There’s more to Mysuru than the Wadiyar palace, Mysore Pak or Mysore masala dosa. A visit to the city can be a happy blend of active and laidback, with a little thuppa (ghee) and benne (butter) thrown in to satiate the palate.
Start the day at 5.30a.m. with a climb up the 1,000 steps to the top of Chamundi Hill and enjoy breath-taking views of the city. Alternatively, a cycling tour of the city at 6.30a.m. with Gully Tours is a great way to pack in some activity even as you discover trivia about the city and its people. Another unmissable experience is the flower auction at the Devaraja Market at 5a.m that’s attended by farmers from the neighbouring regions.
If you’re lucky, you’ll not have a long wait for breakfast at MTR 1924. Else, head to one of the many Mylari hotels. Tuck into a decadent butter masala dosa or partake of chow-chow bath with its set portions of sweet sheera and savoury rava upma. Many Mysureans relish bisi bele bath garnished with khara boondi as breakfast. With idlis, you get to decide if you want it as ‘dip’ (read ‘dunked’ in sambar), or ‘sep-separate-a’ as sambar separately served is called! Save some space for coffee.
Built in 1861, and renovated in 2019, the Jaganmohan Palace houses the Sri Jayachamarajendra Art Gallery. It has a large collection including originals by Raja Ravi Varma and Roerich, as well as S.L. Haldankar’s famed ‘Glow of Hope’ that is commonly misattributed to Raja Ravi Varma. If it does work, the French Musical Calendar clock may be worth your while to wait for the hour to strike to see a stream of miniature soldiers march across a panel recessed above the clock face.
Feast on a Kodava or Mangalorean cuisine lunch at Simply Kodavas or Bopy’s. Their chicken and pork specialties can be mopped up with soft akki rotis and neer dosa, or ghee rice, steamed kadambuttus (rice balls) and sannas (rice cakes). For vegetarians, there are sumptuous thalis at eateries such as Green Leaf, Green Food Court, or Shree Guru Residency that include pooris, a side dish, and a variety of accompaniments. Feel free to ask for an extra cup of saaru (rasam). And yes, an afternoon siesta is as much part of the Mysuru experience!
Established in 1979, the Mysuru Rail Museum can convert even an uninterested visitor into a rail-geek. Apart from the many locomotives on display in the garden, the museum also houses the lovingly restored personal coach of the Wadiyar Maharani. A toy train that runs every 30 minutes, a tower with views of the city, and a play area are all big draws for children. Grab a cup of tea at the pantry car, and head on over for your date with the sunset.
“I would sit on a bench on the tank and watch the sun’s performance, the gradual fading of the colours in the sky, and the emergence of the first single star at dusk.” R.K. Narayan gushed about Kukkarahalli Kere in his autobiography, My Days. The manmade lake was built in 1864 with a 5 kilometer walking track around it. It is centrally located and has free entry. There’s also Karanji Kere near the Mysuru Zoo, with its 90 hectares, including the lake itself, the Regional Museum of Natural History, and a butterfly park. Do enquire at Gully Tours about an early morning bird-watching visit to Ranganthittu in the winter.
Embark on a street food trail of Mysuru with one of the local walking tours – the keyword is thindi beedhi (eat street). Else, drop by at one of the cafes and artisan food outlets in and around the yoga hub that is Gokulam. There’s the wildly popular SAPA Bakery that is moving to its new premises soon, Minimal Coffee Roasters, and vegan-friendly outlets such as Depth N Green. These outlets serve anything from kombucha and matcha tea to baklava buns and parathas.
If you are in Mysore over a weekend night, there’s no better way to wind down the day than to watch the palace in all its illuminated grandeur. It’s also a good time to dwell in the quandary of how many spongy set dosas would be too many for next morning’s breakfast.
Saritha Rao Rayachoti loves stories, afternoon naps and wild goose chases for vegetarian food in strange lands. During the pandemic, she is known to have scratched her travel itch by living out of a pink suitcase called Rosie, named after the character in R.K. Narayan's 'The Guide'.