A day of pilgrimage, part I

One of the things I love about Mysore city is how it blends modernity with tradition. As much as I embrace change, I have always favoured bridging the old and the new rather than completely cutting oneself off and “moving on”.

The streets are filled with two-wheelers and auto-rickshaws.

The problem with Mysore city, on the one hand, is that it is not really the core of 21st century technology, and most officials seem disinterested in preserving its heritage — the latter seems to be characteristic of the country itself. And yet, it is probably the most open-minded and therefore the most likely to embrace change and multi-dimensional growth1

Near Ambavilas.

I found myself among company making a day trip to two well-known temples in this region. One of these temples (the focus of part I today) lies just outside Ambavilas, the so-called “Mysore Palace”2.

The majority Hindu population sees cows as sacred. Cows, therefore, have all-access passes.

The temple is best described as unassuming. In fact, if you do not already know it, you are almost certain to miss it. But almost everyone in the city knows it; tales about it have been passed down generations, and people speak of the deep impact it had on the Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore3.

Farms and irrigation canals surround the city.

Remnants of the erstwhile kingdom are peppered all around the city especially in the form of rest houses for travellers or towers to measure the depth of many a lake, most of which are now as dry as a bone. While it is good that such structures still remain, it is sad that almost none are being preserved. They exist because they have not been bulldozed, not because they were intended to remain. I would not be surprised if, one of these days, someone brought them all down and tossed them aside meaninglessly.

Isolated archeological structures such as this one dot the city and may, unfortunately, be bulldozed anytime.

Horse carriages are still around, if only for vanity. Animal rights activists are not taking too kindly to this, but they appear to have come to an agreement of some sort where the horses are taken care of in return for providing licensed carriage rides, mostly to tourists, peaking around the famous Dasara period, September–October.

Horse carriages are a common site in the city and often meant for tourists.

While it is not common practice to pair these two temples together, my next destination was the famous temple of Nanjangud, about thirty–minutes’ drive away. And the first thing that becomes clear is how the grass is greener than we realise on our side of the fence: Mysore has excellent solid waste management practices and yet most complain about cleanliness around the city. As one travels away from Mysore, it becomes increasingly clear that the city is quite (even extremely) clean — an epiphany brought about by sore sights involving open drains, sewage waterfalls and plastics flying around in neighbouring cities. The rest is best left to your imagination.

High-rises ought to be restricted to the outskirts to preserve the palatial skylines at the heart of the city.

All photographs were made on my iPhone 6S. And as a closing note I want to take a moment to praise the iPhone: this is a camera you can trust. When you really need a usable photograph, you can be fairly certain your iPhone will support you more than most smartphones. For instance, consider the picture of the horse carriage above: it was a split-second decision as I spotted the carriage a little too late, pulled my phone out of my pocket, having already pressed the power button, and swiped up on the lock screen, simply aimed and clicked the shutter button. The focus was surprisingly good, the image beautifully exposed and the colours true to life. The horse was not sharp because the default settings rarely make space for freezing motion, but I actually like it the way it is because it shows the movement and the environment equally well. Besides the horse’s head, the cart itself is actually in tack-sharp focus.

You can click on a photograph to visit the original on my Flickr, where you can browse more. Part 2 of this article will carry more pictures and further notes from my day trip.