Mysore Palace or the Maharajah's Palace located in the heart of the city at Mirza Road, is the most attractive monument in Mysore. One of the largest palaces in the country, also known as Amba Vilas, was the residence of the Wodeyar Mahararaja's of the Mysore state. The original palace built of wood, got burnt down in 1897 and was rebuilt for the twenty fourth Wodeyar Raja in 1912. Designed in Indo-Saracenic style by the well-known British architect, Henry Irwin, the palace is a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world.
The three storied building, 245 feet in length and 156 in breadth has a series of square towers with arches covered by domes. There is wide open space in the front and the open courtyard in the centre is covered by a gold-plated dome about 145 feet from the ground.
The entry to the palace is through the 'Gombe Thotti' or the Doll's Pavilion, a gallery of Indian and European sculpture and ceremonial objects. Halfway along is the elephant gate, which is the main entrance to the centre of the palace. The gate is decorated with floriated designs, and bears the Mysore royal symbol of a double headed eagle. Inside there is an enclosed courtyard. To the north of the gate are dolls, dating from the earlier nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a ceremonial wooden elephant howdah (carriage kept on top of the elephants to carry royalty) decorated with 84 kilogram of 24 carat gold and other souvenirs.
To the south, the magnificent 'Kalyana Mantapa' or the marriage pavilion has a centre octagonal gabled ceiling, covered by multi coloured stained glass with peacock motifs arranged in geometrical patterns and beautiful chandeliers from Chechoslavakia. Tall, slender cast iron pillars wrought at Glasgow, Scotland are arranged in groups of three at the corners of the central octagon. The floor is laid with glittering glazed tiles imported from England in artistic geometrical patterns and the walls which lead to the Mandapa are lined with oil paintings depicting Dusshera celebrations of the bygone royal era.
On the second floor, the 'Diwan-I-am' Durbar Hall 155 ft. long and 42 ft. broad, has an ornate ceiling, a shining floor anddurbar hall many sculpture pillars which are said to have been painted with gold. The frescoes depicting eight manifestations of Goddess Shakthi (strength), Scenes from the Epics; Ramayana and Mahabharata and an original painting of the renowned painter Raja Ravi Verma are displayed here. There is an open balcony supported by massive circular columns and a fine view of the Chamundi hills from here.
On the same floor to the south is the smaller 'Ambavilas' or Diwan-e-khas ( hall for private audience ) that has beautifully carved doors at the entrance with inlay work. The central nave of this columnar hall has beautiful stained glass ceiling, supported by metallic bow shaped beams and bars. The ceiling and the walls have designs painted in blue, red and gold colours.
There are twelve temples surrounding the palace within the compound. Some of them are built in typical Dravidian style including the Varashaswamy Temple with a gopuram that set the pattern for the later Sri Chamundeswari Temple on Chamundi Hill. On special occasions, religious ceremonies are still conducted in these temples.
The palace now under the supervision of the Department of Archaeology and Museums of the Karnataka Government, has been converted into a museum. The paintings and portraits, jewellery, royal costumes and other items possessed by the Wodeyars are displayed on the ground floor and a small collection of weapons on the upper floor. It is said that the palace displays the largest collection of gold items quantity wise. The 200kg gold royal throne of the Wodeyars with beautiful artwork, is displayed during the Dussera festival. The palace is spectacularly illuminated on Sunday nights, and during the festive season of Dussera.
There is a small private Museum at the back set up by Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wodeyar, an ancestor of the Wodeyar rulers as well as a member of the parliament who continues to reside here.