Oct 8 2009

I got up early and after a cup of my mum’s very good tea, I thought I’d capture some examples of Mysore’s splendid architecture. To that end, I hailed an auto rickshaw to take me to Crawford Hall, the office of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Mysore. Since architecture was not merely utilitarian in those days, it almost resembles artwork in the buildings in that part of the city, as I hope you’ll observe from the pictures that I present below.

A quick sidebar about traveling in an auto rickshaw (simply called an “auto”). Its arguably the most convenient way of getting around without the hassles of parking (a huge problem city-wide) and without the vagaries of the public transport system and its indifferently documented schedules. To become an auto driver requires a certain willing suspension of fear and the sense of supreme confidence that the path in front of you will always remain clear if you proceed without hesitation. For the uninitiated, there is nothing quite like the first several times one is in an auto and the driver makes a right turn less than 100 yards in front of a bus bearing down in the opposite direction! But after a while, you realise that that’s the system. The bus will slow down just enough to let the little auto bugger get by and the auto driver will for his part, expedite the turn allowing the bus to speed up a bit as the auto completes the turn. Its a wonderful if decidedly insane example of reciprocity at work.

Crawford Hall is the Admissions and Records office of University opf Mysore. It also houses the office of the Vice Chancellor, who is the official head of the university. (The Governor of Karnataka state – formerly Mysore State – is the Chancellor). Crawford Hall is named in honour of Lt. Col. W.L. Crawford and his brother C.S. Crawford who came to India at the ages of 18 and 17 respectively. They both studied in Mysore and became very successful coffee planters in what was then the “Princely State of Mysore” and donated large sums of money to the University.

CH_1A view of Crawford Hall from one end. Notice the sub-Alpine fir tree in the background with the very interesting curvature!

Remember our friend the “Divisional Commissioner” who’s office was abolished and re-established under a different title”?! Well’ he’s now called the “Deputy Commissioner” and shares this beautiful building (called the DCO) with the Office of the District Magistrate. The statue in front of the building is that of Sir James Gordon who was the Commissioner of Mysore when it was a kingdom. Interestingly today, there is no formal title of Commissioner. I have not been able to find out who the DC reports to. I guess only bored former residents with ample spare time bother about details such as these!

Another view of the DCO from the main entrance. Got to love those cast iron gates!

Maha Col_1
The facade of Maharaja’s College. This pioneering institution is the Alma Mater to some of South India’s most noted men of literature notable amongst them, the novelist R.K.Narayan.

Maha Col_2
A close up showing the National Emblem of India mounted on a pillar painted with the colours of the Indian flag.

Metro_1One of my favourite hangouts used to be the bar at “the Metropole”. This luxurious continental hotel has fortunately been declared a “Heritage Site”, so that it will remain a Mysore Institution for years to come. Since it was only 8 AM in the morning, I decided to give the bar (which I doubt would be open anyway) a skip.

Metro_5.JPGNo, I have no idea as to whom they’re surrendering to!

Metro_2Despite its size, the hotel only has 30 rooms 30 rooms and suites furnished with hand crafted antiques.

Metro_4.JPGDuring the cooler months of the year, tables used to be set out on the lawn after dark. One time they had a large friendly Newfie that would go from table to table greeting guests. It must have been the manager’s dog. I never saw him again. The hotel is now run by the Karnataks State Tourism Development Corporation, and while it remains an excellent hotel, I’ve been told that the atmosphere is a lot stuffier and somewhat uptight, inside the hotel. If you show up in jeans and a T-shirt, they’ll serve you just because its technically illegal for them to boot you out, but you’ll get the classic frosty treatment from the staff.

Orient_1The Institute of Oriental Education. I doubt they teach Mandarin there, but having said that, I must plead ignorance as to what goes on within.

Orient_2Mysoreans refer to the building as the “Oriental Library” despite the fact that there is no formal record of, or reference to it by this title!

Rly Circ
“Railway Circle” just outside Mysore’s “Railway Station”. The statue in the middle is that of Jagjivan Ram a pioneer in the movement for Equal Rights for India’s “untouchables”, and quite a colourful character otherwise!

Rly Stn_1I have always had a particular fondness for the quaint little clock atop the tower of Mysore’s Railway Station. Since it did indicate the correct time, I guess the trains certainly don’t have that excuse for being late! The formal name of the railway station is “Mysore Junction”, which is used to refer to any railway station in India where two different tracks intersect.

Rly Stn_2A train must’ve just arrived. Once can buy a “platform ticket” to see people off. However since the clerk clearly stated that photography was not allowed on the platform, I decided not to buy one. Indian transportation systems are understandably on high alert in response to terrorists from across the border in Pakistan supposedly having been sent on reconnaissance missions to spot weak links in transportation security in India.

South Rly BldgThe offices of the Southern Railway System. My (decidedly profligate!) grandfather retired as the Traffic Manager for the company and had an office in this building.

TempleGeorge Carlin once wrote that “the only good thing ever to come out of religion was the music”. I would add architecture. Be it a church, mosque, temple or synagogue, I almost always find something interesting in their construction, even when minimalism is the governing paradigm. Minimalism is certainly not the case in the gopuram of this temple just outside the Mysore Palace.

Chamaraja W
A statue of the great Chamaraja Wodeyar, IX at the centre of Chamaraja Circle adjacent to the palace. Even though he died at the age of 31, his influence on the growth of the kingdom of Mysore was nothing sort of extraordinary. Interestingly his ascension to the the throne was through an instrument known as the “Rendition of Mysore” whereby the English basically handed control of the Kingdom of Mysore over to the British-educated Chamaraja Wodeyar. His heir to the throne was only four when he died, so that his wife served as the Queen Regent until the king came of age, and oversaw the construction of the current Mysore Palace after the old one was destroyed in a fire.

I would have taken more pictures in the area, but my camera’s battery had had enough, so that was sadly, it. I’m leaving in a bit to drive up Chamundi Hill where one gets a spectacular view of almost the entire city and thanks to my brother-in-law’s tripod, I may get a fairly decent night shot as well. I’ll be back.

The drive up Chamundi Hill took about an hour from our flat to the top of the hill. The sun had just about called it a day by the time we started our ascent. So what follows below are snapshots of the city at various times during the drive up the hill. Note that the area that I’ve focused on is the heart of the city and by no means all of Mysore which wraps around the hill.


About two-thirds of the way up the hill is a large stone carving of what’s called a Nandi Bull that is also worshiped as a god, and ironic as it sounds, thats no bull! However given its immense size I’m tempted to say that its also a huge load of bull!

At the top of Chamundi Hill is a statue of the mythological chap Mahishasura for whom the city of Mysore is named. I will let anyone interested in details do their own wiki/google research. I terminated mine when the goofiness meter went off-scale, which when it comes to all matters religious, is early and often. Anyway he looks like he might actually have been fun to have had a couple of beers with, if he could’ve been persuaded to stow the machete and snake beforehand! The legend in a nutshell is that the goddess Chamundi (there are many alternate variations of the name) decided that he should be terminated for reasons that elude me. I sort of feel sorry for the poor bugger – some uptight goddess goes postal over something he did and the next thing you know, its “off with his head”.

My mother and I are off to the Kabini River Lodge about 80 kms away from Mysore tomorrow and we’ll be back on Saturday. There’s a chance that we might actually get to see a tiger in the wild during an elephant safari ride! I don’t know if there’s internet access at the lodge, so I apologise in advance if I’m unable to post a blog entry for Oct 9 on schedule.


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