Start the day with a walk around Kukkara Halli Kere ('Kere' is Lake in Kannada, the local language). This man-made lake near the Mysore University was created in 1864 and is home to more than 180 species of birds like Painted Stork, Little Grebe, White breasted Kingfisher, Ibis, Purple Moorhen, Cormorants, Common Coot, Herons . There is a walkway that skirts the lake, making it a 4.5 km long walk. Open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Drive through the old parts of the city around the Palace to get a feel for the architecture. Some interesting structures are the clock tower in the Town Hall, the Law Courts, Crawford Hall, Mysore University campus, the Metropole, K.R.Hospital, K.R. Circle, Gun House etc.
The Mysore palace was designed by British architect, Henry Irwin and built in the Indo-Saracenic style. It is the seat of the Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore. During the spectacular 10-day Dussehra festival in September/October, the Palace and the city come vibrantly alive. Pick up an audio-guide and saunter through the various rooms with their exhibits. Absorb the grandeur of the Courtyard, the Private Audience Room, the Public Durbar Hall and the Marriage Hall. The Mysore Palace is open on all days from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.On weekends and festival days, the Mysore Palace is illuminated between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Also known as Chamarajendra Zoological Garden, the Mysore Zoo is one of the oldest in the country with a fascinating collection of fauna including some rare species. The Mysore zoo is open from 8.30am to 5.30pm on all days except Tuesday.
JAGAN MOHAN ART GALLERY
Also known as the Chamarajendra Art Gallery, it houses a wonderful collection of exhibits collected by the Mysore royal family including art by Raja Ravi Varma and Svetoslav Roerich. Don't miss Woman with the Lamp (also called Glow of Hope) by S.L. Haldankar and the French clock with its parade of miniature soldiers that comes out to mark the hour. The gallery is open daily from 8.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
ST. PHILOMENA'S CATHEDRAL
Inspired by Germany's Cologne Cathedral, the exquisite St. Philomena's Cathedral was built in the Neo-Gothic style. The cathedral is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Situated just outside Mysore city, Chamundi Betta (Betta is the Kannada word for hill) is best visited at dusk for the views it offers. The temple of resident deity Chamundeshwari attracts pilgrims here who ascended the hill by a vehicle or by a separate foot path. Other attractions include giant statues of Mahishasura (a demon who was slayed by the goddess Chamundeshwari) and Nandi (the bull who is the mount of Lord Shiva).
Shop for Mysore Silk sarees at the Silk Factory and for artefacts at the Government-run Cauvery Handicrafts outlets.
Catch a performance at Rangayana, an open-air theatre that hosts cultural festivals. Check local listings.
Try the Akki Roti (Rice Flour pancake), Vangibhath (Spiced Aubergines Rice), Bisi Bele Bhath (Spicy tamarind-jaggery-pulse rice), obbattu or holige (yellow gram with coconut or jaggery stuffed in thin chapattis) and Mysore Pak (brittle or soft dessert of chickpea flour and sugar). Note: Most eateries close as early as 9 p.m. in Mysore.
(an edited version appeared in the March 2010 Issue of Culturama, formerly At A Glance. Pic by author)