20 August 2009

The city of palaces

Just back from spending a few days in Bangalore, exploring some possibilities of moving back there. Had a couple of interviews - nothing exciting so far. I was staying there with Ninad - a dear friend from arch school - and over the last weekend (which was a long one Friday, Saturday and Sunday) we made a short trip to Mysore.

Day 1:

In Mysore another one of my friends - Manish (who is working at Bekal, Kerala) - was to join us. I used to think that I was an obsessive planner always having at least the next two or three trips planned out in my head but Manish is a completely different animal when it comes to planning - he makes excel sheet of places to visit within a city. So myself and Ninad had a lot of fun trying to beat him and his game and if it wasn't for a sweet girl we met on our bus from Bangalore to Mysore who gave us a detailed lowdown on what to see/do/eat in Mysore we would have been far behind our man Manish who as expected was well prepared armed with lots of printouts of maps and wikis on Mysore!
Mysore - rose to prominence as the capital of one of India's best administered princely states under the Wodeyar dynasty and for its south Indian context it has an uniquely royal feel to it. The only other place that I can think of a similar feel in south India is probably Hyderabad.
We spend most of the time in the centre of the city walking around its well planned streets/markets and visiting 3 of the more important palaces of this 'city of palaces'.
The main palace bang in the center of the city and the markets attached to it has a great scale to it. Though this was my second visit to the city (the first one was in my pre-architecture days) it was as good as being there for the first time. I had glimpses of the palace hidden in some far corners of my memory but in the flesh (I mean in the stone) the palace was a lot more impressive.
It's eclectic mix of Colonial and Mughal styles (Indo-Saracenic style) makes it a sort of fantastical place - and like all great palaces it evokes a possibly image of paradise! The Ambavilasa (one of the most spectacular rooms in the Palace was the Hall of Private Audience and is entered thru an elegantly carved rosewood doorway inlaid with ivory) and the Kalyana Mantapa (which was basically a marriage hall with a grand octagonal-shaped pavilion with a multi-hued stained glass ceiling with peacock motifs arranged in geometrical patterns; the entire structure was wrought in Glasgow) are truly amazing spaces but like in soo many protect monuments in India sadly no photographs were allowed to be taken inside!
Here's a couple of snaps I took at the Krishnaraja circle and the markets near it:


Day 2:
The next day we started at a place set in mythology - to where the city's name and legend was born - to see the temple is situated atop the Chamundi Hills.
(Mysore as seen from the top of Chamundi Hill)

According to Hindu mythology the area around Mysore was known as Mahishūru and was ruled by a demon, Mahishasura.
The demon was killed by the Goddess Chamundeshwari, whose temple we were visiting!
Mahishūru later became Mahisūru and finally came to be called Maisūru, its present name in the Kannada language.The anglicised form of the name is Mysore.

Here's a few snaps of the Chamundi temple:



Halfway up the Chamundi Hills is a large monolithic statue of Nandi the Bull., who is the vahana (Vehicle) of Lord Shiva.

From here we headed to Srirangapatna, is city of historic, just about 13 kms from Mysore - which I will post as a separate blog entry. On the way we made a quick halt at St. Philomenas Church - a using a Neo Gothic Cathedral in the middle of Mysore (quiet strange sight as you can imagine). Its architecture was hugely inspired by the design of the main Cathedral of Cologne, Germany.

While on the way back late in the evening we made a HORRIBLE decision to check out the famous Brindavan Gardens. This has to be one of the most over-rated tourist destination in the world! If you ever visit Mysore please avoid going here - unless of course you are one of those people who like visiting dodgy theme parks than neither have a theme nor a real park!

Day 3:

On our last day in Mysore we spend a good part of the morning visiting the close by Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary and post lunch we went to see the Jagmohan Palace and Art Gallery.
Like most museums in India the building itself (being a former palace) is a lot more interesting than how the artwork itself is exhibited! A very sorry state given the fact that this museum actually has a great collection of paintings especially those in the Mysore school of painting style.
Our final halt before heading back to Bangalore was Lalitha Mahal, which is the second largest palace in Mysore.

The palace was designed by British architect - E W Fritchley.
The palace was built by Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV in the year 1921 for the exclusive stay of the Viceroy of India.




Though this pure white palace built in the style of Italian palazzo is of a grand scale it lacks the splendor/intricacy and playfulness of the city's main palace!

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