This is a hidden gem in Mysore. A typical tourist to the city is hardly aware its presence, leave alone adding it to the itinerary. However the Folklore museum's popularity is slowly catching up. Owned by the University of Mysore, this is the largest such museums in the country.
Why is it called a gem?
Well, for two reasons. First, the uniqueness of the exhibits. You'll find a mind boggling collection of traditional artefacts on display in this museum, apart from the usual stuffs like sculptures and paintings. The second reason for its charm is its settings. The Folklore Museum is setup in an imposing stately mansion, which itself is a major attraction from a historic and architectural point.Let's talk about the central theme of the exhibits. As the name suggests, there are predominantly items once used by the rural folks, traditional artists and even the tribals. For example on the first floor of the museum you can see a massive collection of traditional farming equipment and tools, mostly made of wood and metal. Nearby is a big collection of kitchen utensils and tools of the bygone era. Further you'll see a long row of vintage personal weapons and fitness equipment.
There is a whole section dedicated for traditional wicker baskets, anything for that used in farming to the one used by the snake charmers.
Another interesting section exhibits tools used by tribal folks for fishing and even trapping birds.
The more conventional exhibits include archaeological artefacts.
There are a few pavilions reserved for folk art and religious art forms, especially performing arts. You can see costumes and crowns used in Yakshagana and Kathakali (both performing arts based on mythical themes).
Those with taste for literature, especially Kannada poetry, will find the "Writers' Gallery" valuable. Many hand written originals by the writers are on display. So are the personal items like pens, spectacles, shawls etc used by the writers. A great portion of the display is covered by mementos, citations and old copies of their works.
There is a large portion dedicated to the poet laureate, Kuvempu, who named the very campus where the museum is located as Manasagangotri (meaning "the fountainhead of the Ganges of the mind"). The "Writers' Gallery" is set around the expansive Kalyana Mantapa (marriage hall) of the mansion.
The cubical wooden pillars on display near the dance hall are peculiar for its size. Nearby are some massive wooden images of folk deities.
Outside the building on the open courtyard stands a wooden temple car, brought from Shimoga. At a corner you will find tomb stones of the kennels (brought from the burial site near the mansion).
The museum was founded in 1968. However in 2006 Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion got renovated, thanks to the generous funding from the Infosys Foundation. The whole museum is rejuvenated.
Like mentioned earlier, the museum is inside the Manasagangotri campus which is about 10 minutes drive from the city center. Take the Hunsur Road (Vinoba Road) from JLB road. After about 3-4 km you'll see the Kukkarahalli Lake on the left. Turn left at the signal into the university campus.
You'll find the Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion behind the senate hall building. If needed help for directions, ask for road to Manasagangotri and then for Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion. Or you can even catch a city bus to the university campus.
Admission is free. Museum is open from 10 am to 5.30 pm Monday to Saturday. Closed on Sundays, Second Saturdays and Government Holidays.