Chamundi Hills with an average elevation of 1,000 meters lies close to the city of Mysore in Karnataka.
Legend has it that that the demon Mahishasura, the king of the area that is currently Mysore, was killed by the Goddess Chamundeswari (also Chamundi) after a fierce battle. The hills hence got their name and a temple of the goddess was built on the top. The goddess is also known as MahishasuraMardini meaning She who slew Mahishasura. The temple has a very beautiful idol of the goddess wearing a garland of skulls. The temple has always been patronised by the rulers of Mysore. In earlier days, the Maharajas of Mysore would ride the ceremonial Dasara elephant during the annual Dasara festival, but after India gained independence, the idol of Goddess Chamundi is taken on an elephant.
A panoramic view of the city is seen from the top of the hills. Among other landmarks, you can see the race course, the Lalitha Mahal palace, Mysore Palace, Karanji and Kukkarahalli lakes. At dusk, the view of the city is especially beautiful, and on Sunday evenings and during the Dasara festival, the illuminated Mysore Palace glitters like gold.
There a long stairway leading to the top of the hill. There are around 1,000 steps in all, and climbing the first 400 or so steps takes some effort. En route to the top, the steps pass the large monolithic statue of Nandi the Bull. Nandi is the vahana (Vehicle) of Lord Shiva. Climbing gets easier soon afterwards.
There are regular buses plying to the Chamundi hills from the central bus stand.
The top of the hill has a few attractions - the Mahishasura Statue, the Chamundeswari Temple, and a few other temples nearby. The Rajendra Vilas palace used to be a popular hotel earlier, but is now closed to the public. The palace is now being redone and provides a panoramic view of Chamundi Hill, Chamundi Temple and the city of Mysore.
Nandi at Chamundi Hills.
Climbing the steps of Chamundi Hills is a popular way of keeping fit among the locals in Mysore. The main set of 1000 steps takes anywhere between 12 to 30 minutes to climb depending on an individual's fitness levels and provides an excellent way to increase cardio vascular fitness. Some individuals climb only till the Nandi which is about 700 steps, then run on the downhill road to the other side of Chamundi hills for about 2 Kilometers and climb another set of 600 steps to the top. This set of steps at the back of the hill is not very well known but provide an excellent challenge for fitness. Groups of youngsters also tend to trek through the jungle and thickets of the Chamundi Hill Slopes to the top. However in recent years, this has reduced due to stories of leopards residing in the jungle slopes. Sometimes leopards have been sighted near the roads during late evenings leading to the top and have been photographed providing a sense of additional thrill to people who seek adventure walking up the slopes.
The Chamundeshwari Temple
The Chamundeshwari Temple is located on the top of Chamundi Hills about 13 km from the palace city of Mysore in Karnataka. The temple was named after Chamundeshwari or Durga, the fierce form of Shakti, a tutelary deity held in reverence for centuries by Mysore Maharajas.
The original shrine is thought to have been built in the 12th century by Hoysala rulers while its tower was probably built by the Vijayanagar rulers of the 17th century. In 1659, a flight of one thousand steps was built leading up to the 3000 foot summit of the hill. At the temple are several images of Nandi (the bull mount of Shiva). There is a huge granite Nandi on the 800th 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 are exquisite bells.
The temple has a seven storey tall Gopura decorated with intricate carvings. The deity of the goddess is said to be made of gold and the temple doors of silver.
Mysore was ruled by the demon-king Mahishasura, he was a buffalo-headed monster. Hence, came the name of this place - Mahishuru, the city of demon Mahisha. Hearing to the prayers of Gods and Goddess to save them from the monster, Goddess Parvathi, (consort of Lord Siva), took birth as Chamundeshwari and killed the monster. After killing the demon, the Goddess resided atop the Chamundi Hills where she is worshiped with reverence and devotion. The goddess is also known as Mahishasura Mardini meaning She who slew Mahishasura.
Nandi BullThe Chamundi temple has always been patronised by the rulers of Mysore. In 1659 Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar built 1,000 steps and huge Nandi, Lord Shiva's Bull. This colossal Nandi is one of the largest in India, 16 ft. (4.8 meters) tall at the front and 25 ft. (7.5 meters) in length. The magnificent pendent bells around its neck are exquisite. Nandi and the temple beside it are located at the 700th step of the Chamundi Hill. Krishnaraja Wodeyar III repaired the shrine in 1827 and built the present beautiful forty-meter, seven storied Gopura (tower at the entrance) with gold finials, and set up statues of his and his three queens. In 1827, Krishnaraja Wodeyar III made arrangements for festivals and processions and gifted Simhavahana in 1843.