The summer palace of the Tipu Sultan seemed to me to be rather small for the likes of a Sultan. It was surrounded by beautiful gardens a short distance from the Mysore. Ancient frescoes covered the walls and one small room was decorated with portraits of the Sultan and his many sons. The history of his rule, festivities celebrated and battles fought were reproduced in the frescoes. We declined a visit to the tomb but visited the dungeon where twenty-four British Officers had been held as punishment for doing something the Sultan hadn’t approved of. The men had been chained to the walls for many days, all the while standing in three feet of water. Although mostly in ruins, the building is still quite impressive, set down below ground level, surrounded by a high rock wall with two embankments sloping down to the open area at the front of the dungeon. The only access to the lower area was either a long jump down or risk negotiating the flat stone steps that were jutting out of the rock wall.
Directly in front of the dungeon the wall was built of almost square rocks, all perfectly placed in straight lines. The place was shut when we arrived but a local guide arrived with a family of visitors and showed us how to get in and have a closer look. We climbed up the wall itself, walked along the top and climbed down the other side. The easiest way out was to climb over the gate. Thulasi was once again quite shocked, “You should not be doing these things!” he said.
We returned to Mysore for water, a detour we couldn’t understand as the previous night we had decided to continue on along the main road to Bangalore in order to avoid further problems. We had intended going to see a gigantic statue at Sravanabelgola but eventually realized that Thulasi had misunderstood our request and was taking us instead to a temple at Somnathpur. We were a little disappointed but the temple proved worth the detour and Somnathpur confusion. It was built on top of a star shaped platform, and smothered with exquisitely fine, highly detailed carvings of birds, animals and human figures. Some of the columns along the galleries were so smooth and even they could have been cut and polished with modern machinery instead of having been fashioned using hand tools in 1268. The ceiling panels were all different with one representing a banana flower constructed from hundreds of finely chiselled pieces of stone linked together, without using cement if any kind. It was suggested that we climb on to the terrace roof for a good photo, but we thought we had done enough climbing lately. Thulasi might have come and dragged us down if we had climbed again!
The state of the roads we were using was extremely bad. In some places we were barely able to creep along as the roads were more holes than flat surface. With some gentle prodding, we found out that Thulasi was quite apprehensive about the problems caused by the Cauvery River and was worried about any danger that could eventuate. If we went on a back road he was concerned about lack of lunch stops and decent toilets. He had spoken with another driver at the temple who had reassured him that the way was safe and that he himself had encountered no problems. Not far from the temple we found tea rooms with a not too noisome toilet. The tomato sandwiches were thick and rather dry but the thick, sweet South Indian style coffee, was wonderful. Our journey on this lesser road away from the dreadful tumult of the main ‘highway,’ was quite different as there was much less traffic and there were less shops with small groups of houses clustered together every half a mile or so. We felt a little uneasy whenever the car had to slow for really bad patches of road, potholes and the usual speed breakers, but we encountered no problems and saw very few people.
Thulasi seemed quite concerned about the road and what could happen. We felt his unease and tried to be better behaved passengers. He’s such a lovely person, trying to please us and downplay his apprehension, accepting as his fault the misunderstanding caused by the unexpected change in plans. We told him not to worry and that we weren’t bothered by it all and assured him that he would not get a beating this time. This comment sent him into a fit of the giggles and he was so relaxed he even accepted a peppermint or two, something he had previously refused. As it turned out, this was a really lovely detour away from the heavy traffic.