The Palace and the Zoo
Mysore Travel Blog› entry 23 of 37 › view all entries
As soon as weâ€™ve finished breakfast, we leave the hotel to dive into the history of Mysore. During breakfast, I had already read in my travel guide that the original name of this city was Mahishuru, which evolved into Maisuru. Mysore is the anglicized form of the name. The Government of Karnata has announced the intention to change the English name of the city to Mysuru.
Until 1947, Mysore was the capital of the small Kingdom of Mysore and was ruled by the Wodeyar dynasty. The Palace of Mysore was the official residence of the Wodeyar family. It was commissioned in 1897 and completed in 1912. Itâ€™s now one of the most famous tourist attractions in Mysore and itâ€™s within walking distance from our hotel.
The outside of the palace looks as if it comes straight out of a story from A Thousand and One Nights. It is huge and every square meter seems to make me think Iâ€™ve landed straight into the story of Aladdin.
The Wodeyar kings and their extensive families used to live here, this royal dynasty ruled the Kingdom of Mysore from 1399 to 1947. The Wodeyar family remained in place during British rule, but they were subsidiaries of the British Raj and had to pay annual subsidy to the British. The British took over the administration of the Kingdom and as long as they didnâ€™t decide on anything that would bother their conquerors, the Wodeyar kings were free to rule.
The inside of the palace shows clearly that the last kings were never completely free.
Most of the rooms that are open for visiting are jaw dropping though. The most spectacular is the hall called Ambavilasa. This was used by the king for private audiences. Itâ€™s decorated woth gilded columns, stained glass ceilings and a mosaic floor embellished with semi-precious stones.
The Kalyana Mantapa (Mariage Hall) is a large pavilion that also has a stained glass ceiling, this time with peacock motifs arranged in geometrical patterns. The entire structure was mad in Glasgow, Scotland.
The last king of the Wodeyar dynasty was Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, who ruled from 1940 until Indian independence from British rule. In 1947, after India attained independence, he acceded his kingdom to the dominion of India, but continued as the Maharaja until India became a Republic in 1950.
We have a late lunch at the nearby Parlane Hotel, where the serve excellent club sandwiches. Then we head out for the Mysore Zoo. The zoo dates back from 1892 and is set in pretty gardens. We are most impressed by the tigers though. Of course we had seen tigers before, but never like this.
The tiger that is out in the larger habitat while we are there is fully relaxed, strolling, licking his paws, yawning. Itâ€™s the first time we can watch a tiger from this close, without a iron fence blocking our view and we are mesmerized. Itâ€™s probably not as safe as in European zooâ€™s, if you would piss of the tiger I can imagine he could jump over the moat or take a swim, but itâ€™s well worth it.
We enjoy watching the other animals, there are birds here we have never seen before, and itâ€™s reasonably quiet in the zoo. There are only a few people who take pictures from us and ask us to take pictures from themâ€¦