top of page
  • Shelley Dark

21. Mysore

We're playing hookey this afternoon and skipping a temple so I can catch up a little. The internet here is still a problem, so I’m sitting in the lobby again. John is upstairs taking photos. Outside our second floor bedroom window there are two brahminy kites with a baby in the nest. Maybe more than one! One of the parents just came home with some food and the little poppet stuck his head out. So maybe when I’m upstairs again I’ll have a photo for you.

I’m sorry about the problem with the comments yesterday. I always look at them first thing and when I woke there were none. One appeared later and I did a war whoop. I had an email from the CEO of the plugin, saying they have fixed the issue so I hope it doesn’t happen again.

This morning the palace we are visiting doesn’t open until 10am. We are driven there early, a new guide on board, and on the way we suddenly see a giraffe’s head above a high wall. It looks quite absurd. It turns out it's in the zoological gardens. Our bus drops us at the palace and we walk to the markets. I am so glad to be striding out. I’m missing our usual long walks at home.

Mysore is reputedly one of the most beautiful cities in India. We take photographs as we go. Our guide tells us facts about the city. At the beginning I can’t understand a word. He has the rollicking Indian cadence and I feel as if I’m watching that tv show the Kumars of No 42. After I while I start to get the hang of his accent.

There seems to be such grace in these old buildings.

I don't know if it's the Singer we know.

It's strange to see clocks in the local script.

She's selling flowers and thinks it extraordinary that anyone should want to take a photo of her.

He's a happy cobbler.

His tools of trade.

The shop awnings are dusty. Vendors line the street.

This young man volunteers without my asking by pointing at himself. He comes and looks at the photo without hanging up.

I've taken a photo of this woman and her son. They ask to see it, and they're highly amused when I show it to them. I didn't know John was taking this photo.

Indians must be very close to Australians in the takeup of mobile phones.

This was part of a long sign above a shopfront. The paint peeling off. Don't you love the tiny tassels on the letters, the fringed border?

This is John's photo. I love it.

The markets are covered, busy and colourful. I am still practising my hello and thank you. I say hello to everyone and anyone. I’ve learned thank you too. It usually gets a happy laugh and a nice photo opportunity. I ask John what he is saying to the vendors he is photographing. ‘I just say Ricky Ponting’, he says. It gets a bigger laugh than my hello.

It's just mandatory isn't it? You have to have one shot of powdered paints.

John says 'Aren't they getting sick of seeing flowers?' You aren't, are you?

What about the texture of the bitter gourds?

John wants one of these brooms at home. Not for him. For me.

I like it that someone in the market thought this was good enough to hang.

This is the man who sharpens knives, scissors, shears.

A vendor sits quietly, stroking his kitten.

You've seen displays like the coconut before. But I haven't shown you dried tamarind or grapefruit.

They are running, these banana carrriers. In with a full load, out with the empty.

The Amba Vilas Palace is now open. This is the home of the former rulers, the Hindu Wodeyar family or the Maharajahs of Mysore. They pretty well governed here from 1399 right through to 1947, apart from a 40 year period when it was under Muslim rule. There is still an apartment within the complex where the wife of the last prince stays when she comes here. Google tells me it’s still owned by the royal family.

It’s a confectionery palace, domes and turrets all over the place.

The interior is simply fabulous. No photography is allowed inside unfortunately. It was designed by the British architect Lord Henry Irwin and completed in 1912. He designed it in the Indo-Saracenic style, a riotous mix of Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic architecture.

Sue reminds us it’s a product of the Art Nouveau period. There are tiles from Britain, ironwork from Glasgow, stained glass from England, glass and chandeliers from Murano and Belgium, marble from Carrara, silver and ivory, locally carved rosewood and teak.

We see two Durbar Halls - a huge one for public audiences, where members of the public could come to speak to the Maharajah himself. The other was for visiting dignitaries. They were expected to sit on the floor. There is a marriage room, created around a huge octagonal floor of tiles with three soaring Tiffany blue and gold pillars at each corner. They have the sinuous lines of the art nouveau period. A surrounding covered walkway is lined with amazing paintings of life in those days. The high octagonal ceiling slopes up to a central point and is of stained glass with a peacock motif theme.

There’s a magnificent golden howdah decorated with 85 kilograms of gold which the maharajahs used when travelling by elephant. Rosewood and ivory doors with the most incredible detail, marble pietra dura. The public Durbar hall has a series of painted ceilings.

On Sundays and public holidays, there are 100,000 lights which illuminate every line of the exterior. If you google it you’ll see a photo. I’m sad we won’t be here on Sunday.

John left a pair of trousers at the hotel in Mammalapuram and they were sent here to meet us. They arrived addressed to our guide George, in a calico bag machine-sewn closed. It’s quite the quaintest parcel I have ever seen and I’m going to keep the bag. It has an ink stamp mark on the back. I've covered George's name.

I'll leave you with a more of these colourful people, the elegant women.

I know it's two days until Valentine's day, but one of the flower vendors at the market gave this to me.

I've come back upstairs. The kites have two chicks. One parent keeps guard while the other goes hunting for baby food. John is sorting through the photos. I'll post them tomorrow. Until tomorrow travelling buddies…

shelley dark, writer 

bottom of page