ANAMIKA

'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Mysore Surprises



A couple of school 'excursions' apart, I had never been to Mysore. Recently, I went there for a couple of days to catch up with Sheshadri...

A lengthy drive through the country around Mysore feels like a voyage on high seas - an experience of vast clarity and unimpeded horizon-to-horizon visions. Indeed, to a visitor from Kerala - where luxuriant vegetation and dense stands of trees clutter even the brightest of days with tangled shadows - South Karnataka is a land of open radiance, an immensity of sunshine. And this is also a playground for Winds - unfettered Winds pulsing with the magical luminosity of space and sun and scudding clouds...

Although Mysore is next door to Kerala, there is hardly anything written in Malayalam about it. As an exception of sorts one recalls an old and quite fine piece by Zachariah, one of Malayalam's sharpest writers, on the years he had spent in Mysore as a college student - but it was in English. Zachariah later wrote, in Malayalam, a substantial and often impressive travelog on Africa. And to describe my own visual experience of Mysore, I certainly can do worse than adapt a few lines from that work - and that was the last paragraph.

The human, agrarian component in the Mysore landscapes shows great variety (with rice, sugarcane, palms, banana and much else very well represented - with the occasional glory of a sunflower patch thrown in), a very welcome change from the environs of Bangalore where eucalyptus has of late come to crowd out pretty much everything else.

Mysore city, relatively untouched by 'development', is, compared to Cochin or even Trichur, green, spacious and unhurried. And it abounds in curious details....





A smart clock tower in the heart of the city. It has a very Euro body and a rather saracenic dome. And its dial has Kannada numerals.



Note: I now understand the tower is affectionately called 'dodda gadiyara' (big clock). There is also a 'chikka gadiyara' nearby which I didn't know about.

The grand facade of the royal-built public hospital...



... and a heraldic emblem above one of its doorways, winged mermaids and all:



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Almost adjacent to the bus stand is the Wellington Lodge, a two century old Brit-built bungalow that now houses a surprisingly rich collection of folk art - its official name translates to "Indira Gandhi National Folklore Museum". Wiki is silent about it and my guide book too has nothing so my finding it was pure serendipity. Entry is free and one can take any number of pictures. Aside: I know of no older building in Mysore.

Here are two quaint oil lamps from central India:





A sheet metal family leaning on to a wall - and onto one another:



An ornate and life-size plus terracotta bovine:



Srirangapattana is still very Seringapatam - in twilight, its ruined fort, placid river and far-flung landscapes look just as they appear in two century old company landscapes. Here is a still-standing slice of Tipu's citadel:





The mausoleum where the sultan and his parents rest stands at the center of a big compound. Clustered here and there are graves of many of his officials and attendants (presumably). An ancient tree spreads benignly over picnicking families and a few of the graves that seem to be huddling close to each other:



What does this pic show?



If you said "frog", here is the full picture:



Take a look at this marble Siva statue; it sits in the Mysore hotel where I camped:



I make no claims of artistic merit on its behalf but have to note a unique feature: on the Lord's neck are coiled two identical hooded cobras. I can't recall seeing such twin cobras anywhere except in some Kalighat paintings. Here is a typical example:



Note: This Kalighat Siva's matted locks have no Ganga but another cobra. As opposed to the athletic and vigorous Siva of 21st century popular imagination, this guy is potbellied and dopey-eyed - he is smoking ganja.

In a market street, I saw this strange painting on the body of a wooden cart:



From the crow's presence, one could make out that the blue-skinned figure is Shani, the troublesome planet, personified. As for the man with hacked off limbs, here is what can be read online:

King Vikrama insulted Shani with some disdainful remarks, just as the planet was to begin its seven and a half year long transit through the king's astral chart. The vengeful Shani spirited Vikrama off to a far off place by trickery and in that alien land, got him tangled in a robbery case. As punishment, the king's hands and feet were chopped off, leaving him a sad lump of living flesh. An oil presser's wife took pity on him and pleaded with her husband and a deal was struck - Vikrama would get food and shelter in exchange for sitting tight as a weight on top of an oil press as oxen worked it. And, as can be readily guessed, the king had to remorsefully weigh down the press for seven and a half years - during which period, he would often compose and sing paeans to Shani. Finally, Shani relented and all ended well.

And here is a state-sponsored (?) street-side tribute to the legendary heroine Obavva - armed with a mere onake (pestle) she defended the Chitradurga fort from a sneaking attack by Hyder Ali's troops.



..... and a few of the thousand odd stone steps leading up to the Chamundi temple, marked by the 'tilakas' made by the devout:





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Update(July 16th 2018)

My statement above: "hardly anything has been written in Malayalam about Mysore" needs serious qualification. One of our landmark films 'Namukku paarkkaan munthirithoppukal", by Padmarajan, is set entirely in the vicinity of Mysore and the landscape is integral to the story. And its very atmospheric song "Akashamake" takes us on an leisurely and lyrical tour of Mysore city and surroundings.

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