The bus journey to Mysore was a proper treat for the eyeholes. The spinal column though? Not so much. The road takes you through the tiger reserve so the scenery is gorgeous, but the only way to slow down drivers over here is with speed bumps. Lots and lots of those little triple bumps which the driver eased the front part of the bus over but seemed to forget that the rear part existed thus turning the back four rows into fucking ejector seats. I’m not even shitting you, you get some serious air. I was sat right at the back, at one point I had my finger jammed in my nostril trying to remove a particularly stubborn bogey and I nearly impaled my frontal lobe. It also didn’t help that I was dying for a piss and nothing reminds a full bladder that it’s there like the body it’s attached to being flung over a thousand bumps. By the time I arrived in Mysore I was convinced I’d need major surgery to return my internal organs to their original positions.
So anyway. Yellow cows. Just when you think you’ve learned to expect anything India has to throw at you, yellow cows happen. It looks like no bovine escaped the treatment which someone told me was turmeric and was for the Sankranti festival which had just passed. It’s a harvest festival, I think it’s the Karnataka equivalent of Tamil Nadu’s Pongal but yellow cows kinda shit all over Tamil Nadu’s powder drawings. Figuratively, and perhaps literally too. I wish we had festivals in the UK which called for painting animals yellow, though all we really have is dogs and cats I’m not sure that the injuries you’d sustain trying to cover a feline in turmeric would be worth it.
I wasn’t even going to bother with Mysore on account of the fact all it has to offer is a palace and a bazaar. I’m not a huge fan of bazaars. I like looking at them and I like taking photos but there’s no such thing as hassle-free shopping experience in India and I find shopping immensely fucking stressful at the best of times. Seriously. Any more than five minutes in a retail environment and I either want to curl up in a vat of vodka and weep, or punch everybody within arms reach in the back of head. I did attempt to have a look around Devaraja Market though aaaand no. No sir, I do not know how to use these powders and no sir, I would not like to learn because before you know it I’ll end up with a backpack full of coloured powders that I have exactly zero use for. Which of course was your plan all along. I wish I enjoyed shopping because it’s such a huge part of the India experience, but so is drinking Kingfisher I believe so I fled to New Shilpashri Bar and Restaurant and indulged in that instead. It has a rooftop which is awesome for people watching, which is basically a sociably acceptable term for stalking.
Sunday nights is when they light the palace up so I’d timed my trip for that because I’m a sucker for illuminations. I could sit and stare at lights for hours, if you left me to my own devices I’d fill the flat up with Poundland fairy lights and probably short circuit the entire building. Or burn it down. Whatever effect daisy chaining a sufficient amount of multi-plugs to power several light strings of dubious quality would have. This is why I can’t be left alone for more than three days without filling the fridge with enough cheesecake to keep me properly distracted. But anyway, the lights were due to go on at 7pm so I duly rocked up and was pleasantly surprised to find that this attraction is free. If there’s one thing I like more than lights, it’s free lights. I shuffled myself into a suitable position and waited. At 7pm the lights flicked on all at once. Actual 7pm an’ all, not Indian 7pm which can occur anywhere between 7.06pm and 7.25pm aaaaand if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over here picking my jaw up off the floor. Once I’d gotten over the palace I turned around and realised the whole bastard place was lit up, not just the main building. The two temples, the huge gate at the back, everything was blazing over 98000 lights as a band in front of the palace played on. This is definitely worth timing your trip for.
Well I figured as I was in Mysore I might as well have a look inside this bad boy so on the Monday I paid my entrance fee, left my shoes with the shoe guy because it’s India, checked my camera into the lockers because no, there will be no photography here, and picked up my free audio guide. This isn’t even the original palace, that was made of wood and it burnt down in 1987 so the regent of Mysore at the time, Maharani Vani Vilas Sannidhna (yeah, I totes copied and pasted her name from Wikipedia), ordered a new one to be built straight away with no expense spared to make it fireproof. I can’t post any photos because you’re not allowed to take any and I don’t want to steal them from another site, but the official website has an amazing virtual tour which seems to have similar audio to the guide I was given.
It’s the details, y’know? You enter through the Elephant Gate which has these brass doors with elephants that were beaten into them by hand, and the symbol of Mysore royalty, the double headed eagle (Gandaberunda) can be seen both on top of the gates and within the design. There are also two actual elephant heads either side of the gate which were shot by the king in 1955 before he realised the error of his elephant shooting ways, stopped being such a twat and became president of the World Wildlife Preservation.
There’s a golden howdah (elephant seat) with two fly whisks. The fly whisks are made from fine strips of ivory, so fine that you can mistake it for string at a glance. Fucking ivory, guys! Now that’s decadent, and the craftsmanship must be incredible.
The audio guide leads you through hall after incredible hall. There’s an octagonal one with huge pillars that look wooden but they’re cast iron. Because it’s all meant to be fireproof, remember? This hall was used for all royal weddings, birthdays, ceremonies, all of the things. There’s a lot of artwork lining the walls too but not the miniature stuff you get in Rajasthan, though it’s just as detailed. This is beautifully executed fine art, a lot of which were done from photos of events and the people in the paintings actually existed. Some of these are talked about in the audio guide and on the virtual tour too. One room has pietra dura detail on the floor, started by the craftsmen of Agra who ended up leaving in a huff after disagreements with locals, so local artists had to finish the job and did it pretty well. Another room has rosewood doors with detailed ivory inlay. There are Hindu columns, Mughal arches, Islamic domes. Everywhere you look there’s something else to be seen, it’s impossible to take it all in. You have to see it yourself to get the idea and it turns out that I’m quite impressed by grandeur.
Of course, with the rulers of Mysore being Hindu, there’s a patron deity and in this case it’s Chaumundi, also known as Durga, the badass, lion riding goddess who defeated the demon who Mysore takes its name from, Mahishasura. Yeeeaaahhh… I guess I can see how they got “Mysore” from that… Anyway, I love a good Hindu tale, and in this one, Mahishasura is a demon with the head of a buffalo and the body of a human. He’d been granted a boon by Shiva that he would never be killed by the hand of a man, then armed with this he proceeded to attack the universe. The supreme gods went straight to Shiva’s wife, Parvati, and asked her to help so she assumed the form of Durga and went into battle. At first the demon had a bit of a chuckle when he saw that a women had been sent to kill him, but he was soon laughing on the other side of his buffalo face when Durga kicked his sorry arse.
Something else you need to know about in this town is Mysore Pak, which is like fudge but lighter. It’s amazing. I was stuffing it into my facehole, trying to think of how I’d describe it but all I could come up with was “the congealed spunk of angels” then realised that I probably wouldn’t want to put that in my mouth. Also, as a friend pointed out, that would most likely be referring to salted caramel. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to eat salted caramel ever again without thinking about some dude with wings jacking off into a jar. Salted caramel is forever ruined.
And in other news, I got attacked by a beast sent from the very bowels of hell itself! Ok ok, so I wasn’t actually attacked, but it ran across the bathroom floor of my hotel room and at first glance I thought it was the world’s biggest cockroach which would have been fine, then I realised it was a spider. A huge, fuck off great big spider, and it ran behind the bathroom door. Fuck. No way would I be able to sleep with that bastard lurking in the shadows waiting until I fell asleep so it could eat my face. Because that’s what they do, they lurk and they plot the downfall of the human race. I grabbed my complimentary newspaper, rolled it up, took a few deep breaths… Yeah, nice try, princess. Like you’re even setting foot in that bathroom ever again. I conceded defeat and went in search of help. By the time I found a very tall man called Stu I was nearly in tears because that’s the kind of pierced, tattooed, double hard bastard I am, and Stu came to my rescue clutching a massive sandal and won me over instantly with the words, “Do you mind if I kill it?” My hero! Shame he couldn’t find the fucker. I was still clutching the newspaper, I’d kind of forgotten about it in my trauma so he used it to block up the holes it had probably gone into behind the door and I spent a couple of hours messaging everyone to advise them of my narrow escape with certain doom so if I went missing they’d know where to look for my remains.
Mysore, Karnataka, India
Stayed at: Hotel Dasaprakash