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Mysore District is situated in the southern part of the Deccan Plateau on an undulating tableland, covered in part by granite outcrops and fringed by verdant forests. From ancient times, this district has played a significant role in the history of South India. Mysore is a popular tourist destination offering popular attractions ranging from the splendor of the royal City and its colorful Dasera Festival to exquisite temples, pilgrimage centers and scenic spots. Mysore city is at 770 meters or 2’526 feet above sea level and 139 kilometers or 86 miles from Bangalore. Also known as the City of Palaces, Mysore retains a quaint charm that never fails to enchant.
It was the capital of the Wodeyar dynasty, feudatories of the Vijayanagar Empire, who declared their independence in the sixteenth century and ruled in Mysore until independence except for three decades when the charismatic and popular, Haider Ali and his son Tipu Sultan, wrested power from them. Mysore today, is a pleasant city with an old world charm, contributed by its broad shady avenues, well laid out gardens, fine buildings and a salubrious climate.
The Mysore Palace is the most important landmark of Mysore. It was designed by Henry Irwin, an English architect. The three storied structure in the Indo-Saracenic style was built between 1897 and 1912. It has square towers at cardinal points that are topped with domes. The most noteworthy sections of the palace are the Durbar Hall with beautifully sculpted pillars and very ornate ceiling as well as the Kalyanamantapa (marriage pavilion) that has glazed tile flooring, stained glass windows and domed ceiling. Its doors are very intricately carved. Among the treasures in the palace are the jewel encrusted golden throne (this is displayed during the Dasara Festival only), the golden Howdah (elephant seat) as well as some very valuable paintings. The walled palace houses the residential museum (incorporating some of the living quarters of the palace), and the Shwetha Varahaswamy temple. The palace is illuminated on Sundays, Public Holidays. For the Dasara Celebrations there is special illumination with 97,000 electric bulbs. The Dasara festival celebrates the victory of good over evil, marking the slaying of the demon Mahishasura by the goddess Chamundeshwari. The palace and city are lit up for ten days and the entire city wears a festive look. Festivals of music, dance and theatre are held. The Dasara exhibition, craft fairs, film festivals and Vajramushti (traditional wrestling matches) entertain visitors. The highlight of the festivities is the Dasara procession held on Vijayadashami, the tenth, penultimate day. It is led by caparisoned elephants carrying an idol of goddess Chamundeswari seated in a golden howdah (elephant seat). Following them are decorated horses, folk dancers and colorful floats. The procession wends its way from the Maharaja's palace to the torch light parade ground and then returns to the palace. The closing ceremonies include cultural performances from different states, gymnastic and equestrian events, followed by a torch light tattoo and fireworks.
Chamundi Hills are on the outskirts of the city and can be reached by a winding 13 kilometer or 8 mile long road. There are also the 1000 steps carved into the rocks going up the hill that were built by the Wodeyar Dynasty rulers. The Chamundeshwari Temple dating from eleventh century is on top of the hill. Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III added the typical Gopuram (pyramidal temple tower) to the temple during 1825 and 1826. The goddess Chamundi was patron deity of Wodeyar rulers. There is a statue of the demon, Mahishasur that the goddess killed. Half way up the hill is a huge 4.8 meter or 16 feet high monolith of Nandi Bull, Lord Shiva’s mount.
The Jaganmohan Palace is one of the most beautiful buildings in Mysore. It was built in 1861 by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar in a predominantly Hindu style, as an alternative retreat for the royal family. It is a three storied palace with stained glass shutters and ventilators, in a lovely garden setting and has since 1915, housed the Sri Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery. This museum displays paintings, sculptures and musical instruments. The collection of exquisite paintings dating back to 1875 includes paintings by the Travancore ruler, Raja Ravi Varma, the Russian Svetoslav Roerich and the traditional Mysore gold leaf style of painting.
The Keshava Temple is 42 kilometers or 26 miles from Mysore. A Hoysala General Somanatha Dandanayaka built it in 1268 as part of an “Agrahara”(scholastic community). It is unique in the sense that it is one rare temple of Hoysala period that was completed. The construction of temples at Belur and Halebid was never completed. Like most south Indian temples there is an enclosing wall around the temple with one gate and a porch. It is constructed on a star shaped elevated platform. The sides of the raised platform have elaborately carved friezes depicting rows of cavalry, elephants and stories from Hindu epics. Above this row are a series of various forms of Lord Vishnu. This is a Trikutachala or a temple with three sanctums, the north sanctum has idol of Janardhana and the south one has that of Venugopala. The main idol of Keshava is missing from the temple.
Lalitha Mahal Palace is located on a low hill, just outside Mysore. It is surrounded by sprawling terraced and beautifully landscaped gardens. The Maharaja had this palace designed by E W Fritchley, an English architect, to host the Viceroy of India. It was converted into a 5-star hotel and is a popular venue for Bollywood film shoots and other local social gatherings. The hotel has raving reviews about its rooms and facilities but the guests find the food served there not very authentic and tasty. Also the maintenance of the hotel is very poor.
There are many other palaces in Mysore, most of which are now owned by the government or not maintained because of litigation within the members of the former royal family.
Hotel President – 72 rooms
Hotel Paradise – 90 rooms
Kabini River Lodge – 27 rooms
Royal Orchid Metropole - 30 rooms
Hotel Sandesh the Prince – 109 rooms
Mysore Dasaprakash Hotel – 120 rooms
Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel – 54 rooms
Regaalis Mysore Hotel – 105 rooms
The Viceroy Hotel – 30 rooms
Best Western Ramanashree Hotel – 68 rooms
Kings Kourt Hotel – 56 rooms
Keynes Hotel – 22 rooms
Distance from Mysore in Kilometers and Miles:
Bangalore: 139 Kilometers or 86 Miles
Hassan: 187 Kilometers or 116 Miles
Bandipur National Park: 77 Kilometers or 48 Miles
Ooti: 127 Kilometers or 79 Miles
Coimbatore: 210 Kilometers or 125 Miles
Kochi: 397 Kilometers or 247 Miles
Mangalore: 248 Kilometers or 154 Miles
Thrissur: 318 Kilometers or 198 Miles
Tiruchchirapalli: 352 Kilometers or 219 Miles