In a city famous for its many palaces, the former Royal residence known as Amba Vilas is an exceptionally grand building among grand buildings.
It is the fourth palace built on the same location since the beginning of the Wodeyar dynasty in 1399. Designed by the British architect Henry Irwin who designed several other iconic buildings of British India, the palace is a masterpiece of Indo-Saracenic design, which blends together Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic styles of architecture. The current palace was designed to be erected on the remains of the earlier palace, which was destroyed by fire at the wedding ceremony of princess Jayalakshmmanni in 1897. Construction was completed in 1912.
There are four entrances to the palace, aligned to the cardinal points. Inside, surrounded by tile work and huge pillars, the palace hosts a portrait gallery, an armory, and collections of costume and jewelry. Every fall during the festival of Dasara, the golden royal throne is displayed.
At night 97,000 light bulbs transform the building into a glowing spectacle. Though the lighting happens at 7pm, crowds start to grow outside the gate by 6pm to witness light-up. Join the queue about a quarter to 7pm. Though the queue is long, it moves pretty fast.
Don’t move your eyes from the palace —the moment of lighting up is a beautiful and superlative sight.
Most visitors consist of Indians from outside Mysore, usually in large family groups. A handful of youths roam the site offering to sell sandalwood souvenirs and silver chains, a common occurrence in a region where young children are sent off to work, instead of schools, to meet the daily living demands of families.
When entering the palace, visitors are restricted to the residence garden and are able to view the main palace only from a distance. If you’re lucky, you may also catch a live performance by local musicians.
If you’re up for a new experience, enjoy a ride on the pony-cart. The driver will take you around the outside of the complete palace and bring you to the main gate.
The palace complex also includes twelve Hindu temples. The oldest of these was built in the 14th century, while the most recent was built in 1953.