Mysore kaleidoscope

Print edition : November 02, 2012

The Shivanasamudra waterfalls near Mysore.-M. A. SRIRAM

FORMING an excellent backdrop to the city of Mysore is the Chamundi Hill, situated 1,074 metres above sea level. Atop the hill is the 12th century-built Chamundeshwari temple, which houses the presiding deity of the Wodeyars, while halfway up is the gigantic Nandi (bull), the vehicle of Shiva.

The opulent Amba Vilas or Mysore Palace is yet another iconic landmark located in the heart of the city. One of the largest palaces in India, the peerless structure was built by the rulers of the Wodeyar dynasty in 1911 on the foundations of an old wooden palace that burnt down in 1897. Designed by the well-known British architect Henry Irwin for the 24th Wodeyar king, the palace is 245 feet in length and 156 feet in breadth. The palace is home to 12 temples built in the Dravidian style. Since its acquisition by the government, the palace is under the supervision of the Department of Archaeology and Museums, and has been converted into a museum. The scion of the Wodeyars, Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, resides in a section of the palace.

The three-storeyed Jagan Mohan Palace in the city, built in 1861, now houses the Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery. The palace is a repository of paintings by artists like Raja Ravi Varma, Rabindranath Tagore, Jilladin Ville and Svetoslav Roerich, and also of musical instruments, sculptures, and antiques, and the traditional Mysore gold leaf painting.

Not far from the Amba Vilas Palace is the 1840-built St. Philomenas Church. Modelled on St. Patricks Cathedral in New York and the Gothic Church at Cologne, Germany, the church was designed by French architects. It has two spires, each rising to a height of 165 feet, while the interior has colonnades and riveting glass paintings. The Sri Jayachamrajendra Zoological Gardens, established in 1892, is home to many animals bred in captivity and over 110 species of plants and trees from various countries.

Mysore also has a number of art galleries and museums, including Indias only regional railway museum. Modelled on the National Railway Museum in Delhi, the rail museum has exhibits that give a glimpse into the era of steam-driven engines and the luxury of the maharanis saloon (built in the United Kingdom in 1899) and the maharajas dining car.

The Regional Museum of Natural History gives an opportunity to the visitor to explore the natural world. In the Manasagangotri campus of Mysore University is the Folklore Museum.

Mysore, given its excellent air, road and rail connectivity, can also be the hub from where a tourist can plan visits to a number of interesting places, all within a few hours away. Hardly 19 km away is the Brindavan Gardens. Laid out in typical Mughal style and adjacent to Indias first irrigation dam, the Krishnarajasagar dam across the river Cauvery, the gardens are transformed after sundown into a complex of coloured, musical fountains.

Nanjangud, the famous temple town on the banks of the river Kapila, lies 23 km from Mysore, while the riverine island fort town of Srirangapatnam is just 20 km away. Even nearer is the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary (5 km). Talakkad, a city buried under dunes of sand that stretch for nearly a mile, is only a 45-km ride away.

The religious centre of Melkote, which is synonymous with Vaishnava history, lies 20 km away and the Chennakeshava Temple at Somnathpur with its Hoysala architectural style is 35 km away.

Around 60 km from Mysore is the Shivanasamudra Falls where the Cauvery cascades from a height of 75 metres into a deep, rocky gorge to form two falls, while further downstream is Asias first hydroelectric power project.

By a Correspondent

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