Travelling without an itinerary - Mysore, the Cultural Capital of Karnataka
Tickets - check
Accommodation - check
Itinerary - well, that’s something I didn’t have for this trip of mine :|
To be honest, I’m never this person who visits a place without an itinerary. I would like to know what the places that I’ll be visiting when I’m in a city, on which day, and most importantly what that place signifies. But this time, I didn’t have one and I’d like to blame it on my busy corporate job.
However, I packed my bag, took everything that I needed and set off to Mysore, a city which has been on my list since the time I moved to Bangalore for work. But only a year and a half later I could fulfil that dream of mine. Known as the ‘Cultural Capital of Karnataka’, it’s truly one of the most beautiful and cleanest cities that I’ve seen and been to so far. Located in the foothills of Chamundi Hills, I had a ball of time exploring the city. Its wide roads and wider footpaths were the first things that I noticed and man, I instantly fell in love with the city.
Though I didn’t have an itinerary in place before I visited the city, I managed to go to a few places in the city and I’m glad I did it.
While the city is known as the ‘Cultural Capital of Karnataka’, it’s also called the ‘City of Palaces’ and one of the most iconic palaces in the city is the ‘Mysore Palace’.
The palace is built by architect Henry Irwin after receiving special orders from then Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodiyar IV and his mother Maharani Kempananjammani Devi after their Old Palace was burnt in ashes during the 1896 Dasara festivities.
One thing about this palace that astonished me was its architecture. Constructed in the Into-Saracenic architectural style with blends of Hindu, Mughal, Rajput and Gothic styles. This three-story structure was built of fine grey granite with deep pink marble dome and has a facade with several expansive arches and two smaller ones edging the central arch.
While the palace in itself is magnificent, the large beautiful gardens and the temples situated in the palace complex adds a special charm to it. There are three major exclusive temple buildings within the Old Fort and about 18 inside the palace heart building.
This historical palace is the royal residence to the Wadiyar Dynasty and the seat of the Kingdom of Mysore.
How can my visit to Mysore be complete without a hike up the Chamundi Hills?
This ancient stone stairway of 1008 steps leads to Sri Chamundeshwari Devi Temple and a panoramic view of the city. Was an hour’s climb up the hill worth? Absolutely YES!
Carry water with you. It’s a hike up the hill and you’ll soon be sweating and left with a dry throat. But if you run out of water, don’t worry, there are shops that sell water and sugarcane juice at two points during your hikeWear comfortable clothes. Cotton clothing will always be your best friend
Take enough rest during your hike, hydrate yourself, and then continue your hike
At one of my pitstops during my hike, I saw this giant statue of Nandi, the vehicle fo Lord Shiva. This 4.9 meters tall and 7.6 meters long statue was hand-carved out of a single piece of black granite. Isn’t it fascinating? Bow to the craftsmanship.
After you summit the ancient stone stairway, you’ll be left amazed with the beautiful view of Sri Chamundeshwari Devi Temple.
Chamundeshwari Devi is a fierce form of Shakti and is known as the Naada Devathe, which translates to State Goddess.
Situated at an elevation of 838 feet from the sea level, this temple is considered as a Shakti Peetha and one among the 18 Maha Shakti Peethas. Known as the Krouncha Pitham, it is said that the hair of Sati Devi fell here.
If you can’t climb the hill through the stone stairway and still want to visit the temple and witness the panoramic view of the city - there are bus services from the City Bus Station to Chamundi Hills, and you can opt to ride on them. I would personally not suggest you hire a cab or taxi for this ride
Right adjacent to Sri Chamundeshwari Temple is the Mahabaleshwara Temple.
According to many inscriptions, this Shiva temple’s existence dates back to 950 AD. This temple is the oldest of the two temples situated on top of the Chamundi Hill and is a place of pilgrimage.
While commenced by descent to the city, I encountered the statue of Mahishasura. The presence of a demonic figure from the Indian mythology confused me. However, I decided to click a picture and read about it later on the internet, and what I read baffled my brain cells.
Little did I know that Sri Chamundeshwari Devi is also known as Mahishasura Mardini for having killed him in a fierce battle. And now, I was able to connect the dots.
But the lesser-known fact is that the name Mysore (now Mysuru) comes from the old Kannada word ‘Mahishooru’, which translates to the ‘the village of Mahishasura. The British then modified the name of the city to Mysore during their rule. Having been in a city with history dating to the mythological times was indeed a blessing.
While Mysore lends its name to art forms and culture, and brands like Mysore Sandal Soap, and Mysore Silk sarees, the city is also famous for its sweet dish - Mysore Pak.
Mysore Pak was an experimental sweet dish which was prepared by the royal chef Kakasura Madappa to present the Maharaja with something unusual. Thus was born one of my favourite sweet dishes.
Having come to Mysore, how is my trip be complete without relishing my taste buds with the sweetness of the dish? And what’s the better way to eat Mysore Pak from the descendants of the legendary man who created the sweet dish?
Guru Sweet Mart, a small but legendary shop is located at one corner of the Devaraja Market and is now managed by the fourth generation descendants of the Madappa clan. This 81-year-old shop has retained a loyal following and serves one of the best Mysore Pak in the city.
Every city has a city centre, every city has a market, but this one right here has a charm to it. Devaraja Market in Mysore is an epitome of rich culture and heritage is named after the erstwhile Maharaja Dodda Devaraja Wadiyar.
This market dates back to Tipu Sultan’s reign in the 18th century, taking a form of a small weekly market for commodities. Today, the market houses over 800 shops and is spread over a land space of 3 acres.
Even if you don’t want to buy anything from the market, it provides a great opportunity for picturesque photographs and is a definite must-visit if you’re in the city.
The Horse Carriages
Back in the days when our country was ruled by the Kings and Maharajas, having a horse was considered as a status symbol. Mysore being ruled by the Kings for over 500 years, their undying love for horses and horse racing is evident from the tales that we have heard. But how common are they now?
Though Mysore is not a Kingdom anymore, the natives of the city continue to use horses, but this time for the general public.
Though I’m not particularly fond of it, it’s a sight to look at - it gives you a flavour of the city, or how it used to be.
How to get around in the city?
I’m the kind of person who loves exploring a city walking. And exploring a city by walk lets you learn more about the city, its people and you get to witness the unseen and hear the unheard. But what id the distance is a little too long or if you want to reach a place quicker? What the best option? Well, Uber and Ola Cabs to my, well, to our rescue.
Living in Bangalore, where it takes forever to reach from point A to B and the cases of drivers not accepting your ride being high, I was a bit hesitant to use any of the cab services here in Mysore.
But boy, the city took me by surprise.
Drivers accept your ride in a jiffy and the waiting time is not more than 5 minutes at any given point in time. I had a great time using auto-rickshaws (tuk-tuk) to commute within the city and the experience was beyond words.
Humble drivers, who accept your ride as soon as you confirm your booking and arrive within two minutes. And for the matter of fact, the rates are minimal and I’d recommend using Ola Autos for your commute in this city.
Where to stay?
As a solo traveller, I’ve always believed that hostels are the easiest, safest and economical option. And Zostel Mysore came to my rescue. Hosts Amith and Gowtham were wonderful and very helpful, making my stay a memorable one.
If you are a solo traveller or if you’re travelling with your partner/friend, would love to get to meet and know fellow travellers from different walks of life and as an economical option for your trip, I would strongly recommend choosing hostels over hotels.
Zostel, thank you so much for your amazing hospitality and it was great getting to know the fellow travellers on the road.
Well, if you’re travelling to Mysore and if you feel like this blog post came handy to you, please let me know. You can either comment here on this post or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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