The famous Sri Chamundeshwari temple on the Chamundi Hills is located at a height of about 3,489 feet above the sea level. These hills are located at 13 km from Mysore and can be seen from all the corners of Mysore.
‘Chamundi’ or ‘Durga’ is the fierce form of ‘Shakti’. She is the slayer of demons, ‘Chanda’ and ‘Munda’ and also ‘Mahishasura’.Chamundeshwari is called by the people of Karnataka as Naada Devi (ನಾಡದೇವಿ), which means state Goddess.
The Chamundeshwari Temple is considered as one among the 18 Shakti Peethas. This place is known as Krouncha Pitha as the region was known in Puranic times as Krouncha Puri. Out of the 18 major body parts of Devi Sati that fell in various locations, known as Ashtadasha Shakti (18) Peethas, it is believed that that the hair of Sati fell at Chamundi Hills.
Chamundi Hills have been mentioned as Trimuta Kshetra in the ancient Hindu scriptures such as ‘Skanda Purana’. This place is surrounded by eight hills and Chamundi Hills in one among them. Earlier, the hill used to be known as Mahabaladri after the Mahabaleshwara Temple which is dedicated to Bhagwan Shiva, which is also the oldest temple on the hills. In due course this place came to be known as ‘Chamundi Hills’ after the Goddess Chamundi.
According to the legends, Devi defeated the demon king Mahishasura on this hill. Once upon a time, a buffalo headed demon named Mahishasura lived in this area who had been granted a boon by Brahma that he could not be killed by a man. With this boon Mahishasura began harassing the humans and the Gods.The Gods realised that Mahishasura will face his death only from woman due to the boon he received from Brahma.
All the Gods in the heaven gave their powers and create Mahadevi with Ashta Bhuja (8 hands) to fight Mahishasura along with a lion as her vehicle. With these powers,Devi took on the form of Chamundeshwari. The battle between Chamundeshwari and Mahishasura lasted ten days. At the end, Mahishasura was defeated and killed. This victory is celebrated as the festival of Dasara across Bharat.
The original shrine of Chamundeshwari temple is believed to have been built in the 12th century by the Rulers of the Hoysala Dynasty. Subsequently the temple tower was probably built by the Rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 17th century.
In 1659, a staircase of one thousand steps was built leading up to the 3000-foot summit of the hill by Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar.
There is a huge granite Nandi on the 700th step on the hill in front of a small Shiva temple a short distance away. This Nandi is over 15 feet high, and 24 feet long and around its neck one can find exquisite bells.
Chamundeshwari temple gained prominence after the Mysuru Maharajas, the Wodeyars, came to power in 1399 A.D. Mysuru Maharajas are great devotees and worshippers of the Devi and Chamundeswari became their home deity.
The temple is of a quadrangular structure built in Dravidian style. The temple consists of the main doorway, entrance, navaranga hall, antharala mantapa, sanctum sanctorum, and Prakara. There is a seven-tier Gopura (i.e., pyramidal tower)with seven golden Kalashas at the entrance and a ‘Vimana’ (small tower) atop the sanctum sanctorum.
Krishnaraja Wodeyar III repaired the shrine in 1827 A.D and built the present beautiful tower at the entrance (Gopura). Krishnaraja Wodeyar III also presented to the temple a ‘Simha-vahana’ (a lion-shaped vehicle) and other animal cars and precious jewels. The cars are being used for processions on special religious occasions.
As one enters inside the temple, on the right-hand side one can find a small statue of Bhagwan Ganesha. Very near to Bhagwan Ganesha statue, there is a flagstaff, where the footprints of Devi and a small statue of Nandi, facing the sanctum sanctorum can be seen.
On the right side, before approaching the flag staff, there is an image of ‘Anjaneya’ attached to the wall. On either side of this entrance are two Dikpalakas, Nandini and Kamalini.
There is also 6 feet tall statue of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, in front of the sanctum sanctorum. Statues of his three wives, Ramavilasa, Lakshmivilasa and Krishnavilasa are also located on his both sides.
A stone statue of Devi Chamundeshwari stands within the sanctum sanctorum. She is portrayed in a seated position with 8 arms (Ashta Bhuja).
While proceeding towards the Chamundi Temple, the statue of ‘Mahishasura’ attracts the visitors. The ‘Chamundi Village’ is located close to the temple. Besides the Chamundeshwari temple, one can see Mahabaladri, Narayanaswamy temples and Mahishasura and Nandi statues.
The Lalith Palace near the Chamundi Hills was built by the Mysuru royal family during the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. Built on a raised ground, it offers an attractive bird’s eye view of Mysuru city and far off places.
The temple is famous for the celebrations of festivals like AshadaShukravara (ಆಶಾಡಾಶುಕ್ರವಾರ), Navaratri and AmmanavaraVardhanthi (ಅಮ್ಮನವರವರ್ಧಂತಿ).
In the month of Ashadha, Fridays are considered particularly auspicious. Lot of devotees visit the temple during this occasion. Another festival celebrated during this month is Chamundi Jayanti. This day is celebrated on the anniversary of the consecration of the Utsava Moorti of Devi by the Maharaja of Mysore. On this occasion, Devi’s murti is taken around the temple in a golden palanquin.
The most important festival celebrated at Chamundeshwari temple is Navaratri. Mysuru Dasara is celebrated as the state festival of Karnataka, called Nada habba (ನಾಡಾಹಬ್ಬಾ) in Kannada.
During Navaratri, the murti is decorated in 9 different ways to depict the nine different aspects of Devi known as Navadurgas. On the 7th day of Navaratri that is dedicated to the Devi Kalaratri, valuable jewels donated by Maharajas are brought from the District Treasury of Mysuru to the temple to decorate the murti.
Jwalamukhi Sri Tripura Sundari Temple is situated at the foothill which is in Utthanahalli.
The crowning glory of Mysuru, Sri Chamundeshwari Temple is an enchanting place surrounded by natural beauty. The forest consists of rich and diverse flora and fauna. These lush green hills offer a spectacular trekking experience.
The major tourist attractions near Chamundeshwari temple are -Mysore palace (10 KMs), Zoo (9 KMs), Jaganmohana palace (12, KMs), Ranganatha swamy temple, Srirangapatna 24 kms and Krishnarajasagara Dam (Brundavan Gardens) 32 KMs.
Mysuru is well connected by air, rail and road. Karnataka state capital Bengaluru is 154 KMs from Mysuru. Bus facilities are available to visit the hills. Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) operates regular bus services every day for the convenience of pilgrims and others.
(Featured image source: indianpanorama.in)