Mysore is a popular weekend destination for people close to Karnataka for many reasons. One it is easily accessible by road, train or flights; another is its weather – which isn’t a very big concern or a threat that could easily spoil the travel plans. Mysore has a variety of places to offer satisfying a wide range of travellers – from families looking for some bonding and fun, to wildlife enthusiasts, people into history, art and temples!! I know many of you who are reading this blog would have already travelled to Mysore. This blog is my two cents to fellow travellers who wish to make a quick weekend trip.
My trip to Mysore was in the month of March this year. I did some research on what are the places near Mysore and how many could be fit into my plan for 3 days. I reached Mysore from Chennai via over night train. The train journey was uneventful and my rough plan was something like this
Day 1 – Visit Srirangapatnam, Brindavan Gardens
Day 2 – Zoo and Mysore Palace
Day 3 – Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary and remaining places
I took an auto from the railway station to Hotel Iyengar Plaza, which right next to Jagmohan Palace, a very interesting palace (I will talk about it later in Day 3). I was looking for budget accommodation and one of my friends suggested this hotel. Not bad I would say, for 700 rupees per day it was a decent accommodation. After breakfast at Hotel Annapoorna (in fact all three days we had breakfast and dinner at this hotel. I didn’t know a good one L), I decided to check Srirangapatnam, the former capital, which is roughly 20 km from Mysore. One can take a taxi from Mysore, but it is cheaper to go there in bus and hire an auto at Srirangapatnam, which is exactly what I did. The bus journey cost 20 INR till Srirangapatnam. I had a list of places to see there and arranged an auto for INR 250 for half a day. Frankly, one can walk around and see all these places. It was very sunny and I didn’t want to get tired. So I started off with
- Tipu’s Death Place – an obvious conclusion from the name, Tipu Sultan was found dead in that place and there is a stone to mark his death surrounded by a well-maintained garden.
- Captain Bailey’s Dungeon is 200 yards from Tipu Death place. This oblong bastion was used to chain the prisoners to the wall. Tipu Sultan used it to imprison British soldiers.
Locals say that pouring water into the dungeon and almost drowning them tortured the prisoners.
- Sri Narasimha Swamy Temple – the temple is actually in a very poor state and repairs were going on when we visited. If temples are not your kind of place then you can give it a miss. For others, it is open between 7:30 AM – 12:30 AM and 5 PM – 7:30 PM
- Sri Gangadhara Swamy Temple
- A few hundred meters from Narasimha Swamy temple is the famous Ranganatha Swamy temple. A relatively bigger temple with good architecture. It is open from 8 AM – 1 PM and 4 PM – 8 PM.
Front Mandapam of temple
Pillars in Mandapam
- Sri Nimishambha Temple – This temple is built right on the riverbanks of Cauvery and the deity is believed to grant our wishes within a minute, hence the name Nimishambha. (Nimisham means a minute in local language). It is open from 8 AM to 5 PM.
Main Gopuram of Nimishamba temple
By this time it was well over 1 PM and I decided to see rest of Sri Rangapatnam on another day and proceeded towards Brindavan Gardens. I had to catch a local bus from Sri Rangapatnam to a nearby stop called Pump House (Bus No 307). The route goes through some of the local villages and I felt the rural side appealing than the historical one. From pump house to KRS Brindavan Gardens I took another bus. The journey was around an hour.
Brindavan Gardens can also be reached directly and much easily from Mysore (around 24 km). It is open in the weekdays from 6 AM – 8 PM and week ends from 6 AM – 9 PM. The famous Musical Fountain operates at 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM on weekdays and 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM on weekends. The entry ticket costs INR 15 for adults and INR 50 for camera.
Entry Gate @ Brindavan Gardens
The Garden is built on the KRS dam and divided into two parts. One can walk from one half of the garden to other half via a hanging bridge or take the boat ride.
The garden is maintained well and definitely is a fun place for kids to run around or just sit and laze around sipping a cup of hot tea or masala chai. The second half of the garden was were the musical fountain was present. I took customary photos of the garden, the musical fountain and the nearby Cauvery River.
One half of the garden
Other half of the garden
Boating at Brindavan Gardens
The musical fountain wasn’t very great given the high expectations and huge crowd; the fountain danced to some famous Hindi and local item numbers.
Crowd at musical fountain
After the musical show, I called it a day and moved towards Mysore. (Bus No 303)
I had decided earlier that this holiday would be enjoyed in a leisurely manner and not rush into and visit places. So on Day 2 I visited Mysore Zoo and Mysore Palace and do some shopping. I took an auto to Cauvery Crafts emporium (almost all shops call them Cauvery emporium and Govt approved). Bought some sandalwood soaps and agarpathis. Many wooden idols, stone carvings, mysore silk sarees were also available for sale. But they were way out of my budget. The auto dropped me at the zoo.
The Zoo was quite disappointing since I had read rave reviews about how well it is maintained and what a treat to an eye it is. Maybe I was at the wrong time. It was very hot and there were not much benches/shades to sit on and take rest and the animals were very tired (obviously!)
I felt the entry ticket of INR 40 and a camera fee of INR 20 was not very worthy.
Coming to the good things – the zoo has zero tolerance towards plastic bottles/covers. If we are taking plastics inside, we need to pay INR 10 for each plastic item, which would be refunded of course, when it is shown at the exit i.e. when they are sure that we are taking it outside.
Secondly, we can sponsor for any animal for its maintenance and many have done it for the children birthdays. I mentally noted to bring my child and sponsor for an animal that he likes. Fellow travellers, please note that the zoo is open from 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM daily except on Tuesdays.
Karanji Lake – is right behind the zoo and it has a butterfly park and boating. I did not visit this lake since I felt it was too hot for a boat ride.
I took an auto from zoo to the palace (around 2 km). Entry fee is INR 20 for Indians and INR 200 for foreigners. The palace is the official residence of the Wodeyar Kings and there are actually two palaces inside. Both palaces are open on all days from 10 AM to 5:30 PM. But the last ticket sale is closed by 5:00 PM. Cameras are not allowed inside the palace, but can be used in the palace gardens. There is a safe locker for cameras free of charge.
One of the four temples @ Mysore palace
The main palace where there are many artifacts like paintings, beautiful portraits of Wodeyar kings and queens, various gifts received by the kings, Kalyana Mantapa or the marriage hall where weddings were performed, silver and gold armored doors and the grand balconies where the King held his court, Amba vilasa a room for private audience – one can only imagine how it must have been when the palace was fully functional.
The guided audio tour, the DVDs and books available for sale doesn’t do justice to the grandeur, the architecture, the huge space and well-maintained gardens, the numerous palace gates, temples inside the palace complex and the illumination of the entire palace.
The second palace (has a separate entry fee of INR 35) is more of display of used furniture by the kings, photo frames, armors etc. I had time to kill to watch the palace illumination. Otherwise, I would have skipped this palace.
I made sure I was at the palace to see the illumination that happens during Sundays and all public holidays from 7 PM – 7:45 PM. Everybody started setting up tripods, their cameras and was taking test shots of the palace as soon as it started turning dark.
Mysore Palace @ sunset
One by one the lights were turned on and my-my, what a sight to behold. A Royal band was playing music and the palace and all the gates were fully illuminated with light bulbs. After taking so many shots at the palace, I decided to leave it and proceeded to hotel room.
Today I have much to visit and checked out from hotel in the early morning itself and kept luggage at the Mysore Railway station’s cloakroom. I was charged INR 15 per suitcase per 24 hours which is very cheap compared to the hotel and anyway I have to catch the night train back to Chennai. The budget traveller in me was happy to have cut the cost 🙂
I took a taxi from the railway station for half a day for INR 550 and went straight to Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary. It is around 4 km from Sri Rangapatnam and is open from 9 AM to 6 PM. Entry charge is 50 INR and boating charge is 50 INR. The fee is 300 INR for foreigners. I felt it was money well spent. The sanctuary itself is lush green with so many trees and benches all around to sit and view the water. The boating was hand rowed and the ranger told me that motorboats frighten away the birds.
The boat ride was close to 30 minutes and I had the wonderful opportunity to see so many different kinds of birds both local and migratory, half of which I couldn’t name it. I could identify pelicans, painted storks and open billed storks. It is one kind of an experience. I even saw a few crocodiles under water and a baby crocodile taking a sunbath on one of the rocks.
The season for bird sanctuary is from November to June. People who are not interested to take boat rides can climb up the watchtowers and get a panoramic view of the Cauvery river and birds flocking all the trees. Note to self – take a better zoom lens next time when visiting the sanctuary. Missed the zoom lens so much 😦
After a very satisfying sanctuary visit, I went back to Sri Rangapatnam to visit the summer palace of Tipu Sultan a.k.a Daria Daulat Bagh. The palace was a very cool place and was constructed in a massive area of ground. The palace was home to some wonderful paintings on the wall, which are getting spoilt due to less maintenance (I am not surprised here, since the entry fee is a meager INR 5 with no cost for cameras) and exposure to weather. The paintings were depicted some of the victories of Tipu. Inside the palace were photos, a gallery of things used by Tipu and his sons, portraits etc. It is open on all days from 9:30 AM – 5 PM.
Daria Daulat Bagh
Next stop was Gumbaz or the tomb of Tipu Sultan. A beautiful garden leads to the tomb and an adjacent mosque. A typical Mughal architecture tomb, magnificent ivory-decorated ebony doors lead into the tomb, which is the burial chamber for Hyder Ali, Tipu and his mother Fatima Begum. It is open on all days from 8 AM to 6:30 PM.
A stone’s throw from Gumbaz is Sangamam, the confluence of three rivers. I gave it a miss since I was running out of time already. On our way back we visited the Jama Masjid in Sri Rangapatnam. This was built by Tipu along with the Gumbaz and has seen several wars during its life.
My taxi’s half a day was fast approaching and I came back to Mysore and enjoyed a good meal.
I decided to check out Jagan Mohan palace, which is now converted into an art gallery. I do admit that initially, I had reservations about going into an art gallery, but this one completely took me by surprise. The gallery has four floors totally. The first floor has a curious old French clock which chimes at every half an hour and miniature soldiers march inside the clock every hour and the old thing is running perfectly even after a few centuries!! The other floors are home to some of the exquisite paintings I have seen so far. The exhaustive list includes paintings from Raja Ravi Varma (I was completely mesmerized by the details and beauty captured), Lady with the lamp and a collection of paintings of the royals and royal family occasions, war between Tipu Sultan and the British and an entire floor dedicated to musical instruments used during the olden times. I would say it is a must visit to this art gallery. Entry fee is 30 INR and cameras are not allowed inside. However post cards are available for sale inside the palace of all the famous paintings. Entry fee is 30 INR and the palace is open from 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM.
The final destination was the famous Chamundi Hills. I took an air-conditioned Volvo bus from Mysore bus stand (Bus No 201) and saw some spectacular views on the way to the hills. It houses the temple for Goddess Chamundi.
A flower vendor @ Chamundi Hills
Gopuram of Chamundi Temple
Make sure you visit it towards evening to enjoy the sunset view from the hills. There are so many monkeys roaming around the temple, so be careful if you have anything in your hand to eat. An angry monkey tried to grab my milkshake and guess who won J. It was time to end this journey and I reached railway station, collected the luggage and bid good-bye to Mysore.