We spent a glorious 4-day weekend in Mysore, about 95 miles southwest of our home north of Bengaluru. This was a true weekend of firsts: our first India train travel, our first public bus, our first rickshaw rides, our first experience with elephants, and (our main reason for being there) our first big, city-wide Indian celebration event. We crammed in as much as we could while ensuring daily relaxation time, fabulous meals, long walks, and lots of sleep. OK, we didn’t really worry about cramming everything in. We focused more on having an enjoyable weekend and getting to know more about a lovely city that we look forward to visiting again.
Mysore is the historic capital of the state in which we live, which also used to be called Mysore. For 600 years it was ruled by the Wodeyars, interrupted only briefly by Haidar Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. After independence from the British, they ceded their rule to the new Indian state (as did all royal families across India), but retained their titles and government involvement until Indira Gandhi ended royal status in 1971. Even then, they continued to be among the wealthiest families in the world and the city they created and lived in is full of the gorgeous buildings and monuments they created.
With independence, Bengaluru was named capital of the soon to be formed state of Karnataka. To us, this looks like a blessing for Mysore. While Bengaluru continues to grow exponentially with each year, with all of the challenges brought by a rapidly swelling population, Mysore’s population is only about a tenth that of Bengaluru. There is less visible garbage, more manageable traffic, and easily walkable streets. Given the crowds of a festival weekend, we expected issues with all three of those things.
We took the train back and forth (see Our first Indian Train ride), visited the temple of the Goddess Chamundeshwara (See Chamundi Hill), took a tour of the central core (see Royal Mysore Walks), attended the Jamboo Savari and Bannimantap Torch Light parade (see Mysuru Dasara Events), had wonderful meals (see Kamat, Southern Star, and Tiger Trail), and visited the Mysore Palace where we got up close and personal with elephants (!) (see Mysore Palace).
We also visited the famous Mysore Zoo where we were most excited to see giraffes, hippos, rhinos, and a baby elephant sheltering between his (her?) mother’s legs. We were a bit overwhelmed by the crowds at the zoo, but managed to find some quiet spaces where, bafflingly, no one else seemed to go. The crowds seemed to instead cluster densely around the reptile houses where people waited in long lines instead of taking a turn to the unvisited arbor lined promenade where they could watch the baby elephant. Strange, but definitely our gain.
From there, we found a brief air-conditioned respite at the lovely bar in the Radisson Blu before heading for a walk around Karanji Lake, a beautiful, quiet, forested bird sanctuary that we sincerely hope is the model for the renovation of Lake Yelahanka near us. Again, lots of people were there.
Our next visit to Mysore will definitely be timed for a less crowded experience, but oh, how we loved it!