Known as the ‘City of Palaces’, Mysore (Mysuru) is an incredible place to visit in South India. Wedged between the industrial city of Bangalore (Bengaluru) and the relaxing beaches of Kerala, you’ll find Mysore to be a quick and easily accessible getaway during the weekends. There are many museums, cathedrals, temples, and palaces that will keep enticing you to journey back for another look.
The Wodeyars are the royal family of Mysore, known as the Maharajas of Mysore. Maharaja is Hindi for great king or ruler, and the Wodeyars ruled this area from 1399 to 1950. The Mysore Palace is the official residence of the Maharajas of Mysore, making it a must-see attraction when visiting. Let’s take a look at what makes this palace so magnificent, along with what to look out for while you’re here.
A brief history of the Mysore Palace
The Mysore Palace ranks alongside the Taj Mahal when it comes to India’s most famous tourist attractions. In the 14th century, there sat a smaller palace behind the walls of the Old Fort, but since it was made out of wood, it ended up being destroyed by a great fire. The palace that you see today was started in 1897 by the famous British architect, Lord Henry Irwin, who completed the palace in 1912.
In 1940, the Durbar Hall was added on, along with other expansions. The palace consists of three stories, and is made entirely of stone and marble. There’s even a five-story tower that you can’t help but notice standing tall above the entrance at 145 feet (44.19 meters). Indo-Saracenic is the style of architecture that was used when designing this grand structure.
It mixes Hindu, Rajput, Muslim, and Gothic styles together, creating an eye-catching façade equipped with high archways, deep rose colored domes, and if you look above the central arch you will see the goddess, Gaja-Lakshmi, sitting between two elephants with their trunks raised high. Besides being the goddess of elephants, Gaja-Lakshmi is also known to be the goddess of beauty and great wealth.
Temples to visit on the palace grounds
Surrounding the Mysore Palace is a large, well-maintained garden with beautiful rose bushes, flowers, and hedge work that has been done to resemble the start of a labyrinth. You’ll be able to view many temples that are present in the garden area. The Sri Gayathri Devi Temple (to the east of the palace) was built in 1953.
Don’t miss the sculpture of Sri Gayathri Devi (known as the Hindu Goddess Adi Shakti - the source of creation) that is shown with five faces that represent the pancha prana, meaning the five energies, of our life force. She protects each person who chants the Gayatri Mantra, one of the oldest known mantras derived from the Vedas, which is a collection of four books containing religious scriptures, philosophy, hymns, and rituals.
Another temple you should visit is the Lakshmiramana Swamy Temple that was constructed in 1499, making it one of Mysore’s oldest temples. However, a slight renovation did take place in 1851, and there’s even an inscription to look out for that was used as a record of evidence. This temple is dedicated to Nambinarayana (a form of the Hindu deity Lord Vishnu – who is known as the preserver of life), and you’ll notice his shrine due to his statue who has a discus in his left hand and a conch in the right.
If you head towards west, you’ll also see a statue of Goddess Lakshmi (Hindu deity of wealth and prosperity), along with an incredible 4 feet (1.21 meter) tall statue of Lord Venugopala (another name for the Hindu deity Lord Krishna – the eighth reincarnation of Lord Vishnu).
A couple of things to look out for
When you first enter the palace, you will go through the Gombe Thotti (Doll’s Pavilion), which houses many traditional dolls dating back to the 19th century. Sculptures are also visible here in both Indian and European styles, but the main piece to look out for is a wooden elephant canopy – what rests on the elephant’s back in order to carry two or more people; also known as a howdah.
What’s so special about this piece is that it is adorned with about 80 kilograms (176.37 pounds) of gold. The designs are simply stunning, and you’ll see many intricate floral designs. The room itself is also very elaborate, with Mughal style archways, and brilliant golden hues with azure accents. There’s also a room that contains the armor that was worn by the royal family as well as the kings of Mysore.
You’ll also get to see many of their weapons, such as the Tiger’s Claw (called the Vyaghrankha) and Kanthirava Narasaraja Wodeyar’s (ruler of Mysore from 1638 until 1659) own sword called the Vajramushti. Resting with these historical weapons you’ll also come across 725 other weapons, including axes, clubs, daggers, discs, and javelins. In fact, this armory is believed to be India’s most important collection of armor and weapons, so you definitely don’t want to miss it!
There’s also a second museum behind the palace known as the Private Residential Museum that looks very similar to a normal yet traditional home. During the great fire that destroyed most of the original wooden palace, this area was conserved. Today this area is owned by Prince Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, who passed away in 2013, and he had set on display many of his family’s artefacts from their private collection. You’ll also be able to view many religious paintings, photographs, costumes, and palanquins that would be carried by men bringing jewelry, trinkets, utensils, and various other items to the royal family.
Opening times and admission fees
The Mysore Palace is open from 10am until 5:30pm, and you are able to purchase your tickets at the South Gate situated on Purandara Dasa Road. Please be aware that the palace is closed on national holidays. The price to enter this royal abode for Indian citizens is 40 INR (0.62 USD) for adults, 20 INR (0.30 USD) for children between the ages of 10 and 18, and 10 INR (0.15 USD) for students. If you are a foreign national you can expect to pay 200 INR (3.01 USD). Please keep in mind that your shoes will have to be removed at the entrance, as a sign of respect, and will be stored in a locker.
There are also audio guides available for the price of 100 INR (1.50 USD) for Indian citizens and 200 INR (3.01 USD) for foreign nationals. The audio guides are available in Hindi, Italian, English, Japanese, German, and French. If you happen to be close to the Mysore Palace around 7pm, do make it a point to stop by, because this is when the palace is fully lit up, until 8pm.
There are about 97,000 lights that make the palace shimmer and sparkle like a golden jewel against the dark blue sky, allowing for a wonderful end to a romantic evening, or to just be enjoyed with your friends and family.
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