at the base of the Chamundi Hills, the palace dates back to 1921. It was built by Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV with the objective of hosting the then Viceroy of India. With a distinctly English influence, the palace is set on an elevation amongst perfectly manicured lawns and landscaped gardens. The palace was converted into a luxury hotel in 1974 and is one of the most opulent heritage hotels in South India. A stay here is an ideal way to experience the ‘royal’ life!
Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion
The Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion was built in 1905 under the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV for princess Jayalakshmi Ammani. In the centre of the city, it sits within the sprawling grounds of Manasagangotri, the University of Mysore. The architectural marvel is full of iconic columns, carved doors, painted glass, and embellished domes. The building houses three museums of which the most popular is the Folklore Museum, a treasure trove of over 6500 folk art artefacts including masks, headgear, tools, costumes, and puppets.
The prominent buildings lure you within, but even a casual stroll around the city centre will treat you to some sights that are regal and magnificent. Many of Mysore’s government and administrative buildings are heritage monuments. The Deputy Commissioner’s Office with its arches, pilasters, and an elaborate octagonal dome is a prominent landmark. The University of Mysore’s Crawford Hall features Roman arches and Tuscan columns and is a sight to behold, as is the Mysore City Corporation with its ornamented arches and globulous domes. Mysore Law court and the Oriental Research Institute are also highly impressive structures.
Apart from its buildings, Mysuru also has several stunning roundabouts. The renowned Chamarajendra Circle, built by French genius William Robert Colton, is a case in point. In hues of white and gold, grand brackets and columns support an imposing onion-shaped dome at the circle. It has a statue of Maharaja Chamarajendra Wadiyar carved from pristine white Italian marble in the centre.
Mysore is truly a sight for sore eyes.
Feature photograph copyright Noppasinw – stock.adobe.com Amba Vilas Palace photograph copyright erhardpix – stock.adobe.com
Lalitha Mahal Palace photograph by Bikashrd [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion photograph by Pratheepps at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Jaganmohan Palace and Chamarajendra Circle photographs copyright saiko3p – stock.adobe.com