Image Credits- Spyros Vathi- Flickr
The majestic city of Mysore in Karnataka is often called the City of Palaces. Besides the beautiful palaces that are the main attraction of the city, there are several places to visit in Mysore. From museums to wildlife sanctuaries, the city has some of the most picturesque and intriguing locations that one can find in the country.
Here’s a list of the best places to see in Mysore :
1. Mysore Palace
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The Mysore Palace is one of the most important places to see in Mysore. It was the official residence of the Wodeyars, the erstwhile royal family of Mysore, which had reigned over the princely state of Mysore for more than seven centuries. The palace was built by the Wodeyar kings first in the 14th century. It was demolished and constructed several times later.
The Mysore Palace is one of the most popular tourist places in the country and receives an annual tourist footfall of 2.7 million, which is second only to the Taj Mahal. The present structure was commissioned by the regent of Mysore, Maharani Vani Vilas Sannidhna, and the construction was completed in 1912. While initially only the palace was built, slowly beautification of its surroundings was also taken up.
The palace is noted for its unique architecture which is in the Indo-Saracenic style. This style combines the architectural nuances of the Hindu, Muslim, Rajput and Gothic styles. The palace is a three storeyed structure, with marble domes and a 145 feet high five storeyed tower.
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Several events are held at the palace but the most special of them all is the Mysore Dasara festival. The Mysore Dasara festival is a major tourist attraction and entices crowds from all over the country and the world. During the festival, leading artists perform on the stage in the palace grounds.
On the day of Vijaya Dashami, a parade of decorated elephants marches from the palace grounds. The Dasara festival is celebrated in the months of September and October. During the festival, the entire palace is illuminated with more than 96,000 lights for two months.
The major attractions of the Mysore Palace include special chambers such as the Audience Chamber, the Public Darbar, the royal wedding hall and the armoury. The palace complex also has as many as 12 Hindu temples, the oldest of which dates back to the 14th century.
2. Jaganmohan Palace
The Jaganmohan Palace in Mysore is one of the seven palaces in the city and is considered to be one of the most beautiful contributions of the Wodeyar kings to the city. The palace was completed in 1861 and was initially used by the Wodeyar royal family as residence.
The palace was used as a temporary accommodation for the royal family after their home, the present Mysore Palace – which was then known as the Ambavilas Palace – was destroyed in a fire. The Jaganmohan Palace has now been converted into an art gallery and a function hall. The Jaganmohan Palace is one of the most popular tourist destinations and places to see in Mysore.
The architecture of the palace is very Hindu and the structure has three storeys. An external facade with a hall behind it was added to the palace in 1900. This facade has three entrances. The interior walls have a number of murals on them which follow the traditional style of the Mysore school of paintings and depict the Dasara scene.
These murals are the earliest recorded pictures of the Mysore Dasara celebrations and have been created with vegetable dyes. There is also a family tree depicting the lineage of the Wodeyar kings.
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The art gallery at the palace contains the largest collection of artefacts in South India. The most important of these artefacts is the collection of paintings by Raja Ravi Varma which depict scenes from the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. The collection at the art gallery in the palace consists of as many as 2000 paintings. About 16 of these paintings have been donated by Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar to the gallery.
Another important attraction is the painting called ‘Lady with the Lamp’ by artist Haldenkar. This painting is the single exhibit in a dark room. Other artists whose work has been displayed at the gallery are Rabindranath Tagore, Nikolai Roerich and Svetoslav Roerich.
3. Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion
Image Credits- Wikipedia
The Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion is a beautiful museum of priceless artefacts and has been categorised as a heritage structure by the Karnataka government. It is one of the best places to visit in Mysore. It is surrounded by lush green surroundings of the Manasagangotri, which is the campus of the University of Mysore.
To its West, lies the Kukkarahalli Kere Lake. The mansion was built in 1905 during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV for the eldest daughter of the Maharaja Chamaraja Wodeyar, Princess Jayalakshmi Ammani, at a cost of Rs 7 lakh. The mansion was deliberately built on the top of a hill so that the inmates could enjoy a panoramic view of the Kukkarahalli Kere and its surroundings.
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The mansion has 125 rooms, 300 windows, 287 exquisitely carved doors and it is spread across 6 acres. The building has entrances on each side and each entrance is different from the other. The building was originally called the ‘First Rajkumari Mansion’ and was built to commemorate the status of the Princess and her husband, who was the Dewan of Mysore.
The mansion has now been acquired by the University of Mysore to establish a post graduate centre in its campus. The building, which had been lying in a state of neglect for a long time, was renovated with funds donated by the Infosys Foundation.
4. Lalitha Mahal
Image Credits- Nadir Hasim
The Lalitha Mahal is situated near the Chamundi Hills near Mysore. It is the second largest palace in Mysore and was built on the orders of the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV in 1921. It was constructed for the exclusive use of the Viceroy of India. The most remarkable feature about the palace is the architectural style used to build it.
It is modelled on St Paul’s Cathedral in London and is one of the major landmarks of the city of Mysore. The palace has been painted in pristine white and makes for a great sight. It was converted into a heritage hotel in 1974 and is now run by the Ashoka Group of the Indian Tourism Development Corporation under the Government of India.
The beautiful palace, which is one of the important places to visit in Mysore, is the perfect example of Renaissance architecture and is a splendid adaptation of the Cathedral in London, especially the central dome. The architecture reflects the styles used in English manor houses and Italian Pallazos.
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Image Credits- Wikipedia
The building is a two storeyed structure and has a double column as the supporting structure. At the ground level of the palace, there is a projecting porch. Stained glass in different colours has been used to decorate the exterior facades and the interior doors, windows and ceilings of the palace. The Chamundi Hills and the whole of the city of Mysore can be viewed from the palace.
The main attractions at the palace are the Viceroy Room, the banquet hall, a dance floor and an Italian marble staircase. Full length portraits of the Wodeyar kings have been placed on the walls of the palace. The beautiful Italian marble floors and the Belgian crystal chandeliers are a major attraction too.
The other antiquities include cut glass lamps, heavy ornate furniture, mosaic tiles, Persian carpets, and other fascinating artefacts. Although the palace has now been converted into a heritage hotel, the regal ambience of the place has been kept intact.
5. Brindavan Gardens
Image Credits- Rajesh
The Brindavan Gardens is the most popular tourist destination and one of the not-to-be-missed places to visit in Mysore. It is situated very close to the Krishnarajasagara Dam which is built across the River Cauvery. The garden receives as many as 2 million tourists every year. The work on laying out of the garden began in 1927 and was completed in 1932.
The work was conducted under the guidance of Sir Mirza Ismail, who was the Dewan of Mysore. He conceptualised a large garden similar in layout to the Shalimar Gardens of Kashmir. The Brindavan Gardens has a Mughal style layout. It was initially constructed in a terraced fashion and named as the Krishnarajendra Terrace Garden.
The garden spreads across 60 acres and contains water fountains, Ficus trees, foliage and flowering plants in great variety. It is maintained by the Cauvery Niravari Nigam, which is an enterprise under the Government of Karnataka. Adjoining the garden, there is a large fruit orchard which is spread over 75 acres.
The garden also has two horticultural farms, a Nagavana spread over 30 acres and a Chandravana which occupies 5 acres of the area. The plants in the garden include Duranta plumaria, Euphorbia, Celosia, Marigold and Bougainvillea.
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The garden also has a number of topiary works which resemble the shapes of different animals, shaded passageways covered with creepers and gazebos. The special attraction of the park is a musical fountain which spouts water to the tune of music. There is also a lake inside the garden where boating can be enjoyed. The park is open to visitors and only an entry fee is charged.
The garden had undergone renovation in the year 2005 and the fountains in the garden were spruced up. However, it was shut down in 2007 for a brief period due to a water dispute related to the River Cauvery.
6. Mysore Zoo
Image Credits- Tambako The Jaguar- Flickr
The Mysore Zoo is also known as Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens and is situated very close to the Mysore Palace. It is one of the oldest zoos in South India and hence a very popular tourist place. It is one of the best places to visit in Mysore with your family, especially children. The zoo was established under royal patronage in 1892.
While the main source of income for the zoo is by collecting entry fees, an adoption scheme which was introduced in the 2000s became quite popular with the rich and the prosperous. These individuals have been contributing generously towards the welfare of the zoo inmates. The zoo was originally established over 10 acres of land, but over the next decade it was expanded to an area of 45 acres.
The zoo was opened to the public in 1902 and has a bandstand and an artificial lake. In 1948, the park was gifted to the Department of Parks and Gardens of Mysore. Subsequent expansions were carried out and with the acquisition of the Karanji Tank, the area under the zoo became 150 acres.
An artificial island has been created in the Karanji Tank as a sanctuary for birds. The zoo was given to the Department of Forests in 1972. The Zoo Authority of Karnataka took over the zoo in 1979.
The Mysore Zoo is home to several animals and birds. Currently, it is home to ten elephants and has more elephants than any other zoo in India. The zoo was home to as many as 34 elephants, many of which were later transferred to other zoos in different parts of the country.
Five green anacondas contributed by a zoo in Colombo are the major attractions of this zoo. Other animals that live in the Mysore Zoo include baboons, white rhinoceros, tigers, lions, zebras and giraffes.
7. Chamundi Hills
The Chamundi Hills are situated close to the Mysore Palace and are one of the eight most sacred hills in South India. The average altitude of these hills is around 1000 metres. According to popular belief, the Goddess Chamundeshwari also called Chamundi killed the demon king of the area Mahishasura here and hence these hills are named after her to honour her.
There is also a temple dedicated to the goddess in the hills. The temple contains a very beautiful statue of the goddess in the sanctum sanctorum. The temple was of great significance and enjoyed royal patronage.
During the reign of the Maharajas of Mysore, a beautiful idol of the goddess would be carried on a decorated elephant to the hills. It is one of the most popular places to visit in Mysore.
The hills are one of the most popular tourist places in the city of Mysore and attract a large number of tourists from all over the country and the world. A wonderful view of the city can be enjoyed from the hills. Other landmarks that can be seen from the hills include the Lalitha Mahal Palace, Mysore Palace, Karanji Reservoir and Kukkarahalli lakes.
The main temple is only about 100 metres from the Chamundeshwari temple. On the way to the main temple you will come across the Nandi Temple or Bull Temple.
There are several tourist attractions on the top of the hill such as the Mahishasura statue, the Chamundeshwari Temple and a few other temples. The hill is held in high regard and is of great spiritual value. There are two important temples on the hills – the Mahabaleshwar Temple and the Chamundeshwari Temple.
The goddess Chamundeshwari was considered to be the protective deity of the royal family. The temple dedicated to the goddess was renovated during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III and a beautiful tall tower was installed in honour of the deity.
8. St Philomena’s Church
Image Credits- Wikipedia
The St Philomena’s Church was constructed in 1936 in neo-Gothic style modelled on the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. The church is dedicated to St Philomena who was a Latin Catholic saint and martyr of the Roman Catholic Church. She was a young Greek princess who was martyred in the 4th century.
Remains of a young teenaged girl were found in 1802 in the Catacombs of Saint Priscilla in Rome. Along with the remains was a bowl of dried blood and an inscription in Latin which translated to ‘Peace Be With You, Filumena’.
The church was constructed in 1943 by the then Maharaja Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. The foundation stone of the church was laid by the Maharaja in 1933.
A relic of St Philomena was obtained from Peter Pisani, the Apostolic Delegate of the East Indies in 1926. He handed over the relic to Father Cochet who sought help from the king in building the church. The king laid the foundation and the construction was completed under Bishop Rene Feuga’s supervision.
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The relic of the saint is preserved in a catacomb below the main altar. The most attractive feature of the church is that it exhibits a beautiful blend of cultures. Some of the statues in the church are dressed in sarees.
The church was designed by a French architect named Daly and has been built in neo-Gothic style. The floor plan of the church has been designed in the shape of a cross. The longer part of the cross is the congregation hall and is called the Nave.
Each part has a particular name. The arms of the cross make the transepts and the crossing contains the altar and choir. The beautiful twin spires of the church rise to a height of 175 feet and bear striking resemblance to the Cologne Cathedral of Germany.
9. Mysore Railway Museum
Image Credits- Wikipedia
The Railway Museum in Mysore is the best place for those interested in automobiles and history. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mysore and is an outdoor exhibit of vintage locomotives. The museum was established by the Indian Railways in 1979. Another such railway museum is the National Railway Museum in New Delhi.
The museum presents a wonderful array of automobiles and railway coaches and traces the journey of the railways in India. Old locomotives, photographs, paintings, railway signals and lights have been put up on display for visitors at the museum. If you have children accompanying you, do not forget to make them enjoy a ride on the battery operated mini train within the museum.
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The exhibits at the Railway Museum in Mysore include a YP #2511 made by Telco in 1963, the Maharani Saloon carriage which has a kitchen, dining car unit and royal toilet dating back to 1899, several inspection cars, an Austin rail motor, and more. The Austin car that has been put up on display dates back to 1925.
It was originally made to be used as an automobile to be driven on the road. It was later sold to a scrap dealer, who sold it again to a railway employee. Modifications were made in the automobile and it was used as a railcar later on. It was used for carrying inspection officials and had the carrying capacity of up to six persons.
10. Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
Image Credit- Vishal R- Flickr
The Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is also called as the Pakshi Kashi of Karnataka. It is the largest bird sanctuary in the state and is spread across 40 acres. The sanctuary comprises of six islets situated on the banks of the River Cauvery.
Ranganathittu is situated at a distance of about three kilometres away from the town of Srirangapatna. The sanctuary is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and attracts a large number of tourists from all over the country and the world. As many as 2.90 lakh tourists visited the bird sanctuary in the year 2011 -12.
The islets were formed when the Mysore King built embankments across the River Cauvery in 1648. It was the famous ornithologist Dr Salim Ali who observed that these islets were favoured by birds as nesting grounds. He urged the Wodeyar kings to declare the area as a wildlife sanctuary in 1940.
The sanctuary is currently being maintained by the Forest Department of Karnataka. The department is making efforts to improve the sanctuary and is also acquiring nearby private lands in order to expand the sanctuary. The best time to visit this bird sanctuary is during the monsoons.
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The islets are flooded during heavy rains and boats are lowered in the waters. Tourists can observe birds from these boats.
The most commonly found bird species in the sanctuary include Herons, Oriental Darter, Cormorants, Egrets, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Indian Shag, Lesser Whistling Duck, Black Headed Ibis, Woolly Necked Stork, Common Spoonbill, Asian Openbill Stork and Painted Stork.
Several activities are conducted in the sanctuary such as ranger guided boat tours of the islets. Visitors can watch birds, crocodiles, otters and birds during these boat rides. The season for visiting the sanctuary is from June to November and the best time to watch migratory birds is usually December.
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