On the outskirts of Mysore City, is a rocky hill rising to a height of 1063 metres above sea level. Owing to it isolated position and precipitous sides, it renders the position of Mysore city conspicuous. The oldest temple on this hill is that of Mahabaleshwar, which was endowed by the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana in 1128 A.D. The descendants of Vijayanagara kings ruling at Chandragiri near Tirupati renovated this temple in 1620 A.D.
The hill is popularly called as Chamundi Hill taking its name after the Goddess Chamundi or durga, the consort of Shiva, and the tutelary deity of the Royal family of Mysore. The goddess is worshipped in a temple on the summit of the hill.
According to mythology, the buffalo demon Mahishasura practiced austerities and was able to attain the strength to drive the ‘devas’ out from their celestial abode. Maha Vishnu and Brahma created a female deity infusing in her the energies of all the deities, and thus emerged goddess Durga.
Armed with Vishnu’s Chakra, Shiva’s Trident and various attributes of the ‘Devas’, Durga became very powerful and fought with Mahishasura and destroyed him. Thus, Durga became ‘Mahishasuramardhini’ or ‘Chamundi’. The place where she killed the demon became ‘Mahishapura’ which in course of time came to be called as Mysore. In time, (‘hamundi or locally called as Chamundeshwari became the I utelary deity of the royal Wadeyars of Mysore.
Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadeyar renovated the shrine of Chamundeshwari in 1827 A.D., and erected the main tower lacing east. He also presented a fine ‘Simha Vahana’ and many ornaments to the deity. One of the gold jewels, called Nakshatramalika, a present from the king is of interest as it has in it thirty Sanskrit verses in praise of the deity inscribed on it. A statue of this king and his queen are found in the enclosure of the temple.
The temple of Chamundeshwari is a fine quadrangular structure and is a landmark seen from a great distance. A flight of steps, numbering about a thousand, leads to the top of the hill. Half way up along the stone steps, cut in solid rock, is a colossal figure of Nandi (the holy bull of Shiva), mounted in the mythological sculptures. It is adorned with finely carved bells and jewels.
A majestic 4.8 metre high monolith figure, it attracts the attention of all the visitiors. Although the carving is in no way extraordinary, yet the gigantic size, the correct proportions of the statue and the labour of sculptor expended in making, render it as a fine piece of art of this kind in South 1 ndia. Dodda Devaraja Wadeyar of the Mysore royal dynasty was responsible for creating this remarkable monument of devout zeal during his reign in 1659 A.D.
The annual car festival of Chamundeshwari (Rathothsava) takes place after navarathri festivities and is attended by a large crowd of devotees including the members of the royal family. The giant size statue of the demon Mahishasura, stands beside the Chamundeshwari temple. This figure is an awesome spectacle built in mortar and gorgeously painted in bright colours, that stands menacingly with sword held aloft. The summit offers a panoramic view of the lakes, rivers, palaces and parts of the Mysore City.
On the top of the hill is the beautiful summer palace built by the Mysore rulers for their stay whenever they visited the hill. A fine motorable ghat road has been laid from the bottom to the top of the hill. Every day, many tourist buses and conducted tours operate from Mysore city to this Chamundi temple. Visitors and pilgrims can make use of the Travellers’ Bungalow on the top of the Hill for overnight stay, by prior arrangement. There is also a Choultry on the top maintained by the temple.
Mysore city is the most convenient base for visiting Chamundeshwari temple, as a number of excellent hotels and rest houses are available here. Private taxis can be hired from Mysore to visit the shrine on the hills. Tourists can also visit the famous Shiva temple at Nanjanagud which is a famous temple in this part of the country.
Nanjanagud is noted for its big temple dedicated to Nanjundeshwara, a name given to Shiva, on account of his ‘swallowing the deadly poison that emerged in the process of churning the milky ocean, as per the mythological tradition. The town derives its name from the presiding deity.
The temple is situated in the middle of the town on the banks of river Kapini which flows eastwards. The deity is also known as Srikanteshwara. Located within a high walled compound, the temple covers a vast area, supported by 147 stone columns. The front tower which is in the Dravidian style of architecture and an imposing structure is said to have been erected in 1845 by Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadeyar. Various subsidiaiy shrines have been added from time to lime by the ladies of the royal family. On the right side in
I he enclosure, a huge stone Nandi facing east can be seen.
There is a separate shrine for Parvati, the Goddess of the temple. In the northern corner is an idol of Subramanya seated on a peacock and sheltered by the seven hoods of a serpent, holding a staff in one of the hands. There are statues and metallic figures of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadeyar and his four queens, standing with folded hands inside the enclosure of the temple. All around the verandah of the temple are idols of the shaiva devotees and different figures of Shiva, which are said to be of Chola origin of the 11th century. Many of the idols are carved with great perfection and finish.
Outside the temple enclosure on the wall are figures of various deities on the top parapet. These figures represent various forms of Ganapati, Subramanya, Dakshinamurthy, etc. Some of them are found damaged due to ravages of time.
II is said that the Mysore Rajahs have presented very valuable jewels and other silver vessels to the temple for daily worship. Among these is an emerald necklace presented by Ryder Ali. Tippu Sultan was also a great devotee of the deity.
Tourists visiting Mysore can take the opportunity of seeing the world famous Mysore Palace built in Indo Sarcenic style, which is a treasure house of exquisite carving of art from all over the world. The majestic Durbar Hall has an ornate ceiling and many sculptured pillars. The magnificent Golden Throne was the pride of Wadeyars and symbol of their sovereignty. The palace is illuminated on Sundays and other holidays. Brindavan Gardens (19 kms.) is one of the best gardens in the country and the musical fountain is added recently; the temple Ranganatha at Srirangapattana (16 kms.). Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary (21 kms.) which is famous for the astonishing variety of migratory birds, are some places worth visiting.