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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Destinations :: South India (1978) - Part - 2

by Proloy Bagchi (writer), Idgah Hills, Bhopal, February 09, 2017

Continuing with the journey undertaken in 1978 we visited Mysore and Ooty - now known as Udhamangalam

Mysore

After spending two pleasant days we moved on to Mysore – now Mysuru. Mysore was nice and green with no crowd of shoppers. We moved around in autos, unlike in Bangalore, without any fear. In Mysore the biggest attraction was the gigantic palace of Wodiyars built over several years and occupied in1912. That is the one which is the centre of attraction though the place is known as the city of palaces Unfortunately, as it was being decked up for Dussehra the place wa teeming with workers who were out cleaning the structure. But we did have the opportunity to see the elevated throne of the Maharaja which, we were told, was of solid gold. The steps on lrading on to the throne with their railings – all were in gold. The sides were richly decorated with engravings with various kinds of motifs.

We took three excursions out of the city – one was to the Chamundi Hills that overlooks the town and the other was to the Brindavan Gardens. Chamundi Hills has the temple of Chamundeshwary – another name for Durga – the deity seated there has been revered by generations of Maharajas of Mysore. One can get to the Hills by public transport or trudge up the steps that are in hundreds and at places quite steep. On the way one comes across a massive statue of Nandi bull, the vehicle of Lord Shiva that is made of a single piece of black granite.

The other excursion was to Brindavan Gardens which was created by the state’s irrigation department alongside a dam on Kaveri River. Sprawled over 75 acres, it is mesmerizing place with fountains, well laid out beds and manicured lawns. At night with the coloured lights playing on the fountains it was indeed beautiful. Now it has musical fountains and the arrangements of fountains spewing water accompanied by music must be far more spellbinding. There are two or three more gardens around Brindavan Gardens and they too are pretty extensive but did not seem to have fountains.

No report on Mysore can be complete without the mention of Srirangpatna – a town that is only around 20 kilometres away but falls in the neighbouring district of Mandya. Named after Sriranganathaswami temple that dominates the town, it has numerous other temples. The town is, in fact, an island surrounded by River Kaveri and that makes it all the more sacred as Kaveri, like many other rivers in India, is a sacred river. It is an ancient temple town and perhaps the most important Shaivite centre in South India. With numerous temples one can see their shikharas from afar. It was, however, also famous for the reason that Tipu Sultan, a Muslim ruler of Mysore, made it his capital where he lived, ruled, expanded his territories, fought his last battle and fell (in 1799). His palace Dariya Daulat Bagh built in 1784 has marvelously painted interiors that depict the wars that he fought. Photography here was not allowed. The Palace today is a museum

Mysore was very neat and clean and the roads were well laid out and very well maintained. Its tree-lined avenues were a delight. It is here in Mysore we realized delectable is the sambhar of Karnataka. It was far too different from the kind we got in Hyderabad and was certainly that we had tasted elsewhere up north.

Ooty or Ootacamund

We climbed on to an inter-state bus for Ooty that was only 70-odd kilometers away on the Nilgiri Hills which are, in fact, a part of the Western Ghats, a mountain range running from south of the Tapti River in Gujarat for around 1600 kilometres down to its junction with the Eastern Ghats. As the road climbs the Western Ghats I could see huge tracts under eucalyptus plantations. Obviously the natural forests had been clear-felled to convert the area into plantations. The road passes through the Bandipur National Park we were asked to watch out for game. Sharpening our attention on the road we did not have to wait for too long. The bus came to a halt and ahead in front of it was a lone tusker right on the middle of the road. There was no alternative but to wait for it to decide to move away.

Ooty or Ootacamund or the new name Udhagamangalam is the headquarters of the eponymously named district. It has been a famous hill station for one doesn’t know how long. In the process of development of the place its natives, the Todas got displaced. Ooty enjoys a beautiful salubrious climate where the temperature seldom crosses 25degrees centigrade and minimum could touch zero at some places. The British apparently loved the place and they have left their legacy in the shape of the narrow gauge Nilgiris Mountain Railway that connects the place with Metupallayam in the south, the Ooty club, the birthplace of snooker, an exceptionally charming cricket ground and an extensive and beautifully landscaped Botanical Garden.

As we moved around we came across other legacies like a Charing Cross here in Ootacamund, lovely wayside tea houses where tables and chairs were spread out on the pavements with only Nilgiri teas being served. Sitting there sipping delectable Nilgiri tea and watching the passing humanity was a surreal experience. The nearby Botanical Garden was not only a place of beauty with its green background of steep hills, it has collected within its fold numerous precious species of flora. Its extensive green lawns with magically bent branches of huge ancient trees made one wonder at natural mechanics. The garden was indeed spellbinding. Likewise there was the most beautiful cricket ground. Though small and surrounded by hills, it was remarkably beautiful

As every hill station tries to nurture a lake if natural or create one artificially Ooty too has a lake well within the limits of the town and it is an artificial one, created by damming the mountain streams. It is a beautiful place, nonetheless, to spend an afternoon in the surroundings of green hills and a decent-sized spread of water.



About the Writer

Pushing 80 I was born in Gwalior in Central India to parents who were educated in Calcutta, now Kolkata. My father did his master's in English in 1916. He was a professor of English in the then only college in Gwalior. After qualifying in the exams for entry in to central civil services I served the government of India for 34 years reaching the very top of the professional cadres of the Indian Postal Service. I also acted as consultant ion behalf of the Universal Postal Union in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Swaziland.
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