Ha lame pun. My sore ankle is the reason why I’m writing today’s post about…Mysore! I crack myself up sometimes…
Anyway, no big deal about my ankle. India’s pavements are kinda crappy and full of random potholes / loose slabs of concrete / bits of wire waiting to trip you up and yesterday, while walking around, I stepped on a loose block of concrete and fell, hurting my ankle (same foot as the one I sliced open in HK) in the process. It’s kinda swollen from the impact and it hurts to walk (too much) so I’ve decided to be productive in other ways by updating my blog about Mysore!
Mysore is India’s heritage city, and supposedly India’s cleanest city. I took the train in from Bangalore, thankfully managing to get tickets directly at the train station after a slight panic attack that the train was fully booked when I couldn’t get tickets online. The train turned out to be massive (and late, as usual) so we only got underway at about 3.30pm.
Arrived in Mysore without incident (I even fell asleep part of the way – there’s something quite comforting about riding in a train), and found the hostel a guy in Bangalore had recommended me. At 200Rs / night, Hotel Maurya is a steal but duh, some drawbacks. Must have been a legit hotel maybe 50 years ago, but now wouldn’t count for even a motel I think. No hot water, an old-school squatting toilet and a mattress about an inch thin. Still, the price was a huge factor for me, and besides – they have (intermittent) Wi-Fi in the lobby! Someone once joked that backpackers don’t need anything more than a roof and Wi-Fi when looking for a hostel…I’ve come to realize it’s not too far from the truth. Moving on. Hung out that evening with an international backpacking bunch (2 Germans, 2 English, 1 Canadian) which was fun.
Next day, it was off to Chamundi Hill! According to legend, Chamundi Hill is where the goddess Chamundi slayed the demon Mahishasura. Mahishasura (literally buffalo-demon) had asked for a boon of being invincible from Lord Brahma, but Brahma said dude no. So Mahishasura said okay, give me the boon of being killed only by a woman. Stupid stupid stupid demon. Boon granted, he started waging war against all the Devas (angel equivalents?) with his demon army and nobody could do squat to stop him, till BOOM Goddess Chamundi (aka Mahishasura Mardini – also the reason Mysore got its name) appeared and killed him on the hill that is now named after her. How many men get a hill named after them for killing a demon, eh? (Don’t answer that.)
Hoping to beat the traffic, I left pretty early (8am is early by India standards where things only get going at 10 or 11am) and on the advice of the hotel guy, I took bus 201 from the City Bus Stand all the way up to the top of the hill. They have a giant statue of Mahishasura where the bus drops off. Nice touch, getting the dead demon to welcome people to the hill.
There was a nice view of Mysore and the temple was pretty cool too. Not that many people were there yet, so I got a nice look around the temple. Pretty standard stuff.
Wandered around for a bit and then decided to look around for the huge Nandi (Shiva’s bull) statue that was supposedly around there somewhere.
Asked around with a few people (Pro travel tip: People don’t often know where things are but will direct you anyway. Ask 3 or 4 people and if most of them point you in the same direction, you have about a 73.4% chance of getting to where you need to.) and eventually found the Nandi, 300 steps down from the Chamundi temple.
More photo ops, and a quick refuel with some chai and I had to decide if I wanted to walk the remaining 700 steps down, or walk back up to where I’d started. Since I’d initially wanted to walk up the steps to get to the temple anyway, I decided it would be cool to walk down instead of just taking the bus. As I was walking down, I came across several devotees on their way up, stopping at each step to adorn it with turmeric powder, vermilion and flowers.
The steps are a gorgeous pink/ yellow/ red because of those powders and make for a wonderful sight. But also, much respect for the devotees – it’s intense, back-breaking work to do that up 1000 steps.
I eventually made it down and caught a different bus back to the city (again by asking several different people where the bus stop was) and had lunch before heading off to the Government Silk Factory to see silk being processed and woven into beautiful saris. The guy at my hotel had mentioned a bunch of buses I could take to the silk factory from the City Bus Stand, but apparently those buses don’t exist, but several different buses do pass that way, so just ask around till someone points you to the right bus. A giggling group of school girls who barely spoke any English helped me out and I made it to my destination without much mishap.
So the silk factory is free of charge to enter and walk around, and if you stand around watching intently for long enough, one of the workers will call you over to show you what exactly it is that they’re doing. It’s a really long, complicated process that involves winding and unwinding and rewinding the silk thread collected from the cocoons of silkworms before the silk is ready to be woven. The weaving is also done in the old school method, and I do believe that each weaver is responsible for the designs on the saris he makes (didn’t see a single female weaver).
It requires a lot of attention to detail and incredible amounts of precision to make sure each strand is perfect. I would go crazy after just a day of trying to do that.
It’s been great so far and I like Mysore quite a bit. That’s all about Mysore for now. Stay tuned for Mysore part 2, where I talk about my visit to Srirangapatna, incense-making and beedi-rolling!