Mysore was one of those places that sounded immensely tempting and pleasant (it is known as ‘the Sandalwood City’ – being home to much of this sweetly scented wood) but could also easily have been a massive dirty and dusty letdown.
It was dirty and dusty, but less so than other cities, and was even relatively small and easy to navigate. One of the highlights was the huge fruit and flower market, that is over 100 years old. There were stacks upon stacks of the hugest, shiniest and most delicious forms of every fruit imaginable, separated into different alleyways. Somewhere down banana alley we found our way out of the fruit cave and looked for different tourist attractions.
The attraction we visited was one of my highlights of India so far. There are temples and palaces, and ruins of temples and palaces, but nothing so far has matched the grandeur and beauty of the Maharajas Palace. It was as I imagined the palaces of Russian fairy-tales; the place’s high painted archways and beautifully tiled floors were brought to life by an engaging audio guide, that was -shock-horror – included in the ticket price. No pictures were allowed inside, and we both got a severe telling off for trying to steal a sneaky picture – so google images will have to do. I just about managed to tear my eyes away from the solid gold elephant saddles and ornate silver tables in time to see the whole place illuminated by thousands of lightbulbs from the outside at night, which was a spectacle that made me dread their electricity bill.
Mysore is also famed for it’s yoga, and having avoided it completely so far in my life, I thought why not give it a try in such a prestigious place. Only Sam and I showed up for the drop-in session which got off to a shaky start as I had to confess my amateur status before the yoga mats were even unrolled. It further exasperated our distinguished instructor when I admitted that this was the only lesson I planned to attend. He recovered quickly and instructed us to cross our legs and close our eyes, and before I had even begun to compose myself, he began singing in a nasal, whiny voice that caught me completely off guard. What ensued was an inward battle against bursting out laughing at this occurrence, which was to him as normal as stretching. He paused only to ask us to repeat after him, the response to which was an awkward, laughter-suppressed silence.
I thought the worst was over, but as he prompted us to stand in seemingly easy positions, I sweated profusely and my arms and legs shook with the effort of maintaining even the simplest shapes. All the while he paced the tiny room, hands behind his back shouting, “stretch more”, “control your body,” and just generally to stop doing things I wasn’t even aware I was doing. I was soon informed I had bad, very bad posture and we didn’t get very far past the basics in this session (no downward dog for me). I don’t know if yoga in England resembles this, but either way I won’t be strolling so breezily into a yoga session again, or strolling anywhere quickly hereafter, as I woke the next day barely able to move my legs, arms or neck.
Mysore has sustained much of it’s magisterial glamour from when it was a major power around the 14th century. It’s magical attractions and green spaces make it a pleasure to wander around and afterwards punish your body with some back-breaking yoga.