For a long time a trip to Coorg had been on our minds. It had finally materialised last December when we took an extended vacation and ticked it off our list. Since we had managed almost a week of leaves our itinerary also had a detour to Ooty, more about that later. If you are travelling to Coorg via Bangalore you would have to go the city of Mysore, a quaint and beautiful place at the doorstep of the Nilgiris, where the remnants of a royal heritage are still alive and kicking. Also did you know that Mysore is an anglicized version of Mahisuru meaning the city of Mahisasura?
Our flight to Bangalore was pretty punctual and we had landed there on time. However then came the most challenging part of the journey which was negotiation with the traffic of this metropolis we fondly call Silicon Valley of India. The phrase frozen in time, I think, can be literally used for your state of consciousness when you are on the roads of Bangalore, a city where you do not measure distance in kilometers but in hours. The tricky part is there is never a definite answer from point A to point B. Hence true to its nature, we spent almost an equivalent time as we took to fly from Delhi in exiting the city and finally get on the Mysore highway. Once you are on the highway it is smooth sailing again albeit due to the upcoming long weekend Mysore bound traffic seemed to have swollen a bit. We stopped at Anand Aidyar Bhavan or A2B as it is called in its millennial avatar for some refreshments. From there it was a drive of around 2 hours to reach Mysore. On the way we could see glimpses of the hills of Ramnagar where once one of most famous fictional village “Ramgarh” was set up and Gabbar had roared “Kitne Aadmi The”.
I think when it comes to smaller cities in our country the first impression of Mysore was second to none. It was calm, clean, green and very orderly unlike the small towns of North India. Mysore was the capital of the erstwhile princely state of Mysore. The legacy remains and the way it has now intermingled with today’s life is quite unique. The royal Wodeyar family who ruled the state once is still here and still has their hierarchical prestige intact even though their rule has been over for a long time now. We were visiting in Dec’17 and incidentally in the same month the queen had given birth to a son, breaking a 400 years old curse on the family. The entire city was in celebration due to this auspicious occasion in the royal family. Just like its ruling dynasty the royal buildings are still there although in the form of well maintained administrative buildings or markets. So the princely state of Mysore has long gone but its spirit is still pretty much alive.
Mysore was only a stopover so we had only one full day there in our tour. Therefore we skipped a day visit to the Mysore Palace and started with the beautiful Brindavan Gardens which have been developed next to Krishnarajsagar Dam on River Kaveri. The work for laying out this garden started in 1927 and now it is 60 acres of beautiful landscape with colourful flowers, sprawling green lawns and water fountains. No wonder these gardens attract so many people every day. We were there in the morning hours and the crowd was still building up. We would however miss seeing this park beautifully illuminated by lights during the evening and the musical show in which the fountains dance to musical tunes.
It was well into the afternoon when we were done with Brindavan Gardens. So our next stop was Hotel Mayura, a quaint KSTDC resort on the banks of Kaveri. I loved the outdoor setting this place offered, fully shaded by tall trees and you could see the river flowing. While our order was getting ready we took the time to take a ride on a Teppa or a Coracle (a circular boat) in the serene green waters of Kaveri which is held sacred by the people in this region. A few minutes of swirling around in that circle was probably the experience of the day and like us almost every group who had come here was queuing up to get one of their own. In the meantime our food was served and surprisingly we had a lovely Dal Tadka something which you do not associate with this part of the world.
Another attraction near Srirangapatna was Ranganthitthu Bird Sanactuary which was also spread around Kaveri. I had been told about how you needed to go on a boat to really experience the sanctuary, apparently there was an island around which the river flows. A small fact that the place was also a habitat of a few crocodiles made me a little eerie but I didn’t have to face my fear as we got a little late in reaching there, thanks to our extended lunch. There was a long queue of vehicles before us which would have left us only a few minutes before the sanctuary closed.
Having skipped going to the bird sanctuary we decided to go to the Chamundi Hill, atop which sits the Chamundeshwari Temple, so from sanctuary of birds of we were going to a sanctuary of faith. This temple is one of the 51 Shaktipeethas in the country where you worship the Goddess of Shakti. As the legend goes this is one of the places where body parts of Goddess Sati landed after lord Vishnu had cut her dead body into parts using his Sudharshan Chakra. I sometimes wonder that how do we explain our mythology to our kids, a mix of GOT, Star Wars, LOTR and every other bit of fantasy which the western world can throw at us. Nonetheless the drive up to top where the temple sits is quite significant because of an elevation of more than 3000 ft. This is another common thread which runs in the Hindu religion where most of these revered temples sit atop a hill, if you are in Himalayas there was no choice but why in other places. While we drove up you could see the city of Mysore which had now started lighting up. As expected the temple was very crowded and luckily it had a VIP darshan mechanism, another irony as in a place of faith every one must be equal. But my hypocritical self was absolutely relieved that I could buy some precedence and convenience in meeting with the deity. However such was the sheer number of people we still had to jostle. Somehow in these famous temples it is more about how you can overpower others so that you can have your one second of peace, introspection, request, gratitude, repentance and whatever other things you have in your baggage. And then you are back to your game of man vs man again. Once the natural flow of humanity pushed us out of the holy sanctum we were at peace. After calmly taking a whole round (parikrama) around the sanctum we were back to claim our footwear. In front of us the magnificent golden yellow building of the temple glowed in the twilight sun.
We returned to take a breather after a longish day and be in good moods to witness one of the most mesmerizing sights of any royal palace you can get in this country. On certain days the Mysore Palace is illuminated and thrown open for the masses, which is mostly in awe of this grand building glowing against dark sky. The stars descend to the royal throne of the city of Mysore to the sheer delight of its subjects. Hence our last bit for the day was at the Mysore Palace marveling at this very unique display of royal splendour. While we were there a local band performed in Kannada and sensing from the crowd’s reaction they were doing great.
So that was it for the one day we had in Mysore.