Sunday 23 February 2014

The little known temples on the hill

An earlier post had dealt with the Chamundi Hills and the many names that the hills were called by. This post is about a few other temples on the Chamundi Hills which unfortunately are not so well-known as the Chamundi Temple.
One of the earliest temples not only on Chamundi Hills but in the Mysore region is the Mahabaleshwara Temple.
The Mahabaleshwar temple was initially built by the Gangas during the eighth century and renovated by Hoysalas. Interestingly, the bronze idols in this temple belong to the Chola period.
The temple is an artistic blend of  Hoysala and Ganga architecture. The main deity is the linga which has Shiva’s face on it. There is also an idol of Parvathi to the left of the Linga.
The idols of Sapta Mata (seven mothers), two idols of Ganesha,  Nataraja along with Sivakami are also found in the temple.
Generally, we do not find an idol of Nataraja in a Shiva temple but this is an exception here. It is also rare to find a stone idol of Nataraja and this can be seen here.
The priest of the temple says since the Linga self manifested, it is also known as Aarsheya Murthy.
Outside the temple are the five avatars of Shiva - Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and Eeshana. These idols were consecrated by Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar.
Another little known temple on the hills is that of Lakshmi Narayana which is situated behind the Mahabaleshwar temple.
The temple faces West and it is dedicated to Narayana along with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi.
This deities have been carved from a single stone. There is a beautiful and unique idol of Hanuman here and it has been growing for the last 100 years. Strangely, the idol cannot be seen clearly in the day but it is visible after dark when lamps are lit. This idol faces north.
There is an interesting tale about the idol. According to locals, Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodayer came to the place and directed a sculptor to break a stone lying on the hill. The sculptor hit the stone a few times but was only able to make a small dent. Later that night, Hanuman appeared in the dreams of the sculptor and asked him not to break the stone. He said he was growing on the stone and, therefore, there was no need to break it.
The stone then was consecrated as it is and this has been growing. Maharani Tripura Sundari, second wife of Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodayer, commissioned a silver Kavacha for the idol.
There is no Dhwaja Stamba for this temple. However, both the  Mahabaleshwara and Chamundi Temples have Dhwaja Stambas.
Another interesting temple on the Hill is the Nandi and the small cave temple of Shiva behind it.   
The 16 feet high and 24 feet long monolith Nandi was installed by Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar in 1659. The significance of this Nandi is that, while Nandi everywhere faces Shiva, it faces south while Shiva looks towards  the east.
Locals say the Wodeyars installed ten different Nandi idols around the hill to protect their empire. Even today, some of the Nandi statues can be seen as Neerkal Hatti Basava, Ulluri Basava, Kodi Basava and Kere Bali Basava.
Coming back to the Nandi on Chamundi Hills, there is a small Cave temple adjacent to the monolith which houses a Shiva Linga.
Another temple is that of  Jwala Tripura Sundari, sister of Chamundi at Uttanahalli.
The idol of the goddess, said to be an avtar of Lakshmi, is located little below the ground. The hillock on which this temple is located is called Ramanathagiri. This is so as the temple also houses the self-manifested idol of Ramanateshwara or Shiva.
Nearby is the ashrama of Markandeya ashram which is marked by a small temple. Legend is Markandeya worshipped Shiva at this very spot.
Devikere, which lies en route to the Chamundi Hill, is a small but beautiful pond meant to draw water for the temple. The Devi kere is also known as Deva Gange as Ganga created the water here to worship Shiva.

Friday 21 February 2014

The many names of Chamundi Hills

Lakhs of tourists and pilgrims make a beeline to the Chamundi temple atop the Betta or Chamundi Hills in Mysore. The Hills, which are among the eight most religious hills in south India and have an average elevation of a thousand meters above sea level,  are a natural and religious attraction and give Mysore a pride of place on the tourist map of India.
The Chamundi temple, which is situated atop the Chamundi Hills, is one of the largest in Karnataka and rivals the Ranganatha temple in Srirangapatna and the Nanjundeshwara Temple in Nanjangud in size and footfalls.
Tourists and first tome visitors and even many Mysoreans assume that the hills came to called as Chamundi after the temple by the same name. What they do not know is that the hills were known by different names and it came to be called after Chamundi only after the Wodeyars began ruling from Mysore in the 14th century.
Interestingly, there are many myths and legends associated with Chamundi Hills and of course Mysore too. Mysore perhaps is the only city in  Karnataka after Badami to be named after a demon. If  Badami is named after Vatapi, Mysore city is named after Mahishasura.
Chamundi Hills, with along and winding 12 kilometre road to the top amid forests, is the very place where the demon, Mahishasura, was slain by Goddess Chamundi. The silhouette of the hills from the main palace of Mysore gives an impression of Mahishasura sleeping.
Located 13 kilometres from the heart of Mysore city, the first mention of Chamundi was after Mahabala, a form of Shiva. Centuries ago, the Chamundi Hills were better known as Mahabaladrigiri.  This was so as the main deity on the hill was Mahabaleshwara (Shiva) and not Chamundi.
The name of Maabbala or Mahabala Betta or Maabala Theertha is repeatedly mentioned during the Hoysala period. Mahabala was another name for Chamundi Hills. 
Hoysala Emperor Vishnuvardhana had given funds for the maintenance of the temple and also for the worship of  Shiva. Till the reign of Bola Chamaraja Wodeyar, the Chamundi temple was one of the many on the hills and the Mahabala Temple was the most important structure atop the hills.
It was when Bola Chamaraja Wodeyar survived an attack of lightning but lost all his hair that he believed Chamundi had saved him. Since then, Chamundi began gaining importance and the temple of Chamundeshwari began gaining prominence. 
Subsequently, Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar (1659-1673), built 1108 steps in 1659 or 1664 for the benefit of pilgrims. The steps can still be seen and they are used by devotees and health and fitness freaks. He also commissioned the 16 feet high monolithic statue of the Nandi on the hills in 1659.
By the way, the temple of Shiva or Mahabala exists even today and historians and archaeologists agree that this structure is much older than the Chamundi temple. The first structure of this ancient temple dates back to the period of the Gangas.
When the Wodeyars came to power and began ruling the province of Purugere from the 14th century onwards, first as vassals of Vijayanagar and then as independent rulers of Mysore, Chamundeshwari or Chamundi became their family deity.
The Wodeyars commenced regular poojas at the Chamundi Temple and the hills slowly came to be known as Chamundi Hills. Another name for the hills is Trimukuta Kshetra or three-peaked hill.
The Chamundi Hill is compared to a middle bud of a lotus surrounded by eight petals and all these petals represent different hills. The eight hills are Chikkadevammana Betta in HD Kote, Gopalswamy Betta, Biligiri Rangana Betta (BR Hills), Male Madeshwara (MM Hills) Betta, Kunti Betta near Pandavapura, Yadugiri in Melkote, Mallayana Betta in Pandavpura and Karigatta in Srirangapatna. The Chamundi, therefore, is called as a bud surrounded by eight petals and, hence, the name Ashtadala Parvata (hill surrounded by eight petals).

The Chamundi hill is sandwiched between two rivers. If  Cauvery flows north, Kapila flows south. The Chamundi Hills also has one of the oldest inscription ever found in Mysore and this is dated to 950A D when the Gangas were lording over the area. There is also a Hoysala inscription here dating back to the 12th century. The hills not only provide you with a trekking, walking and motoring experience but also give you a glimpse of wildlife in the Chamundi Reserve Forest abutting the hill. (This is the first of a three part post on Chamundi Hills, its temples and other little known spots).