Mysore is the second biggest city in the State of Karnataka. It lies 130 kms from the State Headquarters, Bangalore. It is the erstwhile capital of the Mysore Maharajas, who ruled Mysore State from this royal city. It is now the headquarters of Mysore District with a population of over seven lakhs. The chief language of the people, as in the State of Karnataka, is Kannada and original Kannada is spoken in this part of the area. It covers an area of more than 40 sq.km. and is administered by the Mysore City Corporation. Situated 763 meters above sea level surrounded by hill ranges from north to south, it is known as the 'Garden City' and the 'City of Palaces'. The famous Chamundi Hill, which is mythologically associated with the name of the city, is to its southeast. To the people of India the word Mysore is synonimous with Sandalwood, silk and fine inlay-work using ivory. It is the home of incense sticks (agarbathi) dipped in sandalwood oil perfume base and has two well known incense factories - the Aravinda Parimala and the Vasu and Cycle brand (together these two account for 70% of the incense stick export from India). Mysore is also the home of many well regarded musicians and artists. It is even today the hub of the tourist map of Karnataka. Nearby are several places of interest to visitors, some of these are Brindavan Gardens, Srirangapattana, Rangana Tittu bird sanctuary, Chamundi Hills, Nanjanagudu, Bandipur forest reserve, Shivanasamudra falls, and Talakaadu.
Within the town are several places of interest. The grand palace with its four arched entrances stands at the centre of the town. Liberally covered with golden domes and home to the most expensive royal chair (Simhasana), made of gold and studded with diamond and precious stones, this palace rivals the best in the world. During weekends the whole palace is lit with thousands of lights, a great sight. Saint Philomina's church is a fine cathedral dating back to the 18th century. The Venkatappa art gallary has inspired many an artist and conducts courses in traditional painting, drawing and woodwork. It is also the birth-place for the Mysore wooden toys, which are exported worldwide. Near the western gate is the Jayachamaraja art gallary (also called Jagan Mohana palace) which houses some of the finest paintings, art works and artifacts dating to several centuries of rule by the Royal Wodeyar family. At the eastern end, near Chamundi Hills is the Lalitha Mahal Palace which is now a 5-star hotel. Visitors can enjoy the luxury of staying in what was till recently the guest house for royal visitors. Its main staircase built with white marble, and its front-end gardens, make the Lalitha Mahal a place to visit and enjoy. Close to it is the Mysore zoo, which recently celebrated its hundredth birthday. Mysore has a fine race course (horse racing) and the local "Taanga" a horse drawn carriage that is still used by a some citizens. The Mysore "taanga" has a comfortable leg space making it an attractive but slower alternative to savour the beauty of Mysore.
Mysore silk is well known for its quality and everlasting lustre. The silk factory (Karnataka supplies 70% of India's silk) and the Sandalwood factory (which extracts the sandalwood oil) are located towards the south end of the town. Both have over a century of tradition and still produce what Mysore is well known for. Mysore had several lakes, all of which have been dried and are being used as open fields today. The Jeevanaraya katte near the Railway station, Doddakere near the palace, Karaji kere near the zoo gardens, stand testimony to the royal dynasties who took keen interest in providing healthy drinking water to their people. If a vegetarian gourmet is on your mind, you have arrived at the best town in India for it. Several restaurants boast of a century long tradition in satisfying the appetites of the citizens. Gourmet items such as set dosai, sagu masala dosai, Madduru vadai are the by-word in Iyer hotel (also known as galli hotel) located near V.V.Market. Indira Bhavan, Indira Cafe, Ananda Bhavan are all decades old with very fine range of vegetarian offerings (snacks and meals). Pai vihar and Dasaprakash offer expensive but fine cuisines. Dasaprakash has a chain of hotels in Bangalore, Ooty and Madras. The Guru Sweet Mart at Statue Square serves everything from Mysore-Pak (A local sweet made from gram-flour) to a wide variety of sweetish and saltish snacks.