I grew up gorging on Mysore Paks and holding on to my mom's pallu of Mysore Silk. She loved the soft silk and the extremely simple style that she had a collection of almost all shades of Mysore silk. I make a yearly visit to Cauvery Handicrafts Emporium in Bangalore and get a dose of Mysore sandal soap and sandalwood powder. And yet I have never been to Mysore until recently. Maybe because it was so close to Bangalore that I thought I can visit it anytime. But with every other person be it from India or outside India raving about Mysore, I decided to pay a visit too. Mysore surprised me as well as disappointed me. Some of the places I felt were overhyped and some of the places I truly enjoyed. So here are the places to see in Mysore, things to do, places you can skip and sample itineraries that you can refer to. Also, Mysore has been officially renamed to Mysuru so that's how you lookup in Google Maps or to search anything in Google.
I and my friend caught the early morning train from Bangalore. There are plenty of options to visit Mysore from Bangalore. Passenger trains, super fast trains, blabla car, KSRTC buses, bus from the airport and many more. We picked one of the trains, had a confirmed sleeper class ticket and it was jam-packed with people even sitting in our confirmed seat. Nobody budged even though we had a confirmed ticket and that seemed like a norm. The train passed through Maddur and unfortunately, no Maddur vada seller came into the train compartment. The train pulled into the Mysuru Junction and we walked out to proceed into the city. The Trin Trin bicycles were lined up near the Mysore railway station itself. These bicycles can be used as a commute option between popular tourist points within the city. Most of the roads had a bicycle lane too. Even the walking pathways were broad and clean, as a pedestrian, I just loved those walkways. After quickly refreshing ourselves we started to tick off the places to see in Mysore. A little bit of history before that?
History of Mysore
Mysore is the British's easy version name for Mahishuru. Meaning, we carry you to the story of Mahishasuran the demon who resided in this region. And Chamundeshwari killed him. So we have a temple for her atop the Chamundi hill. She rules the city or rather keeps an eye on the city from atop the hill. And since this place was ruled by Mahishasuran, it was called as Mahishuru. Mahishuru became Mysuru followed by Mysore. Mysore was predominately ruled by the Wadiyars.
Kingdom of Mysore
The Kingdom of Mysore extended to parts of present-day Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. In fact, Karnataka was called as "State of Mysore" by the British. Mysore was the capital of the kingdom. The Wodeyars ruled the Kingdom of Mysore for almost ever, from 1399 to 1950. For a brief period, they were usurped by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan who ruined half the stuff in Mysore to erase the presence of Wodeyar dynasty. But then after the anglo-Mysore wars and when Tipu was killed, the British returned a portion of the kingdom to Wodeyars and they continued to rule. British moved off to Srirangapatna. Till date they are allowed to retain their identity and title. Wodeyars have a curse on them by Alamelamma. She said, "Talakadu maralagali, Malangi maduvagali, Mysuru dhorege makkalilladhe hogali". Meaning, let the Mysuru Raja never have an heir. The curse is said to have come true, for the Mysuru raja has not been able to have an heir and they always adopt a son to name him as king. The king of Mysore now is Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar. He is the twenty-seventh head of the Wodeyar dynasty. And was formally adopted by the family in 2015 after the demise of Srikantadatta Wodeyar.
Read more about the curse of Alamelamma and Talakadu - Submerged temples of Talakadu
Having said that am gonna start the things to do in Mysore with a visit to the Mysore Palace.
Places to See in Mysore
If you start exploring Mysore early in the morning, a day would do to visit prominent sites. But if you would like to go around Mysore or do a little bit offbeat stuff then at least 2 to 3 days required.
1. Mysore Palace
Mysore palace also known as the Amba Vilas Palace is the official residence of the Wodeyar's. Impossible to miss this palace as life revolves around this palace. The palace has three entrances and every other road leads to the palace. The palace complex has a huge lawn, many temples, and the residence. I got through the southern entrance and the Shweta Varahaswamy temple was seen right at the entrance. Note that though the palace is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm, all these temples close by noon and open later in the evening. I arrived by noon and almost all the temples within the Mysore palace complex were closed. Mysore palace is said to be the second most popular destination in India next to Taj Mahal. I can vouch for that, for the crowd was madness. It was a weekend and it took me nearly 15 minutes to figure out where I should drop my slippers, where I should buy my tickets and where on earth is the entrance to the palace. After that, it was pretty much like a queue in Tirupathi. Go on weekdays if possible.
The palace was stunning no doubt. It is filled with antiques, souvenirs, weapons, collection of paintings and much more but it was the architecture that kept me hooked. There is not even an inch of space in the palace that is not coloured. It is either stained glasses on the roof or coloured tiles on the floor. Moreover, many rooms in the palace were added on later by different kings, thereby enhancing the look. The ground floor has a huge marriage hall. It caught my attention for the tall ceiling and slender pillars rising to uphold them and for the floor tiles. The center of this mandapam has colorful designed tiles, arranged in beautiful patterns. We are not allowed for a closer look, otherwise I would have stood in the middle of the hall and danced. ;) So beautiful. The ceiling has stained coloured glasses that were reflecting all around and the low hanging chandelier was just magnificent. Come around, you will pass through the hall of paintings. Paintings depicting Mysore, Dussehra festival, army battalion, weddings and more.
The two durbar halls are the beauty that you would have often seen on the internet. Diwan-e-am is the courtyard where the king meets the public. These massive decorative pillars and the colorful roof makes you go awe. It faces the garden and the ample light plays a major role in bringing life to this place. Adjacent to it is another hall like a stadium or an arena. It was right next to the public courthouse so it must have been for the public to sit and watch the proceedings. The stadium-like seats, the tall ceilings and the paintings on top, reflected a mix of cultures. The good thing about Mysore palace is that they have picked the best of all architectures. There is Mughal, Indo, European, Baroque, all kinds. And that makes it one exquisite palace.
The other durbar hall is the Diwan-e-Khas, the private audience hall of the Amba Vilas. And I was so fascinated by the wood carvings in this hall. The middle section of this hall has a roof made of glass ceilings and low hanging chandeliers. And around the hall runs a stunning court with the whole ceiling made of teak wood. So much intricate carvings and design on a teak wood! All the doors in this hall are made of teak or rosewood with ivory inlaid work. This is not just an example of fine architecture but also the example of opulence! This hall was beyond my camera and even my eyes. My most favorite part of the palace was this hall. Also, did you know this is just the first floor of the palace and a Durbar lift runs between the ground floor and here 😃 Rich.
Old Mysore Palace
The part of Mysore Palace that nobody visits. This portion of the palace is remains of the wooden palace that was burnt in a fire during Dasara festivities. A portion of the original palace that still remains. It was only after this fire accident was Amba Vilas constructed. The entrance ticket for this palace is higher than Amba Vilas, so nobody checks out this place. It is much more relaxed to explore the artifacts. Photography is not allowed inside. I loved this palace more for its simplicity. The low wooden ceilings and windows and pillar frames, colored with natural paint. It is compact and beautiful. True to the heritage of India. I would recommend to spend and visit time here as well.
Mysore Dasara Festivities
Mysore dasara and the Jamboo Savaari procession is very famous that many people flock to the city to watch the same. The roads are blocked and the king comes out to give darshan. Goddess Chamundeshwari is placed on a golden howdah and taken on procession atop an elephant. This is the day Chamundeshwari killed Mahishasura and hence to honour the day and to pay respects to her, the procession is always conducted. Even when there was a death in the family, and when the family was mourning they continued to honour the tradition. The palace is lit, the whole of Mysore is lit and it is filled to the brim. Apart from Jamboo Savaari, many other folklores, music groups, dance groups and tableaux are also part of the procession. They all end at a place called Bannimantap where a Banni tree is worshipped. Apparently, Pandavas used to hide their arms in this banni tree and so as a tradition the Mysore kings used to worship this tree before heading out to war. I wish somebody gives me a VVIP ticket once to watch the Mysore Dasara procession because am so worried about the crowd that I have never visited there. And my worries were made stronger and true when I read this blog post by my friend Anshul Kumar on Mysore Dasara.
2019 Mysore Dasara starts on 29th September and it is a ten day long festival. The Jamboo Savaari Dasara procession will be held on 8th October 2019. Check out more about the events planned in the city here - Mysore Dasara festivities and dates.
Tips to Visit Mysore Palace
- The entry ticket to Mysore palace is Rs.70/- for both Indians and non-Indians. The entrance ticket to the old palace is separate.
- The entrance to the public is through the South and North Gate.
- Foreigners were using the audio guide. Am not sure how to procure one. I would have been happy to have one.
- Mysore palace is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm.
- The Mysore palace is lit with lights on Sunday and public holidays from 7 pm to 8 pm. On other days it is lit for about 15 minutes from 7:45 pm to 8 pm, towards the end of the light and sound show.
- The light and sound show at Mysore palace is held from Monday to Saturday from 7 pm to 8 pm. Mon-Wed it is in Kannada and Thur - Sat it is in English. The ticket price depends on the language.
- Mobile Photography is allowed inside the Mysore Palace.
- Best time to visit the palace would be on a weekday considering the crowd that pours in.
- You need at least 3 to 4 hours to explore Mysore Palace.
That itself sounds like a blog post. But Mysore is a city of palaces, so let us move on to the next.
2. Jaganmohan Palace Art Gallery and Auditorium
Mysore is known as the "City of Palaces". While most of the palaces have been converted to hotels, the rest have been converted to art galleries and museums. Jaganmohan palace is the same, it is now converted into an art gallery. When the old Mysore palace was destroyed in a fire, the royal family lived in Jaganmohan palace and the Amba Vilas was constructed. I loved spending my time here for they have much richer artifacts and paintings collection. If Mysore palace is about its splendid architecture, Jaganmohan palace is about its fine art gallery. No photography allowed inside, otherwise, I would have never left this place. The one painting that captured my attention big time was the "Lady with Lamp" painting. The room is kept dark and you see the painting which is a lady holding a lamp. It appears as though a real lamp is illuminating the face of the woman. There is a huge collection of Raja Ravi Verma paintings. Also, weaponry, chandeliers, coin collections, clothes used, make it a part of the palace. Jaganmohan Palace is a must-do.
Jaganmohan palace is open from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm and entry fee is Rs.20/-
3. Lalith Mahal Palace
Situated close to the Chamundi hills, you can plan to do the temple in the evening and have dinner here. This palace is now a hotel and entry is restricted. If you want to just explore the palace, the entrance ticket to Lalith Mahal is Rs.110/-. For this, you are allowed inside the campus, you can gawk at the ceilings and have tea or coffee. They don't have any artifacts for display. Their entrance and a stunning staircase look cool and you can stand there, pose for pictures. The dining hall is royal, regal, elegant, all that. But they don't let you have coffee there. A shady arrangement of plastic chairs is made right out of the dining hall for you to sip coffee which is nowhere close to feeling royal or regal. The Internet suggests to dine in here for dinner or lunch in this dining hall. So maybe do that. Otherwise, it is of not much to see. Just skip it.
4. Chamundeshwari Temple and Chamundi Hills
The heroine of the show, the protector of Mysuru and the revered Goddess of the place, Sri Chamundeshwari. It is one of the prettiest idols I have seen. It is extremely crowded and it is expected to be crowded. It is one of the Shakti Peetha, the hair of Sati Devi is said to have fallen here. Chamundeshwari killed the demon Mahishasuran, the idol was not a fierce form though. She had a calm face with a big smile. There are steps to reach the temple or you can opt to drive up to the temple. Just a hundred metres or so from the parking lot. As you start driving up the Chamundi hill, it starts to get cooler and greener. The view of Mysore city from here is spectacular. And you also get to see the scale of the Mysore Palace from above here. Multiple view points along the way give a panoramic view of the city. On top, there is a general queue as well as a special queue. Both are more or less crowded. The view in front of the Goddess has no discrimination according to the queuing system.
5. Big Nandi Statue of Mysore
When I was young my dad brought home a shiny magazine the cover of which was this Nandi! And from then on I wanted to visit this huge Nandi statue. I have come across many monolithic Nandis but I guess since this was my first crush, I fell in love with it over every other statue that I have been to. It is carved out of a single Boulderstone. The only problem when I reached here was, I was expecting the Nandi to be jet black. And I kept wondering for some time if the cab driver has taken me to the wrong place. And I kept asking if this is the right one. The authorities cleaned it up recently and the black soot, oil stains have all been removed. I love him either way. You will come across this Nandi statue when you are walking towards the Chamundeshwari temple. Or after your darshan, while driving down, this Nandi will come midway. You can stop to offer your prayers and have a quick darshan.
6. St. Philomena's Cathedral
This place was a disappointment and I was point-blank staring at it. The church is one of the biggest in Asia and as you near it, the two tall spears tower above the rest of the buildings and can be seen from afar. It was a sigh of heritage building up until they decide to renovate the cathedral. St. Philomena's Cathedral has its iconic brick and mortar construction that adds an old-world charm to it. But now that has been removed and it looks more like cement and plaster replaced it. So the building still stands, but the heritage look and feel of it are gone. Inside the church was the usual organ pipes at one end, stained color glasses at the other end and crucified Jesus at the altar. If you walk down, below the altar is the relics of St. Philomena placed. From where you will exit the church. If you are a nonbeliever this place can be skipped.
7. Railway Museum
Railway museum is behind the railway station and I loved this place. It was very informative. Well maintained old coaches makes you go awe. There is also a gallery depicting the evolution of railways in India. In ancient times it looked more like horse or bullock carts that ran on tracks, animals are seen pulling the carts. And then there is a picture of a guy walking on the tracks with light! Imagine the speed of the cart being pulled and the arrogance of power of people sitting inside the carriage. It feels proud to see that we have come a long way. Future prospective ideas are also listed here. The exhibits show interesting carriages and you get to peep into the engines too. I so loved it.
8. Mysore Sand Sculpture Museum
The Mysore sand sculpture museum is on the way to Chamundi hills, so you can plan it along with that trip. It is a small place but it is packed with sand sculptures. Starts with Ganesha and goes around with multiple themes ranging from Wodeyar's image to marine life, cartoon characters, wildlife, spiritual stuff and dasara celebrations. It is quite a treat. A little away from the city but then it is worth a stop if you are anyway on the way to Chamundi hills.
9. Other Museums in Mysore
There is no dearth of museums in Mysore. I skipped quite a few. But you have time here are few more that you plan to.
- Folklore Museum - This building is inside the Mysore university. The exhibits range from art, folk tradition, culture, puppetry, paintings and much more.
- Melody World Wax Museum - This is actually a museum dedicated to music. All the instruments and musicians are depicted as wax sculptures and hence the name. This museum looked and sounded interesting. Good to know about so many different musical instruments.
- Chamarajendra Academy of visual arts - for the art lovers.
- Regional Museum of Natural History - it is about nature and biological diversity. It is good for kids to read about evolution, understand the kinds of forests and so on.
10. Parks in Mysore
Mysore is a well planned city. It was a planned development even before the independence. Thanks to the kings around the region. So Mysore is not only blessed with wide roads and big residential layouts but also peppered with many parks, gardens and lakes. Here are few that you can spend your weekend at.
- Karanji Lake - this stands on top of the list, recommended by many.
- Kishkindha Moolika Bonsai Garden
- Kukkarahalli Lake
- Freedom Fighter’s Park
- Sanjeevini Park
- Lingambudhi lake
- Dr. Ambedkar’s Park
- Javaregowda Park
Places to See a little away from Mysore
Drive a little away from Mysore and there are a bunch of places that you can plan together. Just about 20 to 30 kilometre away, that's about it. But you will need a vehicle to go to these places.
1. Brindavan Gardens
The popular Brindavan gardens which you could have seen in many movies with the hero and heroine dancing around the park. It was once a popular spot I feel. Not anymore. I entered the gardens to see the KRS dam. But access to see the dam from the garden side is prohibited for the public. The garden is set up behind the Krishna Raja Sagara dam and the water from the dam is used for the gardens. It has a west and east side to explore from the entrance gate. The entrance fee to Brindavan gardens is only Rs.15/- but if you need to take in your camera it is an additional 50 bucks. The gardens are famous for their musical fountain show which plays every day from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm. This place is good for kids is what I felt.
2. Sri Venugopala Swamy Temple
It is a relatively new temple situated on the KRS backwaters. Or newly renovated. The Venugopala Swamy temple is said to be from the 12th century built in the Hoysala style architecture. But with the construction of KRS dam, the temple remained submerged up until a rich merchant or a rich businessman decided to move the temple to the current location and build supporting structures. The temple premises is maintained very neatly and has high security. The security was more like goons, they don't let you photograph even the temple outside complex and they keep shouting around. Just like the monolithic stone chariot found in Hampi, they have made a replica here. People offroad around here and enjoy the vastness of water from KRS dam
3. Krishna Raja Sagara Dam
The reason I went to Brindavan gardens and to Sri Venugopala Swamy temple was to get a glimpse of Krishna Raja Sagara Dam. I was hoping to see the dam up close, or at least from a decent distance and kept my fingers crossed that the gates should remain open. Unfortunately both did not happen. The only option to see KRS dam is to watch it from the Venugopala swamy temple. And from this temple they have fenced it so much that you cannot see the dam properly, plus it is seen quite at a far distance. The gates were not opened either. During monsoon I read that the water was close to the temple compound and it was a good feel. But that's the max you can see about KRS dam.
4. Balmuri Falls
If you are looking for waterfalls near Mysore then Balmuri falls is a good getaway. It is not really a waterfall but it is more of a catchment area and has a cascading waterfall. The whole area is bordered with multiple temples. There were coracle rides offered. A board says, "swimming is prohibited" but people risk through the slippery rocks and get in for a quick shower. It was not very clean for a bath. Mostly looked like a picnic spot.
Things to do in Mysore
Mysore is very tourist friendly and hence there are many tour operators who organise multiple walks around the city like heritage walk, food trail, culinary trail and so on. Wandertrails have many such packages. I have not used their service nor it is a sponsored content but I found their unique trails very enticing.
Explore Devaraja Market. If you are into walking through old markets to see what the locals eat and use and buy then Devaraja market is a place to walk around.
Catch the nightlife in Mysore. The western crowd pouring in to Mysore is a good amount of population and the city is adapting to it. There are pubs that you can hop around. Or just hang around the palace to see it glow in the night. People also climb Chamundi hills to see the city glittering away at night.
Mysore is also famous for many Yoga schools. Mysore is known as the "Ashtanga yoga capital of India". There is Ashtanga yoga institute, Mysore Mandala, Mysore Krishnamachar yoga shala and many more. Mostly people flock here for teacher training.
Mysore Food Restaurants
I was not very explorative on this trip to Mysore. Reason being I was there for only one night and the internet already floods you with what to eat in Mysore. So I decided to follow all the suggestions. Some were good and some were not so good. But do stop anywhere in the city for Mysore masala dosa. It is a simple straight forward dish that not many will flop it, so blindly have some Mysore masala dosa paired with a cup of filter coffee.
People swear by the Vinayaka Mylari dosa. There are multiple outlets in Mysore. The Old Original Mylari hotel is at Shop No, 79, Nazarbad Main Rd, Doora, Mysuru. It is a small shop with very few seats and hot dosas keep coming out of their kitchen which you can peep in too. The dosa is super soft and comes with a dollop of butter on it. The stuffing is not that you find in masala dosa but it is made of bottle gourd, so it tastes bland and mushy. Mylari dosa was not my love.
For lunch, I stopped at Hotel RRR at Gandhi square, near Mahatma Gandhi Statue. It was super super crowded. I and my friend had to share the table with others. It was that crowded. And predominantly non-veg hotel. Their AC section was too much of non-veg that we opted to sit out. Their mutton biryani was yummy. Must try. My favorite of all was the Hotel Hanumanthu. This again has like four to five different branches all around the city managed by different brothers. Search for Hotel Hanumanthu Original in Google maps. This should be the address - 57, Market Building, Benki Nawab St, Mandi Mohalla Near Shree Nagaraja Theatre Old Market Building, Mandi Mohalla, Mysuru, Karnataka 570021. It is an extremely small outlet, so if you bother about class forget it. Even the setting is like there is a slab fixed into the wall for table and a stone bench that you need to swing into for seat. But their mutton pulao, mutton liver, mutton chops, chicken, everything are all super. This place does lives up to all the hype around it.
Your Mysore trip will remain incomplete if you have not tasted the sweet named after it, Mysore Pak. Simple gram flour and sugar cooked in ghee and it just melts in your mouth. Pack some from Shree Mahalakshmi sweets, near Chamundipurum Circle, Vidyaranyapura. Their logo has a mountain-like symbol. Because even they are impersonated in many names, logos, and shops.
What to Buy in Mysore
I started the blog post with an intro to Mysore sarees, sandalwood soaps and yes Mysore is famous for its Mysore Pak, silk sarees and sandalwood items. There are a lot of silk weaving shops and industries around Mysore from where you can purchase Mysore silk sarees or there is always Mysore Silk Udyog which sells original trusted Mysore silk sarees. And for sandalwood oils and soaps, Government sandalwood oil factory is a place to buy from. You can also take a tour of this factory and see other items made out of sandalwood.
Weekend trips around Mysore
These places can be done as a day trip from Mysore or as a weekend outing. Or even plan it on your way to Mysore. Am gonna keep this as a simple list and not go into explaining the places as this itself could quite possibly turn into another blog. So here you go.
- Talakadu - The curse of Alamelamma on the Wodeyars. The submerged temples of Talakadu - More here
- Somnathpura Temple - Hoysala temple architecture filled with awe inspiring sculptures. Pair it with trip to Talakadu - More here
- Shivanasamudra falls. On non monsoon months you get to go for a coracle ride close to the falls. But to watch it in its full glory, monsoon would be a better time - More about Sivasamudram Falls by Ketki Gadre here
- Srirangapatna - Tipu's summer palace, his memorial, Srirangapatna temple, and a lot more sight seeing places - More here .
- Melkote - Melkote temple where the Wodeyar gifted a diamond studded crown to the Lord. Famous movie shooting spot. Sri Ramanujar lived here for nearly 12 years - More here
- Nagarhole National Park - I did not mention Mysore Zoo on purpose in the list of places to see. Skip it and go see the wildlife in the jungles of Nagarhole or Bandipur. About Kabini and wildlife safari - More here
- Nanjangud - a temple similar in architecture to Chamundeshwari temple.
- Shravanabelagola - Tallest Bahubali statue found here. You can combine this with Melkote - More here.
- Ranganathittu and Kokkare Bellur are famous birding spots around Mysore.
Mysore Hotels / Accommodation
Mysore has something for everyone. It has palaces converted to heritage properties as well as funky hostels to chill. I stayed at Royal Orchid Metropole which is just a few meters away from the railway station. I loved my stay here. It was opulent yet pocket friendly. A heritage property, with a huge courtyard made into restaurant. The rooms were done with tasteful antiques and furnitures. Would recommend a stay here.
How to Reach Mysore
The nearest airport to Mysore is Bengaluru International Airport aka Bangalore airport (search for Kempegowda International Airport). If you are flying into Bangalore the easiest is to board the Volvo bus that starts from the airport. I have seen it almost all the time standing near the KIAL bus boarding point and looks empty most of the time. Other bus boarding point is at Kempegowda bus station which is the Majestic bus stand. Almost through out the day there are buses to Mysore.
By train, like how I did, there are multiple trains from Bangalore central to Mysore. SBC to MYS is the code. By road, Bangalore to Mysore is a common route frequented through Ramanagara, Channapatna, Maddur, Mandya, Srirangapatna and Mysore. But it is a pretty crowded road. Alternatively, you can drive through Kanakapura road, it is much more scenic. Nowadays, people have become fond of this alternate route that Kanakapura Mysore is also crowded.
That is it folks. Hope you enjoyed the tour of Mysore, now time for you to plan one ;)