SITUATE AMONG fertile fields, and skirted by wooded hills, Mysore was the capital of the Wodeyar rulers, who were governors of southern Karnataka under the Vijayanagar kings. The Wodeyar dynasty ruled almost uninterrupted from 1399 until Independence, except for the 38-year rule of the Muslim warlord Haider Ali and his son, Tipu Sultan, in the 18th century. Modern Mysore is the creation of Tipu Sultan who, in 1793, levelled the old city and built the present town. Today, Mysore is an important cultural centre, with the largest university in Karnataka, It is also renowned for its ivory work, silk-weaving, sandalwood incense and carvings.
Several elegant public buildings, erected under the Wodeyars, enhance the wide, tree-lined streets. In the heart of the city is the Ameba Vilas Palace. To its west is Jaganmohan Palace, built in 1902 to mark the coronation ceremony of Krishnaraja III. It partly obscures a Nen- Classical structure, now the Champ – rajendra Art Gallery, which houses an interesting collection , of disparate objects including antique furniture, musical instruments, ceramics and ivory. On its top floor is a splendid collection of musical instalments , as well as magnificent paintings by the renowned 19th-century artist from Kerala, Raja Ravi Verma.
Near the northwestern corner of Amba Vilas Palace is Krishnaraja Circle, where a statue of Krishnaraja Wodeyar stands beneath a pavilion. The Sayyaji Rao Road that leads out from this circle is the principal shopping centre of the town. A short distance away is the Government ‘louse, the seat of the British Residents from 1805. Nearby, the Cathedral of St Philomena, with a stained-glass interior, is a new Neo-Gothic structure, completed in 1959. In the western part of the city is the Neoclassical Manasa Gangotri, the campus of Mysore University. The Oriental Research Institute here houses a collection of Sanskrit manuscripts, while the Folklore Museum has one of the most important ethnographic collections of South Indian toys, puppets and household objects, as well as two wooden chariots. On the way to Chamundi Hill, 3 km (2 miles) southeast of Mysore, is Lalitha Mahal Palace, built in 1930.
Formerly a private royal guest house, it is now a hotel. About halfway up the hill is the Nandi monolith, dating to 1659. Carved out of a single boulder, it is 7.5 m (25 ft) long and 5 m (16 ft) high. The richly decorated bull is depicted crouching. The Chamundeshvari Temple, at the summit of the hill, was built in the 17th century by the Wodeyars and was later refurbished. It houses a beautifully decorated idol of Chamundeshvari, the family deity of the Wodeyar kings.
ENVIRONS: The picturesque Brindavan Gardens are 16 km (10 miles) to the north of the city. This popular picnic spot was laid out below the Krishnarajasagar Dam by Krishnaraja Wodeyar. Three times a week the numerous fountains are illuminated with multi-coloured lights.