When the Krishna Raja Sagar Dam was built in 1932 and named after Mysore ruler Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, a Mughal-style garden was laid out downstream to amuse the royal family. The dam and Brindavan Garden are now tourist landmarks, filled to overflowing with day-trippers and hand-holders and candy-floss stalls. Reason enough to avoid the gardens thus far. And I didn’t realise — since every hotel in Mysore is imaginatively named Palace or Brindavan — that the Royal Orchid Brindavan is actually right there on top of the garden, till we drove in through the gates.

Contrarily enough, the idea works. This time of year the garden is nondescript but I can just imagine it ablaze with flowers in winter, making for rooms with spectacular views. And there is a peculiar mix of intimacy and distance vis-à-vis the crowds milling below. You get the best of the display but without getting your feet dirty. That was probably the idea anyway when this colonial-style bungalow was built in the 1930s for the Wodeyar guests. It continues to be government property, on lease to the Royal Orchid group of hotels.

The difference? Today, anybody can walk right up to the balcony coffee shop for a cuppa. And after the super-secluded air that high-end places usually sport, it’s quite a strange, voyeuristic sensation to hang out at the first-floor Elephant Bar and see the crowds just below flowing about, eating, clicking, posing. At sundown, the lights come on and it’s like sitting on top of a Ferris wheel watching the mela below.

There is a lingering air of brown-sahib splendour everywhere — the semi-circular colonnaded porch, the French windows that step into arched balconies, the cane furniture and period pieces scattered around, including a mouth-watering 18th- century opium crusher. Alas, the splendour does not yet extend to the resort’s one-gravy-fits-all menu. One imagines, or at least hopes, that the menu too will shortly be upgraded, since the place is not yet complete, with sauna, gym and some other parts still missing.

There are some interesting little touches that add to the laid-back air, which anyway attacks you the moment you step into Mysore. A menu of exotic baths, for instance, that includes a Maharaja bath with milk and honey that’s served with vanilla tea, a crystal bath served with jasmine tea, or an orange bath served with wine. Then there’s a pillow menu, if you please! Room service will deliver a body ache pillow or an anti-stress micro-bead pillow, or a goose-down sleep-like-a-baby pillow, or an anti-allergy one. Incidentally, the pillows are also for sale.

It’s pleasant to meander up to the dam to watch the sunset, or take an early morning walk down to the Cauvery inlet that flows right behind the property making for a pretty stunning backdrop. Or drive down to Chamundi Hills for a quick visit to the miserably commercialised temple there. The resort also organises trips to the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, the Mysore Palace et al, plus a guided horticultural tour of the garden itself. It’s quite a neat idea, actually, to use the garden as grand prop. And a great way to preserve what is undoubtedly a lovely old building.

The information

Where: The Royal Orchid Brindavan, Brindavan Garden, Krishnaraja Sagar, Mysore 571 607; www.royalorchidhotels.com   Accommodation: 24 rooms
Tariff: Rs 3,000-4,500 per person including breakfast



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