Thursday, 26 February 2015

Jaganmohan Palace

The Palace Gate: Jaganmohan Palace
In Mysore, one is never too far from royalty. Located west of the illustrious Mysore Palace, the Jaganmohan Palace is one of the seven palaces that the Wodeyar kings built in and around the city, making it a true recipient of the royal legacy. Within the main city itself, there are seven such palaces. As one enters the Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery, located inside the palace, one is greeted with a striking masterpiece adorned with intricate carvings that have been carved in a short span of just 70 days. Venturing deeper, one finds wooden doors that narrate the tale of Dasavatharam, the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

The Jaganmohan Palace was built during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar-III and was completed in 1861. Since the main Ambavilas Palace, widely familiar as the Mysore Palace was burnt down in a fire, the Jaganmohan Palace was commissioned to serve as the residence of the royal family until 1912, the year when the Mysore Palace was completed. Many important decisions pertaining to the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore have been taken inside the palace premises. The coronation ceremony of Krishnaraja Wodeyar-IV took place in a pavilion inside this palace in 1902. This was followed by the first legislative council of the erstwhile Mysore State that was held here in July 1907 which was presided over by the Dewan.

The Jaganmohan Palace was converted into an art gallery in 1915 and was formally renamed as the Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery in 1955. As one walks over the cool wooden tiled floors of the palace, the sheer number of paintings that are on display at the gallery surprise one. With over 2000 paintings, most of which belong to different schools of Indian art. The most common being the Mysore, Mughal and Shantiniketan style of Indian art. A family tree of the Wodeyars since Yaduraya Wodeyar in 1399 alone captures an entire wall. The interior walls that have been painted with murals showcase the grandeur of the naddahabba (state festival) that is the Dasara festival and the canvas depicts the sequence of the Jumbo Savari.

Located in three floors, the Jaganmohan Palace has some of the finest kitsch objects, some of which are part of the royal memorabilia which include chairs like the mayurasana, rare musical instruments and various examples of Japanese art. There are also paintings that have been made on a grain of rice which are visible only when peers through a magnifier. It also has a prestigious collection of oil paintings done by Raja Ravi Varma, the classical painter who is believed to have painted Indian Gods. Some of the paintings narrate important scenes from the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Srimad Bhagavatham.

Another striking feature is a painting of a 'Lady with The Lamp' that was painted by Haldankar. It is the only exhibit which is placed in a dark room. It gives the illusion as if the glow of the lamp lights up the face of the woman. With a French clock which chimes as if in a parade with miniature soldiers beating drums marking the seconds and a bugle marks the minute. Sculptures, musical instruments, brassware, war equipment, antiques, coins and currencies are some of the other important things one must see here. The items on display in truly make it one of the largest collections of artifacts in South India, making it one of the leading art galleries of the country.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Brindavan Gardens

Amidst the spectacle of the setting sun, a cool breeze wafts in as one gets past the gates of Brindavan Gardens in Mysore, leading one to spot the imposing the Krishnaraja Sagara Dam, fondly known as the KRS Dam, built across the river Kaveri. With an imposing height of 8600 feet and a height of 130 feet above the river, the Krishnaraja Sagara Dam stands tall at the confluence of three rivers: Kaveri, Hemavati and Lakshmanateertha since 1924. Named after Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar-IV, who ruled Mysore from 1894 until his death in 1940, the dam was built by India's best known engineer, Sir M. Visweswaraya, then the chief engineer of Mysore, using 'surkhi', a mixture of limestone and brick powder instead of cement. Operational since 1924, the KRS Dam is one of the earliest dams in the world to use automatic sluice gates. The Krishnaraja Sagara Dam is an outstanding example of civil engineering and the Brindavan Gardens below it is a major crowd-puller. 

The statue of Goddess Kaveri
Mysore's Brindavan Gardens is one of the best known public gardens of India. It is a botanical park which also has some interesting musical fountains and also offers short boat rides to tourists. Mysore, being the seat of royalty, had planned and got the gardens built simultaneously along with the dam. The layout process for the gardens began in 1927 and was completed in 1932. Laid out in three terraces, it contains fig trees, foliage plants such as sky flowers and euphorbia along with flowering plants such as celosia, marigold and bougainvilleas. Situated in the garden premises are a horticultural farm and nursery, a pond with fisheries and a hydraulic research station. In addition to these is also a statue of Goddess Kaveri. 

The crowd-puller at the Brindavan Gardens is the dancing fountains in which bursts of water are wonderfully synchronised to the music of popular songs. The dancing fountains have a harmonic blend of water, colours and music. With lakhs of visitors annually, the Brindavan Gardens of Mysore, located 24 kilometres from Mysore, is the best illuminated terrace garden in India. Spread across 150 acres of land, the dam provides irrigation facilities to a supply range of more than 1,20,000 acres. 

Musical Fountains-II 

Musical Fountain

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Mysore Chamundeshwari Temple

The main entrance of the Chamundi Temple, Mysore
As one gently walks towards the main entrance of the Devi Chamundeshwari temple, located atop Mysore's Chamundi Hills, one is greeted with the chants of the Sanskrit hymn, 'Mahishasuramardhini Stotram', which glorifies the victory of Goddess Chamundeshwari, the slayer of demon Mahishasura. Not surprisingly, for a city that derives its name from the demon, Devi Chamundeshwari is worshipped as the custodian of Mysore and is also the tutelary deity of the Maharajas of Mysore: the Wodeyars.

Mahishasura, the demon who lends the city its name

With a rich Puranic background, Devi Chamundeshwari is the main subject of the Devi Mahatmyam, which describes the victory of Goddess Durga against Mahishasura. Locals here narrate legends that Mahishasura stayed atop these very hills. The slaying of the demon after an intense nine day war which is recreated through Navratri, results in the hillock gaining its name. The temple is also counted as one of the Shakti Peethams, places of worship which have been consecrated to Goddess Sati, the wife of Lord Shiva. In the Puranas, the Shakti Peethas are described as places where the body parts of Sati's corpse fell when Lord Shiva wandered across the earth in sorrow after her immolation in the sacrificial fire of her father Daksha's yagna. It is widely believed that Sati's hair is said to have fallen here.

Originally built as a small shrine by the Hoysala rulers in the early 12th century, the Chamundi Temple assumed religious prominence when Yaduraya Wodeyar came to rule Mysore in 1399. Having been anointed as the family deity of the Mysore Royal Family, the temple has witnessed a surge of devotees and worshippers. Chamundi Hills, thus, has been a benefactor with the contributions made by three dynasties: the Hoysalas, the Vijayanagar Empire and the Mysore rulers. A common legend that is often narrated within the temple premises concerns Chamaraja Wodeyar, who became bald after a bolt of lightning struck him as he gained entry into the temple in 1573. 

The temple has been built in a quadrangular manner. It consists of the main doorway and an entrance that has been christened as the Navaranga Hall, the Anthrala Mandapa, the sanctum sanctorum and the Prakara. In the Anthrala Mandapa are the images of Lord Ganesha on the left and Bhairava on the right. To the left of Ganesha is a six foot tall statue of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar-III. In the sanctum sanctorum, is the main statue of Goddess Mahishasuramardhini, made of stone and having eight shoulders. Local legends believe that the idol was established here by Sage Markandeya, the author of the Markandeya Purana, of which the Devi Mahatmyam forms a part.

Chamundi Hills is located 13 kilometres east of Mysore on a majestic hillock 3489 feet mean sea level. It offers a breathtaking aerial view of the city. From the base, it is a steep uphill involving 1008 steps and it takes roughly 30 minutes to the reach the summit. With an uneven path and steep steps for the first 650 steps, one is rewarded the spectacular darshan of Nandi, the bull of Lord Shiva and the next 350 steps are comparatively easier. However, for those unwilling to trek up to the temple, there is a direct bus from the City Bus Stand near Devaraja Market that takes you right till the summit of the temple premises.