Mysore — Lights, Camera, Action!

Photo by Anupama A

Dasara is a very important festival in India. Mysore Dasara is extremely important. There is so much action, and the otherwise quiet town is packed to the gills during this time.

The finale is a procession called Jamboo Savari that involves bedecked elephants parading on the streets of Mysore. Definitely a sight to see. I’ve seen it once long ago, and it is etched in my otherwise fragile memory. Especially the part where the lead elephant chose the moment he was passing in front of us to pass stuff out from his behind! Unforgettable!

Looking for Company

For the last few years, Mysore Dasara has also been gaining name and fame for the lighting all over the city. I was really keen to see it. This year, I decided I had to see the lights, come hell or high rain. I had three clear agenda items:

  • Check out the night lights across the city
  • Visit my dodamma (mom’s elder sister)
  • Visit a friend’s house to view the dolls arrangement.
    Dasara is also known as festival of dolls. In a lot of enthusiastic homes, people put up multiple steps and arrange dolls for everyone to come and see. The collections and the arrangements are pretty darn awesome!

For all this, I needed good company. I am not much for solo traveling, yet! I need someone by my side to say ‘yes, indeed’, when I gush over the sights, smells, and sounds of wherever I am traveling to.

I had a plan A, B, C, D, and E figured out to make this work. As expected, plans A to D failed miserably. Plan E was fail safe, and it worked. Plan E involved a school friend who owns a car, loves driving, and absolutely loves traveling. And before I could say, ‘let’s go’, the travel group had swollen in size to 5! Yay! Mysore, here we come!

The plan was really simple. Leave on Sunday morning, and head back to Bangalore by Monday evening. Mysore is a 3-hour drive from Bangalore, and this is easily doable.

An Epic Journey

After some argument about the time of departure, all 5 of us gathered at one house to embark on this epic journey. But not before we had an amazing cup of piping hot coffee at the house we gathered at. This was going to be a good trip, filled with good coffee!!

I say epic journey because we spent most of the journey towards Mysore discussing the epic Mahabharata. Discussing is a mild word. We fought a lot — about right and wrong, and all the pivotal characters in the epic.

Brekkie at Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan. Photo by Anupama A

Stopped for a quick brekkie on the Mysore-Bangalore highway at a place called Udupi Sri Krishna Bhavan. They had amazing vadas, and dosas, and coffee! The Mysore-Bangalore Highway is filled with delightful eateries with clean restrooms. A traveler is spoiled for choice on this route.

The friend whose car we were in, is an avid traveler whose sole aim during the whole trip was to show us as many places as possible. Before we realized what was happening, a 4th agenda item was snuck in, and it was worth it.

The car owner drove up a small hill called Karighatta that offered beautiful green views of the world below. It was still early in the morning. The Sun was kind, and the wind was loving! We soaked in the atmosphere, and sugarcane juice, and lemon soda — we are sponges apparently!

Photo by Anupama A

Then we visited the Srinivasa temple on the hill top. There is something about these old temples. They are super cool inside, and you feel calm when you enter them. Peaceful.

Photo by Anupama A

After this unexpected pit stop, we arrived at Mysore. I dropped off to visit my Doddamma, and the rest took off to visit another landmark called Chamundi Temple. I spent a glorious few hours with my Doddamma, and heard some stories from the past. You can read an interesting one about How I had a ‘Back to the Future’ moment.

Lights, People, Lights, More People

By the time the group got back from Chamundi Temple, freshened up, and arrived to pick me up, the lights around the city were burning bright. Couldn’t help but ooh and aah at how all the streets were lit up. Each street had a different kind of light. It is difficult to describe the beauty here, and the photos won’t do justice. You must see for yourself.

Photo by Anupama A

We drove around for a bit, and then headed out to visit the Mysore Palace. The palace is illuminated in the evening on all days. Surely, it would be a treat during Dasara? We decided to find out.

Lost and Found

Visiting the palace was easier said than done. There was no way to reach there by car. Two of the group decided to find a parking spot and join us near the palace. So we split up. Big mistake!

Three of us waded through truckloads of tourists to reach the palace. I had to literally hang on to the shirt sleeves of the others so as to not be separated by the burgeoning crowds. However, when we reached within viewing range of the palace, the crowds melted away. Our eyes could only drink in the beauty of the illuminated palace. What a magnificent structure! How royal it looked! How the kings and queens of days gone by must have lived…

Mysore Palace. Photo by Anupama A
Temple inside the Mysore Palace. Photo by Anupama A

After feasting on the palace for sometime, we decided it was time to reunite with the other two. We called them. They were almost there. We called them again. They said they were inside the palace. Then we spent the next hour calling each other, calling out landmarks such as red truck, singing lady, and so on. Nothing helped. We were literally a 100 meters away from each other, but were hopelessly lost. We considered asking cops to help. But we weren’t sure we would be able to locate the same cops again. So we gave up on that idea. We simply could not locate the other group. 1 tiring hour later, we were reunited.

Pro Tip: If you are traveling as a group, stick to the group! Maybe even tether yourselves to each other in such crowded places.

Since we had lost so much time, we spent the next half hour doing something very useful — clicking selfies!

Walking and Driving round

We started our trek back to where the car was parked. It was eventful because there was so much to see on the way too. Like this surreal sight of a pack of back-lit smilies…

Photo by Anupama A

We saw these intricate patterns of rangoli made using stencils. Such a visual treat. The roadside vendor was selling stencils, and this was his marketing ploy to attract us to buy those stencils.

Rangoli patterns using stencils. Photo by Anupama A

By this time, it was almost 11 pm. We found some place that was still serving dinner, and then set out for a drive. Mysore is a calm city. The roads are wide, and tree-lined, and you will see a lot of old buildings all over the city. At night, it was a pleasure to drive around those quiet roads. Bangalore is a city that never sleeps. But thankfully, Mysore sleeps at night. We played some gentle music in the car, and drove around quietly. There was nothing to be said. All of us were just enjoying the blissful drive.

Dolls, Hundreds of Them

Next morning, we had one major agenda, eating dosas at a famous eatery called Mahadeshwara Original Mylari Hotel. Why such a complex name? Since this place is so famous, there are many copies of the hotel. Hence the need to call out the original :). Funnily enough, all the copy hotels also had the word Original in their name boards.

The hotel itself is so tiny that hardly 20 people can eat at the same time. No lounge bar this. You eat those melt-in-the-mouth dosas, and make way for the next batch of people waiting outside! Try it!

After that, we absolutely had to go to this place called Bombe Mane, which translates into Dolls House. What a sight this shop was! We spent the next 2–3 hours browsing through their collection of dolls. 2–3 hours isn’t enough. But we ran out of time.

Bombe Mane. Photo by Anupama A

We had to drag ourselves out of the shop since we had to visit our friend’s home, and see their doll arrangement.

We were talking to the ladies in the house, and learnt that it takes them a good part of 2–3 days to unpack, set up the stands for the dolls, and arrange them. Packing them and putting them away carefully until next year is a whole different activity. Most of these dolls are made of paper mache and are easily breakable.

Photo by Anupama A

After this, we visited a couple more aunts of various members of the 5-member tour group. This was mandatory because if we didn’t visit them, they would be highly auntagonized, and who can manage that!! Finally, we headed towards Bangalore. Another interesting incident happened on the way involving a couple of pups. Read it if you are a dog lover.

Too soon, we reached the house where we had originally gathered, and ended with yet another round of selfies in this beauty. We couldn’t resist. She was waiting for us by the gate.

Photo by Anupama A

This story is published in Writers on the Run. If you’re interested in submitting your travel stories please visit our submission guidelines.

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