A weekend in Mysore

By Nirupama Rajan

Whether you call it Mysore or Mysuru, the city is next only to Namma Bengaluru in terms of its popularity in Karnataka. The stories of Tipu Sultan in our history books as we grew up, the extensive coverage of the place every Dussehra and the far-reaching fame of the Mysore Zoo are only a few of the many things that have ensured that practically every Indian would know something or the other about this clean, green and rather quiet city. But while you may have basked in the grandeur of the Mysore Palace or driven up the Chamundi Hill as part of some long-forgotten school excursion or family pilgrimage, Mysore is certainly much more than what meets the eye. So here are a few things apart from the giraffes and tigers at the zoo that you should check out if you make it to Mysore on a weekend.

If you can, ride or drive down yourself to enjoy the scenic route from Bangalore to Mysore- although I must say that the views from the huge windows of the Shatabdi Express do offer tough competition!

Drop by the lakes

As far as cities go, Mysore is one that is abundant in natural settings. The city is surrounded by forests, hills, and lakes that attract several species of birds, animals and critters. Two very popular lakes are the Kukkarahalli Lake and the Karanji Lake. Kukkarahalli is a very popular jogging spot and Mysoreans claim that almost every resident in the city would have, at some point, visited this scenic ‘kere’ for a peaceful walk by the water. The sunset views at Kukkarahalli are also something you shouldn’t miss. Karanji Lake, on the other hand, was once more popular for the non-human species that it would attract; it is definitely still an ecologically rich spot that is home to several species of birds and endangered butterflies. Information boards in the area will tell you more about these, but let’s hope that restoration brings this lake back to its former glory.

Pedal boating is also an option in Karanji if that is something that interests you.

Hike up unexplored paths on Betta

The Chamundi Hill, fondly referred to as “betta” by the locals, may be famous the country over for its temple and gigantic Nandi statue visited by hundreds of pilgrims every day, but away from the sacred bells and the tourist buses, there are some serene, largely unexplored paths for the hiker in you to explore. One in particular, lying just off the Nanjangud route, leads to an abandoned watch tower; if you are able to muster the courage to ignore the creaky steps, the suspicious holes left behind by the planks of wood that have fallen from the platform and go all the way to the top, you would find yourself witness to a spectacular visual treat- a bird’s eye view of almost the entire city, the surrounding hills, lakes and even the tracks – thin as strands of hair from up here – left behind by other cyclists and hikers. So take some time out and make sure you explore the roads not taken on betta!

Chamundi Hill temple

Go on a two-wheeled adventure

Cycling is a Mysore favourite. The Mysore Cycling Club, in association with Cyclopedia – a store for all your cycling needs – conducts cycling expeditions almost every weekend along routes in and around Mysore. The forest route on betta is a regular, although you could choose to cycle up the normal betta route as well. However, they conduct more intensive 50-100 km long expeditions to locations outside Mysore too. You can always rent a bicycle suited to these trips from the Cyclopedia store.

While on the subject, ‘Trin Trin’ is now a popular system in Mysore that allows tourists and locals alike to pick up cycles from one of their many stations in the city and drop them off at any other station by means of a smart card, for a pretty small fee. So even if you’re just going around the popular tourist spots, you can do that on two wheels!

Grab a bite the Mysore way

No list of popular restaurants in Mysore can be complete without mentioning Mylari- the original one. Mylari is a seemingly nondescript little restaurant that offers some of the best dosas to have ever existed on the face of this planet. Space inside is tiny and crammed with small tables that are almost always full; a board duly informs you that this is the only Mylari there is and that they have no branches anywhere else in Karnataka- so don’t be fooled by others trying to mooch off of Mylari’s fame.

For all the vegetarians, vegans and health-enthusiasts out there, Dhaatu is a must try for both their local favourites as well as their more innovative creations, offering several millet-based and gluten-free options. Café Maya is also very popular among tourists – especially those from across borders – in particular for their pizzas. Also, drop by Pataka in the evening for some tastebud-tingling chaat and rabri, and for dinner afterward, head to Barge, Mysore’s first microbrewery currently offering four great home brewed beers guaranteed to give you that end-of-trip happy buzz!

Make some healthy choices

Something that gets overshadowed by the fame of the palace and the zoo is the city’s affinity for yoga and healthy lifestyle choices. However, while Mysore can offer you the best of yogic training, its very popularity has led to mass commercialization of yoga in the city and a significant decline in its spiritual value in several cases. So sure, go spend at least a few weeks in Mysore to immerse yourself in spirituality and healthy living, but make sure you seek out authentic guides and not somebody who is just doing it for the money.

Mrinali, Aayana Yoga
Photo Credits: Mrinali, Aayana Yoga

Also, drop by the stores at Dhaatu and Café Maya to choose from their wide range of organic and sustainable products so you can bring about some environmentally responsible changes in your life.

Step into the house of a legend

Another rather less-known fact is that Mysore is lucky enough to call itself the home of legendary Indian writer R K Narayan, the creator of our beloved Malgudi. He is said to have lived in his Mysore house for over four decades, and it has now been converted into a two-storey museum showcasing several photographs, portraits and personal memorabilia that will take you back in time and leave you feeling nostalgic as you remember and miss the well-loved author responsible for some of our most memorable childhood moments spent in the pages of his books.

weekend in mysore rk narayan museum

So there you have it! Mysore is just a stone’s throw away from here and there is no dearth of transport to get you there. So take a break from Namma Bengaluru this weekend and go uncover the secrets of Mysore- you never know what you might find!

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Out and About on a Sunday Morning in Bangalore

By Nirupama Rajan

Come Sunday, and the first thing most of us look forward to is a late rouse. Wake up the early afternoon with a hangover that threatens to stay forever, make an omelette and call it brunch, and spend the rest of the day parked in front of the TV catching the Sunday afternoon blockbuster that you would never otherwise deign to watch voluntarily. And yet, while you are bang in the middle of your most interesting dreams at 7 or 8 in the morning, there is an entire city outside your door, painted in colors that you’ve never seen it in before.

Yes, sleeping late is an art that must not be dismissed. But perhaps once every now and then, you could let that alarm clock ring on one more day of the week so you can have the chance to witness this city in a completely different light, quite literally.

Here are some things that I like to do on Sunday mornings in Bangalore; perhaps with time, you may come up with a different list of your own?

On wheels at dawn

Before anything further on the subject, I will say this: be careful, wear a helmet and if you’re cycling make sure you’re carrying sufficient fluids. That said, riding the streets of Bangalore and its outskirts early in the morning is probably my top pick from this list. Our city is quite infamous for its traffic jams, but riding early in the morning, you wouldn’t think it’s the same roads that trap you for hours in the later periods of the day. Even the air feels refreshingly cleaner and clearer at this time. In fact, I’ve long since come to the conclusion that early morning riding is far more pleasurable than night rides. The sights keep changing every few minutes- first the early morning tea stalls open, then you’ll see hawkers slowly amble about with their baskets of flowers that can overwhelm you with their morning fragrance, then the cleaning of thresholds and streets is underway while vegetable sellers steer their carts through the dense residential areas and so on. If you’re lucky, you might even find yourself riding along a lake as the sun rises and believe me, you’ll come back for that experience.

Many people also enjoy the ride to Nandi Hills for the sunrise view and the highway breakfasts, so you could try that as well, although the hilltop tends to get quite crowded on weekends.

cycling wheels bangalore

Park yourself at Cubbon

This one is a crowd favourite. In fact, Cubbon Park is one of the few places that you’ll find packed on Sunday mornings regardless of how early you are. While Sunday may be a day off from exercise for many, several others get to don their running shoes only on the weekends and what better place to sweat it out than Cubbon? While there, make sure you visit the dog park; it is only active on Sundays and is a star attraction, with good reason! You could also buy fresh produce and juices from the HOPCOMS stalls or simply get lost wandering under the ancient trees inside the park. Cubbon Park is also often the location for several events on Sunday mornings ranging from yoga to photography and you could sign up for one of these through Facebook or other platforms.

Of course being the garden city, you can’t ignore the other parks (like Lal Bagh, for instance) that have their fair claim to fame, but Cubbon Park is by far, my favourite.

cubbon park

Go meet some birds

Whether you like identifying, photographing or simply watching birds, Bangalore is surprisingly home to several avian species despite the increasing crowds and concrete of recent years. Go on over to any of the many lakes in the city- some favourites are Jakkasandra lake, Puttenahalli lake, Madiwala lake etc. Quite a few lakes have actually been restored recently by active citizens and you have them to thank for being able to enjoy a peaceful morning by the now cleaner water. Look for bird-watching groups on Facebook; they usually hold events on Sunday mornings and you could sign up for one of these, especially if you want someone to show you the ropes.

Idly-dosa and some legends

Vidyarthi Bhavan Menu

Vidyarthi Bhavan, MTR, Veena Stores… the list can go on for a while yet. You’ve probably heard these names being dropped even outside Bangalore and it is probably because these age-old South Indian eateries actually live up to their reputation. Most of them, such as Vidyarthi Bhavan, Veena Stores, and CTR are located in older, more quaint localities such as Malleshwaram and Basavanagudi (on a side note, did you know that these two places were R.K Narayan’s favourites in the city, thus giving him the idea for Malgudi?) while MTR, for instance, has several modern-looking outlets across the city for those unable to find room in their original restaurant at Lal Bagh. So go enjoy a hearty meal of masala dosa and vada at any or all of these eateries- they have been the haunts of several legends in the past!

Or maybe you prefer pancakes?

Bangalore is as cosmopolitan as a city gets and it has something for everyone, whether it is activities and events or breakfast choices. So if you’re in the mood for a fancy morning meal and scrambled egg-toast at home just won’t cut it, fret not for there are more than a few restaurants willing to whip up their fluffiest pancakes and omelettes for you with your choice of toppings. While the list seems to be growing every day, my picks would be The Hole in the Wall Café, A Hole Lotta Love Café and DYU Art Café (the hot chocolate here is a must). If you get out a little later in the morning, there are some great brunch options like Bangalore Brew Works and Three Dots and a Dash.

Walk through history and heritage

You might have traveled to Hampi, Gokarna, Badami or any of the numerous historical sites in Karnataka. But what do you know of the history and heritage of your own city? If you enjoy walking and good stories, then exploring the older neighborhoods of the city would be the best way for you to spend your Sunday mornings. Even better, there are several organizations including Bengaluru by Foot, Bangalore Walks, and INTACH that conduct these weekend walks, covering some of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods and historical sites such as Bangalore Fort, Basavangudi etc. Rumour has it they even stop to sample some fantastic local cuisine en route!

bangalore fort

Feed the bookworm in you

What better way to let the bright morning slowly morph into the lazy haze of noon than with a well-loved book in your hand? Bangalore is home to some very iconic bookstores as I’m sure most of you would know. My top choices would be Blossom Book House (I prefer the old one, although the new building is also definitely worth visiting) and Goobe’s Book Republic; you’re very likely to lose track of time wandering the musty aisles of these stores with books of every age towering over you on either side. The staff is very friendly and you might even find yourself a rare novel at a bargain price in these well-stocked stores.

If you don’t want to buy books per se, you could also drop by Atta Galatta in Koramangala and settle down with a book from their reading library over a steaming cup of lemon tea.

books

Contribute to your city and the world beyond

If you’re looking for something productive to do on the weekend, then this is probably it. Several good Samaritans get out of bed on weekend mornings to spread awareness of how we can make our world a better place to live in and you can join the effort by attending seminars and workshops or participating in their events. Aikyam Community for Sustainable Living, for instance, conducts discussions titled ‘Earth Friendly Choices’ where you can learn much about the environment and ways to restore it from experts and activists in the field. Some others like Kaulige Foods and HappyHealthyMe conduct workshops on healthy and sustainable cooking choices. My Dream Garden regularly conducts organic terrace gardening workshops and almost every weekend sees a clean-up operation under the banner of The Ugly Indian, so these are good options too.

So what are you waiting for? Get out of bed and gift yourself all these experiences and several more that are waiting out there for you to come discover them!