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A Cultural and Heritage Travel Guide on Mysore

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FAQ by Travellers Visiting Mysore (Mysuru)

Mysuru, also called Mysore, is a vibrantly historical city in the state of Karnataka, southern India. I will be using both names in this article. The city is renowned for its heritage and culture, attracting millions of tourists worldwide. We will discuss in this blog Mysore’s history, the great kingdoms of Mysore, the historical and heritage places one must see here in Mysore, etc.

You can see the mention of Mysore as early as in the Indian epic Mahabharata. The city was known as Mahishaka in the Mahabharata time and was ruled by the demon king Mahishasura. Legend says that the goddess Chamundeshwari killed the demon, and thus, the city was named Mysuru, which means ‘the abode of the goddess.’

Mysore was also ruled by the Ganga dynasty, followed by the Cholas and Hoysalas. Both these regimes gave importance to the development of trade and commerce, and the city flourished in many aspects due to its impetus. Many grand temples were also built during this period. For example, the Chennakesava temple in Somanathapura, one of the city’s most famous historical sites, is created by the Hoysalas.

How did Mysuru get its name?

As I mentioned, Mysuru got its name from the demon king Mahishasura who was killed by the goddess Chamundeshwari. Mysuru is derived from the word ‘Mahishuru,’ which means the city of Mahisha. Mahisha was the buffalo-headed demon king who ruled the region before the goddess killed him.

Great kingdoms of Mysore.

The most notable Kingdom in the history of Mysore is the Wadiyar dynasty. The Wadiyars ruled Mysuru for over 500 years, which began in the 14th century (AD 1399)and continued till the 20th century. Wadiyar family served the Vijayanagar empire until the 16th century. But when the Vijayanagara Empire fell in 1565, Wadiyar declared sovereignty. They were known for patronizing arts and culture, and the city thrived under their rule.

One of the most revered kings of the Wadiyar dynasty was Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, who was responsible for modernizing the city and bringing about many reforms. Waiyars had an almost uninterrupted rule of Mysore since the 16th century, except for a brief period of Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan in the 18th century.

Tipu Sultan (1751-1799), often called the “Tiger of Mysore,” was another regional ruler known for his courage and bravery. He fought against the British in several battles and achieved many successes. However, in the fourth Anglo-Mysore war, the British East India Company, along with the support of the Marathas and Nizam of Hyderabad, defeated Tipu. He was killed in action on May 4, 1799

The colonization of Mysore

After the death of Tipu Sultan in 1799, the company took control of the area around Mysore. Wadiyars were allowed to continue as the nominal rulers of the region, but the British had absolute authority. After the British Kingdom took over power from the company, they built several buildings and institutions in the city. The Mysore Palace, the undisputed landmark of Mysore, is an excellent example of British construction in that era.

Top 5 historical sites in Mysore and details

Mysore has several historical sites that are a must-visit for any traveller interested in the city’s heritage. Here are the top five historical sites in Mysore:

1. Mysore Palace: The Mysore Palace is undisputedly the most famous landmark in Mysuru. The palace has been the residence of the Wadiyars since its creation in the 14th century. The initial palace was constructed in the 1400s. But it was destroyed by fire in 1897. Reconstruction, led by the British architect Henry Irwin, took about 15 years. The palace is an awestruck mix of Indian, Arabic, Rajput, and Gothic styles of architecture and is a must-visit for any traveller.

2. Chamundeshwari Temple: The goddess Chamundeshwari is the deity at the Chamundeshwari Temple. The temple sits on top of the Chamundi Hills. The temple is over 800 years old and well-preserved. It is a highly regarded pilgrimage site for Hindus.

3. St. Philomena’s Church: St. Philomena’s Church is one of the largest churches in India and s located in the heart of Mysore. It was built in the year 1843 under the patronage of Mysore Maharajah. This Gothic-style colonial church attracts many tourists and historical travellers regularly.

4. Somnathpura: Somnathpura is a small village located 35 km from Mysore. It is home to the Chennakesava temple, a beautiful temple built by the Hoysala dynasty in the 13th century. Somnathpura is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The temple is known for its intricate and beautiful carvings and brilliant sculptures.

5. Jaganmohan Palace: This beautiful palace built in the 19th century also belongs to the Wadiyar dynasty. It is now a museum that showcases a valuable collection of paintings, sculptures, and artefacts from the Wadiyar era. It was built as an alternative palace for the royal family, and in fact, the family lived in this palace when the reconstruction was done on the Mysore Palace in the early 1900s.

What are Dussehra and its importance?

Dussehra is one of the most colourful and prominent festivals in Mysore. It is a festival to celebrate “the victory of good over evil,” Many believe that on this day, Lord Rama defeated the demon king Ravana. Hence the festival is celebrated with great pomp and grandeur.

I have never seen a festival anywhere in the World on such a large scale and so colourful. The ten-day gala event takes place during September and October, and the city comes to a standstill for that ten days. If you plan to attend the Dussehra festival, I suggest you book your hotel well in advance, as finding a good hotel during the season can be challenging.

The festival lasts ten days and culminates in a grand procession on the final day. The parade, also known as the Jumbo Savari, is led by the idol of the goddess Chamundeshwari on a golden throne on top of an elephant. The procession also includes beautifully decorated elephants, horses, other animals, musicians, and dancers.

What are the other places of tourist interest in Mysore?

Besides the historical and heritage sites, Mysore offers a range of tourist attractions. Some other notable places to explore include:

a. Mysore Sand Sculpture Museum: Witness the creativity and skill of renowned sand artists through intricate sculptures made entirely of sand.

b. Karanji Lake: A peaceful retreat, Karanji Lake is known for birdwatching, boating, and enjoying a stroll in the surrounding park.

c. Rail Museum: Explore the fascinating history of Indian railways by perusing a remarkable assortment of antique locomotives, carriages, and relics.

d. Mysore Silk Factory: Gain insights into the intricate process of silk weaving at the Mysore Silk Factory. Witness skilled artisans create exquisite silk sarees, a speciality of the region. I strongly suggest this place for all types of travellers.

e. Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion: Explore the grandeur of this mansion-turned-museum, showcasing a vast collection of artefacts, including musical instruments, paintings, and antique furniture.

f. GRS Fantasy Park: Perfect for families and thrill-seekers, this amusement and water park offers a variety of exciting rides, slides, and entertainment options.

g. Devaraja Market: Enjoy the vibrant local culture by visiting this bustling market. The market offers a sensory delight from fresh produce to aromatic spices and handicrafts.

What art forms should you experience in Mysuru?

Mysore is known as the cultural capital of Karnataka. Some notable art forms to explore include:

a. Mysore Painting: Admire the intricate and delicate Mysore paintings characterized by their use of natural dyes, gold leaf work, and themes inspired by Hindu mythology. The Mysore Place is a great place to see Mysore Paintings

b. Classical Music and Dance: Attend classical music or dance performance, such as Bharatanatyam or Carnatic music, to witness the grace and beauty of these ancient art forms.

c. Puppetry: Enjoy a traditional puppet show that brings stories to life through colourful puppets and lively performances.

d. Kolattam: Immerse yourself in the rhythmic beats of Kolattam, a traditional folk dance form involving intricate footwork and stick use.

e. Mysore Silk Weaving: Visit a silk factory or showroom to witness the skilled artisans weaving intricate designs on silk sarees, a hallmark of Mysuru’s craftsmanship.

What are the souvenirs you can buy from Mysore?

Mysore offers a range of unique souvenirs that reflect its cultural heritage. Some popular choices include:

a. Mysore Silk Sarees: Known for their exquisite craftsmanship, Mysore silk sarees make for a timeless and elegant souvenir.

b. Sandalwood Products: Mysore is renowned for its sandalwood products, including intricate carvings, fragrant incense sticks, and essential oils. These make excellent souvenirs that are both visually appealing and aromatic. I buy Mysore sandal soaps whenever I visit the city.

c. Mysore Paintings: Take home a piece of Mysuru’s artistic legacy with a traditional Mysore painting depicting scenes from mythology or nature. Beware of fake paintings.

d. Wooden Handicrafts: Mysore is known for its skilled woodworkers who create intricate and beautifully carved wooden artefacts, such as figurines, jewellery boxes, and home decor items.

g. Incense Sticks and Essential Oils: Bring the soothing fragrances of Mysore home with you by purchasing high-quality incense sticks or essential oils, often infused with sandalwood or other natural scents.

Lesser known facts about Mysore

Besides its rich history and culture, Mysore is also known for some interesting facts that are lesser known to many. Here are a few such facts:

a. The credit for being the first city in India to generate electricity goes to Mysore, which achieved this feat in 1902
b. The Mysore Palace is lit by more than 100,000 light bulbs during the Dasara festival, making it a must-see heritage spectacle in the World.
c. Mysore is home to the Mysuru silk saree, known for its intricate designs and quality.
d. Mysore is also known for its delicious cuisine. You will see a slew of dishes with “Mysore” attached to Their name—for example, Mysuru dosa, Mysore Pak, and Mysuru bonda. It would be best if you tried all of them while in Mysuru. You may find more details about the traditional foods of Mysore here.

Is Mysore worth visiting?

Visiting Mysuru is a worthwhile experience. The city’s majestic palaces, ancient temples, and vibrant festivals provide a glimpse into its glorious past. The cultural significance, traditional art forms, and warm hospitality of the locals make it an ideal destination for travellers interested in history and culture. Moreover, Mysuru’s accessibility, with well-connected transportation options, ensures a smooth and convenient journey. Even if you are not into history or culture, Mysore will satisfy you.

 

Which is the best time to visit Mysore?

The best time to explore Mysore is from October to February. During these months, the weather is typically pleasant and comfortable. This period coincides with the festive season, especially the grand Mysore Dasara festival, which takes place in September or October. The city comes alive with vibrant processions, cultural performances, and illuminated palaces during this time, offering a truly enchanting experience. Frankly, Mysore is a year-round destination. Each season has unique charm and appeal, making it a wonderful place to visit throughout the year.

 

What are the best historical and heritage hotels available in Mysore?

Mysore boasts several heritage hotels that have preserved the architectural grandeur of the past while offering modern comforts. Some of the best historical and heritage hotels in Mysore are listed below:

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