Chamundi Hills Travel Guide– If you happen to divide the Mysuru city map into four parts by drawing lines through the center then the quarter at the rightmost bottom will represent the greenest patch of the city.
The central area of this patch denotes the site of the Chamundi Hills! The Hills stand tall measuring about 3,489 feet above sea level and look down upon Mysuru city from a height of about 800 feet above.
CHAMUNDI HILLS & MYSURU
There exists a close association between the Chamundi Hills and the name of Mysuru city. As legends go, the place earlier was the territory of demon Mahishasura and the area was known as Mahishuru or Mahishapura.
This later got changed to Mysore in English and Mysuru as it is known today. Today, the Chamundi Hills is an important landmark of the city and can be easily spotted from any corner of the city.
Although Mysuru is famous for Mysore palace, however, I recommend you to take time and do visit the sacred hill and I am sure you won’t be disappointed.
CHAMUNDI HILLS HISTORY
Chamundi Hills holds a place of importance in the history of Mysuru city and it finds a mention in the Hindu scriptures of yore like the ‘Skanda Purana’.
The hilltop houses the Mahabaleshwara Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva and is the oldest temple among all there. The hill earlier was called the Mahabaladri, named as it was after the Mahabaleshwara temple; one of the most well-known temples of the period. The temple of Goddess Chamundeshwari, Lord Shiva’s consort lies close by.
STORY BEHIND THE SACRED HILL
There is an interesting story behind the hills getting the name Chamundi Hills. The story goes that the demon Mahishasura who was endowed with a boon making him invincible had made the lives of the surrounding people highly miserable.
As his atrocities increased the local people prayed to the gods to be saved from his clutches. Goddess Shakti in the form of Goddess Chamundeshwari heeded to the people’s prayers and killed the demon. The hilltop has a temple dedicated to her. The legend continues stating that the shape of the hill is the result of the falling of the slain demon.
After the onset of the Wodayar ruling, the Chamundeshwari temple was enlarged and expanded in view of the deity being the royal family’s guardian deity. The hill acquired a new name in the form of Chamundi Betta around the 17th century and since then, the hill is known by the same name.
Today, the Chamundi Hills is an important site that is featured in every tour of Mysuru city and draws hordes of visitors who are avid photographers, nature lovers, god-fearing persons, loners or just experience seekers.
HOW TO REACH?
Chamundi Hills is close to Mysuru city, a drive of about 10 to 12 km or so. Mysuru can be reached by train, road or air from Bangalore which in turn is well connected to the rest of the country.
There are three options of reaching atop the Chamundi Hills and they are self-drive, bus/taxi service or via a trek.
If you will be driving atop then be prepared for several sharp turns as you move up the steep climb. After completion of about a dozen turns the passengers of your vehicle will behold the beautiful aerial view of the city; however, you need to keep your eyes glued on to the wheel lest you falter in your drive.
DO NOT MISS
There is a resting spot called the ‘View Point’ which is noticeable from the big billboard proclaiming the fact. Here, the road broadens into a parking lot, large in size on to the right.
This is the site where the road deviates to the Nandi Temple while the hilltop still remains a few km upwards. Normally, most people stop at this junction on the way downhill after their visit to the Chamundeshwari Temple. The viewing of the Nandi statue is done at this stage.
There are two routes to go downhill from the Nandi statute; the straight fork which connects to the NH212 leading to the city of Ooty and the other right turn leads to the bus route at the base of the hill. The route downhill definitely offers some fantastic views of the city.
However, the cheapest and practical option to reach Chamundi Hills from Mysuru is to avail of the city buses which leave the city bus stand at short intervals. There is always a bus waiting for you to board. Volvo buses are very comfortable and charge INR 30 (as on 1/1/2020) each way.
The city bus stand is close to the KR Circle located in the vicinity of the Mysore Palace area. However, there is a big disadvantage in availing of this option and that is a lack of convenience due to the absence of bus service to the other interesting and must-visit site around here which is the Nandi Statue.
This will necessitate a twenty minutes’ walk or so from the main road; not to mention the walk back to the bus service point. You can also reach Nandi through steps, which is a great experience for those who are fit.
YOU CAN TREK TOO
Another option is to trek it atop the Chamundi Hills and coming to think of it this option can definitely be exercised by fit and brave-hearted individuals. This involves climbing about 1000 steps to the hilltop.
The steps begin from the back of the JSS College area. A bus can drop you at the JSS College area from where it is a one km walk to the starting point of the steps.
You will have some difficulty surmounting the beginning one-third part of the climb which is rather steep. The mid-point of the climb is marked by a road crossing your path and continuing beyond this will reach you to the Nandi statue.
The stone of the steps has become very smooth due to constant usage, posing danger if you are not careful while climbing down. You can rest a while here and begin your climb which is pretty easier henceforth till you reach the Chamundeshwari Temple.
While moving downhill, you have the option of taking a bus from this point or follow the same route you chose for climbing atop the Hills. You can also reach the hilltop via a bus and then trek downwards.
PLACES TO VISIT
There are a few spots that hold great interest to the visitor atop the Chamundi Hills, the major spot being the Chamundeshwari Temple.
#1 Chamundeshwari Temple
Initially, smaller in size, the Chamundeshwari temple gained much significance during the rule of the Wodeyar dynasty who regarded the goddess as their patron deity. The temple is based on the Dravidian architectural style with its inimitable seven-story gopuram aiming to touch the skies. Each of the six goupuram levels has beautifully crafted sculptures of goddesses. The topmost gopuram level is imprinted with crowns of golden color.
The 1008 steps that need to be climbed to get to the temple were built in the 17th century by the Wodeyar rulers. Almost all of the steps are laden with vermilion applied by devotees as they climb uphill towards the Chamundeshwari temple.
The dwara or entrance is also very impressive. The impressive entrance was added during the early 19th century. Several rulers have made their contribution towards adding to the temple’s development. It is really amazing to see the vast effort that has gone towards making the temple an example of architectural splendor. The sculptures on the stone are amazing and one needs to spend some time to observe them.
The temple attracts a vast number of tourists who come to view its royal splendor. The temple sanctum houses the uniquely posed statue of the Goddess Chamundeshwari, in the act of killing the Mahishasura demon with her ‘trishul’.
Devotees interested in participating in the puja need to visit the temple during the prescribed timings. It is open from 7.30 am to 2.00 pm and then from 3.30 pm to 6.00 pm and then further from 7.30 pm to 9.00 pm. The morning timings of Abhishek begins from 6.00 am to 7.30 am and the evening time-slot comprises 6.00 pm to 7.30 pm. Free meals can be sought from 12.30 pm to 2.30 pm.
There are several sellers selling plastic trays filled with flowers, bananas, coconut, green bangles, jasmine garlands, and saris within the temple premises. These are placed before the deity as offerings by the devotees with the empty plastic trays being returned to the sellers. The temple premises also has a shop which sells sarees which are offered to the Goddess. Devotees buy this as ‘Prasad’.
In addition to the Chamundeshwari temple, the Hills also houses Sri Mahabaleshwara Temple and the Lakshmi Narayana Swamy temple.
Wandering through the small stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs outside the temple is a fun-filled activity. The cane juice, coffee, tea, chats and Nandini products are available near the temple.
The temple serves free Prasadam to all the devotees. It consists of rice, sambar, rasam, and buttermilk. Food will be delicious but if there is too much crowd you may have to wait. Special dishes and sweets are served on special days.
#2 Nandi Statue
The statue of Nandi regarded as the vehicle of Lord Shiva lies halfway to the hill summit standing tall at a height of about 16 feet. Its width is about 24 feet. The carving of the monolithic statue is believed to be done during the year 1659 from a single block of black granite.
Arrangements for offering prayers like a puja plate are available to the devotees in front of the statue. The statue is worth admiring for its fine sculpture.
#3 Mahishasura Statue
Another major attraction on the Chamundi Hills is the statue of Mahishasura. The statue of the demon is painted in vivid colors and looks quite imposing as he holds a sword in his right hand and a cobra in his left hand. The statue was erected in the same period as the steps were constructed during the rule of Dodda Devraja Wodeyar.
#4 Rajendra Vilas Palace
Rajendra Vilas was built as a summer palace by the Wodeyars, but it did not take up as it was planned. During the year 2004, the palace was converted into a hotel that did not survive for long. Now the palace is not in very good condition and visitors are not allowed near the palace. It is sad to see such a huge and beautiful structure in ruins.
#5 View from Chamundi Hills
The view from Chamundi Hills is truly mesmerizing and very exhilarating. In fact, one of the most fascinating ways to spend your time atop the Chamundi Hills is by identifying the city’s landmarks. And the easiest landmark to spot is the Mysore Palace. Next is the oval-shaped Race Course track which lies very near the foothills. The white Lalitha Mahal Palace lies to your right.
The views beyond comprise the Mysore University adjoining the Kukkarahalli Lake, the Mysore Zoo bordering the Karanji Lake and if you happen to be lucky you can even sight the KRS backwaters which are actually at a pretty far distance of about 10 km from your viewing spot. However, the sun has to be in the right position and light conditions good if you want to sight maximum landmarks.
BONUS: NIGHT VIEW
The night view of the city from atop the Chamundi Hills is an unforgettable sight and if the Palace too happens to be lighted then that just goes to add to the glitter. Alongside don’t be surprised if you happen to see a few patches of dark interspersed in between; those represent areas having a power outage!
Another site that gives a beautiful aerial view of the city is the place behind the Mahabaleshwara Temple. You can also get a fantastic bird’s eye view from the ’View Point site.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The Dusshera festival is the best time to visit the Chamundi Hills as the city is fully lit up during the period and the panoramic view offered from the top is unbelievable. But be aware that you will have to manage with the huge crowd during Dusshera. Fridays, Tuesdays, weekends and festival days are filled with visitors. So if you have an option better avoid these days.
There are several eating joints on the Chamundi Hill road, some close to the Nandi temple others close to the bus stand and yet others near the Chamundeshwari Temple. You have ample choice to make your pick from among the many restaurants available which are not top class but are good.
SOME DO’S & DON’T
- Be alert while you are atop the Chamundi Hills during night time as the bushes in the precincts can very well harbor a leopard!
- So refrain from frequenting isolated areas or pathways at night time.
- Be careful of the bold and aggressive monkeys which abound the place, more so if you have eatables in your hand.
- If you choose the trek option then ensure that you start early before the sun shines down upon you or before it turns dark in the evening. If you have a company then it can be safer and also more enjoyable.
- Do not forget to carry your binoculars and camera to capture some of the best panoramic view snapshots of the city.
- Do not forget to carry water with you if you plan to climb all the way atop the hills.
- Clad yourself in cozy gear as the wind can cause discomfort to you during your climb uphill.
- Refrain from being noisy while within the temple.
- Dress code may become mandatory soon at the temple, please keep yourself informed about this.
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