Once again, and avoiding main roads, I worked my way West and towards the 13th Century Keshava temple at Somanathapura. Unfortunately I had left it a little late. The weather wasn’t that great either. Arriving at the temple complex I was told to be fairly quick by the attendants. This was a bit of a shame as the detailed carvings deserve a lot of attention. But I had the best part if an hour to wander around before dozens of school children arrived to fill the site. The star shaped ‘Hoysala’ style temple which houses three stone statues including Keshava is intricately carved. Much has been attributed to just a few prominent local artists. The beautifully turned internal pillars are, in themselves, quite impressive. The temple is situated in a quad with sixty four cells facing inwards.
Here is a selection of shots taken. The 100R Archeological Survey of India ticket also provides access to a large range of sites in the region.
With the sun setting I decided to ‘stick to the plan’and press on to Mysore rather than make camp. It seemed to take forever to complete the last 35km in the dark. The thought of a cosy hotel bed spurred me on. Finally I wheeled in to the Lonely Planet’s hotly tipped Parklane Hotel just around the corner from Mysore palace. It isn’t a bad place. But of course I have to pay a supplement and take a double room. It was a kitsch looking ‘luxury double suite’ with AC for just over 2000R (£20). I did wonder if they had used ‘luxury’ sellotape to keep the light switch on the wall in the shower room and was missing some working ‘luxury’ light bulbs. The stains on the wall were an unexpected luxury but the hotel do provide a toiletry welcome pack. It was okay and a 3rd floor room reduced the sound of the poor flute and tabla playing assaulting the diners in the restaurant below. I certainly recommend the hotel for its position, backpacker vibe, hot water and working wifi.
To the North of Mysore on an island at Srirangapatna lies Sultan Tipu’s 18th Century teak built Summer palace. It is within the remains of a walled fortress next to the Cauvery river. I hit the main road up on my bike to take a look. It is a 40k round trip. As I cycled beyond the city boundary I realised I had forgotten to pack any spares for the bike. Silly! It could be a long walk back if I got a puncture. Oh the bravado! Pfft.
Before the palace I visited a few temples. Shree Venugopala Krishnaswamy temple on the approach to the island was quite fun. People engage in an immersion ritual.
I crossed onto the island via the old stone railway bridge alongside which is a lengthy new shiny steel girder version. This brought me up behind the imposing Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. Somehow I found myself in a shuffling queue of people entering the temple. This wound in and around the inner sanctum past huge single stone carved pillars. The queue, which was kept in line by railings, went on and on and on with no apparent end in sight. ‘Govida govida!’ The men shouted. When I finally did reach the central shrine it was a bit of an anticlimax, at least in comparison to the wild enthusiasm of everyone visiting.
The Sultan’s Summer palace is not terribly grand by modern standards although the well maintained flower beds must look great in the spring. Inside the lavishly decorated 18th century teak framed Summer house are extensive murals depicting Tipu’s armies victories over imperial invaders. Most of the paintings and drawings of the Sultan Tipu and his Fort (some needing renovation) are by English artists. The English victory involved both the kidnapping of the Sultan’s sons and his eventual death in 1799 during the siege by the attacking army. The fortifications were purposely dismantled by the victors and very little of it remains today. Things didn’t work out too well for Sultan Tipu really.
You can get a good cup of tea from a quiet kiosk in one corner of the gardens. The elderly man inside showed me the stick he uses to keep the monkeys off the chocolate bars.
I set off back in the rain and tried to find a good route cross country avoiding the main road that I had used earlier. Small tracks past villages turned to muddy paths slongside fields and streams. GPS mapping on the phone is damn handy. Eventually I found my way back to Mysore and another cup of tea at a stand by Saint Philomena’s church.