Did You Know This About Mysore?
Located in the foothills of the famous Chamundi Hills and southern part of Karnataka, Mysore is known for its cleanliness and cultural heritage. Spread across an area of 155 sq. km and at a distance of 150 km from the IT hub, Bangalore, Mysore is famous for its heritage structures and palaces and known as the Cultural Capital of Karnataka. Also known as Mysuru (the official name since Oct’14), this place is famous for Mysore Palace, Mysore Dasara (Dussehra), Mysore Silk Sarees, Mysore Sandal Soap, Mysore Painting and cuisines such as Mysore Masala Dosa and the famous sweet, Mysore Pak.
Mysore is a modern version of Mahishasura (abode of Mahisha in the Kannada Language). Mahisha in Sanskrit means buffalo, and according to ancient Hindu Scripts, Mahishasur was the demon king who could transform into a human and buffalo due to his powers and was killed by Goddess Chamundeshwari (the Chamundi Hills are named in her admiration).
Culture & Traditions
Mysore Dasara is famous as it’s celebrated for ten days instead of the usual one day Dussehra festival in rest of India and was introduced by King Wodeyar I in 1610. On the ninth day of Dasara, known as Mahanavmi, the Royal Sword is worshipped and is carried out on a procession of shimmering and decorated elephants, camels and horses. And on the tenth day, also known as Vijayadashmi, the customary Dasara pageant (locals call it Jumbo Savari) is taken out on the streets of Mysore amidst thousands of people cheering behind the elephant which carries Idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari on a golden platform (mandapa) and is accompanied by enthusiastic dance groups and music bands apart from the decorated animals.
Famous Food to Try in Mysore
Not only the Mysore Dosa, but also the Idli (steamed rice cakes), Vada (made from mixture of lentil flour and spices like cumin, onions and chili, deep-fried to donut-shaped snacks), Bonda (ball-shaped snack made of mashed potato mixed with spices), Khara Bath or Upma (semolina roasted with vegetables and spices), Kesari Bath (Semolina roasted with desi ghee, sugar and dry fruits), Uttapam (thick rice flour pancake mixed with vegetables), Poori Sagu (Small puffed breads fried in oil served with vegetable curry) and sweet dishes like Mysore Pak and Payasam are some of the must-try dishes which you make your taste buds ask for more.
Must-Visit Places in Mysore during Dussehra
Dussehra is one of the most grandly celebrated festivals in Mysore as well as the whole of Karnataka which starts on the first day of Navratri and ends with Vijayadashmi. This ten-day long festival falls in September or October depending on the calculations of the lunar calendar, and entire Mysore city is soaked in the Dussehra celebrations during this time. We have handpicked few places which are worth visiting during Dussehra Celebrations in Mysore. These places look nothing less than magical during the festival and people from all over the world visit to witness this elaborate affair.
Mysore Palace truly is an epitome of royal grandeur and is home of the Wodeyars who ruled for more than 500 years in Mysuru. This palace was designed by an English Architect, Henry Irwin, between 1897 and 1912. This three-storey beautiful building was built in Indo-Saracenic style and was constructed by the finest craftsman of that era. It has aesthetically designed square towers which are covered with domes at diagonally opposite four directions. Also, the durbar hall has a high dome-shaped ceiling with decorative paintings and beautifully sculpted pillars complemented with the glazed tiled flooring and stained glass, which leave the visitors in awe.
The palace has a residential museum and various temples and shrines including the famous Shwetha Varahaswamy temple. The palace lights are lit up on Sundays, holidays and most importantly, during the Dasara Celebrations, the entire palace is illuminated with 100,000 light bulbs from 7 p.m. till 10 pm. The unique attraction is the jewel crusted Golden Throne which is taken out from the storage only during these ten days and kept in durbar hall for public viewing.
Named on Goddess Chamundeswari (another name for Goddess Durga), Chamundi Hills is famous for Chamundi Temple which is situated atop the Chamundi Hill. The Chamundi Hills, due to its religious importance and serene beauty, attracts nature lovers, tourists and Hindu devotees equally. The Chamundi Hilltop presents an enigmatic view of Mysuru City and the Mysore Maharaja Palace, and Karanji Lake can easily be identified from the hilltop. One can choose to travel here by a vehicle; however, devotees prefer to take stairs to reach the pinnacle of the hill.
The Dasara festivities begin from the Chamundi Temple when the Wadiyar family’s royal couple perform a special puja here followed by a royal assembly (started by King Krishnaraja Wadiyar III in the year 1805). It is believed that Goddess Chamundi resides in these hills and she killed the buffalo headed demon, Mahishasura, and the ten-day Dasara festivities are celebrated as an epitome of joy for the victory of good over evil.
Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel
Built-in 1931 as a Guest House for the European visitors and Viceroy of India by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV at the cost of Rupees 13 lakhs (1.3 million) and designed by a famous Bombay based architect in 1930’s, E.W.Fritchley, Lalitha Mahal Palace is a marvellous architecture work in European classical style. It’s a two-story building which has iconic twin columns, a middle dome-shaped tower, a sprawling porch in the front, and round-shaped entrance hall with stained glass decoration giving it a royal touch.
The pure white painted palace was converted into a heritage hotel in 1974, and until 2018 it was operated by India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) under the Government of India. Later in 2018, it was transferred to the State of Govt. of Karnataka. This five-star hotel has been transformed internally to adapt to the modern lifestyle. However, the aesthetics and original royal grandeur remain intact. There is also a helipad nearby from which even outside visitors can avail a 10-minute helicopter ride to catch a bird-eye view of the Mysuru City. The Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel is decorated with bright lights and is a treat for eyes during Dasara evenings.
Brindavan Gardens is originally in Mandya District of Karnataka and borders the Krishnarajasagara Dam, which is situated on the river, Kaveri. However, it is very close (approx. 20 km) from Mysore City and one can easily reach here in 35-40 minutes by cab. They were built between 1927 and 1932 and today, approximately two million tourists visit this park every year.
It has beautiful landscapes, a botanical park, fountains and boat rides. The main attraction of the garden is its musical fountain, where the bursting fountains of water dance in harmony with music and the colour changing lights produce a magnificent view for the visitors. Adjoining the park is a fruit orchard spread across 75 acres and two horticultural farms spread in 35 acres respectively.
Initially, this lake was built as a water storage reservoir for the general public by the king of Mysore. The residents then used the water for drinking and daily chores. Later, in 1976, the lake was made a part of the Mysore Zoo and since then has been maintained by the Zoo Authorities. Spread in thriving green cover of 90 hectares, it is famously known as the Fountain Lake. Out of the 90 hectares area dedicated to this Lake, 55 hectares is the water body, and the remaining 35 hectares is the surrounding area.
There is a special children’s corner for the little ones and boating facility is also available for visitors in one part of the lake. This lake is a retreat for birdwatchers as well with more than 145 species of birds present around the Avian Fauna at Karanji Lake. A lot of migratory birds, as well as locally found birds such as sandpipers, herons, Asian openbill storks, greenish warbler, egrets, rose-ringed parakeet, brown shrike, red-whiskered bulbul, red wattled lapwing, booted warbler, black drongo, sunbird along with many other birds, can be seen here.
Also, the lake has India’s largest walk-through aviary, where visitors can go inside and view the birds closely. This aviary has two water bodies along with an artificial waterfall. The added attraction is the butterfly park, which has more than 45 species of some beautiful butterflies and the park is built within a small island amidst the Karanji Lake.
Events You Shouldn't Miss Out on in Mysore During Dussehra
Mysore Dasara Flower Show at Nishad Bagh
You're going to love Mysore Dasara Flower Show if you are a nature lover. It’s not often that you come across such a wide variety of these lovely and colourful friends. A flower show contest is also organized, and the winners are rewarded in different categories like ornamental, outdoor plants, lawns, indoor plants, fruit garden, amphitheatre, and landscape garden category to name a few. Various govt. and non-govt. bodies, NGOs, colleges, and corporate crowd showcase their flowers in this contest. Over half a million people visit during the 12 days of flower show to see the beautiful orchids, roses, lilies, anthuriums, bonsai and dozens of different varieties of plants and flowers.
A "Mini City in Mysore" may be the right phrase to define the Dasara Exhibition. Not only from Mysore or Karnataka, but people from all over India come to showcase and sell their goods in this ten-day long exhibition. One can see the true cultural diversity of India at this place. This grand event was introduced by the Maharaja of Mysore, Chamaraja Wodeyar X in 1880 and since then its popularity has grown with each passing year. Various household objects, handicrafts, décor items, and apparels are sold in small temporary shops. Also, different types of games for kids and adults can be enjoyed and after you are tired and hungry, satiate your cravings with the street food options from the entire country at one place!
Yuva Dasara at Maharaja Grounds
Yuva Dasara (Dasara for youth) is organized in the vast ground in front of Maharaja College, Mysore. As the name suggests, this event is centred on the activities performed by young people (mostly college students). This is a huge event, and local talents in the state perform with famous artists, musicians, and dance groups from all over the country. Celebrities are also invited to perform at this event, and this grand gala is attended by people all over the world.
Torch Light Parade at Bannimantap Grounds
The ten-day Dasara celebrations conclude on the night of Vijaya Dashami with Panjina Kavayatthu (torchlight parade). The King of Mysuru (title) makes an entry on horseback in his traditional riding clothes in the parade grounds. Also, horse riders and bikers show different acrobatics, including jumping through a ring of fire. The main attraction of this event is the laser show which illuminates the evening sky of parade-ground with beautiful colours and designs.
Mysuru Dasara Procession
On the final day of the ten days long festival, also known as Vijayadashmi, Mysore Dasara Procession is taken out on the city streets. The procession starts from Chamundi Temple, and the centre of attraction in this procession is the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari placed in a Golden Howdah (covered and decorated tub-like structure) over a decorated elephant. This procession is also called Jumbo Savari in the local language. Lots of decorated elephants, horses, and camels along with different folk artists and thousands of devotees come forward to be a part of this grand procession. A must-attend event, without which our ‘Dasara in Mysore’ wouldn't have been completed.
Bring Some Traditional Souvenirs Back Home!
Don't forget to bring back some part of the Mysore with yourself! Few world-famous Mysore products which can be purchased as a souvenir if you are travelling during Dasara festivities include products like Mysore agarbatti, sandalwood oil, betal leaf, sandal soaps, Mysore traditional paintings, Mysore silk, and Mysore Pak sweets to name a few.