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).

1 comment:

  1. There are two small cave temples on the south eastern side of the hill, they can be seen from the ooty road and also a bigger temple adjacent to these caves at the foot of the hills..a rope way was also supposed to be built on that side of the hill..any info on all this??