The Cultural Capital of Karnataka

Mysuru is aptly called cultural capital of Karnataka. The Dussehra festivities attract tourists from not only India but across the globe. Life is a leisure in the city and it’s called pensioner’s paradise. The sheer beauty of the town, its culture, history and heritage structures mesmerise you. It’s a lifetime experience to visit the city and enjoys its calmness, beauty and vitality.

Mysore, officially renamed as Mysuru in 2014, is known as cultural capital of Karnataka. It is well known for the festivities that take place during the Dushhara. The grandeur and scale of this festival in Mysuru are unimaginable. You got to see this to believe it. The festival is celebrated across India but in Mysuru it has a significance that is unmatched.  The celebration was first started by the king Wadiyar 1 in 1610. The last two days of the festival is a lifetime memory to watch.

Mahanavmi and Vijayadashmi, that is ninth and tenth day of the festival are most important. On the ninth day, the royal sword is worshipped and is taken in a procession of wonderfully decorated elephants, camels and horses. The tenth day that is Vijayadashmi a huge procession is taken out which is locally known as ‘ Jumboo Savari’. The procession starts from historical Mysuru palace. The idol of goddess Chamundeshwari, placed on a golden mandap on the back of an elephant is accompanied by table, dancing troops, music bands and a sea of masses. It culminates at a pace called Bannimantapa where a tree is worshipped and it culminates with a torchlight procession locally known as ‘PanjinaKavayatthu.’ There is a huge history and reasons that Mysuru is called the cultural capital of Karnataka today.

 

The legend associated with the name Mysuru

The name itself is an anglicized version of ‘Mahishuru’. In vernacular Kannada, it means the place where Mahisha lived. Mahishasura, as we all know, is a mythical demon who could assume both forms that of human and buffalo. The mythology is that he ruled the ancient parts of Mysore kingdom. In Sanskrit, the place is known as Mahishaka which is centred at Mahishapura. The legend is that he was killed by goddess Chamundeshwari whose temple is still situated at the top of Chamundi hills. From Mahishapura it later became Mahisuru. The royal family of Mysuru still uses this name for the place. Later during the British period, it was named Mysore. Later the Karnataka government changed the name again and now it is known as Mysuru.

 

Revisiting History

Mysuru served as the capital city of Kingdom of Mysore for nearly six centuries from 1399 to 1956. The kingdom was ruled by Wadiyar dynasty. Their rule was disrupted by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan in the eighteenth century. But the Wodeyars were patrons of art and culture and promoted it significantly in the state. That was the reason the city earned the sobriquet of cultural capital of Karnataka. Mysuru palace, where it stands now, was once occupied by a village named Puragere. The Mahishuru fort was constructed in 1524 by ChamarajaWodeyar III. It took almost a century for the kingdom to become a sovereign ‘state’. In the 17th century, Wodeyar expanded their territory and annexed large parts of territory what is now known as southern Karnataka and parts of Tamilnadu to become a powerful state in southern Deccan. In the latter half of the 18th century, the kingdom reached the height of its military power under the aegis of the ruler Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. During this period, the kingdom came into conflict with Marathas, the British and the Nizam of Golconda. It led to four wars. After Tipu Sultan’s death in fourth Anglo-Mysore wars, the British distributed the kingdom to their allies. The former Wodeyar rulers were reinstated as puppet monarchs.Mysuru lost its status as administrative capital in 1831 when British commissioner moved the capital to Bengaluru but regained it in 1881. It remained the capital till India became independent in 1947.

 

The city

Mysuru, as it is known today, is the third most populous city of Karnataka located in the foothills of Chamundi hills. The city has a population of about nine lakh and is spread over an area of about hundred and thirty kilometres. The city is known for its heritage structures including the majestic Mysuru palace. The Wodeyars promoted art and culture in the city and state during their time and patronized it. It’s the cultural environment that earned the city sobriquet ‘cultural capital of Karnataka’. it receives a huge number of tourists from not only India but across the globe during Dussehra festivities. From cultural activities to art form and even other products are famous as the city lends its name to them. While Mysore Dasara and Mysore painting are famous for its rich cultural heritage, mouth-watering Mysore Pak and Mysore Dosa is known for their unique taste. The city is not far behind in fashion as well. Mysore Peta and Mysore silk sarees are an instant hit with the people. Cosmetic brand such as Mysore Sandal Soap and Mysore Ink are quite popular across the cross-section.

 

Places to visit

Mysore has a quaint charm that appeals to you because of its rich cultural and historical heritage. Srirangpatna, de facto capital of Mysore during the rule of Tipu Sultan and Haider Ali has many palaces, forts and mosques dating back to the era. There is a Tipu Sultan memorial once you enter the place and has a plaque that says ‘ The body of Tipu Sultan was found here’. Built in 894, Ranganathaswamy temple is a sanctum of Lord Vishnu. It has undergone various renovations under successive rulers. But the summer palace of Tipu Sultan known as ‘ DariyaDaulatBagh’  is the biggest attraction in Srirangpatna. The palace symbolises Indo-Islamic architecture and was built of the teak way back in the 18th century. The palace is set amidst well spruced lawns and is lined with flower beds. Inside the palace, you see the rich oil paintings depicting the victory of Tipu Sultan and Haider Ali over British. St. Philomena’s church is one of the oldest in Mysuru. It’s more than two-hundred-year-old. It was a small church but later it was expanded by Wodeyar III. Once the city was conferred the honour of being capital city Christian population flogged to the city and hence it was expanded. It’s undeniably a visual delight. Last but not the least, in the heart of the city is situated Mysore palace. Its one of the most fascinating and imposing architectures. It’s a perfect blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture. The exterior of the palace resembles Islamic architecture, the interior is a reflection of Hindu architectural norms.

Not to miss is the famous Chamundeshwari temple at the top of Chamundi hills. Situated at three thousand feet one needs to climb thousands of steps to reach there. Designed in Dravidian fashion the shrine is an attractive structure with seven storied tall tower adorned with beautiful engravings. Brindavan gardens located at a distance of twenty kilometres from Mysuru is a place one must pay a visit to. The lawn and illuminated dancing and fountains have enhanced the beauty of the garden. Not so surprising that the garden has provided a backdrop for many movies.

 

 Life as Leisure

Aptly called ‘pensioner’s paradise’ life in Mysuru is slow and enjoyable both for them who live there and tourists who frequent the city. The calmness of the city echoes through your mind. It’s an ideal destination if you love history and want to experience some reality. A splash of nature, a lot of history and a sea of cultures that make Mysuru what it is and shall remain so.

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