Mysore Road Trip – II – Gopalaswamy Betta & Magnificent Mysore

We had a hectic day 1 on this road trip but when we woke up at 4.30 AM, the next day, there was hardly any trace of tiredness, that is what the excitement of travel does to you, the more you travel, the more you want to see.

The purpose of waking up at that early hour was to visit the Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta, 70 kms from Mysore city. Our friend had told us it was a place of great scenic beauty, a temple located on top of a cloud covered hill in the Bandipur National Park hill range, we loved the very idea of it. Our friend, who was at Mysore then, joined us on the drive.

A fresh morning at Gopalaswamy Betta

At 5 AM, we set off to Gopalaswamy Betta on the Mysore-Ooty Road with a deviation at Gundlupet. The drive was lovely with the early morning chil and freshness. From Gundlupet, the hill is 20 kms. By 6.30 AM, we reached the road leading to the Gopalaswamy Betta, the entire area was covered by fog.

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The sun was just rising but had to take up the look of the moon because of the thick clouds.

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When we reached the checkpost half way up the hill, we were told that the entry up the hill was allowed only after 8.30 AM. A few years earlier, there were no time restrictions and wild animals, especially elephants were spotted sometimes if one visited this place in the early hours. In order to give the animals of the Bandipur forest area some peace from the intrusion of humans, the time restrictions were imposed. Gopalaswamy Betta is now open for traffic only between 8.30 AM and 4.30 PM. We reached there that early hoping to catch a sight of some wild animals, though slightly disappointed, we could understand, the animals needed their peace and quiet. For our satisfaction, we found elephant dung, proof that elephants had walked that path a few hours earlier and we also spotted a fox, who gave us one amused look and ran off into the forest !

A breakfast to remember !

With 2 hours to while away, we drove down the hill hoping to find some place to have breakfast. We found a hotel, Himagari Resorts in the nearby village. We were their first customers for the day. We were served hot rotis with dal fry and a super duper delicious tomato curry, we still haven’t forgotten the taste. We wiped off 2 big bowls of the tomato curry and ate not until we were full but until we were tired of all the eating. In between, every minute, we kept receiving SMSes on our phones from our service providers, welcoming us to 3 different states at the same time. We checked Google Maps and then realised that we were very close to the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu-Kerala border and were receiving signals from all three states alternatively !

After a heavy breakfast, we drove back to the Gopalaswamy Betta, not before thanking the hotel guy for the unforgettable tomato curry and rotis and clicked a picture of Himagiri Resorts as a tribute to the curry !

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If you ever visit Gopalaswamy Betta (which you must), don’t miss the food at Himagiri Resorts and you know what to order.

On cloud drive

We were back at the checkpost at 8.30 AM sharp, the entry fee for cars is Rs.50/- and you are given 1 & 1/2 hours time to drive up to the hill, visit the temple and come back. They keep a tab on the time with instructions not to stop anywhere on the ghat road.

We entered the ghat road and into the world of clouds. The entire road was covered by clouds and visibility was very limited. Even through the poor visibility, we could see some awesome views of the hills and the valleys. We tried to abide by the rules as much as possible and took pictures from the leaning out of the car window !

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Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta

The drive to the top of the hill takes about half an hour. Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta gets its name from the Gopalaswamy Temple on top of the hill. The temple is atleast 500 years old and a wonder how they managed to trek all the way up the hill and build a temple there. For most part of the day, the hill top is cloud covered. We stepped out into the chilly clouds and could feel the wetness of the dew on our faces.

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The temple is very small but peaceful.

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We offered our prayers and walked around. You would want to spend the rest of your life simply looking at the clouds fill up the entire space and make way for the next set to come in.

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The clouds seemed to go about their every day morning routine quietly, floating away lightly in a world of their own, totally indifferent to all the “wows” of the denser beings !

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Our 1 & 1/2 hour was almost up, we need 30 minutes to drive down and so we left the place, our hearts fluttering around like the clouds we were leaving behind.

Kabini Rail Bridge

The drive back to Mysore via Gundlupet, Nanjungad was pleasant as ever and threw up some interesting sights like this one, which we missed in the early morning darkness.

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This is the Kabini River Railway Bridge, one of India’s oldest railway bridges. The bridge is probably more than 200 years old and is no longer in use. Indian railways is always a fascinating subject.

Chamundi Hills

Back at Mysore, we stopped by at our friend’s house, freshened up at our hotel room and continued Mysore sight seeing. We began with a visit to the Chamundi Hills, one of Mysore’s must visits. A small ghat road leads up to the hill where the Goddess Chamundeshwari Temple is located. The Goddess is the presiding deity of the Mysore rajas.

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There is a statue of Mahishasura at the entrance of the temple complex, the statue is Mysore’s popular icons. 25 years ago, when this writer visited Mysore as a small child, this statue, looked gigantic and was probably one of the most wonderful and scariest things ever seen at that age. Today, Mahishasura looked cute, there was nothing wondrous about the statue, buildings have come up around it and the statue looks like it has shrunk in size. Which is better? The innocent wonders of childhood or the realisation of truth that adulthood brings?

The temple was not crowded, so we had a quick darshan and we also realised that for the second day in a row, we skipped lunch ! We bought laddoos from the temple prasadam counter and had tender coconut water, the coconuts were as big as footballs !

Then, we drove down the ghat road to see the Nandi of Chamundi Hills. Enroute, there are some viewpoints that give you a some amazing bird’s eye views of Mysore.

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The Nandi is around 2 kms from the Temple on the ghat road. The statue is huge and looks very similar to the Nandi at Lepakshi.

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One can also walk down to the Nandi from the temple, a shorter route but the steps are steep and run into hundreds.

Going in circles in Mysore

With Chamundi Hills ticked off, we were next headed to Mysore’s greatest landmark, the Mysore Palace. The main attraction for us that day was the palace lighting. It was 3 PM and we still had decent amount of time before going to the Mysore Palace. We checked the list of tourist places in Mysore which included the Lalita Mahal palace, Jaganmohan palace, which houses the famous paintings of Raja Ravi Varma, the ever popular Brindavan Gardens and Mysore zoo, one of the best zoos in India. Brindavan Gardens and Mysore zoo are attractive for kids, we had visited them when we were kids ourselves. We gave Lalita Mahal and Jaganmohan palaces a miss because they would take up too much time. We were interested in going to the Karanji Lake, which is also a butterfly sanctuary.

We went around in circles to find the Karanji Lake, we are followers of the principle that “each must find his own way” and so we rely on Google Maps and refuse to ask for directions. The result – we wasted almost an hour in search of the lake, which was hardly a 10 minute drive from Chamundi Hill ! We did get a chance to drive around Mysore city though, we liked the look and feel of the city. When we reached the lake, it was close to 4 PM, which meant we would not have enough time to go around the Mysore Palace before lighting, so we gave up the idea of Karanji Lake and went to the Mysore Palace.

Things to see before you die – Mysore Palace Lighting 

Mysore Palace or the Amba Vilas Palace is the official residence of the Mysore Wodeyar kings. It is relatively a recently construction, built in the early 1900s.

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There is an entrance fee of Rs.20/-, the palace is open between 10 AM and 5.30 PM.

The Mysore Palace is one of the grandest and most poupular palaces in India. Every room in the palace is richly ornate and looks majestic. Photography is prohibited inside the palace, so one must visit it to experience its grandeur. It takes a little over an hour to go around the palace, there are other attractions like an elephant ride and camel ride. Within the palace complex, there are temples, some ancient, some newer.

It was closing time at 5.30 PM, when we stepped out of the palace and found a place to sit in the sprawling palace grounds to view the lighting.

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The Mysore Palace is illuminated on Sundays, public holidays and during the famous Mysore Dussera Festival season between 7 PM -7.45 PM. You can visit the palace just for the lighting and the entrance is free.

We sat and waited for 7 PM. Soon the sun set and against the background of the dusk, the palace looked like it was made of gold.

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We waited with bated breath for 7 PM, staring at the palace and swatting mosquitoes away. We had our cameras ready to capture a video of the lighting at the precise moment.

By 6.30 PM, they began switching on the lights in rooms in different parts of the palace, one room at a time, with intervals of 5-10 minutes. We’d get excited every time a light was switched on in a room, these people know how to build up the excitement.

At exactly 7 PM, a loud whistle went off to alert every one and close to 1,00,000 electric bulbs came to life in one second. It was the most stunning sight we had ever seen. It is not possible to describe it, the Mysore lighting is something to experience, it lasts only for that one second but you will not forget it for a lifetime.

The lighting gives the palace an ethereal look.

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We made our creative photography ideas run wild to achieve the image that we had seen many times on the internet. After several attempts, we came close. The palace was radiant against the dark sky and these pictures do great injustice to the sight !

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The bulbs were manufactured by the old Mysore Lamps company and looks like they are still using the same bulbs. The ones that had gone out of fuse, didn’t seem to be replaced because we found some gaps in the chain of lights.

We just couldn’t get enough of it, it is one of those experiences that makes you feel proud that you were born in a country that has so many wonders and also blessed to have the opportunity to see them live.

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After half an hour of clicking pictures, we finally made our way out of the palace, turning back again and again to catch a glimpse of the lights that looked like sparkling gold beads hung around the palace. Make sure you see this atleast once in your lifetime.

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That marked the end of our sight seeing in Mysore. Back at the hotel, we were still in a daze and spoke only about the lighting till we went to bed.

At 4 AM, the next morning, we started our journey back home. We were joined by our friend till Bangalore. The Mysore-Bangalore drive took more time than necessary because of the speed limits of 80 kms/hr. We made the mistake of entering Bangalore and even at 7.30 AM, the roads were teeming with traffic but once we reached Bangalore and hit the Hyderabad-Bangalore NH44, we were on familiar ground.

Lunch was at the AP Tourism Haritha Hotel on the AP-Karnataka border. After that we only remember seeing the milestones announcing Anantapur, Gooty and Kurnool, before we knew it, we were home  by 3 PM – 700 kms in less than 12 hours ! The entire credit goes to NH44.

When we added up the bills, we discovered that the toll fee for the entire trip alone cost us Rs.932/- ! Not that we were complaining, definitely not with the first class road conditions.

The absolute delight of this road trip definitely added a few more years to our lives.

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