Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

The Palace

Hundreds of princely states existed on the Indian subcontinent during the period of British India. They were not controlled by the British, they had some independence, mostly related to their internal affairs. As the British were getting ready to leave, the problem of these states and what would happen to them was a complicated one. They eventually decided to give the rulers and the people of these states the choice of joining India, Pakistan or becoming independent. Shortly after, there were only two choices, joining either India or Pakistan. While most of these states easily and painlessly decided who to join and their rulers gave up their titles and domains, some where not so easy. As I try to find more information about this, I am surprised by the scarcity of resources. I have a bad feeling that there might have been some fowl play. They surely used various tactics, including twisting arms or threatening war. I am also thinking of the so called "liberation" of Goa, which happened much later. There is one state where the problems continue to this day. The ruler of Kashmir was Hindu. The people mostly Muslims. He took his time to make a decision, but apparently under some pressure he decided to join India and the India-Pakistan war of 1947 erupted. We follow the news, we hear about Kashmir and now we know, there will never be a solution to that, just because of some stupid mistake in 1947. The rest of India is mostly quiet. I am sure that there are some people in Mysore who would like to have their Maharaja back, but, I guess, this day and age, they all think of themselves as Indian and root for their country's cricket team.

Mysore was one of the more important princely states. First documented in 1399, it gained more power after 1565 with the end of the Vijayanagar empire (our friends from Hampi). At the beginning of the 20th century, Mysore was one of the more urbanized and modern states, their rulers being famous for their interests in arts and literature and respect and love from their subjects. After 1947, the Maharaja of Mysore was elected the local governor. Looking up his name on wikipedia, it contains little personal details but a long list of his artistic works.
To this day, the city of Mysore continues to be one of the most beautiful and clean places in India, the locals are famous for their friendliness, the attractions range from the royal heritage to the bustling markets. It is telling that when in Hampi, I inquired about transport to Bangalore, the main hub. I was given options for Mysore as well, rightly assuming that this would be my final destination.
A few years ago, I saw in Wikipedia a fantastic picture. A temple in India, in the village of Somnathpur. I learned that it is close to Mysore and immediately added it to our list of possible places for this RTW trip. Then we learned that people go to Mysore for many more other reasons and it became one of our destinations. After more than two months of visiting various temples, another one is not that attractive anymore and we were so close to miss "my temple."

We arrived in Mysore after nine hours on the road. Good pavement, little traffic, occasional speed bumps but mostly too easy to even count as a road trip in India. I chose again the first option from Lonely Planet, a little more expensive, but a very nice place, the Parklane hotel. As we checked in, they told us "The Palace" is lighted on weekends only so we payed for three nights. If the palace would have been lighted on Friday we might have left on Saturday to the Nilgiri mountain area. Since it wasn't, we would leave on Sunday to go the opposite way, to Bangalore, and catch a flight to Kochi.

Saturday afternoon I looked again at the picture of my temple and realized that I cannot miss it. A little later, as we arrived at the gates of the palace, we learned that the full spectacle is only on Sunday, tonight it's only for five minutes at the end of a payed light and sound show. We immediately made the decision to stay another night in Mysore, skip the paid show, skip Bangalore and go directly to the airport on Monday.

My temple! A picture seen somewhere on the internet a few years ago became a destination in itself.
Kesava temple was built in the 12th century and is a prime example of Hoysala architecture. What is that? Hoysala was another empire and civilization, between the 10th and 14th century, before all the other ones that we learned about. It had three main centers, and Somnathapur (or Somanathapura) was one of them. Just 45 minutes from Mysore, it was a quick, easy ride. A little temple, the one from my picture, is awaiting it's visitors on a laid back, quiet Sunday morning. We spent two entire hours going in and around it. It is different from everything we've seen so far. We had time to experiment with pictures, take turns with the camera, read in wikipedia about the specifics of this type of architecture. There are layers over layers of sculptures, starting with elephants at the bottom, then horses, then people. There are scenes from the famous Mahabharata, Ramayana and Bhagavat Gita, and the life and times of the Hoysala kings. Similarly, churches and temples all over the world have this educational side to them. Before the printed books, people could come to the temple and "read" the "scripture" in sculpture or painting.
I don't know how to interpret the children's reaction, "is this the only temple for today?" - they loved the easy schedule and being able to take their time.

Trees in the garden of the temple

Front view of Kesava (Keshava) Temple

Interior column (spinning?)

Interior decoration, Kesava temple

Outside view with Ioan

Specific structure for Hoysala architecture, exterior

Front statue

Getting ready to leave, noon, the sun is burning
Previously in Mysore: the first day we arrive late, so the children stay inside and we explore some streets looking for a market. Second day. In a city of palaces and gardens, there are several things to see, but we choose to go to the rail museum. Lonely planet mentions it as "half a day of pure fun." It is a small, older museum, but very cheap, quiet and isolated from the agitation of the city. There is nobody there, except some cleaners who sweep the fallen leaves. Then somebody says "I'm sorry, didn't we meet in Nepal?" It is Lindsay, a Canadian who had a very interesting discussion about blogs and writing with the children at the hotel Family Home in Kathmandu! We left for Delhi and she runs into us one month later! How small is this world. We are coming from Hampi, she's going there tonight. She's coming from Kochi, where we will be in two days. We exchange tips and ideas, Maria is happy like she ran into her best friend.

Train museum?

Maharaja's car

Having fun

Group picture with Lindsay and her friend from Vancouver
Walking in Mysore, miles of murals by the side of the road, cleaner streets than anything we've seen so far (in India). We arrive at the market where we buy some fruits, admire the flowers and get a free demonstration of incense making. A light day, we only started in the afternoon, but everybody is happy.

American symbols, Mounth Rushmore, Mysore India
Unfortunately, even here, there is this side of the Indian way of life
Market, flowers
Market, colors
Saturday, it is time for the palace, built recently (finished in 1912) after a fire destroyed the old one during a wedding in 1897. It is the creation of an English architect and is a combination of several styles. It is a beautiful building, visited by thousands and thousands of people every day. The cost for foreigner is only 10 times more (200 compared to 20), but we don't get discounts for the children. This makes it the most expensive sight we visited in India, after the Taj Mahal. We had to check our camera at the entrance. Cell phone photography is permitted but we only learn about this half way though the visit. After a couple of hours we call it a day and return to the hotel. We would stop by in the evening, just at the entrance, then we make our quick decision to stay another day.

Reception Hall in the Palace

Interior court of the Palace

One mirror

Outside hall ceiling

Maharaja's Palace, Mysore

Sunday, we had a very quiet afternoon after the morning visit to Kesava temple. Shortly before 7 pm we are back at the palace, enter the grounds and then the whole place is lighted. It is just beautiful. Many places could do the same thing, a lot of people decorate their houses for Christmas just the same, but this Maharaja's Palace has 97000 incandescent bulbs, all lighted at once, plus the adjacent structures, the wall surrounding the property, the gates. There is a full moon and I don't know if this is good or bad. The light would be more impressive on a dark night, but a full moon on a clear sky is a full moon and I would take it any time. There are a lot of people on the grounds, they enjoy the experience, just like us.
A panel in our hotel mentions - there are many palaces in Mysore, but there is just one called "The Palace."
I totally agree.
Sunday night illumination

Ioan's view of the Palace

"The Palace"


  1. WoW! Very Impressive!!!

  2. great article.we got more info about mysore
    Mysore Hotel

  3. hi there. nice site. you have shared useful information. keep up the good work! this blog is really interesting and gives good details.

    Hotels in Mysore near Palace


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