'Auspicious' Days in Mysore
29.09.1964 - 30.09.1964
Left the Mundkurs after breakfast and were taken to the Mysore road. Long wait, then got a lift about 30 miles, then finally one right to Mysore District Forest Officer. Fixed up about Bandipur, then proceeded to Group Captain Samsi’s office. The Selection Board offices are in a group of buildings which were formerly the Royal Stables of the Maharajah of Mysore, and are at present under lease from him, by the Government. Gr. Capt. Samsi is a very dignified officer, quite young for his position, and he immediately caught on to what we wanted. He put us up in a suite above his office, probably used for visiting officials, and it really is the most excellent accommodation we have had so far. It is a completely separate little unit. We have bedroom, dining room, bathroom & toilet, a large terrace overlooking the courtyard, our meals are served to us in the suite, and staff who will cater for our every need. We are really riding high at the moment. What will tomorrow bring, good fortune or bad?
When we arrived in Mysore yesterday, we approached the barracks of the Palace Guards, looking for the Air Force Selection Board. They would not let us near enough to ask questions. This morning we drove through with Captain Krishna, Captain of the Palace Guard, and all the guards on the gate jumped to attention. The Gr. Capt. had rung him to make arrangements for us to visit the Palace, and we drove there for a whirlwind tour.
It was an ‘auspicious day’ as Capt. Krishna kept saying, and no visitors were allowed, as they were mounting the Golden Throne for the Dasara. We managed to see them doing this and could see the Maharajah’s family watching from an upper gallery. We visited some of the huge halls, the trophy room etc., and just as we were leaving, the Maharani drove past in a Rolls. We were only at the Palace about 20 minutes, but what a fantastic (literally) experience. In the afternoon we took a bus out to Bandipur, but when we discovered that it would cost 22 Rupees to see the place, we turned round and hitch-hiked back to Mysore. We got a lift from two English women with very plummy accents. They were very nice however. Dolores (actually French born) Richard (her BBC voiced husband) and Eileen (a friend on an 18 month holiday in India) were going to Mysore from Ooty as guests of the Maharajah during the Dasara festival. They were going to stay in one of the guest palaces. The two women asked us to come for a drink, so we did, and had a real party. They had brought a portable gramophone with them. The husband left for a while to see the Maharajah and returned later with the M’s private secretary. We were driven back to the stables and after having some dinner went to bed. I was quite sober, but Ade was rotten. I have been feeling quite sick ever since leaving Bangalore. I think I have the flu.
There is a great deal of information on the web about the 400 year history of the Golden Throne of the Wodeyars and its central role in the ten day Dasara Festival, which is the major annual cultural event in Mysore. The large ornate Throne, with the steps leading up to it and the golden umbrella above, is kept in a strong room all year and only brought out for Dasara, when the Maharajah takes his symbolic seat with great ceremony and conducts a nightly Durbar. The setting up of the gold, silver and jewel encrusted Throne in the days before the Festival begins is itself an elaborate two day ritual, with historic religious significance, held in private, and we were indeed privileged to be discreet witnesses of the proceedings, if only for a few minutes.
The Air Force Selection Board appears to have moved, but after a bit of searching I managed to find the Old Royal Stables where we stayed, recognizing instantly the large terrace overlooking the courtyard and the clock tower opposite. How amazing to fly around Mysore from a couple of hundred metres up, spotting various landmarks and reliving that visit of so long ago!