Famous for its production of premium silk, sandalwood and incense, I couldn’t leave Mysore without a little investigating into the cities time honored traditions. The Government Silk Factory is not just open but free (!!) for visitors to walk around at their leisure! You’ll have to bat your eyelids with the guards at the entrance if you want to keep hold of your very expensive Canon camera (promising of course not to take photos – this time I didn’t risk it, they had guns…). It’s a noisy but extremely fascinating insight into the production of a silk sari, if you’re a bit of a textile enthusiast. You can see the entire process from the twisting of the silk strands from the cocoon (8 whole cocoons for one single thread!), to the soaking, drying, dying, bobbin threading, and finally the machinated weaving on of the design on the looms. The enormity (not to mention the health and safety) of the mass scale production is bewildering but I was lucky enough to have some one-on-one demonstrations by a few of the weary workers (who I think may have been glad for the distraction), not that I could hear a word of what they were saying.
The Government Sandalwood Oil Factory just down the road is much calmer, if not a little less stimulating a visit. A free (!) guided tour and explanation of the process is provided here and the employees actually refused my tip! Pick up a little sample of guaranteed 100% pure sandalwood oil here. I have to say I passed on this as at 650 Rs (£9.30 approx) for 5ml it doesn’t exactly fit into my idea of a traveler's budget.