Sri Chamundeshwari Temple on the Chamundi Hills in Mysuru
Sri Chamundeshwari Temple is one of the 18 Shaktipeethas mentioned by Adi Shankaracharya. It is located on the Chamundi Hills near the city of Mysuru (formerly known as Mysore) which is associated with the Devi legend. The story of Chamundeshwari Devi Chamunda or Chamundeshwari comes in Devi stories as mentioned in Devi Mahatmya or Durga Saptashati as part of Markandeya Purana. In this text, Devi takes swarops or different appearances to kill different asuras that appear from time to time. The manifestations that killed the Asura twins of Chanda and Munda became known as Chamunda. The decorated idol of Chamundeshwari Devi is also the one who killed the half-man, half-buffalo asura Mahishasura and is thus known as Mahishasura Mardini. It is believed that Mahishasur was killed here on the Chamundi Hills, hence the city of Mysuru derives its name from Asura. This is not uncommon at all. Kolhapur derives its name from the asura Kolasur who was killed by Mahalakshmi in Karveerpur which is now called Kolhapur after Asura. Living on top of the Chamundi hills, for which it is named, Chamundeshwari is a Kchitra Devata in the area around the hills. This includes the city of Mysuru – the cultural capital of Karnataka. Being a royal city, Chamundeshwari is also a Kuldevi of the royal family of Mysuru. She is actually the god of Karnataka. She is also known as Naada Devi. The famous Mysore Dussehra also starts from here with her permission. Dussehra is also known as Naada Habba in Mysore. As a Shaktipeetha, it is called Kraunchpatnam by Adi Shankaracharya and is otherwise referred to as Kraunch Peetha. It is believed that the hair of Devi Sati fell here when Shiva was walking around with her dead body and Vishnu clipped it with a chakra. Sri Chamundeshwari Temple The ancient temple is located on a hilltop at an average sea level of 3,400 feet. Many Devi temples are located on hilltops and in the old days, devotees used to climb bare hills. With the advent of civilizations and kingdoms, temples became larger, and the approach to temples became simpler. Gopuram of the Chamundeshwari Temple Built in a typical Dravidian style, with a tall, pale yellow gopuram, the temple overlooks the city of Mysuru. The temple in its present form dates back to the 12th century AD and the Hoysala Dynasty. It is likely that later additions such as gopurams were made by the Vijayanagara kings. Notably, though, are 1,000 stone steps leading up to the temple carved sometime in the mid-1600s by Maharaja Dodda Devaraja of Mysuru. There are stories of many Mysore Maharaja visiting the temple and receiving blessings in various forms. The temple itself is not very big. But for the public, you can easily walk around the temple. You enter through a tall seven-story Gopuram that has been painted pale yellow. You should extend your neck to see the golden kalasha placed on top of the gopuram. As you enter there are Navaranga Mandapa and Antarala Mandapa followed by Garbhagriha. The temple is surrounded by a wall called Prakara. Ganesha, Hanuman and Bhairava There are smaller shrines dedicated to Ganesha, Hanuman and Bhairava within the temple. The main door is flanked by doormen or Dwarpalikas named Nandini and Kamalini. Also in the temple is the king of Mysuru, Krishnaraja and Diyar III, with his wives Ramavilasa, Lakshmivilasa and Krishnavilasa. However I missed this due to the heavy crowd. The main murti of Devi is Ashtabuja or with eight hands as described in the Markandeya Purana. It is also believed that Rishi Markandiya was probably the first to consecrate Morti here. Sri Chakra is also worshiped here, as the geometric representation of Devi. The temple is surrounded by small shops selling flowers and puja items. The main prasad offering here is ladoo, something like Tirupati ladoo. Under the trees, I found Naga Murtis – something that is ubiquitous in southern India. Naga Devata Murtis in the Temple Complex Festivals in Chamundeshwari Temple As it is a Devi temple, Fridays are important in the temple. You will see a lot of people visiting this day. Apart from daily Abhishek every morning and evening, Chamundeshwari Devi is also offered to salute with gun or honor guard every evening. This practice was started by the Wodeyar Maharajas of Mysuru after Tipu Sultan was killed and they regained their kingdom. Ashada Shukrwara is an Ashda Friday or Ashda month which falls in July and August of the Julian calendar, special ceremonies are held in the temple. Chamundi Jayanti Chamundi Jayanti is celebrated in the Ashadha Krishna Saptami or on the seventh day of the dark fortnight of the month of Ashadha. On this day, Devi steps in wearing her golden statue and walks around the temple in the form of Utsava Murti. The Mysuru royal family participates in the puja and seeks blessings to rule the state with its guidance and impartiality. The months of Navaratri and Nada Habba or Dussehra Navaratri in Chaitra and Ashwin are celebrated with great fervor as in any Devi temple across the country. In the Chamundeshwari temple, for a period of nine days, Shringar of Devi is made into nine different swaroops or manifestations of the goddess, collectively called Navadurga. Some days Shringar including jewelry comes from the royal treasury of Mysuru. Chamundi is an integral part of the famous Mysuru Dussehra. We’ll talk about that another day. Other important days in the temple are: Shayanautsava on Ashwin Krishna Tritiya Mudi Utsava on Ashwin Krishna Panchami Vasantotsava in Chaitra Pratipada or First day of Chaitra Navaratri Kritikotsava on Kartika Poornima Rathotsava Asvayuja or Ashwin Poornna Day in the Morning Sripots. Mahabaleswara Rathotsava Phalguna Ksirhna Sashthi Uttanahalai Temple jwalamuki jatra on Third Sunday from Magha Masa Mahabaleshwar temple about 100 meters from Chamundeshwari temple which is a small stone Shiva temple. It contains typical Hoysala columns which tell us it was built by them. There is a stone inscription in Kannada which can be seen in the building. The Kannada inscriptions on the stone Mandapa temple are full of murtis. I remember a painting of the Saptamatrikas on one side of the Garbhagriha. Carved stone pillars in Mahabaleshwara Temple We visited the temple early in the morning, so we could attend Arti here. It was a nice experience as there were only a few people. It is strange that Chamundi temple is full of people and you can hardly take darshan. But this temple is rather empty and allows you to spend time with the deity. This temple may be older than the Chamundeshwari or contemporary temple. The hill was also called Mahapaladri hill after this temple before Chamundi Hills became a more common name. There is also Narayanaswamy Temple nearby. Nandi Murti & Shiva Temple On the 700th step of the stairs leading to the Chamundi Hills, there is a giant stone carved Nandi Murti. The giant Nandi is carved from a single stone and is very proportional. Nandi Mortis as we know is very popular in this region. Shivalingas can be larger at times. Most pilgrims stop by to visit Nandi, no matter which route they take. The giant stone carved nandi on the hills of Chamundi has nowadays become a popular point of tap and click. For those who are climbing stairs, it is a good rest point. There is a convenient platform that allows you to take pictures without getting close to Nandi. At 16 feet tall and even taller (25 feet), Nandi reminds you of your height when compared to the divine. He wears many chains and bells around his neck that run the length of his body. It is exquisitely carved and deserves the attention of the visitor. It was also built by Dodda Devaraja who built the steps to facilitate the journey of pilgrims. If Nandi was around, Shiva wouldn’t be far behind. There is a small Shiva temple near the Nandi platform. Mahishasur Murti Giant Mahishasur Murti standing on top of the hill holding a sword and surviving or snake in his hands. It is a reminder of the victory of good over evil. And the fact that the devatas come down to earth when the adharma increases beyond a point. Chamundi Hills Besides the more famous temple at the top, Chamundi Hills is also popular among early morning walkers/joggers, for its sunrise and sunset, pleasant weather, and lush green vegetation. Only 13 km from the city, the ridge has a circumference of about 11 km. The forest on the hills is a protected preserve forest and is home to a few endangered plants and wildlife. It is a tropical deciduous thorn forest. There are more than 440 species of flowering plants. About 190 species of birds have been observed here, among them about 130 species of birds. More than 150 species of butterflies have been found over a period of time. The hill forest is home to monkeys, civets, tigers, mongooses, etc. The nature trails in Chamundi hills can be rich, however, you can go with well-prepared guides and groups for adventure and with permission from the authorities. Mysore view You can have a beautiful view from the top of Mysore city from Chamundi Hills. When I looked at the city from different points of view, it seemed to me like a white city. Many of its notable buildings are white. Mysuru city landscape from Chamundi Hills lookout points If you know the city or have a local guide they can give you an aerial tour of the city from here. You can see up to the Krishnarajasagara Dam on a clear day. Jwalamalini and the Tripursundari Temple When you descend from the Chamundi Hills, turn around towards the village of Uttanahalli. It is almost at the foot of the main hill. Here there is a temple dedicated to the twin deities Jwalamalini and Tripursundari. It is believed that the Davis are the two sisters of Chamondi. Jwalamalini Temple near Chamundi Hills The two temples are located side by side. There is a beautiful Shiva temple in the premises. I could also see some stones of Bhairava murtis which are always a part of Devi Kshitra. It is said that in earlier days kings would visit these temples before going to war, asking for the blessings of Devi. You will always find temples of different manifestations of Devi in the immediate vicinity. For example, in Kolhapur, we have Mahalakshmi surrounded by Kalika Devi and Renuka Devi. Temple of Travel Tips is located at an altitude. You can either climb the hill or drive. There are regular buses from Mysore that take you up the hill. Chamundeshwari Temple visitor times are 7:30 AM – 2 PM then 3:30 – 6 PM and 7:30 – 9:00 PM. There is a VIP darshan ticket that allows you to enter from the side in a smaller queue. Free food is served at the temple during lunchtime. Although it is advisable to donate if you can afford it. Be wary of monkeys if you have any food in your hands. Photography is not allowed inside the temple, outside you can click pictures. Chamondi hill is still full of forests and wildlife, so be wary of venturing into the depths of the jungle. There is enough parking space on top of the hill if you want to drive. Refreshments and souvenir shops are available for those interested.