While we were in Mysore, I got a chance to visit a very unique place called “Shuka Van” (Parrot is called a Shuka in Sanskrit), a rehabilitation centre for birds in the beautiful Chamundi Hills area of the city. .
This centre was set up Dr Sri Ganapathy Sachidananda, the founder of Avadotta Datta Peetham and has a number of colourful birds, mainly Parrots from all over the world.
It provides shelter to injured and abandoned birds. Dr Ganapathy believes that the birds are vital for existence of humans and their alarmingly diminishing numbers can have serious trouble for mankind. His message is to save them and the depleting forest cover to save humanity.
There is small entrance fee to the aviary, which in my view is very necessary for its upkeep. Inside after paying a small fee you can feed the birds in their enclosure and get yourself photographed. The hard copy of the photograph can be yours upon payment of a small fee.
The aviary, established in 2012, is covered by 50 m high free flight mesh and has about 2100 colourful birds made up of 468 different species. It recently set a Guinness World record for “most bird species in an aviary” (see the Youtube video below).
While going to Mysore from Bangalore, we briefly stopped at Tipu Sultan’s tomb in Srirangapatnam, which is 15 kms short of Mysore. This majestic structure was built by Tipu Sultan in 1784 and it looks quite similar to Golconda tombs. The Gumbaz has been built in Persian style and around it is the Lalbagh gardens.
The day we visited the monument happened to be Friday so the garden were full of families who had come to pray. The whole place looked so happy and thriving.
Originally the entrance door was made in gold and silver but it was looted during the British rule and it is now housed in Albert Museum in London.
The Gumbaz is actually the tomb of Tipu Sultan’s father, Hyder Ali. On either side are the tomb are the tombs of Tipu himself and his mother, Fatima Begum. There is also a mosque inside the complex called Masjid-e-Aksa.
It is quite a beautiful structure and if you are travelling between Mysore and Bangalore you must stop here and enjoy the beauty of India’s heritage.
In 1960, the Government of Mysore, as it was called in those days, gave 3000 acres of land to Tibetan Refugees to set up a camp in Bylakuppe, 6 kms from Khushal Nagar on Mysore-Coorg highway. Later with some more land grants this became the largest Tibetan settlement in Karnataka and second biggest in India after Dharamshala.
Lugsum Samdupling established Namdroling Monastery, also known as the Golden Temple, here in 1963. Till I visited this place, I knew of only one Golden Temple in Amritsar. Clearly it was lack of knowledge on my part regarding south of India.
The Monastery is huge and houses a 40 feet high statue of Guru Padmasambhava also known as Guru Rinpoche. It is the largest teaching center of Nyingmapa, a lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and has over 500 monks and nuns.
The Monastery is quite beautiful with ornate walls and colourful paintings depicting Gods and Demons from Tibetan Buddhism. Not only it attracts tourists from across the world but also young Tibetans who come to study here.
There are well landscaped gardens and during the Tibetan New Year the whole town is decked up and many celebrations including traditional dances are performed here.
On way to Coorg, we stopped over for the night in Mysore and stayed in The Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel. I am glad we choose to stay in that heritage property, located near the Chamundi Hills. It is the second largest palace in Mysore and is really beautiful.
We reached there in the afternoon and the moment our cab turned in to its driveway, we were bowled over by the beauty of this 100 years old property. Our modern-day state of art buildings are definitely no match for the grandeur of our heritage buildings.
On 18 November 1921, Sri Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, the Maharaja of Mysore laid the foundation stone of this majestic palace for the exclusive stay of the then Viceroy of India.
Mr. E W Fritchley was appointed as the Chief Architect of the project. He modeled it on the lines of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. He built it on a raised platform giving us a beautiful view of Mysore from its front porch.
In 1974, it was converted into a Heritage Hotel and since then it is being managed by The India Tourism Development Corporation. The banquet hall is huge & elegant and has cut glass windows. A lot of furniture of that times tells us the story of how magnificent it would have been in those days. I was not too happy with the maintenance of the property and show it is being sold to its guests. Definitely more efforts are required on both the fronts if we are to maintain this heritage.
We stayed in a suite in the front and slept on the huge heritage bed under a high ceiling giving us a really royal feeling. Although there are a few modern-day facilities in the bathroom and dressing room, they still retain their old world charm.
The garden around the swimming pool has definitely seen better days but an early morning walk there really made my day. The breakfast later was super and left me wondering why more tourists do not check in the property.
It should definitely be sold to the foreign tourists looking for a taste of the erstwhile Raj.