Mysore has n number of historic palaces, and is commonly described as the City of Palaces. However, the term “Palace of Mysore” specifically refers to one of these palaces, Amba Vilas. The palace was commissioned in 1897, and its construction was completed in 1912. It is now one of the most famous tourist attractions in Mysore.
The Kingdom of Mysore was ruled by the Wodeyar dynasty from 1399 until the independence of India in 1947 and the subsequent dissolution of monarchy by the Indian constitution. The Wodeyar kings built a palace in Mysore in the 14th century, but this palace was partially damaged by a lightning strike in 1638. It was repaired and expanded, but fell into neglect by the late 18th century. It was demolished in 1793, and a new palace was built in its place in 1803. This palace was destroyed in a fire in 1897 during the wedding of Princess Jayalakshmanni.
The Queen-Regent of Mysore at the time, Kempananjammanni Vanivilasa Sanndihana, commissioned a British architect, Henry Irwin, to build yet another palace in its place. The architect was requested to combine different styles of architecture in the construction of the palace. The construction was completed in 1912.
The architectural style of the palace is commonly described as Indo-Saracenic, and blends together Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic styles of architecture. It is a three-storied stone structure, with marble domes and a 145 ft five-storied tower. The palace is surrounded by a large garden.
The three storied stone building of fine gray granite with deep pink marble domes was designed by Henry Irwin.. The facade has seven expansive arches and two smaller ones flanking the central arch which is supported by tall pillars. Above the central arch is an impressive sculputure of Gajalakshmi, the goddess of wealth with elephants.
Every autumn, the Palace is the venue for the famous Mysore Dasara festival, during which the entire palace is lit up with thousands of bulbs, and leading artistes perform on a stage set up in the palace grounds. On the tenth day of the festival Vijaya Dashami, a parade with caparisoned elephants and other floats originate from the palace grounds.
- Ambavilasa or Diwan e Khas.
This was used by the king for private audience and is one of the most spectacular rooms. Entry to this opulent hall is through an elegantly carved rosewood doorway inlaid with ivory that opens into a shrine to Ganesha. The central knave of the hall has ornately gilded columns, stained glass ceilings, decorative steel grills, and chandeliers with fine floral motifs, mirrored in the pietra dura mosaic floor embellished with semi-precious stones.
Diwan e Khas
- Gombe Thotti (Doll’s Pavilion)
Entry to the palace is through the Gombe Thotti or the Doll’s Pavilion, a gallery of traditional dolls from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The pavilion also houses a fine collection of Indian and European sculpture and ceremonial objects like a wooden elephant howdah (frame to carry passengers) decorated with 84 kilograms of gold.
- Kalyana Mantapa
The Kalyana Mantapa or marriage hall is a grand octagonal-shaped pavilion with a multihued stained glass ceiling with peacock motifs arranged in geometrical patterns. The entire structure was wrought in Glasgow, Scotland. The floor of the Mantapa continues the peacock theme with a peacock mosaic, designed with tiles from England.Oil paintings, illustrating the royal procession and Dasara celebrations of bygone years ,make the walls more splendid.
The palace houses several rooms of importance. These include:
- Audience Chamber: This was Hall of Private Audience, where the king would confer with his ministers. It was also the chamber in which he gave audience to people deserving special attention.
- Public Durbar: The Diwan-e-aam was a public hall where the general population could meet the king at prescribed times with petitions.
- Royal wedding hall
- Armoury: The palace houses an armoury, which contains a collection of different types of arms used by the members of the royal family. These include weapons that were used in the 14th century (lances, cutlasses, etc), as well as weapons that were used in the early twentieth century (pistols, etc).