Deeper into India — Day 8

I wore out the driver-guide today, and  I enjoyed every minute.

Straightaway to Bangalore Palace, known locally as the summer palace.  It looks a lot like England’s Windsor Castle at first approach with its Tudor-style architecture, granite turrets and battlements, built in the 1890s by the Wodeyar rajas of Mysore 90 miles away.   Hundreds of roses fill a formal garden opposite the main entrance.

Generally I avoid audio-guides, but the earphone explanations in British English were welcome and well done.  Some descendants still live in the palace, and their recorded voices tell stories of tiger hunts, roaming the castle and grounds as children, and extravagant parties for visiting family and heads of state.  I loved hearing their voices and stories, almost as much as the dozens of black and white framed photos in the corridors, taken from the mid-1800s through 1959.   Today the palace needs restoration, but it’s still opulent…not one, but six chandeliers along each side of inner courtyards with gardens…hand-carved furniture, doors and archways…and spectacular stained glass windows on opposite sides of the throne room.  No photos allowed inside or out, but my wonderful driver, Immanuel again, knew just the place in the parking lot where I could snap a quick photo of the main palace, unseen by the guards.

Oh yes, a little side note that says a lot about the people of India.  I told Immanuel I would need to go to an ATM that morning.   I had a small amount of rupees, which he said would be enough for palace admission, but the price for foreigners recently doubled and I was the equivalent of $1.50 short.  No worries.  He borrowed what I needed from another driver!

Off we went to Cubbon Park, 300 acres of gorgeous parkland where the British built their government buildings.  The former British palace serves today as Parliament.  Two bright red buildings, the High Court and Major Library, are instantly recognizable landmarks.  The “red buildings” were ordered by one particular British VIP (no one could remember his name, so I’ll do some Google research once home).

Temples abundantly dot the city.  I chose three of the biggies.  The colossal Hindu temple, Vidhana Souda, stands on the northwest side of the park. Built mid-20th century by convicts, it’s famous for its neo-Dravidian style granite architecture and vast interior of 300 rooms.  On Sunday evenings when it’s floodlit, its presence seems to triple.   Next: the massive Jumma Masjid Muslim mosque in the bustling city center market area, on Poor House Road.  Visitors can only enter a porch-like area of inlaid wood and colonnades, but photos are allowed.  Clearly white, blonde and probably not Muslim, I felt welcome.  Last and my favorite, the Bull Temple’s imposing 16-foot black bull, Nandi who helps Lord Shiva.  This temple was simple and humble, but striking.

It was a full day, a circle around the city, which finished with a glimpse of the elegant city concert hall, shaped like a violin.   I admit I was tired, so I retreated to the hotel’s quiet patio surrounded by plumeria trees and colorful bougainvillea to relax with a delicious glass of fresh mango juice mixed with mint and basil.

The day ended with a superb dinner at Tandoor.  Lovely restaurant, charming waiters, fabulous food.  We started with baby corn dusted in slightly kicky spices, deep fried and rolled in sesame seeds–one of the best dishes ever.  Steve had lamb in a spicy curry.  I chose chicken with tomatoes and eggplant in ground cashew gravy.  We went nuts over the bread—which we watched being rolled, tossed, stretched, then dropped onto a grill.  Now to bed with happy tummies and great photos from today’s fascinating stops.

With dreams of India, still confounding but also beautiful and sweet,

Globetrotting Donna

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