The valiant goddess Durga is the presiding deity atop Chamundi Hills. The erstwhile kingdom of Mysore owes its name to demon Mahishasura who was slain by goddess Chamundeshwari. This temple is one of the Shakti peetams and is the site of the splendid Mysore Dasara Festival.
- Address: Chamundi Hill, Mysore
- Timings: 7.30am–2pm, 3.30–6pm, 7.30–9pm
- Special Occasion: Dasara (Sep–Oct)
Looking upon the green hill with 1001 steps leading to the top, it would seem that Chamundeshwari’s protective gaze envelops the plains of Mysore. This is a Shakti peetam where a lock of the Devi’s hair had fallen. Its architectural beauty is attributed to the Hoysala, Vijayanagar and Wodeyar kings of Mysore. A visit to this temple, 3489ft from ground level, marries mythology, royal history and the cultural identity of the majestic city of Mysore.
The simple gopuram and pristine style belie its long history of temple building. The 12th-century Hoysala kings built the main temple structure followed by Chamraja Wodeyar who built the gopuram in the 16th century. In 1659 King Dodda Devaraja built 1001 steps on the hill from its base to the top. The 17th-century Vijayanagar kings contributed gopurams and ornaments. For the Mysore Wodeyars, Chamundeshwari is the royal family’s deity, and the association with the temple continues even today.
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Mahishasura was a rakshasa (demon) who had received a boon from Brahma that neither mortal nor God could kill him. With their peace shattered by his demonic dominance, devas led by Shiva and Vishnu gathered all their powers to form Durga, the indomitable warrior goddess. Durga set out on her lion mount and vanquished Mahishasura in a fierce battle, plunging her trident into his heart. The hills reverberated with joy and were named after her as Chamundi, or the fearsome avatar of Durga. Chamundeshwari Temple is a Shakti peetam, the place where Parvati’s body parts had fallen after Shiva had danced with her body in anger after she immolated herself at Daksha’s yagna. A lock of her hair fell on Chamundi Hills.
- Devi Kere is a detour on the left on the way up the hill. It’s a sacred pond whose waters are used for purification rites in the temple.
- The 1001 broad and irregular steps up the Chamundi Hill meander through a forested path and can be steep in places and not recommended for elders and children. The path has a few small shrines in the middle, but the main highlight is the towering black, 15 feet-tall Nandi statue at the 700th step. You can also walk down 300 steps and have your cab/auto pick you up at the Nandi statue. The view of the city from here is breath-taking.
- A six-foot statue of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, the royal patron of the temple can be spotted from the outer praharam of the temple.
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The 10-day Dasara Festival is world famous and pilgrims and tourists descend on Mysore at this time. It begins with a puja for Chamundeshwari by Mysore Maharaja Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar and family. On Dasara day, the idol is taken out on a grand procession.
Check herefor exact dates and timings.
OTHER MYSORE TEMPLES
Mysore Palace Temples- The Mysore Palace has 12 temples. If not all, the Shree Shvetha Varaha Swamy Temple, Prasanna Krishnaswamy Temple, Lakshmiramanaswamy Temple and Trineshwaraswamy Temple are worth visiting. The temples are beautifully lit up in the evenings. Elephant and camel rides for children are available inside the palace premises.
Chennakesava Temple at Somanathapura (30km)- This 13th-century temple is not a pilgrim centre but this Hoysala temple is distinct for sheer architectural grandeur and the use of soapstone for amazing sculptures. Opt for a government-approved guided tour.
Srikanteshwara Swamy Temple, Nanjangud (23km)- The 9th-century temple and the town around it are named after Shiva who, as Nanjundeshwara, consumed poison as devas and asuras churned the oceans for the nectar of immortality. The temple lies opposite the Kappila River.
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam (22km)- Sri Ranganathaswamy is a reclining Vishnu covered in fresh garlands. The relatively big temple has shrines for other avatars of Vishnu too (7.30am–1.30pm, 4–8pm).
Melukote (53km)- The charming village of Melukote stands on a hillock and is a sacred site for Vaishnavites as the seer Ramanuja lived here in the 12th century. Also known as Yadugiri, the ancient Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple is home to a black serene idol of Vishnu (8.30am–1pm, 4–6pm, 7–8.30pm). A short hill-climb away is the Yoga Narasimha Swamy Temple which offers great views of the village below. The deity of Narasimha here is not ferocious but serene (9.30am–1.30pm, 5–7.30pm).