Mysore is a heritage city in India, one that is full of historic buildings and original architecture.
It used to be the capital of the Karnataka state, which is in the southwestern part of India. And the city was the first stop on our GSE tour.
We visited several of its cultural icons, including the Bridovan Gardens, which are situated at the base of a huge dam that secures the city’s reservoir. The area is currently experiencing a drought, so the water level is particularly low. You wouldn’t know, however, visiting the gardens. We walked through at night, when the dozens of fountains are lit up with bright, colored lights. The spot is popular among Indian families and teens, who strolled the gardens with us.
The main attraction is the so-called singing fountain. It’s a giant, stone square surrounded by tall bleachers. It comes to life every 15 minutes. As popular Indian songs play, the fountain shoots out streams of water that dance to the beat.
The show is like a rock concert. The crowd clapped and whooped along with the rhythm, as if to cheer on the fountain.
The other popular attraction in Mysore is its opulent palace, which was occupied by the Maharaja of Mysore until the mid-1950s. The city still has a Maharaja, but he is mostly symbolic in nature and lives in a complex at the back of the palace.
The building was previously wood, but after it burned down most of the structure was replaced with metal. We toured only a few rooms inside and each was more decadent than the next. The floors were elaborate tile, the pillars blue and gold painted and the ceiling carved teak wood.
Inside we weren’t allowed to wear shoes or take photos. But our hosts took us into some rooms that aren’t normally accessible to the public. One was filled with taxidermy animals the maharaja had hunted a century ago. There were at least a dozen stuffed tigers. It’s now a serious crime in India to kill the animal. The trophy room also included a giraffe neck and head, an entire black rhino, two crocodiles and several water buffalo and deer.
The palace was packed with locals because we visited on Republic Day, when India celebrates its independence. The country often marks celebrations with lights and later that night thousands of light bulbs that cover the palace were switched on, a rare and amazing occurrence.