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Heritage Resources

People and Culture

As a princely state, Mysore came to be counted among the more modern and urbanized regions of India. This period (1799–1947) also saw Mysore emerge as one of the country's important centres of art and culture, generally regarded as the cultural capital of the state. Many great musicians, composers, dancers and Sanskrit scholars were patronized by the Mysore kings.

The kings of Mysore also laid a strong foundation for communal harmony by making generous contributions towards religious centres of all religions. The Hindu community is the largest religious community in the city. Muslims form another prominent community in the city and there is a sizeable population of Jains as well.

Melukote, situated northeast of Mysore, houses the famous and holy shrine of Sri Vaishnavites and a centre for learning Sanskrit. The town rose to cultural and religious importance in the 12th century, when the great South Indian philosopher and teacher Sri Ramanuja lived here. Nandi the Bull (on the Chamundi Hills) is one of the most important Vaishnavite centers of pilgrimage in south India. The temple here was built by the Ganga dynasty rulers of the area in the 9th century.

The ultimate expression of celebrating the city’s culture takes place during the 10-day Dushera festivity that is synonymous with Mysore. The Dushera festivities were first introduced by King Raja Wodeyar I in 1610. On the ninth day, called Mahanavami, the royal sword is worshipped and is taken on a procession comprising decorated elephants, camels and horses. On the tenth day, called Vijayadashami, the traditional Dushera procession (locally known as Jumboo Savari) is held in the streets of Mysore, with the procession of the Maharaja on elephant-back through the streets of the city. Today the celebrations have the same pomp and splendour though with some minor changes. Now the royal elephant carries the golden idol of goddess Chamundeshwari in the splendid procession. The idol of the goddess is placed on a golden mantapa on the back of a decorated elephant and taken on a procession accompanied by tableaux, dance groups, music bands, decorated elephants, horses and camels.The procession starts from the Mysore Palace and culminates at a place called Bannimantapa where the banni tree (Prosopis spicigera) is worshipped. The Dushera festivities culminate on the night of Vijayadashami with a torchlight parade (locally known as Panjina Kavayatthu). The celebration not only includes religious ceremonies but also the decoration of houses, display of dolls and distribution of sweets to neighbours and children. The residents of Mysore have celebrated Dushera in this manner for decades.

Yugadi is another popular festival, considered as the New Year's Day in Kannada tradition. It falls in late March or early April and is celebrated all over Karnataka. The Rajyotsava Day is celebrated on 1 November every year. This day marks the formation of the States of Karnataka. Apart from this, other state festivals celebrated here are the Coorg festival, Hampi/Vijayanagar festival and the Hoysala festival. These festivals celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Karnataka.

The continuous patronage and support of the kings in various cultural and artistic fields led to the evolution of a distinct style known as the Mysore Style in painting, architecture, music and poetry. Over a period of time as this culture spread far and wide it was prefixed with the word "Mysore" to identify the unique cultural heritage. The city lends its name to the best quality jasmine flowers, referred to as “Mysooru Maligae” (Mysore jasmine). The city also lends its name to the Mysore silk sari, a ladies' garment made with pure silk and gold zari. Mysore is also associated with research into the ancient card game ganjifa and the art associated with it, due to the presence of the International Ganjifa Research Centre in the city.


Built Heritage

The architectural style of heritage buildings in Mysore can be classified as Indo-Sarcenic, traditional Hindu, Greco-Roman, Gothic and the European classical styles. All temples in Mysore exhibit the traditional Hindu style of architecture. Each temple has a garbhagruha, sukanasi, navaranga and mukhamantapa. The agrahara houses are another example of traditional style with a simple but functional structure placed shoulder to shoulder with shared masonry walls.

Some of the famous palaces in the city are Amba Vilas, popularly known as Mysore Palace, Jagamohan Palace, Rajendra Vilas( also known as the Summer Palace), Lalitha Mahal and Jayalakshmi Vilas. The city's main palace, Amba Vilas is a classic example of the Indo-Saracenic style, though the interior is a distinctly Hoysala style of architecture. The original complex was destroyed by fire and a new palace was commissioned at the same site by the Queen-Regent and designed by the English architect Henry Irwin in 1897. The overall design is a combination of Hindu, Islamic and Moorish architectural styles and represents the first use of cast iron columns and roof frames in India.

The Jaganmohan Palace is a three-storey building with attractive domes, finials and cupolas and was the venue of many a royal celebration. It is now called the Chamarajendra Art Gallery and houses a rich collection of artifacts. The Lalitha Mahal Palace was built in 1921 by E.W. Fritchley under the commission of Maharaja Krishnaraja IV. The architectural style is Renaissance and exhibits concepts from English manor houses and Italian palazzos. The central dome is believed to be modelled on St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Other important features are the Italian marble staircase, the polished wooden flooring in the banquet and dance halls, and the Belgian cut-glass lamps.

The Mysore University campus, also called Manasa Gangotri, is home to several architecturally interesting buildings. Some of them are in the western architectural style and were completed in the late 19th century. They include the Jayalakshmi Vilas mansion, the Crawford Hall, and the Oriental Research Institute (built between 1887 and 1891) with its Ionic and Corinthian columns. The Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion was constructed by Sri Chamaraja Wodeyar for his daughter Jayalakshammanni. It is now a museum dedicated to folk culture. The City Corporation building is another typical example of Indo-Saracenic style.

The Deputy Commissioner’s Office (Dewan’s Kacheri) Chaluvamba Park (CFTRI) and the Krishnaraja Hospital are classic examples of Greco-Roman architectural style. In Greco-Roman structures a dome rising on a drum (circular, octagonal, etc.) dominates the elevation. The column styles could be Tuscan, Ionic and Corinthian; arched and pilastered colonnades form the two wings. St. Philomena’s Cathedral and Hardwick Church are good examples of the Gothic architectural style. Spires or long tapering roof-like elongated pyramids that are commonly found in churches are the typical characteristics of Gothic style. The main hall or nave with multiple moulded columns culminates in stately arches which guide the eye to the vaults. The altar is set against arched screens of stone works which are in harmony with the arched vertical lines and tapering vaults of the structure. The Government House and Yelval Residency are typical examples of European Classical-style structures, reflecting restrained aesthetics devoid of external elements. They have vast garden settings with an elegant approach on the front side. They usually consist of a central atrium leading to a banquet hall, with elegant rooms on either side. These structures have an elegant portico.


Natural Heritage

Situated at the foot of the Chamundi hills and close to the city is the serene Karanji Lake. This is a haven for more than 90 species of resident as well as migratory birds and also houses India's largest walkthrough aviary. On the banks of the lake is the Regional Museum of Natural History. With the Chamundi hills in the backdrop, the museum provides a unique opportunity to explore nature and the natural world through a variety of media including audio-video aids, diorama, and thematic, interactive and participatory exhibits. Away from the main road on the Mysore route, there are two beautiful small waterfalls, popular spots for students and nature lovers. There is also an ancient Ganesh temple in the vicinity.

In the heart of the Mysore University campus is a beautiful lake surrounded by a park, frequently visited by bird watchers, water sport enthusiasts and nature lovers. Varieties of migratory birds visit the lake during winter. In Sriramapura, about eight kilometres from the city centre, is another scenic lake that accommodates myriad varieties of migratory birds.


Literature, Arts and Crafts

Several Kannada works have references to Mysore. But it is the famous Kannada work, Kantirava Narasaraja Vijaya, written in 1648, which gives a beautiful description of Mysore. Poet Govinda Vaidya, the author, describes King Kantirava Narasaraja Wadiyar as "Maisoora Narasarajendra". He exhorts the beauty of "Maisooru", the "Sriman Mahabalachala" (Sri Mahabaladri Hills), "Bettada Chamundi" (Goddess Chamundi atop the hills), and the Palace, the fort, the streets, the parks and the people in the town of Mysore. The very first chapter is dedicated to this beautiful description, the landmarks of which are to be found even today. Similar references to Mysore are also found in Kannada classics like Chikka Devendra Vamshavali (1680), Soundara Kavya of Noorondayya (1740) and Krishnaraja Vilasa (1815). Notable Kannada littérateurs Kuvempu, Gopalakrishna Adiga and U.R. Ananthamurthy have had a long association with Mysore, partly because they had their education there and also served as professors at the Mysore University. The famous English novelist and creator of Malgudi, R. K. Narayan and his brother and cartoonist R. K. Laxman spent much of their life in Mysore.

Mysore is a modern city famous in the world for its sandalwood, rosewood inlay work, stone sculptures, incense sticks, inlay work with ivory and its exquisite silk saris. An estimated 4,000 craftsmen are involved in rosewood inlay. The Jaganmohan Palace was converted into an art gallery in 1875 and has since exhibited paintings which date back to that period. The artists of that time used natural vegetable and mineral dyes. The Mysore painting style is an offshoot of the Vijayanagar school of painting. King Raja Wodeyar (1578-1617) is credited with having been the patron for this style of painting. The distinctive feature of these paintings is the gesso work in which gold foils are pasted onto the painting. These traditional Mysore gold leaf paintings are exhibited in this gallery, as are oil paintings of contemporary artist like Raja Ravi Varma and Svetoslav Roerich.