|Palace tiger and gate|
Mysore is a busy city. It has a rich history of wealthy maharajas. A lot of traffic that actually does obey traffic lights. A visible sense of law and order, including uniformed police at traffic circles making sure people obey traffic lights. And there must be a law here mandating wearing a helmet on motorcycles because for the first time I saw a significant number of motorbike helmets (not all buckled under the chin, mind you).
|Busy Mysore Market|
And a lot of tuk-tuk drivers eager to part you from you money. I ran into almost every tuk-tuk scam you can think of – any even fell for one, which – have to say –it’s hard to put on over on me by now. We ran into the “the Palace is closed till 11:00, but I will take you to xx place to buy something instead, which is a lie. Then asking five times the price. Saying there was a minimum for a run. Claiming the meter was broken.
Micheline and I set off after we arrived to the Government Silk factory with a very talkative driver intent on taking us to buying opportunities that weren’t on our agenda. The silk factory was an operating factory where we could just sign in and the wander around essentially unsupervised to check out the making of famous Mysore silk. It was fascinating –like walking back into the industrial revolution age. The machines they were using to spool the threads and weave the fabric were loud, clattering systems of pulleys and levers straight out of the 1800s. The designs in the fabric were determined by a series of wooden pegs that somehow drove the designs that appeared in gold on the edges of the silk. The workers would waive us over and show us what they were doing and point us through the factory. Cameras were banned which is too bad because those mechanical looms were fascinatingly complex and impossible to describe. The noise was deafening.
One worker pulled us aside – an engineer pretty fluent in English – who was working on the production line spooling thread. He told us that the government job at the factory paid 60k rupees a year – vastly more than other higher skilled jobs available in the area. So he was there working below his education level simply for the pay. It made me wonder what it took to get one of those jobs … I’m sure there is a story there and quite a bit of patronage.
After the silk factory we visited the Government Sandalwood factory where they extract the famous Sandalwood oils through a distillation process and use the rest of the wood for incense and other products. They only produce 3 months out of the year due to the shortage of sandalwood trees. According to the factory supervisor Sandalwood delays aging and cures everything.
Then we wanted to go to the Showroom for the Government silk factory and this is where the sneaky tuk-tuk driver pulled a fast one. We’re not sure here he took us (other than it had promised him a good commission) but when I went back today to buy a piece of silk I liked I discovered that the real factory showroom was in a totally different place. So no silk for me since I didn’t know where to go to buy it. Not that I really needed a 6 meter gorgeous reddish/orange hand embroidered silk sari that I intended to have made into a long blouse and decorative hanging… really. Darn scammy tuk-tuk driver.
|Palace with open air public meeting room through the arches|
Mysore Palace is huge and an interesting blend of Hindu, Islamic and western architecture built in the early 1900s after a fire destroyed the former wooden palace. Apparently the ruling maharajas here successfully fended of the British for 5 wars until the Brits finally took over and put the 4 year old heir on the throne – with suitable supervision and administration of the purse strings. The royal family lived grandly –same as in Rajasthan where the British appeased the royalty to allow them to rule the country. I did think the palace had some of the most interesting open air architecture I’d ever seen – including an enormous columned room totally open to the East side overlooking a huge garden that overwhelmed with a feeling of arches and space that never ended, but did not overwhelm.
But a visit to the local market was the best. We wandered through and sampled honey, puffed rice, were given flowers, watched them making beautiful garlands, got the hard sell for essential oils and sampled the bakery. Splendid.