Nestled in the heart of the southwestern state of Karnataka, at the foothills of the Chamundi Hills, India’s City of Palaces sits quietly. Mysore, or Mysuru, is one of India’s most beautiful and culturally rich cities with a whiff of history wherever one turns to.
With its 500-year-old history as a kingdom and a princely state, Mysore has a lot to offer to its visitors. From the most splendid palace halls to the blooming gardens, decorated art galleries, and so much more, Mysore can be the perfect retreat for anyone looking to go on a day trip.
One of the best ways to plan a trip to Mysore is to make a round trip from Bangalore. At a distance of 140 km from Bangalore, a road trip would be ideal for making certain stops and visiting the most important and beautiful places that this place has to offer. If we had to make an itinerary for a day, we recommend 4 must-see places that everyone should visit.
Jayachamarajendra Art gallery
When one plans a trip to any of India’s princely states, the one mandatory thing that is added to the To-do list is a visit to the native palace. Most of the royal residences in Mysore are now state museums. The gorgeous architecture and vibrance of these places make them a perfect stop to consider.
The Jayachamarajendra Art gallery was originally a second residence of the royal family. It was named Jaganmohan Palace and converted to an art gallery in 1915, during Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV.
Boasting some of the finest art displays in India, the art gallery houses a rich collection of national and international art treasures. It has a collection of over 2000 paintings of various styles and various artists, from international masters like P.P Ruben, Nikolai Roerich, Aless Caddy, and miniature paintings of Gunoy to Indian classics such as Raja Ravi Varma and Nandalal Bose. The first floor of the gallery displays the works of artists from Mysore. It is also home to Rembrandt’s few works, one of the greatest names in European art.
One of the most popular attractions of the gallery is The Glow of Hope, popularly known as “Woman with the Lamp” by S.L. Haldankar. This beautiful painting of Modern Indian art is as stunning as it is popular among art enthusiasts. Other displays of the gallery include an exotic collection of weaponry, rare musical instruments, and artifacts that remind the grand Mysore royalty.
Logistics: The best idea is to make the gallery the first stop of the trip to spend quality time here. The gallery is open every day from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM and can be reached easily via auto-rickshaws and cabs. The KSRTC Bus stand and Mysore Railway station are within walking distance.
With a history of five centuries, the Mysore Palace is the official residence of the Wodeyar dynasty. This family ruled the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore. The palace is one of India’s largest palaces and one of the most important tourist attractions in the country, not to mention the state of Karnataka.
Henry Irwin, a British architect, was the designer of the palace. It was built by Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar in 1912 on the old wooden palace site that was broken down in 1897. It was built and rebuilt over the centuries, and the final result soon won the title of one of the most extravagant palaces of the country.
The entry to the palace is no less beautiful, lined with Indian and European ceremonial sculptures. Another gateway to the main palace is the Elephant Gate, with intricate designs bearing a double-headed eagle’s royal insignia.
As a museum, the palace is a display of royal souvenirs, jewelry, royal clothes, and artillery – all of which were the possessions of the Wodeyars. The palace is known to have the largest quantity of gold items on display.
One of the most beautiful things about this palace is its illuminated view on Sundays (between 7-8 PM) and national holidays when 97,000 lights light up its entirety. The shining facade makes it a sight to behold, and hence, these are the times that one can plan the visit.
Logistics: An additional attraction is the 45-minute light and sound show that is conducted every day. In general, the palace is open from 10 AM to 5 PM every day. The easiest way to reach this place is a short car ride away from the Mysore railway station.
A short trip away via the KRS Road, located in the town of Srirangapatna, one reaches the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam. Built on the conjunction of rivers Cauvery, Hemavati, and Lakshman Tirtha, this dam is one of the most magnificent sightseeing spots on this trip. The dam was wholly funded by the ruler of Mysore in 1932, Sri Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, after whom it is named. It was designed by the “father of planning in India,” Sir M. Vishweshwaraiya. He used a limestone and brick powder mixture (surkhi) as the building material.
Some of the most important features of this dam are: it is India’s first irrigation dam; it is one of the significant sources of irrigation for Mandya and Mysore; and a source of drinking water for Mysore and Bangalore city. The principal purpose of this dam is to ensure power supply to the Shivanasamudra hydroelectric power station. This dam is a supreme example of architecture and engineering, with a length of 3 Km and a reservoir of 130 Sq. Km. it is one of the largest dams in India. There are 18 gates and a height of 39 meters.
Logistics: The best time to visit would be during and after the monsoons. The water level can go up to 124 feet. The dam gates open to let the water flow through, creating a spectacular view, often creating a sound so loud that it can drown every other sound around. The place is open to visitors from 6:30 AM to 9 PM. The town of Srirangapatna is connected via rail and road to other prominent cities.
Towards the end of the trip, when the sun starts setting and the feet start getting tired, one can find themselves in the company of a little more history. With Mysore only 35kms away, the last stop should be Somnathpur – where one of the most beautiful pieces of the ancient Hoysala architecture style can be found.
The Prasanna Chennakesava Temple is one of the finest specimens of Hoysala architecture. Built-in 1268 by Somnath, a general of the ruling king Narasimha III. The temple sticks to the original Hoysala style – built on a raised platform, with three shrines with wonderfully carved peaks and a mandapa. The main sanctums have three exquisite idols of Keshava (now missing), Janardhana, and Venugopala. The whole temple is beautifully engraved with sculptures – every part of the walls are covered with figures of deities, gods, and goddesses from the Hindu Puranas.
Logistics: The ideal time to visit the temples is between October to March, but any time of the year is good to enjoy observing these temples. The timings are from 9 AM to 5:30 PM. This is best as the last stop for the trip as Mysore is only a car ride away and is also well-connected by trains.
Things to eat and shop
There are many things to do when one has to fill the time between this trip. The Mysore markets are a place to go to for their specialty silk, exotic sandalwood, and incense center. The city is a special place for authentic South Indian food from the many street food joints present because of its popularity as a tourist place.
Author: Sarasi Ganguly | Cover Artwork: Sarthak Grover | Trip credits & Photography: Shraddha Gupta