5 Extraordinary Experiences in Mysore, India
While volunteering with Leave Ur Mark in Bangalore, India, I found myself with a weekend to spare. Eager to escape the big, modern city of Bangalore, I wanted to uncover some more of India’s fascinating culture. I’d always been intrigued by the colourful, opulent excess of India’s regal history, that contrasted so much with the reality of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people that I was working with every day. Majestic Mysore, only three hours by train from Bangalore seemed the perfect place to indulge.
Mysore, India is one of the country’s most flamboyant places. Dominated by the famous palace, Mysore bustles with the history of its glittering royal heritage and is also famous worldwide for its fine silks, incense, and ayurveda and yoga schools. The city is especially vibrant during the grand spectacle of the Dussehra Festival, which takes place in October. But no matter when you visit, Mysore is simply an essential stop on any South Indian itinerary.
Make sure your visit includes these 5 essential Mysore experiences:
5 Extraordinary Experiences in Mysore, India
1. Mysore Palace
Mysore is most famous as the home of the majestic Mysore Palace, one of India’s most spectacular royal buildings. Most visitors understandably make a beeline for the unbelievably opulent palace, the seat of the Wodeyar maharajahs, the former royal family of Mysore who ruled the kingdom from 1399 to 1950. The palace you see today was actually built in 1912 after a fire destroyed the first palace and it is a beautiful example of Indo-Saracenic architecture, which wonderfully fuses elements of Islamic, Indian, Gothic, Victorian, and European architecture together to create a spectacular sight.
Inside, the palace drips with extravagant opulence and fine details. Each new room you discover seems to surpass the last with its rich colours, fine paintings, elaborate architecture, exquisite wood carved doors, mosaic floors and stained glassed windows.
Don’t forget to pick up an audio guide at the entrance; it will bring the palace to life by explaining more about the building, the history of Mysore and the royal family, as well as the significance of the many fine details that you might otherwise miss.
Also, if you visit on a Sunday, you can see the palace illuminated by 10,000 lights at 7pm. But, especially during the weekends, be prepared for the crowds.
2. Devaraja Market
Traveling to Mysore is worth it for the palace alone, but stick around a bit longer to check out a few other sites. Head to the hectic but amazingly photogenic and atmospheric Devaraja Market. The market is a hive of activity and a real Indian experience. Merchants jostle for your attention and buyers haggle hard for the best prices on sparkling bangles, fruit and vegetables, garlands of flowers, stacks of spices and heaps of colourful dyes.
The sights, sounds and smells of the market are truly a feast for the senses. Be prepared to haggle if you intend on making any purchases.
5 Essential Experiences in Mysore, India.
3. Try Ayurveda and Yoga
Mysore is a worldwide famous centre for ayurveda, the ancient science of Indian herbal medicine and holistic healing, as well as yoga. Most yoga schools take their practice very seriously and require a one-month commitment. If you don’t have time for a full course, visit the Indus Valley Ayurvedic Centre, a hotel set in lush gardens where the full board package includes a yoga class, a relaxing ayurveda massage and a beauty treatment.
4. Climb Chamundi Hill
Escape the bustle of Mysore and ascend 1062m up Chamundi Hill. The Sri Chamundeswari Temple sits imposingly at the top of the hill. Admire the towering gopuram (tower) and soak up the glorious views over the city. You can take the bus or, if you are feeling energetic, take the pilgrim trail of over 1,000 steps up, passing the Nandi Statue on the way.
5. Visit a Museum or Art Gallery
Mysore has a great range of museums and art galleries. The National Museum of Mankind contains some excellent exhibitions on rural Indian life and crafts. The Jayalakshmi Vilas Complex Museum on the university campus showcases folklore. Also, check out the open-air Rail Museum, as well as The Art Gallery. Housed in the old Jaganmohan Palace, it features some beautiful paintings and kitschy collections that give you insight into how the Wodeyar dynasty lived.
5 Essential Experiences in Mysore India photo credit: Unsplash.