We decided to head to Mysore (150km) from Bangalore to see the Maharaja’s Palace. We made arrangements with the driver that collected us from the airport and under his advisement, set out for another early start.
With fresh eyes and in the light of day, Bangalore still presented as a far more evolved, clean and organised city than I had imagined. Well at least that’s how it appeared from the comfort of a car as we made our way south west.
There were cafe chains promoting coffee and far less roadside rubbish than we had been welcomed with in rural towns. Hospitals looked like places you would consider being admitted, as opposed to running in fear from. Air-conditioned shopping malls with western style cinemas promoting the latest movies sprinkled the highway.
We were most certainly experiencing our first real Indian city and it had none of the squalor I had prepared myself for. Perhaps it was the district we were in, M G Road still has the hint of austerity of a colonial past.
The road from Bangalore to Mysore was a well surfaced road and we made good time. Our first stop was a 9th century temple at the village of Srirangapathna. Our driver waited in the car while we navigated the approach to the temple amidst a crowd of local tourists and touts peddling their wares. As is required at all temples, we removed our shoes and left them with the men that mind them. No photographs are permitted inside the temple.
The stone underfoot is a cool and welcome reprieve from the scorching heat. It has a massaging effect on the soles of the feet and reminds me what sensory marvels our feet actually are. A physical connection slowly manifests with each step.
The temple has granite pillars carved with care and skill using trabiated construction methods. Chris and I ponder the logistics, organisation and talent required to create this grand place of worship without the help of the machinery we rely upon so heavily today. The most they probably relied on was an elephant.
Purposefully placed around the periphery are small rooms that house the Gods, some only visible through tiny peep holes that people push and shove to see through.
Pushing and shoving is something one must become accustomed to in India, it’s just how they roll. No malice and no second glance, just the momentum to maintain as crowds and queues surge forward. There is no order and courtesy as we know it, the masses afford no pause for personal space. Space is a communal vessel navigated by deftly occupying whatever piece of it comes your way.
Our next stop is the summer palace adorned with the most intricate artwork decorating nearly every wall and representing courageous battles. Yet again, the cool of the building comes as a surprise as the temperature soars outside. A true testament to the skill applied to designing space centuries ago. It seems to have been lost through the ages, or at least it’s value has, as we build so many poor solutions today in the name of economic rationalisation. In fairness, this is a palace built for a king and most probably required the manpower and attention of almost every male citizen. It is indeed a beauty and as you navigate it you can imagine it alive with activity and spirit.
We hit Chamundeshwari Temple at Chamundi Hill in time for local worship and felt very much part of it as we queued and flowed with the onslaught of people seeking blessings and bearing gifts for the gods. Again shoeless, we navigate the puddles and slosh on the floor – not quite the same feeling as the last temple, more like am I standing in water or saliva? The view overlooking the town is amazing and Carol gets asked to pose with some local policemen who are taking in the sights. I was just a plus one white girl thrown into the mix. It’s so funny in India you are constantly asked to appear in photos with locals. The introduction is fairly typical – “What is your country?” / “What is your name?” / “What do you think of my country?”
We stopped for lunch at a western style hotel that has a kitsch exhibit of cardboard cut out cricket players in the foyer and imported wine on the menu. So I break my promise of no more wine in India and order a glass of French wine and a lamb steak burger. Today is a special day, it is Carol & Chris’s 25th wedding anniversary. We raise a toast to them and their family.
After lunch we finally head to the Maharaja Palace. A splendiferous and amazing building with arches, grandiose tiles, gaudy colours and artworks adorning the walls. A real homage to the richness of a bygone era. It is definitely over the top and full of fabulousness.
Elephant and Camel rides are on offer around the palace grounds.
At 4.30pm we reconnect with our driver and head back to Bangalore.
It’s an early night for all after another big day.