The bus entered Mysore at night. It passed the maharaja’s palace, outlined by 97,000 bright light bulbs. The bulbs shone in lines of independent dots, and made the palace seem bare: like a hollow frame, or prop; like an image – as we looped through a traffic circle, a statue at its centre installed between carved pillars and a golden dome – from an Indian fairytale, or theme park. The image was appropriate: Henry Irwin, an English architect, designed the palace after its predecessor burnt to nothing in 1897. Mysore was, at the time, the seat of a princely state, and that gave Henry Irwin theme park, fairytale ideas.
From Mysore: The Demon, the Goddess and the Indian Prince, by Iain