Mysore, the cultural capital of the southern state of Karnataka and the capital of the of the Wodeyar dynasty that ruled the region for centuries. Thanks to the Wodeyar rulers who were great patrons of art and culture, Mysore became a cultural hub with the passage of time. The city is home to many palaces, museums, art galleries and is also famous for its festivals, food, paintings and silk sarees.
The culinary extravaganza of Mysore
South India is known for its exotic spices and culinary delights and Mysore is a destination any foodie would love. The cuisine in Mysore is mostly rice based and just like other parts of southern India, idli and dosa is a significant part of the cuisine but one can find a variety in them along with the delicious chutneys that accompanies them. One popular breakfast that you can find in Mysore is ‘uppittu’ which is basically roasted semolina laced with chillies, coriander leaves, mustard and cumin seeds. A lunch spread typically includes cereal salads like kosambri, palyas that are vegetable based salads, gojju which is a vegetable cooked in tamarind juice with chilli powder, tovve , huli and papad. One of the most popular Mysore dish is the bisibelebath, a dish prepared with rice, lentils, tamarind, dried coconut, chilli powder and spices. Some unique desserts of Mysore are chiroti, Mysore Pak, obbattu or holige and shavige payasa.
Festival of Mysore
Dasara is the state-festival of the state of Karnataka and is also known as Navaratri. It is a 10-day festival and celebrated with much pomp and show. It falls in the month of September or October. The festivities of Dasara begin with the Wodeyar royal couple performing a special ceremony wherein they offer prayer to Goddess Chamundeshwari in the Chamundi Temple followed by a special royal assembly. A fair is also held on the occasion of Dasara in the exhibition grounds opposite to the Mysore Palace. Various music and dance concerts are held in and around Mysore city during Dasara. Artists from different parts of India are invited to perform. Another famous activity held during Dasara is the wrestling-bout where wrestlers from all over India participate. It is one of the much sought after places by travellers during the Navaratri festival.
The Magnificent Royal Palaces
The Wodeyar dynasty had built quite a few of architectural marvels in Mysore. Mysore is not called the ‘City of Palaces’ just like that. Following are the palaces that amaze any traveler to the city:
It is also known as the Mysore Palace. This palace was built more than a century ago in the Indo-Sarcenic style by the Wodeyar dynasty. The palace is adorned by many priceless and historic paintings, murals, arms, trophies, stained glass windows and is an architectural splendor.
The Jaganmohan Palace was built in the year 1861 by King Krishnaraja Wodeyar III. The palace acted as the royal residence of the Wodeyars when the older Mysore Palace was destroyed by a fire. There is a collection of paintings by Raja Ravi Varma here.
Some other notable palaces are the Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion built in 1905 by Chamaraja Wodeyar for his eldest daughter Jayalakshmi Devi. The Lalitha Mahal was built by Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV in 1921 for the accommodating the Viceroy of India. The Rajendra Vilas atop the Chamundi Hill whose construction started in the 1920s and was completed between 1938–1939. It served as a summer palace for the Wodeyar rulers.
The priceless Mysore paintings
The traditional form of painting is known as Mysore painting which started blooming under the patronage of the Wodeyar king, Raja Wodeyar (1578–1617). The artists who practiced this style of painting used locally available materials for painting such as squirrel’s hair for brushes. They basically painted on a cloth spread over a wooden plank that formed the painting board. Burnt tamarind sticks were used as a sketching charcoal and the main attraction of these paintings was the gesso work in which gold foils were pasted appropriately. Many of these historical paintings are still preserved in Jaganmohan Palace here.
So, the next time you plan to travel down south, do not forget to put Mysore in your itinerary for a different travel experience altogether. The friendly population, the rich culture and good food will definitely wow you and compel for a second visit.