We decided to brave the heat and pay a short visit to Mysore while my in-laws were here. My parents in law are a spirited couple and though age is not on their side they manage to wiz around quite a bit and can with stand all kinds of discomfiture for the sake of adventure and for the love of their grandchildren!
We decided to stay away from the hustle bustle of Mysore city in Srirangapatna. The Balaji garden Resort is on the highway about five minutes from the Srirangaptm bus stand. It is very badly managed but the exterior of the hotel is beautiful. The toilets here are Indian style, which is good because I am fussy about using a toilet seat that has been sat on by half a dozen others with dubious hygienic sense. Our Indian toilet I believe is much more hygienic. In Madikeri I took courage in both hands and left my baby's pot behind. Thankfully he did very well in the Indian style loo that we had there. The sitting position is also very apt specially for my kids who are naturally constipated. I see that we are veering into serious potty matters so before this becomes a you know what post lets get back to the beautiful sleepy town of Srirangapatna which showcases the personality of one of India's most charismatic rulers-Tipu Sultan.
The hotel had a resident auto rickshawman who popped up as soon as he was summoned. He showed us around on the first day (seven points for 300 Rs). First stop was Dariya Daulat Baugh or Tipu's summer palace built on the occassion of his victory over the British forces under Bailey. The approach to the palace has a beautiful planned garden much like a mughal style garden. The paintings on the outer wall depicts the victory of Tipu. There are potraits of Tipu in the small gallery inside which includes a poignant sketch depicting his death at the hands of the British in a subsequent battle. " He is so dark", exclaimed my daughter, fed on fairy stories of fair and yellow haired princes and kings. Tipu is a sultan by his deeds not by his looks, born in Devanahalli, he is a regular Kannadiga guy from a family of soldiers. He rose in popularity due to his exceptional valour and sound policies, his librality and love of culture. What struck me about his palaces in Bangalore as well as here are their frugality, small rooms, no grandeous exteriors, even his durbar is a smallish hall, if you compare that with the eye catching splendour of the Mysore palace then you will see why Tipu is the common man's sultan.
Next stop Tipu's last resting place, the Gumbaz. The main tomb contains the graves of Tipu and his parents Hyder Ali and Fatima bi . The rest of the structure is also full of graves of various relatives. Peace reigns here. "He was was fifty two when he died", observed my father in law,"we could not achieve this having lived for so many more years", "but you have nurtured a family and looked after it" said I, " but everyone does that and so did Tipu" said father in law not conviced and Tipu has won another admirer! Not to give up I said, they all did it young at that time, Vivekanand was only 32 when he died and look what a name he has made for himself", all agreed to that. Actually my father in law should not feel regret for being a doctor he has done enough service for the people and continues to be the saviour of quite a few people who have great faith in him.
To the sangam now and the sight of the coracle boats tied to the steps of the ghat sent a thrill down my spine. Since I viewed these little round plate like boats with some attention in a song sequence of the film Roja, I had nurtured a desire to float around in one of them. This was a short ride but it was a dream come true. Boat man took us a little inwards to a point from which the mixing of the three streams were visible. Snake birds wizzed to and fro and it was true bliss, though I wish it had lasted longer. To our horror we discovered that green coconut water was available here for a mere Rs 5 whereas we had just quenced our thirst at Gumbaz for Rs 10 each! We had covered this side of the highway now onto the other side tnat is Tipu's Fort and the points of Interest in it.
The fort complex begins with the Jama Masjid we did not get off for it for it had become quite hot and the auto driver had sped past the structure at high speed thinking that we would not be interested in visiting it. Then came the spot wher Tipu lost his life where a stone is placed to mark the place. It seems that his body lay there for three days before he was identified. My heart bled for the poor fellow, this sleepy town has both monuments celebrating his victory and those marking his fall and also his last resting place.
The next is a structure which shows Tipus tolerance as well as his practical sense, the grand Ranganathaswamy temple which occupies the central position in the fort. We had to stand in a winding line for the darshan but it was worth it. The reclining Vishnu in all his glory greeted us. There was also a remarkable Garuda idol near the entrance. The temple shows that Tipu acknowledged the fact that most of his subjects are Hindus and made proper provision for their worship within the fort. In the South I have observed the true meaning of communal harmony. There is no ghettoisation of the Muslim pouulation as in the walled city in Delhi. I heard many times that South India is full of temples, however there are beautiful mosques and ancient churches too in great profusion if you care to look and they are all beautiful and they lend a special ambience to the cities here, an ambience that showcases what the secular India should look like.
Thereafter the fort has the dungeons where the British officer Bailey lost his life, and last is the Wellesley bridge which was an entrance to the fort later. Alongside the bridge is the quaint Srirangapatna railway station which is inside the fort premisis. Imagine alighting right inside the fort and proceeding to see the sights without wasting a moment! We returned to a scrumptuous lunch at the Balaji resort restaurant. The thali here is 20Rs , we were four adults and two childrens and our lunch bill was never above 80Rs! This is truely hamare zamane ka khana two generation pahale ke zamane ke prices mein, move over McDonalds this is the place where your punchline holds true!
In the evening our auto man Deo took us to Ranganathittu bird Sanctuary. Here we saw the Cauvery in a different form, almost like a lake with little islands full of painted storks and egrets and what not and a resident crocodile (there are quite a few of them but we caught a glimpse of only one, clamly swinging its tail from side to side as it swam away from us. We had missed the big water birds when we visited Bharatpur because of lack of rains in those parts that year, God decided to make up this time. The birds just carry on with their lives without giving us oglers in little row boats a second glance.
Next morning we were off to Mysore by bus (it takes half an hour). The Mysore bus terminous is a madhouse with buses strewn all over the place and no one knowing where to go and what to do! We had wanted to go to the palace first but someone said the zoo is closer so we set off for the famous Mysore zoo. Near the entrance we caught sight of what looked like a statue of the girafe, close enough to touch, we were zapped when it started to move with eligant steps. The trolley would come in a while so we decided to venture out by foot. What followed was two hours of intensive animal watching punctuated by stops for ice cream and juice. Tigers, a rhinoceros, zebra, the country's only two gorillas in captivity, hippos, elephants (both Indian and African), Nilgai, black buck, pelican, panther, lion, hippo, ostrich, you name it we saw it! So many animals did we see that we gave Bannerghata a miss after coming back to Bangalore! We encountered a smooth operator monkey who wisked off with a biscuit from the mite's hand while he was sitting with all of us around him! We all saw the monkey come and sit at a distance suddenly it made a beeline for the mite, and before I could quickly pick him up it slid away, my daughter said "it took the biscuit!" I did not believe her at first till I saw it clutched in the monkey's hand! Scarey, very scarey!
We set off for Chamundi hill next. There was a winding line to enter the Chamundeshwari temple as it was Sunday and there was no way that we could get in before the two o clock deadline when the temple closes and the 100 Rs per head fee for special entrance seemed too exhorbitant because we did not have any intention of offering puja so we prayed from the outside and told the goddess that we will see her next time. We took the volvo bus back to the city, it was a theraputic ride after the jostle outside the temple. On reaching Mysore we were whisked off by a rogue automan to led us to believe that the palace remains closed for lunch. This guy said he knows of a govt handloom shop where we can buy knick knacks. So almost kicking and screaming we were taken to this small Cauvery showroom outlet. Thankfully the stuff we bought was not bad, also thankfully we spotted the St Philomina's church and stopped the rogue and visited one of the finest churches in India.
Last but not the least, the Mysore palace of the Wodeyars. Firstly, too much security and too many rules, you have to leave your shoes in a mad house with thousands snatching and handing over shoes!Opulence personified is the palace. Beautiful paintings of the royal family. Amaizing flooring. The Durbar hall glistening with polished perfection. The massive gallery for public audience with carvings of goddesses, at times eye catching in its garishness. A statue of an erstwhile maharaja seated with one leg upon another, life like, was very startling. A huge silver door leading to the durbar hall, (why?) and most ironic, an ivory statute of Mahatma Gandhi attached to the front of a silver casket (whatever happened to ahimsa?). No, the palace did not enchant me, my mind went back to the simple beauty of Tipus palace. The palace was awe inspiring but it was an aggressive sort of awe, like the roaring tiger staues that were present in more than one place. The real tiger of Mysore is a mild benign one, brave but not threatening. There is now a researched history of the Wodeyars out, I want to read it and see whether my impressions were true.
We left Mysore with the vision of the dazzling palace shining with thousands of light bulbs.The palace is lighted up on Saturdays and Sundays, another way of inspiring awe?
On the last day we made a trip to the Vrindavan gardens, built against the wall of a dam across the Cauvery. The garden in expansive and well planned. The fountains are lighted at night. The palce is a little out of the way but once you get there it is quite breathtaking. It was too hot and we enjoyed the ice-creams there. I think it is worthwhile to visit this place in the evening. The same evening we took the volvo from Mysore and reached Bangalore by night.