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20.11.2015 - 23.11.2015 26 °C
Last week saw me visiting the last of the five different states planned for my trip: Karnataka. To the north west of Tamil Nadu, the capital of Karnataka is Bangalore, we however visited a previous state capital, Mysore.
It was a long journey, taking over 8 hours in total over mountains with hairpin bends a plenty and gangs of monkeys hanging out on the road. As we got closer the the city, there were more and more roadworks, clearly the local authorities are trying to improve the city's infrastructure.
When we arrived we had a bit of a look around and wandered into a market. The stalls were starting to pack up, but we saw the piles of brightly coloured powders which are used for painting welcome messages on the ground outside many entrances. There were craft stalls selling small statues and beads, flower stalls with immensely long garlands to be cut and sold by length, fruit and vegetables, and kitchenware.
Despite the dug up roads, Mysore is still quite lovely with some really impressive architecture, not least of which is Mysore Palace which we visited on the first morning. The palace was built between 1897 and 1912 when the original palace was completely destroyed in a fire. Inside was amazingly ornate and everything was on an absolutely huge scale. There was marble and ceramic tiles from Italy, statues from France and cast iron pillars from England. It made the Brighton Pavilion look like a cottage! The Last Maharaja died in 1976, with no heirs, but he adopted his nephew who is now 24 and still lives in part of the palace. I realised I've mentioned socialism in pretty much every post, so I'll let you imagine what my thoughts are on the Maharajas and their East Indian Company mates from Britain.
There are 14 temples at the Palace, we visited the two that were open and the second one was really very beautiful with carved pillars and colourful, clearly very old, paintings on the walls. Each temple is very different, some very plain, some intricate and ornate.
In the afternoon we headed up to Brindavan Gardens. These are also on a massive scale and immaculately manicured. The hotel at the top of the gardens was the perfect spot to view them and wait until darkness for the many lights to come on which illuminate everything beautifully.. It was also a welcome place for a Kingfisher or two
Crossing the long bridge to the other side of the water with the many crowds, there was almost a festival atmosphere and some guys were even selling glow sticks. On getting to the other side, there is a large fountain with many various colours. The water sprays high up into the air and twirls and twists in time to the rhythm of the music. It's a real family show and everyone was cheering and whooping when the water shot up high. (There's a video here).
The following morning we visited another impressive building, the Jaganmohan Palace - this was used as the Mahraja's residency during the rebuild of the main palace and now houses many lovely works of art. I was particularly taken with some Persian paintings which had sweeping brushstrokes in beautiful dark and pale blues. A significant work here is called the "Glow of Hope", it's a beautiful picture of a lady holding a lamp which seems to glow out of the painting. According to Wikipedia, the lady, who was one of the painter's daughters, "is the metaphor of the painting conveying self-confidence and elegance" and, "holding the brass lamp and covering it by the other hand betokens overcoming challenges with unconditional love". It was quite moving to see.
Despite a patch of bad weather, in the afternoon we went up to Chamundi Hill, it was a bit busy and also getting a bit dark and we wanted to be back at the Palace for the Sunday night lights - a once-a-week for half an hour "show"! So we went to see Nandi, the "sacred collosal bull" which is a statue of the bull ridden by the god Shiva. The statue is over 350 years old and was carved out of a bolder in situ.
Back in Mysore, the Palace lights were certainly worth the visit, over 100,000 bulbs are lit around the whole palace and the surrounding gates and temples. Again, the atmosphere was really celebratory and friendly, almost like a fun fair, but there wasn't any candy floss!
We couldn't leave Mysore the following morning without a second trip up Chamundi Hill to visit the temples there. It was busy and, having visited the main Chamundeshwari Temple, we were about to head back to the car when a small procession came past, we followed the men and the statue to another much smaller temple further along the road. In this 2000 year old sacred building we saw a ceremony taking place with the usual prasada (this is usually flowers or sweet food which is offered to the deity for blessing, once it is blessed, the prasada is then eaten by the devotee - not the flowers!), the placing of a tilak (the, usually red, mark on the forehead) and ringing of bells. As always, I was struck by the importance of symbolism in Hinduism, everything has some significance and there were many, clearly very devoted, visitors.
Driving back down into Tamil Nadu, we again saw some statues of Aiyanar who is a village god who is worshipped to protect the rural villages. They really are quite imposing on the landscape!