On our way from one national park in the Nilgiri biosphere reserve to another we passed through what, according to India's urban development ministry, is India's second cleanest city. In a 2010 assessment of 423 cities with populations of over 100,000, Mysore in the state of Karnataka scored 71 out of a possible 100, which puts it in the "recovering but still diseased" category. Three other cities (Chandigarh, Surat, and the part of New Delhi administered by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation) also achieved this better than average but dubiously described ranking ("diseased"? Oh, yes please!).
Not a single Indian city managed to score above 90 ("healthy and clean"). Jaipur, my current city, scored 31, barely made it into the "needing considerable improvements" group, while almost half the cities considered fell into the lowest "on the brink of public health and environmental emergency" category. Cities were ranked, among other things, on drinking water quality and prevalence of open-air defecation. Not really a very cheerful picture.
But Mysore is lovely. I didn't necessarily notice that was cleaner than the average Indian city, but found something about it to be very appealing. The Mysore Palace certainly helped. This magnificent building was the most recent official residence of the Wodeyars, the rulers of the kingdom of Mysore from 1399 until the independence of India in 1947. The building was completed in 1912 and is lit-up to spectacular effect at night. The rooms inside are lavishly decorated with massive paintings and gilt furniture, plus decorative screens to allow the women of the court to peer outside to observe ceremonies without their modesty being compromised. Mysore also boasts a fascinating bazaar selling everything from essential oils to cooking supplies to heaps of coconuts. Sadly we were only able to linger in this second-cleanest of cities for a day or two. Our time in south India was growing short, and we still had one and a half biospheres to visit! Next stop, Tamil Nadu!