Sometime in the 14th century, two princes, travelling across a strange land, took refuge in a temple, where they were warmly received by the priest and offered food and shelter. The next morning, as they collected water from a nearby well, they heard of the troubles of the small kingdom from the women doing their chores. The king was dead, and the queen and princess were helpless against the cruel neighbouring ruler. Hearing this tale of woe, the princes decided that the best way to thank the people for their hospitality was by ridding them of the tyrant. Mobilising a small army from among the locals, the two went to war to aid the queen and princess and triumphed. The princess eventually married the older prince, and together they sowed the seeds for a reign which would transform the small town into a beautiful city which would, in time, come to be known for its monuments, especially its palace.
Yes, this is the story of Mysore, the city as we know it today. The two princes were Yadus, descendants of the Yadavas of Gujarat, far from their home. They took the title of ‘Yaduraya’ when they sat on the Mysore throne, a title which soon transformed to ‘Wodeyar’ in the local language. It was this dynasty which made Mysore the city as we know it today, with its beautiful palaces, gardens, lakes and, of course, the zoo!
Mysore is a city of palaces. But there is just one which is called the Mysore Palace. This is the Amba Vilas palace, the main residence of the Wodeyars. First built somewhere in the late 14th century, the palace was rebuilt time and again, till a fire gutted it in 1897. The then queen, Maharani Vani Vilas, commissioned the British architect, Sir Henry Irwin to build another in its place. Work on the new palace was completed in 1912, though further extensions were carried out in 1940.
|The palace as seen from Chamundi Hills|
The palace is indeed beautiful and I think I could roam inside for a long time, appreciating the beautiful works of art, and the talented hands that made them. Unfortunately, photography is prohibited, so I cannot share any of the beautiful works with you. Instead of describing the palace in words, I would suggest you go ahead and try the virtual tour on the official website of the palace. Here is the link:
|Side view of the palace. you can see the British influence...|
Lots of information is available about the palace, so here are just a few things I would suggest you know before you go.
- Photography is strictly prohibited inside the palace. Cameras have to be left in lockers at the gate. During holidays, there can be quite a rush, so if possible, do not bring cameras to the palace.
- Footwear has to be removed before entering the palace. So be prepared. Wear easily removable footwear. It can get really crowded here too.
- There are audio guides available at the palace entrance. These aren’t too expensive, and on request, they do hand you an extra set of ear phones so you can share the guide with a child. Please do use this facility as it is really useful. There is lots of information in the guides you can easily miss, so they are worth the cost. Besides, if the palace is really crowded when you go (as it was in May, when we visited), the audio guide helps isolate you from the crowd. It seems to shut out at least part of all the noise, so you can concentrate better.
- Take your time and see the palace peacefully. Do not rush through. Each painting on the wall has something special, and you will only notice it if you spend time on it, and observe, not just see. This is especially true of the main Durbar hall, as well as the paintings on some of the walls.
- Please do not underestimate children and think they cannot enjoy a museum. I was surprised by the number of details Samhith noticed (and I missed) in some of the paintings. Armed with the audio guide, and told not to rush, it was a delight to see him discover some small detail which made the palace interesting to him.
- The palace complex has another, smaller museum – the old residence of the family. This is smaller, and is less well maintained, but nevertheless has an interesting collection. Plus, you can really see the original structure here, and it was a good experience for us. If possible, do go and see this too.
|Side view of the old residence. This is also a museum now|
- Keep aside lots of time for the palace. A quick walk through shows you nothing! We spent almost half the day there!
- The palace is lit up every day. Yes, EVERY DAY.
- On weekdays, (working days : Monday to Saturday), there is a sound and light show from 7 to 7:45 PM. The show is in Kannada, but the lighting is worth a watch, even if you don’t understand a word of the narrative! If you can, read up on the history of the palace and you will be able to follow it. After the show, the main palace is lit up for 5 minutes.
- On Sundays and Government holidays, the whole palace complex is lit up from 7 to 7:45 PM. Entry is free. This is a beautiful sight, so if you are around on a weekend, don’t miss this!
- There are electric cars in the complex which take you for a ride around the complex (for a charge of course). It shows you part of the complex you wouldn’t otherwise see, so it is a good idea to go for this round, especially if you have kids. If you can, walk around. It is beautiful!
- And finally, the palace isn’t just about heritage. It’s about nature too. We saw plenty of birds while walking over the ground, including a Grey Hornbill. So keep your eyes open! You never know what you might see!
- Last but not the least, relax. Just sit there on the grounds, and take a break. Watch the sun set over the palace. There might be enough drama in the skies to keep you hooked!