My rating on accessibility: ★★☆☆☆
As with any heritage structure in India, the Mysore Palace has its limitations when it comes to accommodating visitors on a wheelchair. It starts with a fleet of stairs at the entrance, the wooden thresholds at the bottom of every door inside the palace and the antique lift which was not working when I went in there. But I love visiting such historical places, so I’m always open to finding a workaround for my accessibility challenges.
Setting great expectations
I have recently shifted to Bangalore and was looking for suggestions on places to visit. Many Facebook friends immediately replied with suggestions. But when I checked them out online, it was difficult to assess whether they would be easily accessible in my wheelchair.
My eyes twinkled when a friend shared this article Touring Mysore Palace on a wheelchair from the Times of India, published in 2013. The article mentions: “The Mysore Palace Board has spent nearly Rs 80,000 to buy 10 wheelchairs. The board is also mulling over purchasing an electronic wheelchair which costs around Rs 1 lakh. There are around 13 temples on the palace premises and by using a wheelchair, the user can visit them quickly. Differently abled and the aged now have access to the elevator inside the palace which was earlier reserved only for VIPs.”
I thought things must have definitely gotten better since then.
The disappointing reality
We parked our car in the Mysore Palace campus and walked towards the security gate with our tickets. While wheelchair users are exempted from buying tickets, you will have to purchase them for your fellow travelers. The parking ground is almost level and there is a paved pathway till the gate. This made it easy for me to enter the campus on my wheelchair.
Do make a note that on weekends, the crowd will be huge and the queue to enter the palace will be longer. A large number of people also adds to the chaos inside the palace when you visit the various sections and displays.
Another fact to note is that while you, as a wheelchair user, might be excused from removing your footwear, but people taking a tour of the Mysore Palace on foot have to go inside barefooted.
I had read about the availability of audio guides in an online news article, but I did not see anyone using them at the palace. Not sure if that service is available in the Mysore Palace.
One of the security guards advised us to go towards the side entrance. While I was waiting for my mother and helper to drop their footwear at the stand, a guide approached us out of nowhere. He promised to give a thorough description of everything inside and guide me through the inaccessible parts of the palace. He took my wheelchair through the routes and doors where normal visitors were not allowed to enter. In hindsight, had we not taken his help it would have been difficult to view most parts of the palace. We had to take the help of random strangers, visiting the palace, so that my wheelchair could be carried up the fleet of stairs at the entrance.
Beautiful sights saved the day
There is one thing I would like to commend the Mysore Palace Board is how they have preserved the heritage of this 105-year old monument. Our guide showered us with interesting trivia throughout the tour. For example ‘It cost just Rs 45 Lakhs to build the entire palace, nowadays you can’t even buy a basic 2 BHK flat with that amount’; ‘the original palace was made of wood and it got burnt down completely during a royal wedding’; ‘the golden throne, once used by the rulers, is now part of the annual Mysore Dasara festival. An idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari is placed on it and taken through the city on an elephant procession’, and so on.
Overall, it is disappointing to see that one of the most visited monuments in India has not taken considerable steps towards making the Mysore Palace accessible for wheelchair users. If you happen to be in Mysore, I recommend that you do stop by the palace. The gardens are well maintained and it is a delight to view the façade. However, you will be able to go inside the Mysore Palace only if you have a lighter manual wheelchair and don’t mind being lifted around to go over the multiple steps at the entrance.