One of the most beautiful times to be in Mysuru is over Ayudh Puja and Dasara. The entire city decks up in lights and decorations, and there is this festive spirit that envelopes the city. I visited Mysore during this time and got to see it first-hand. The moment you land in Mysuru, one of the first things you notice is the Chamundi Betta, ‘betta’ meaning the ‘hill’. The Chamundi Hill is believed to represent the shape of the body of the fallen demon – Mahishasura. It is said that the Goddess chamundi sits atop the body of the body of the fallen Mahishasura, preventing him from rising again. You can go anywhere in Mysuru, and the Chamundi Betta will always be visible, with the Goddess Chamundi watching over the historic city.
What is the story behind the Chamundi Hills in Mysore?
Located at the very top of the Chamundi Hill is the Chamundeshwari Temple, one of the 51 Shakti Peeths in India. The temple is also one of the 18 Maha Shakti Peeths in India. A Shakti Peeth is the holy place where one of the body parts of Goddess Sati fell when Lord Shiva took the Goddess’ body after she jumped into the holy fire, and roamed the universe with, filled with rage. To prevent the destruction of the universe with Lord Shiva’s rage, Lord Vishnu cut Sati’s body into 51 pieces with his Sudarshan Chakra. Each of these 51 pieces fell in different parts of India, and each of the places where a part fell, is recognized as a Shakti Pith. It is said that Sati’s hair fell at the location of the Chamundi Hill, hence, the establishment of the Chamundeshwari Temple. Goddess Chamundi or Chamundeshwari, is one of the seven Maitrikas or Mother Goddesses. She is also one of the chief Yoginis. The name of the Goddess Chamundi is derived from the combination of ‘Chanda’ and ‘Munda’, the two demons that the Goddess killed. The Goddess Chamundi is portrayed as usually living in or around cremation grounds or near holy fig trees. The Goddess is usually worshiped along with ritual animal sacrifices, along with offerings of wine.
In the Indian state of Karnataka, Goddess Chamundeshwari is regarded as Naada Devi or the State Goddess. She has been held in reverence by the Maharaja of Mysore and the people of the state for centuries.
The history of the Chamundeshwari Temple, Mysuru
It is said that the original shrine of the temple was built back in the 12th century by the Kings of the Hoysala dynasty. However, the tower of the temple was built during the reign of the Vijayanagar empire in the 17th century. In 1659, a thousand-step staircase was built going all the way up to the summit of the Chamundi hill, situated about 3000 feet high. The staircase was built by Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar. He also built the huge Nandi idol – the Dodda Nandi. The Nandi idol is one of the largest such idols in the country being 16 feet tall and and 25 feet long. The Nandi idol and the temple beside it are at the 700th step of the staircase.
In 1827, Krishnaraja Wodeyar III repaired the original shrine and built the seven storied gopuram that we see today along with the gold finials. The statues of the King and his three queens were also built during his reign. Krishnaraj Wodeyar III also gifted the Simhavahana to the temple in 1843. In the temple complex, there are two other temples – one dedicated to Lakshmi Narayana Swami and the other to Mahabaleshwara. The Shri Mahabaleshwara Temple is dedicated Lord Shiva and it is the oldest temple on the Chamundi Hill, believed to have been built even before the beginning of the reign of the Hoysalas.
You can drive to the top, there is ample parking space in the temple complex. From there, you can walk along the path, up some stairs, with vendors selling knick-knacks on both sides of the paths. Take care of your belongings in the crowd. At the end of the path is the shoe stand where you take a bag, put your shoes in it, and hand it over at the stand. The walk ahead from here is to be done barefoot. You can enter the temple from the designated entrance, after washing your hands and feet at the taps. You go through the entire temple complex, offer your prayers, and then exit at the back of the temple. There is a stand to break coconuts at the back.
A short walk away from the main temple is the statue of the demon Mahishasura, the demon that the Goddess Chamundi slayed. The statue was built by Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar in 1659.
From the top of the Chamundi Hill, you get a beautiful panoramic view of the city of Mysore – the race course, the Lalitha Mahal Palace, the Mysore Palace, the Karanji and the Kukkarahalli lakes, etc. The view is especially beautiful in the evenings, especially during Navratri and Dasara, when the city is looks glorious in gold.
On the occasion of Ayudha Puja, special yagna and prayers are held at the Chamundi temple. Just outside the temple, you can get the prasada meal in a hall. The prasada I had for lunch on Ayudha Puja was some delicious spiced bath.
You will also get a lot of fresh fruits and snacks outside the temple. I’ve been to a few places in Karnataka, and outside almost every temple, garden, etc. you will find stalls and vendors selling fresh fruits with masala, snacks like spiced dry peas, chips, etc. My favorite – the little malaya gooseberries with masala. I also like the star fruit and the rose apples with the masala.
When in Mysore, this place should be on your list of places to visit. Seek the blessings of the Guardian Goddess of Mysuru, have the prasada meal, pray to the Dodda Nandi, and soak in the view of the majestic city that is Mysuru.
As I stand at one of the viewing points near the Dodda Nandi and look out at the beautiful city of Mysore, there is a unique peace and calm I feel. There is a gentle breeze, the city is enveloped in the festive spirit of Ayudha Puja and Dasara the next day. I am tossing the Malaya gooseberries one-by-one in my mouth, relishing the burst of tartness of the fruit with the spiciness of the chili powder. I can see the preparations taking place at the Mysuru Palace for the Jamboo Savari going to happen the next day. It gets me thinking of all the Kings who ruled this beautiful city over the years, how the city would have developed. How time turns everything to dust, right now is all you have, after all!