Monday, July 23, 2012

Mysore - Palaces, Yoga And More


We left Bangalore one cool, cloudy afternoon, via the Tipu express train, which brought us to Mysore in two and a half hours.  I had packed a few clothes, a bag of dried cherries, some water and a couple of books to read.  Quite by chance both books began with train journeys.  I picked out one at random as I settled into my seat and began a delightful journey within a journey.  I had selected 'The Box of Delights' (or 'The Wolves Are Running'), by John Masefield - a wondrous action-packed tale with beautiful illustrations (by his daughter, Judith Masefield).  So engrossed was I in this book that I barely noticed the scenes outside, which changed from towns to villages, fields, rivulets and back to towns as the train moved on.


We were accompanying a friend who was staying in one of the palace hotels in Mysore.  Mysore, ruled earlier by a dynamic and visionary Maharaja, has a number of palaces strewn about the city.  The main Mysore palace (residence of the royal family and partly open to tourists for viewing) is a large and imposing structure but I have never found the interior particularly interesting.  The smaller palaces have been converted into hotels (a few years ago we stayed at the charming, medium-budget Green Hotel and this year we were at the more upscale Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel).  This hotel is run by the government, which accounts for its relaxed, easy atmosphere and the fact that there are expanses of lawns and open space left untouched.  The rooms are not ultra-modern but they are comfortable in an old fashioned way, the food and service are extremely pleasant.  More than anything, the atmosphere created within this venerable, old building with its solid wooden beams and carved marble staircases is unique.  The palace lies at the edge of the city and looks upon the green and peaceful stretch of the Chamundi hills.  This is clearly a place to unwind and 'veg out'.


Veg out we did.  Every afternoon, we would take a nap, then sit outside on the private verandah that overlooked a small scenic swimming pool.  The only problem here (as in many places in India) was monkeys - they were aggressive and threatened to come into the room, so one had to keep an eye out for them.  In the evenings, we walked on the lawns that were filled with frangipani and hibiscus trees.  After dinner, we would retire to our room to get ready for an early start.



Mornings were reserved for yoga - the main reason we had come.  Our teacher M.S. Vishwanath (or Masterji as he is called) has a pleasant and peaceful studio in Lakshmipuram.  We would head there early morning, passing by a wholesale vegetable market, with much horn blowing to get the vendors and carts to give us room on the road and eventually make our way to the yoga studio.  We practiced asanas from 6 to 8.30, returned to the hotel for breakfast and then went back to the class at 11, for an hour of pranayama.  At the end of the class we would stay back and talk a little - catch up on news, ask questions, clear some doubts and then return to the hotel for a wholesome lunch.  It was a deeply satisfying beginning to the day.

Each time we left or returned to the hotel, there was some small excitement in store.  We returned once by auto with a driver who pretended to be a Kannada film star and drove with blaring music and swerving moves.  One morning we shared the only available auto with the oldest guide in the Mysore palace who had also volunteered for many disaster rescue missions and heard his stories along the way.  The next morning we booked a taxi and could not find our driver anywhere.  We then decided to walk down to the main road and eventually came across him, curled up, fast asleep in one corner of the palace grounds.  That afternoon, we returned to find much excitement at the palace doorstep - a Kannada film was being shot with terrific noise and fanfare, with yesteryear actors in resplendent form.  The next morning I watched a bashful middle aged couple taking a romantic buggy ride in the horse drawn carriage of the hotel.  At night, I observed two Japanese tourists ordering gigantic thali dinners in the dining hall, happily eating the spicy vegetables, the milky sweets and the fried poories while we delicately dipped into our caramel custards.  




This was our schedule for the two days that we spent in Mysore.  The days sped by (faster than the wolves in my book) though the memory of undisturbed yoga sessions, cloud swept hills, fragrant grass and flowers, sleepy balconies and large meals remains.

12 comments:

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