Monday, December 22, 2014

a night at the palace

Last night, on the eve of the solstice,  i went to see the mysore palace, my first real sightseeing since i got here. I love to go for walks, but venturing to the city alone hasn't been one of my interests. I am really glad i got over my inertia, and hopped a rickshaw to the palace. I arrived at dusk, and the place was crazy crowded, almost all local people. I realized almost immediately that i should have come a little earlier to see it all first in the daylight.  On Sunday evenings, they light up the palace with lightbulbs that cover the buildings. It's a cross between an amusement park strategy and the old films you can see of Edison's era, showing the uses  of the newly invented lightbulb. 

That's the palace lit up. They only keep the lights on for about 40 minutes. I need to come back in the daytime to see the inside of the palace which is supposed to be magnificent. A visit to a tourist site would not be complete without being mobbed by schoolgirls who want their picture taken, and then to take pictures with you. I feel bad that i know about one word of kannada, the local language, but the kids speak pretty decent English. 

Another view towards the front entrance of the palace grounds. The archway in the front is attached to a temple (another temple is on the opposite side of the entrance). Being india, a palace isn't just a palace...but has a number of temples on the grounds: one for ganesha, one for siva and the last i don't remember. I spent time in each temple, my first experience of a hindu temple in india (other than getting locked in the grounds of the local Krishna temple, though i was too timid to go in the main temple there.)


Explaining the right way to pray?

The ganesha temple near where i came in. Here is was allowed to take photos, though i felt a bit sacrilegious doing so. No sooner did i snap the photo below, looking into the closed main temple room, than a group of people arrived to worship. I felt so much like the clueless american tourist. There is something really powerful about seeing others' devotion, especially in an environment like this. Several times during my visits to the temples here, i was quite moved by what went on around me.

The two temples that flank the main entrance were open. You leave your shoes outside,  and go towards the main shrine room, where the priest comes out. You make a small donation, and are given blessed oil and flowers, and the red powder that goes between your eyebrows. I was pretty ignorant about the entire procedure, and completely messed up at the last of many edicut mishaps i have had here. In each of the temples, i felt acutely aware of being alone, despite the crowds outside. I also felt perhaps the sacredness of the space, even though it is not my religion, and i dont feel especially connected to the rituals and gods of hinduism.

The view into the siva temple.

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