Dussehra special: Heading to Mysuru this season? Don't miss visiting these 100-year-old historical hotels
It’s October, the perfect time to visit the royal city of Mysuru (or Mysore) in Karnataka, the southern state in India. The retreating monsoons, the pleasant weather and the quaint charm of the city make it the ideal destination for a weekend break. It’s the 10-day Dussehra festival celebrated in Mysuru that allures tourists to visit the city.
While most Indians and international travellers might have visited the city to witness the celebrations, there is more that is to be explored. History buffs who are always looking to discover something extraordinary, may be interested in the 100-year-old properties of Mysuru that have served guests since the pre-Independence Era. The Metropole and Brindavan Garden Palace, both luxury hotels managed by the Royal Orchid group, constructed in the 1920s, that continue to serve guests, are worth a visit.
A royal retreat
Built as a guest house for the Maharaja’s elite British friends and guests, the Hotel Royal Orchid Metropole is a classical structure that evokes images of a bygone era. It was designed by Sir Arthur Dorman and Sir Albert de Lande Long of the Dorman Long & Co Ltd Construction Projects. Interesting to note is that Sir Long also contributed in the making of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia during the early 1900s. A wooden mast that supports the main staircase at Metropole, that leads up to the upper floor of the hotel, was sourced from the same stock which was used to construct the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Details such as this are left untouched and this elevates the hotel’s old-fashioned appeal. Wooden stairs and stringers, black and white framed photographs of the city’s British period, a rectangular courtyard with a magnificent mango tree, and Victorian style architectural elements – all these are captivating subjects to be captured on a smartphone or DSLR camera.
The central dining hall of the Metropole is designated as Tiger Trail, the Indian restaurant that serves authentic fare. It goes by the tagline ‘The Last Word in Indian Food’. Kebabs, curries, tandoor breads, rich desserts feature on the menu. The courtyard adjacent to the hall opens up in the evening as Shikari, the barbeque restaurant, with an adjacent bar called Skand’el. The pleasant October evenings are an excuse to unwind under the open sky and feast on smoked kebabs with a drink of your choice. The menu includes delectable kebabs such as the Gelafi Sheekh, Chicken Malai Tikka, Achari Chicken Tikka and Prawns Tikka. Candles are lit around the courtyard, and oil lamps suspended from the mango tree add a festive feel to the ambiance.
Rooms on both the floors overlook the courtyard. Every room irrespective of the size, offers a regal experience. Vintage furniture, warm lighting, silk upholstery and a Juliet balcony, are common features.
But it’s the Maharaja suite that’s truly special. It’s a palatial room with every corner designed for a different purpose. While a four-poster bed is the key element, the other corners designed for dressing, for study and to entertain guests include an ornamental mirror and antique dressing table, a colonial style writing table and a plush lounge couch. Each of these corners is totally Instagram-worthy.
The luxurious bathroom is another noteworthy element of the Maharaja suite. Nearly half the size of the room, it has an elevated space for the bath tub and there’s a trolley to easily port toiletries from the sink to the tub. The back door of the room opens out to a balcony that faces the East and overlooks the pool and lawn, and there’s enough space for a workout session.
While the hotel offers more than a reason to stay indoors and unwind, the world famous Mysore Palace is just a 10-minute walk away from it. Canopies of ancient bougainvillea trees growing on either side of the road leading to the palace make it a pleasant walk. However, for those travellers who want to experience a horse carriage ride akin the British era, Metropole can arrange for the local tongawallah to pick you up from the hotel. This is an unmissable activity in addition to the tour of Mysore Palace, especially now during the Dussehra season. The palace is lit up with more than 1,000 Mysore Lamp bulbs (that are nailed to the facade) every night during the 10 days of the celebration at 7 pm. It is truly a sight to behold!
Walk in the paradise
If you have soaked in the sounds and sights of the Dussehra celebrations in Mysuru, and are looking to do more, then head to Brindavan Gardens that is located at a drive of 20 minutes from Metropole. This location is one of the most preferred destinations to shoot Bollywood and South Indian films because of the stunning views it offers. Designed by Sir Mirza Ismail, the Deewan of Mysore, the development of the gardens began in 1927 and was completed by 1932. The property located amidst the gardens, the Royal Orchid Brindavan Garden and Spa was built during the 1900s.
The structure overlooking the entire landscape of the gardens was originally constructed as a guest house for engineers working on the Krishna Raja Sagar Dam. It was later that the guest house was reopened as a hotel when the garden work was completed. The 60 acres of the Brindavan Gardens offer lush views that are perfect either while enjoying breakfast or a drink at sunset. The sounds of birds chirping, and the distant whistle of a train crossing Mysuru, add to the idyllic setting of the hotel. The Elephant Bar especially, offers panoramic sights of the Gardens from strategic points. If the idea of ‘in the lap of luxury’ had to be manifested in some form, then a holiday at Royal Orchid Brindavan Garden and Spa would be the perfect example. Guests could also opt for a morning jog or an evening walk around the monumental gardens.
Every evening, there is a musical fountain display, and during the Dussehra season there is a special showcase of water fountains dancing to orchestral music. If you want to explore the royal city further, we suggest you ask the concierge to plan an itinerary that includes a drive up to the Chamundi Hills, a visit to the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, and a tour of the numerous art galleries and a walk around the RK Narayan House.
Although the pandemic may have jeopardised travel plans, there’s no reason for you not to plan a visit to the city of Mysuru. The properties have put in place COVID-19 safety precautions and are equipped to handle unexpected situations if any. Rooms are being sanitised and cleaned regularly and extra care is taken with every check-out and check-in. So even if not for Dussehra, you can still visit the royal city of Mysuru that has much on offer.
COVID-19 precautionary measures at the hotels:
- All touch points such as door handles, counter tops, tabletops and railings are cleaned continuously using a sanitiser or disinfectant.
- For the safety of guests, the rooms are sanitised after the guest checks out, and are kept vacant for 24 hours and then allocated to the next guest.
- Temperature readings of non-resident guests are taken at the entrance of the hotel and the temperature readings of resident guests and team members are taken once a day.
- Professional medical help is always on standby in case of any emergency.
- Seating at the restaurants and the lobby has been reconfigured to ensure safe distances are maintained between guests.
- Protocols are in place for staff in the kitchens, restaurants, in-room dining, business centers and banquet halls. All staff members are strictly advised to sanitise their hands every time they serve food or touch any cutlery.
- Face masks and disposable gloves are worn by team members.
- All supplies and materials are sanitised before use.
- Free cancelation policy is applicable if guests postpone their visit for future dates.
International travellers can fly in to Bengaluru and can either book a cab or take the bus to Mysuru
Local travellers can drive to Mysuru, take a train or board a bus from Mysore Road Bus junction
It takes 3 hours 30 minutes to reach Mysuru by road
There are many eateries on the highway that also have restroom facilities
The writer was invited by Royal Orchid to for an experiential stay at both the properties
Pictures by the author