Our first day in Mysore, which holds the distinction of being known as the cleanest city in all of India, we visit Chamundi Hill where the impressive gold temple to the goddess Durga, chief cause of creation, preservation, and annihilation is located. Like the Shiva temple in Triuvannamalai, the temple surroundings are chaotic, colorful, and crowded. Always you take your shoes off before entering a holy place of any belief in India. Often you leave your shoes across the street from a temple and walk barefooted to the temple. Mallory makes sure we rub our feet with thieves oil (a natural protection for germs)on temple days! And it is important to leave a little token money for the goddess since she is in charge of annihilation.
The Mysore Palace is an attraction of mythic proportions in India, second only to the Taj Mahal, drawing people from all of India as well as the world. The last Maharshi of Mysore died fairly recently, but the Queen and her son still live there. While we were not invited into their living quarters (much to our disappointment, having wanted to see the closets) we were able to see many of the amazing and magnificent public rooms. The tile designs in the Mysore Palace are gorgeous – unfortunately photos are forbidden. Having moved through the palace and back to the shoe deposit area, an Indian woman became interested in me. One of the really charming qualities of the Indian people we met is curiosity and friendliness. This woman was looking (not really staring, just looking) at me with what seemed to be interest, so I smiled at her and said ‘hello’ and she began talking to me in Hindi. After I indicated no understanding, she motioned her beautiful daughter over to ask me questions. Where am I from, am I married, how old am I?
Soon the entire family, young and old, female and male, cousins, sisters, parents were talking to me and asked me for a photo. One of the little ones grabbed me around the waist and we posed together. I then asked them for a photo and they all crushed in…
We returned to the Palace Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. for the weekly lighting, a truly magical moment when thousands of light bulbs outlining every line, curve, and magnificent arch, spring to life. Friends meet to hang out, parents bring their children to run on the Palace grounds, little girls wear their princess dresses for the fantasy hour and everyone brings their camera.
Our time in Mysore has come to an end. We leave the next morning on what turns out to be an adventure of surprise, frustration, kindness, expense, disappointment and finally a beautiful sunset…..