View of Mysore Palace
Well I think it's only fair that I give Mysore
a second little bite of the travelogue cherry having only twittered on about myself and mystics and my apparently fabulous From-Here-On-In yesterday. Good times for the future. Good times are had in the present in Mysore too. My four friends and I. We move through the streets, all but Paul cameras in hand, flitting from object to object, from one pleasing composition to the next like a cluster of photographic locusts stripping the area bare of images. I suspect when I travel in the future I will try to wean myself from photo addiction. Far less pictures. Maybe none at all. Leaving more work for the mind, its memory and the pen to do and the world's treasures a little less over-exposed to borrow a photographic term.
Against the Wall : A classic Indian pose ;)
Mysore is a very tourist friendly city in terms of the central concentration of the main sights that you'll want to see, places to stay, eat and its transport hubs. Mysore, 'the city of palaces'
according to one lad who falls into step with me at one point for a quick dusting off of his English. He claims 18 palaces reside in the city though I have no idea as to the truth of this statement.
The most famous, Mysore Palace sits at the heart of the city. The home of the Maharajas (and Maharanis) of Mysore, still in occasional residency today. The palace actually comprises two entities as far as visitors are concerned, both of which require separate 200 Rupee (£2.
An impressive mosque in Madurai
50) entrance fees. One will get you into the main part of the palace, this money going to the state, and income from the 'second palace' apparently going direct to the Maharaja's pocket. Stripped progressively of their feudal and later state income streams over the early half of the 20th Century and on through independence and eventually stripped of their formal titles and remaining special dispensations in the 1970s by Indira Gandhi, it's apparently a hard knock life being a Maharaja these days.
Though not a building of great historical provenance, dating from the early 20th Century, it does have some spectacular interiors, if appearing a little architecturally incongruous, over-worked and garish at times. There are beautifully painted mural walls depicting the grand elephant processions of the Dussehra and other festival processions for which the city is famous.
Boldly mosaiced floors and fabulous stain-glass domes with vibrant peacocks capping large pillared halls. Over-size paintings of Hindu deities upon walls and spreading Sistine Chapel like over the ceiling of one exterior hall amidst painted constellations and stucco plaster ceiling adornments. Silver doors and gilt furniture. All very ostentatious. Bare in mind folks photography is strictly forbidden inside the palace and you should deposit your camera at the lockers by the main entrance gate as if, like me, you hope to just keep it in your bag, you will still be sent all the way back from the Palace security check, at this point bare foot on hot stone, cursing and swearing all the way.
My favourite destinations in Mysore, as is many places I travel to, are its wonderful markets.
The finest of these in Mysore, in fact probably the most enjoyable of my time in India, is the Devaraja market situated just up from the north west corner of the palace grounds. The proprietors of the vegetable stools sit amongst grand avalanches of their produce. Landslides of onions, garlic bulbs, ginger stem, beans, water melons (now coming into season), coconuts, legumes, capsicums, potatoes and more carefully arranged piles of bright red tomatoes so as not to bruise. Large nylon and Hessian sacks squat shoulder to shoulder brimming over with spices, various rices and dhal grains. A textural temptation of the Amelie Poulin school of market appreciation - a desire to run your fingers through these hordes of treasure and let them run off your palm. Gloriously aromatic wicker-woven basket waterfalls of fresh green herbs cascade one into the other eventually making their way to heavenly cooking pots of India's kitchens.
'Stevie Wonder's Moma was a coriander wallah' ;D
The smell of fresh bushel coriander has my senses going doolally with sensual joy.
Fruit stalls here are architectural and compositional works of art in their own right. Carefully stacked and balanced pyramids, piled patterns and pillars of fresh apples swaddled in their pink protective foam sheaths, oranges and 'greens' (what else does one call a green orange? ), little lemons, pineapples, sour green mangoes, papaya and pomegranates. A darkened market hangar hallway big enough to house a small passenger plane is given over to Bananaland. An earthy inner sanctum given over to the worship (it seems) and sale of great clusters and hands of bananas suspended from high strings and hooks like peculiar tropical yellow spiders.
The south western aisle of the market is given over to flowers.
Plump women sit cross-legged on raised platforms skilfully stringing marigolds and many other blossoms together. These lie on the market floor in great wrapped coils of colour. Gigantic floral snakes. The smell of jasmine fills the air. The loyalty of my nasal passage torn between this and coriander. Men call out to you from puja material kiosks keen to sell you husky coconuts and packs of the brightly coloured powders used in puja or for the creation of rangoli patterns. Convenient for the tourist to take home they unfurl long spectrums of colour in little concertina plastic packets like the unfurling of a many-coloured credit card wallet. It's a wonderfully vibrant market both in terms of its historic look and feel and the conversations and characters you can meet as you stroll up and down it's grid of open-air passages.
'Man reflected in advertising hording' : I LOVE THIS!!! Just look at the posture of the man in the poster and the man on the floor below it! :))
Around its granite bollard entrance ways women in brightly coloured saris artfully balance wicker baskets of oranges (and ‘greens’) upon their heads whilst trying to sell you whatever they can hold in one hand for 10 Rupees a shot. These women also ply their trade in the vicinity of our hotel, near the main bus terminus, and as sun down approaches I love to sit on our room balconies watching as the shadows of these fruit traders grow ever longer with the day and oranges yet unsold ripen upon their heads.
If you head further north along Sayyaji Rao Road (the one that flanks the east side of the Devaraja market) for some time you will also come to another such market. This one older in its crumbling architectural housing than Devaraja (although still only of the Raj era).
'Selling the entire spectrum'
Around here too are a series of boutiques that trade in Mysore's most famous commercial export, that of scented oils distilled from plants and flowers and used for aroma therapy, reflexology, meditation and body massage. Depending on intended use and the flower in question it can take around 200-300 kilos of pressed flowers to produce 1 litre of oil.
Paul and Fran are tempted into the Oil Market Herbal's Shoppe ( 'Before 1947 British built this market' it declares and whose 'aroma is very famous in Europe'
) and I dutifully follow to scribble some notes whilst they get doused in every perfume under the sun. A couple are proffered to my hooter too for a nod of appreciation. The various gold, amber and clear liquid distillations sit in cut crystal vials and bottles that in their turn are housed in glass and wood cabinets whose backs and floors are mirrored to give the whole shop an expansive feeling of infinitely arrayed and blossoming treasures.
I look at the menu. Mysore is apparently most famous for sandalwood oil ( for body massage) and white jasmine oil, 'the symbol of women'
and of which black and green oils are available too. There's lotus oil for meditation purposes and puja, lemon grass and jacaranda ( 'for women it is used to clear wrinkles and pimples‘
- you don't get those do you ladies? ), white and red rose oils, saffron, geranium, yelong-yelong, the potent musk oil ( 'used as an aphrodystal by men as stimulate for sex'
- you don't have problems in the bedroom department do you gentlemen? ) and perhaps most importantly (yes even more than the anti-wrinkle, pro-sex oils folks) there is water lily oil which is used throughout India to deter mosquitoes and is apparently the base of every mosquito repellent.
And that's all I'll inflict on you today I think folks. Just a snap shot, a few glimpses of the usual bustle of commerce and culture in urban India. As ever just aimlessly walking around the streets and avenues will be your way to a wider appreciation of the city. The small Christian enclave (with St Philomena’s Cathedral as its focal point) and the larger nearby Muslim districts with their profusion of megaphone strung minarets are two good stomping grounds in close proximity up and off Ashoka road, running north from the Palace.
The gang and I take ourselves to see a Hindi movie Ishqiya
which provides me with an Indian first. Though I've seen a good number of Bollywood movies this is the first one I've ever seen a passionate on screen kiss and a little more lovin' in.
Her shadow grows long.
Though a taboo of Indian cinema broken a little while ago now (I think?), physical contact (of lips and other naughty bits) and overtly depicted physical passion in Indian cinema is still an extreme rarity ( often cut from western movies screened on TV here for example) and not one indulged by Bollywood’s mega stars keen to uphold their revered wholesome ‘family‘ images. Though this is changing as Indian cinematic narrative and content broadens and matures in its considerations and with the younger new crop of silver screen beaus and beauties. The crowd, male and female, went nutso screaming at this sight on screen! Quite sweet :)
Sweet dreams everyone (with all the naughty bits edited out if you please! ;)