Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Majestic Mysore

Mysore is less than 150 kilometers (under 90 miles) from Banglore, but with the difficult traffic in both cities (especially Bangalore) getting there and getting around can be tough. Although Mysore is a natural weekend getaway, we decided to get a car and driver and go for just one day. It was fun, even if we did have to spend over 3 hours in the car in each direction!

Our first stop was Srirangapatnam, an island in the Kaveri River a few miles east of Mysore, where there is a lovely old mosque (Jumma Masjid) and a famous Hindu temple. (Sultan Tipu’s Summer Palace is there too but, since we had visited it on a previous trip, we skipped that.)

Ranganathaswamy temple is dedicated to Sri Ranganathaswamy, a form of Lord Vishnu. This temple makes Srirangapatnam one of the most important Vaishnavite centers of pilgrimage in south India. It was built in the 9th century and improved some three centuries later. It includes several styles of temple architecture. There were lots of visitors when we were there, and the usual assortment of touts, sellers, beggars, and guides. (The guides often describe themselves as “not guides but students,” although by the look of most of them, they have been studying for many years.)

Every bit as exciting for me was finding the town’s Saturday market, where I not only took photos, but was able to buy all of my week’s fresh organic veggies for just a few ruppees.

Once in Mysore, we stopped for a quick look at Saint Philomena’s Catholic Church, and were impressed with its size and majesty. It was constructed in 1956 using a Neo Gothic style, its architecture inspired by the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.

After driving up to the Chamundi Hills, we visited the Chamundi Temple and the large black bull statue called the Nandi. (Nandi was the vehicle ridden by Lord Shiva in Hindu mythology.)

But the real reason most tourists visit Mysore is to tour the famous Palace of Mysore. It was the official residence of the former royal family of Mysore, and housed the durbar (ceremonial meeting hall of the royal court).

The palace was commissioned in 1897, and its construction was completed in 1912. It is a three-storied stone structure, with marble domes and a 14-foot, five-storied tower. The palace is surrounded by a large garden. Cameras are not allowed inside but visitors can photograph the grounds. There were several elephants available to take tourists on rides, but this lone ranger looked like going to work was the last thing on his weekend agenda.
Here are a couple of other images taken in and around Mysore.

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