Mysore in 48 hours!
I have never been able to get enough of Mysuru . Even while living in Bengaluru when Mysuru was barely three hours away I had visited it over a dozen times. Even though I am not a 'Bangalorean' now, and the city is therefore not as easily accessible, I am always eager for another visit.
So, when an opportunity presented itself a month ago, I took it.
Heritage city Mysore now renamed Mysuru (to go with the traditional spelling and pronunciation) enchants for many reasons. There is royal heritage all around in the form of museums and palaces, great temples, historic churches and mosques, superbly maintained gardens, a famed silk-weaving centre, art galleries and craft centres, very important government institutions, and one of Karnataka's most celebrated regional cuisines.
The most spectacular attraction of the city is, of course, the Mysore Palace. Did you know it is India's most visited tourist attraction (by foreign tourists) after the Taj Mahal? One visit and you will understand why.
The erstwhile royal family members still live in one section of the building which is located in a large garden. The magnificent palace reflects Indo-Saracenic architecture and has a 145-ft storied tower and marble domes. Within the palace are rooms and open spaces housing fabulous works of art from India and around the world, which the Mysore Maharajas either specially commissioned or purchased during their travels. There are also items received as gifts. Among the highlights are ornate wooden carvings, a rich collection of Indian and European paintings and sculptures, a doll gallery, stained-glass ceilings, ornate chandeliers, ivory and sandalwood artefacts, the spectacular Kalyana Mandapa, royal jewellery and costumes, etc.
Mysuru is actually called the City of Palaces. So, if you want more of royal heritage, you can check out the Karanji Mansion, Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion, and Lalitha Mahal Palace. Of course, some of these properties are now hotels but even these have public spaces you can visit as a tourist. The Rajendra Vilas Palace is lying in a state of neglect but still of historical interest.
Another popular tourist-magnet is St Philomena's Cathedral aka St Philomena's Church. This is one of the biggest and tallest churches in India. The architecture is styled after Germany's Cologne Cathedral. It is an impressive structure with an imposing façade and towering, 175-feet-high spires. However, if it is a Sunday morning, the mass will be on, so you would have to take a look from the entrance.
The Jaganmohan Palace has always been one of my favourite places in the city—it houses the Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery with exquisite paintings; sculptures; musical instruments; artefacts in wood, silver, gold, ivory and panchalohas, besides antique coins, currencies, etc. It was built in 1861 and functioned for many years as a hub for big events in the city. When the main palace, Amba Vilas Palace, was destroyed by a terrible fire in 1897, Jaganmohan Palace became the temporary residence of the royal family, until a new one was built. The stained-glass windows and hall with wooden doors on which are carved the Dashavataras are big attractions.
The presiding deity of the city, as well as the royal family's kuladaivam, is a fiery form of Goddess Durga known as Sri Chamundeshwari. Her temple is located atop the eponymous Chamundi Hills and you can easily drive up there. However, you will find some devotees trekking up the hill given their rituals or vows. The Sri Chamundeshwari temple is considered one of the 18 Shakti Peethams of India. If you have the time, do visit the nearby Nandi temple too.
You can end the day by shopping for Mysuru's most famous products—the gorgeous Mysore silk sarees which have the GI tag, sandalwood artefacts, sandalwood soap, rosewood products of all kinds and of course, the melt-in-the-mouth delicacy, Mysore Pak.
Whatever your culinary preferences, there is a restaurant for that taste in the city. However, we suggest you must try the city's eponymous dosa. So, make a breakfast of Mysore Masala Dosa before you head out for your second day of sightseeing.
You can't imagine visiting a post office or anything related to it as a tourist but in Mysuru many people do that. Inside the Postal Training Center in Nazarbad, there is the fascinating Postal Museum. It has a large philately section with stamps from various eras. It also houses spears, badges, old-world post boxes, postmen uniforms and their sling bags, Morse code equipment, weights and measures, collection pouches, etc.
There are so many other things you can do in this city once you are done with palaces and temples. Check out the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalay aka National Museum of Mankind depicts the story of mankind in time and space and offers an excellent educational opportunity especially if you have children in tow. Kids and adults alike would enjoy visits to Kishkindha Moolika Bonsai Garden, Clock Tower, Devaraja Market, Mysore Zoo, and Karanji Lake Nature Park. The Rail Museum gives an insight into train travel of earlier times, especially for royalty. It houses several decommissioned steam locomotives and coaches from the train that was once run for the Maharaja of Mysore, including a saloon dating back to 1899. For art lovers, there is the Melody World Wax Museum and Folklore Museum.
End the day by going to Mysore Palace again to see its grand appearance with special illumination. There is a sound and light show too if you are a history buff.
Next morning as you leave with your 48 hours in the city all done, you can try some local cuisine again like Benne Dosa and Bisibelebhath.
However, if you can afford to linger and want to extend your stay and visit places nearby Mysuru, there are many choices. There is the renowned Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, and on another side, the famous Brindavan Gardens. You can also visit the Sriranganatha temple at Srirangapatna town. The town is also associated with Tipu Sultan's reign Srirangapatna and has many monuments related to his dynasty. The must-sees are Jumma Masjid mosque, the well-maintained Daria Daulat Gardens and Tipu's Sultan's summer palace, Tipu's Mausoleum and his fort.
Besides, there are the KRS Dam and the Shuka Vana aviary run by Sri Ganapati Sachidananda Ashram.