New Gayathri Bhavan – Rs16/-
I’d like to rhyme Mysore with eyesore – there I’ve done it – but that’s undeserving. This town has an order and affluence that I’ve rarely seen elsewhere. While obviously used to visitors and tourists – witness the various arts emporia and street hawkers with a napkin display old bangles and coins – there is no pressure to purchase.
In fact, there is little focus on strangers, and there must be many judging by the range of lodging houses and hotels. But any town which can boast of shops with window displays behind plate glass, ice cream parlours and sumptuous arrays of scrumptious sweets and cakes cannot be dependent on the whim of a passing stranger like me.
The Maharajah’s palace cost £5.5 million to construct in 1912. Few, other than the heirs of J. Paul Getty, can afford that kind of gesture today.
There’s a colourful marriage hall with a stained glass peacock motifed canopy from Belgium supported on cast iron pillars from England. The doors are solid silver when not richly and ornately carved rosewood. A series of murals were painted over a ten year period, 1931-41, to display the splendours of the Mysore raj. Unfortunately, either boredom or old age beset the artist towards the end as the fine details are replaced by half-remembered visions of yore, and the paint here flakes, as if in sympathy.
I visited the little advertised Rail Museum in the afternoon. Directions took me through the station and sidings opposite, though later I found the road. I was the only visitor. One may assume that this is the usual state of affairs as the the majority of the staff in view were tending the magnificent collection of potted plants, coleus being prominent..
Everything was spotless, from the exterior of the W. G. Bagnell 2-6-2 built in 1932, to the Cowans Sheldon of Carlisle 5 ton hand crane built a century ago; from the Maharajah’s carriage of 1899 displaying more comfort in the servants’ quarters than any train I’ve travelled on in India this year to the telephone “used by Secretary of Maharajah in Mysore – 1930.”
I’m not sure of the relevance of the displayed Junkers Chloroform Inhaler “for inducing anaeshesia” (sic), or the “Electro Galvanometer to induce mild electrical stimulation of the muscles and nerves” unless they were standard equipment to be carried by a train’s conductor.
For an expenditure of 40 paisa (2½p) it was a worthwhile visit, but a shame that the use of my Pentax SLR would have been an extra Rs5/-. A gricer would probably be happy here, though not as excited as would be by visiting the engine sheds to the back of the station. There, a good dozen steam locomotives were sitting, noses poking into the fresh outside waiting to be stoked up to pull the 40mph expresses to Bangalore.