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Monday 5 October 2020

Bangalore Palace - Is it worth a visit?

A palace built in late 1800's, during the colonial times of the British Raj in India

Bangalore Palace, in Bengaluru, a palace built in late 1800's in the Tudor Revival style of architecture during the colonial era of British India, is seen in many Bollywood movies. However, it isn't as visited as other tourist sites or monuments in the state.

Bangalore Palace, Bengaluru
Bangalore Palace. Representative image. Image by Julia Britto from Pixabay

Bangalore Palace is located at Vasant Nagar in Bangalore, or Bengaluru as it is officially known as now. The palace is in the vicinity of the Palace Grounds, but you wouldn’t notice it until you drive into the main entrance for about half a kilometre.

The palace belongs to the Mysore Wodeyar family, the dynasty that ruled the Kingdom of Mysore from 1399 as the Vijayanagara empire had began to weaken, till post-indepenent India in 1950; except for a long period between around 1760 (during the time of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sulthan), till 1881 (when their monarchy was restored as allies of the British Crown). They continued as a Constitutional Monarchy in the Dominion of India between 1947 to 1950, and with India becoming a Republic in 1950, monarchy was abolished.

The palace is open to public with a paid entry where one has to purchase a ticket to enter the premises, whenever there are no ongoing booked events such as weddings or movie shootings. The image of Bangalore palace may ring a bell as you may have already seen it in several Bollywood movies such as "Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar" and "Rowdy Rathore".

After being in Bangalore for over 14 years, I finally decided to visit this palace last week (27th September). The palace wasn't hard to find and was marked accurately on Google Maps. I reached there at about 11:00 AM and saw very few visitors who had turned up, despite it being a Sunday with one of the best climatic conditions.

We parked our car in an adequately sized parking lot and walked a few steps to reach the entrance.

The tickets to the palace are priced at Rs. 260 per adult. For foreign nationals, the entry fee per person is Rs. 500. As per their signboard, these entry fees include Rs. 20 for the disposable earphones for the free audio guide. Entry is free for children below 10 years, when accompanied by an adult.

The palace is open from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM, and has always seen a moderate number of visitors, probably because the palace doesn’t have a lot to offer for the price that it charges. The ticket cost is 5 times the price that one would pay for the magnificent Mysore palace, which once upon a time belonged to the same royal family.

Bangalore Palace
Bangalore Palace. Representative image. Image by Shoppers Gossip from Pixabay

The camera charges are too exorbitant and charged at Rs. 300 per group for a mobile phone camera. For a "Still Camera", that is, a camera like SLR, DSLR, or any other type of a photographing camera, the rate is Rs. 710! And for a video camera, the rate charged is Rs. 1480! If you purchase a camera ticket, you are given a coloured wrist band to wear based on the amount you paid, which help the guards identify the ones that take pictures without having paid for the camera tickets.

The guard at the entrance takes your temperature reading, sanitises your hand, and is polite while requesting you to ensure social distancing within the palace. As soon as you enter, you will find a kiosk where you can submit an ID proof and get the free audio guide, which is a mobile phone sized device that has audio recordings for some prominent locations within the palace.

You will be provided with a disposable earphone with an average sound quality, and will be guided on how you should be using the device. A receipt is provided to you when you procure the device, which should be safely kept and returned at exit when you surrender the device and get back your ID card.

We began by walking up the stairs towards the first floor, where you will find a sign with a number. In order to listen to an audio description of the place and the different objects in it, such as the photographs around that place, you have to key in the corresponding number on the device. You will see more of these signs as you continue through the palace, with a total of 21 such listening points.

The information that you hear in this audio device provides some historical facts, and is more inclined towards praising the glory and luxurious aspects of the palace. I felt a couple of them were interesting, but found the rest as either distracting or boring.

Durbar Hall of Bangalore Palace, from Curzon Collection's 'Souvenir of Mysore Album', 1890
Durbar Hall of Bangalore Palace, from Curzon Collection's 'Souvenir of Mysore Album', 1890. From Wikimedia Commons, Unknown author / Public domain

While listening to the audio, it was difficult to know what to look at, as there were no clear directions. For example, among at least 30 photographs on a wall, it was hard for me to identify the picture that the audio was describing about. My son wasn’t provided with an audio device since he did not have a ticket (makes sense) and was super bored during the next 20 to 30 minutes that we went around. There weren't many artifacts that kept him engaged.

There are a lot of photographs of the king and his family, along with the paintings. The palace was poorly lit indoors, thus making it hard to appreciate the paintings and other artifacts. Most rooms were closed and the hallway was where we spent most of the time. There are a few interesting places like the gallery where the king met his guests, and stories behind some of the large paintings such as that of Cleopatra.

After exiting the palace in no time, we spent another 20 minutes appreciating the remarkable exterior of the palace and walking through a poorly maintained garden right in front of the palace. You do not need a camera ticket to take pictures on the outside of the palace, from the garden.

Overall, I did not feel it was worth the cost to visit the Bangalore palace. However, it may still be a one-time go for travellers and history buffs who would walk in without expecting too much. I am glad that I didn't purchase a camera ticket as there wasn't much to capture inside the palace, and the poor lighting conditions wouldn't have helped a bit.

Here's a map locating the palace in Bengaluru. Zoom in or out for details.

Cite This

"Bangalore Palace - Is it worth a visit? ", by Nataraj Rao, on Trayaan ( . Published on October 05, 2020.
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