Mysore – The Cultural Capital of Karnataka
“Mysore” or “Mysuru” is Karnataka’s third largest city with respect to population. A touch of beauty can be seen in everything that is related to Mysore. The historic importance and the rich cultural heritage makes it one of the major visited tourist spots in India.
The city’s uniqueness lies in its exceptional artisanship, colorful festivals, stunning gardens and its magnificent palaces. For many centuries, all the religions have lived in harmony with each other. Even under the Wodeyars and the Vijayanagar Empire, the kings always encouraged all cultures and religions without discrimination.
Peace and harmony are the two factors that have helped the city grow into a popular cosmopolitan city today. The bonding between the people of different faiths and culture helped in cultural growth of this city. The rulers played a vital role in the past in creating the distinct and unique style known as “Mysore Style”. The name of the city is very commonly used in every product that are uniquely manufactured here. Even after being a modern city, Mysore still holds its culture and tradition strongly.
Referred to as Karnataka’s cultural capital, Mysore is famous for its state festival Dasara. Dasara, which was first started by King Raja Wodeyar I in 1610 is celebrated for ten days. Procession of decorated horses, elephants and camels can be seen on ‘Mahanavami’ or the ninth day of the festival along with the worshipping of the royal sword. Vijayadashami or the tenth day of the festival is celebrated by holding the traditional Dasara procession in the streets. The idol of the Chamundeshwari goddess is carried on a decorated elephant’s back on a golden Mandapa from the Mysore Palace to Bannimantapa followed by the worshipping of the banni tree. This whole procession is accompanied by dance groups, tabla, decorated elephants, music bands, camels and horses. A torchlight parade known as Panjina Kavayatthu is held on the night of the tenth day of Dasara or the Vijayadasami. Various dance and music concerts are held all over the city on all the ten days of the festival which includes performance of various artists from all over the country. Kusti Spardhe or Wrestling-bouts are also conducted which acts as a major attraction among the wrestlers.
Dasara exhibition is another major attraction which takes place in the ground just opposite to the Palace. Starting from Dasara, this exhibition continues till December. People from various parts of India come here during this period. Eatables, cosmetics, kitchenware, plastic items, clothes etc. are sold in this exhibition. Rides such as Ferris wheel are organized inside the ground. Besides all these, stage shows are conducted every day to entertain the people.
Known as ‘City of Palaces’ because of the numerous ornate examples it holds, Mysore has several palaces of wonder. In 1897, the main palace was burned down. Later it was reconstructed on the same place. Architecture of Indo-Saracenic style can be seen on the exterior and the distinct Hoysa style is exhibited in the interior of the place. Most of the palace is maintained by the government leaving a small part for the royal family. Jayalakshmi Vilas acts as a museum dedicated to the artifacts and the culture of the royal family.
The Mysore painting style largely came from the Vijayanagar school of painting. Raja Wodeyar is also given credit for it. Gesso work or the use of gold foil is one of the distinctive features these paintings exhibit. Mysore is also popular for its rosewood inlay work. Over four thousand craftsmen give face to this art. Mysore silk saree, made with gold thread (zari) and pure silk is popular worldwide. Men can be seen wearing a traditional turban known as Mysore Peta in some ceremonies. This city is also famous for Mysore Pak, the recipe of which came from the kitchen of the palace.
The international Ganjifa Research Centre, located in this cultural city conducts research related to the art associated with Ganjifa, an ancient card game. Education in art history, photojournalism, photography, applied art, sculpture, graphics and painting is offered by CAVA or Chamarajendra academy of Visual Arts. Courses in theatre related subjects are offered by the Rangayana repertory company.
Famous Kannada writers such as Gopalakrishna Adiga, Kuvempu, U. R. Anathamurthy got educated in Mysore and also served the Mysore University as professors. The popular English novelist R. K. Narayan who created Malgudi (a fictional town) and his brother R. K. Laxman, the famous cartoonist spent a large portion of their life in Mysore. World renowned violin maestros, Dr. Mysore Nagaraj and Dr. Mysore Manjunath also known as the Mysore brothers added more feathers to the golden crown of this beautiful city.