Although today was a day when we did not make progress on our cycle ride, it was action filled and we did 40km of cycling. So, at 6.30pm, I am exhausted!
Suresh met us at 6.30 and we left to walk up Chamundi Hill, which is 400m above the city and has the wonderful Sri Chamundeswari Temple on the top. Suresh’s nephew, Kiranj, joined us for the walk. It was wonderfully fresh in the morning air as we walked up a road to begin with and then up steps, past some devotees who sang as they climbed (and many young men and women who chatted non-stop whilst they ascended). The views of the city were panoramic beneath us.
‘Chamundi’ or ‘Durga’ has a statute at the top of the hill. It shows the goddess, Mahishasura, slaying a snake-god who was supposed to have killed villagers, thereby making her the goddess to protect Mysore.
The temple has a wonderfully carved edifice, dating back hundreds of years. It basked in the morning light, surrounded by devotees in the same way that it must have looked for many decades. After inspecting the outside of the temple, we drank fresh coconut juice from a coconut vendor who was doing brisk business.
We then walked back down the hill and went back to Suresh’s house where his wife, Sheela, provided a delicious breakfast. It was a major Hindu festival day today, and so the city was full of yellow painted cows who would be later led to jump over burning coals to fulfil the ceremony. However, in advance of this, the painted cows are led around by small boys so the householders can provide food to the cows – a Hindu version of trick or treat where the cow gets the treat.
After that, on Suresh’s advice, we cycling the 17km to Srirangapatnam to see the Sultan Tipu’s Summer Residence, Daria Daulet Bagh. It was built after an Indian battle victory over the British in the Anglo–Mysore Wars which were a series of wars fought in over the last three decades of the 18th century between the Kingdom of Mysore on the one hand, and the British East India Company.
Hyder Ali and his successor Tipu Sultan fought wars against the British whilst other Indian (and French) forces attacked from the north. The Indians were initially successful but the fourth war resulted in the overthrow of the house of Hyder Ali and Tipu (who was killed in battle in 1799) and meant that the East India Company took control of much of India.
The palace was built at a time when Sultan Tipu was successful, in the Indo-Sarcenic style in mostly made of teakwood. It has a rectangular plan and is built on a raised platform. The most stunning feature of the palace is that all the space available on the walls, pillars, canopies and arches have colourful frescoes in the style of Mysore paintings. The outer walls of the palace have frescoes of the battle scenes and portraits.
Hence, this wonderful summer palace represented a brief period of Indian success against the British, but it was short lived. It later became the home of Arthur Wellesley, who was made Duke of Wellington after defeating Napoleon at Waterloo.
So much for history – this was a peaceful summer palace which was open to the elements and so had ventilation to combat the heat. A truly delightful place.
We next cycled to the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary where foreigners where charged 400 rupees to enter (that is nearly £5). It was only 40 rupees for locals! We hesitated at such a high price but then pinched ourselves and paid over the money. Good job we did as we saw a huge variety of wonderful birds and even a crocodile. We sat and watched storks, hundreds of pelicans, cormorants and even a red flycatcher. It was a complete delight.
Then back to Suresh’s house where we met his wife’s cousins and relaxed as we planned the next few days. The hospitality from Suresh and Sheela puts us to shame but it makes us determined to be better hosts when we get back.
A varied and interesting day off the bikes.