The Temples of Mysore

The Chamundeshwari Temple

Chamundi Hills: The Chamundeeswari temple is located on a hill in the vicinity of Mysore and is accessed through a motorable road. Sri Chammundeshwari Temple makes a pleasant half day excursion. The Chamundeshwari temple is dominated by a towering seven story high gopuram. The statue of demon Mahishasura who was one of the goddess Chamundi’s victims is at the premises of the temple. Don’t’ turn back from the temple without seeing the 5 meter high Nandi, lord Shiva’s bull carved out of the solid rock in 1659. It is one of the largest in India and is visited by bevies of pilgrims.mysore-chamundi-hills-close-up-view

the tutelary deity of the Mysore Maharajas has been held in reverence for centuries, and the Wodeyars of Mysore have made extensive contributions to this shrine. A flight of one thousand steps built by the Maharaja Dodda Devaraja in 1659 also leads up to the summit of the hill which is at a height of about 3000 feet. Chamraja Wodeyar IV is said to have worshipped here in 1573 and was miraculously saved from a lightning hit. Krishnaraja III (late 18th century) built the temple tower and presented the Nakshatramalika jewel with Sanskrit verses inscribed on it.

Thus much of the current temple is the result of renovation efforts carried out in early nineteenth century, although the original shrine is much older. Chamundi Hill has been associated with the Hoysala ruler Vishnu Vardhana (12th century) and with the Vijayanagar rulers of the 17th century.

Chamundeeswari, or Durga is the fierce form of Shakti who vanquished the demon Mahishasuran. A colorful image of the demon greets visitors as they reach the summit of the hill.

There are also shrines dedicated to Shiva – Mahabaleshwar (attributed to Vishnu Vardhana the Hoysala ruler of the 12th century CE) and Lakshmi Narayana – Vishnu on this hill.

Festivals celebrated: Dasara is celebrated with pomp and gaiety here.

Somanathpur Keshva Temple

Situated some 33km east of Mysore and 32km south-east of Srirangapatnam, Somnathpur is a tiny village notable for the remarkable Keshva Temple which stands near the side of a dusty lane. Although the Hoysala who ruled in this area from the 11th to the 14th centuries left behind them numerous examples of their exquisite temple architecture, the Keshva temple is famous both for its fantastic detail and for the fact that, unlike the temples in Halebid and Belur, this one was actually completed.

Somnathpur is situated on the left bank of the Cauvery river. The Keshava temple was built in A.D. 1268, by Somnatha Dandanayaka
Somnathpur is situated on the left bank of the Cauvery river. The Keshava temple was built in A.D. 1268, by Somnatha Dandanayaka

According to the inscription on the stone slab that stands just inside the main entrance the community of Somnathpur was founded by a Hoysala minister named Somanatha, during the reign of king Narasimha 111 (1254-91). Somanatha granted the area to a group of Brahmins in order to form an agrahara (scholastic community). A separate Hoysala inscription in Harihara where Somanatha also sponsored some temple building claims that this community was so learned that even the parrots were able to hold discussion! Perhaps impressed by this phenomenon, Somanatha -‘great minister, champion with a sword and bravest at riding wild horses’-petitioned the king for funds to found a new temple. The Keshava Temple, built in 1268, was the result.

Two rows of figures. Many of the images are signed by the sculptors who carried out the work, and from the signature we learn that the principle craftsman was a man named Mallithama who is personally responsible for 40 of these large sculptures.

Talakad Panchalinga Temple

Talakad is 50km to the south-east of Mysore. Talakad, the remains of the capital of the 4th to 5th century Ganga dynasty, built on a bank of the Cauvery river at Talakad, are now largely buried by sand. A few buildings, including a 12th century Hoysala temple, still poke through the surface. Once every 12 years this surreal temple is dug out for the performance of Panchalinga Darshana, through it doesn’t take long for it to be smothered once again by the sand.

Talakad has three temples of Lord Shiva and one temple for Lord Vishnu.
Talakad has three temples of Lord Shiva and one temple for Lord Vishnu.

Several interesting legends surround this shrine. It is believed that an ascetic Somadatta headed out to Siddharanya Kshetra Talakkad to worship Shiva. Having been killed by wild elephants enroute, he and his disciples re-incarnated as wild elephants and worshipped Shiva in the form of a tree at Talakkad. Two hunters Tala and Kada, are believed to have struck the tree with an axe to find blood gushing forth, and upon the bidding of a heavenly voice, dressed the wound of the tree with the tree’s leaves and fruits. The tree healed, and the hunters became immortal. Since Shiva is believed to have healed himself through this incident, he is referred to as Vaidyeshwara. The Panchalingams here are all associated with this legend.

A historic site, Talakkad once had over 30 temples. Talakkad was patronized by the Western Gangas in the first millennium CE and then by the Tamil Cholas from the 11th through the 12th centuries. Talakkad came under the Hoysalas in the 12th century. The Vijayanagar rulers and the Maharajas of Mysore then patronized it. The Vaidyeshwara temple is built in the Dravidian style of granite. Much of the structure is here is attributed to the Vijayanagar period (14th century), although several Hoysala features are seen in this temple. The Vaidyeshsara temple along with four others – Arkeshwara, Vasukishwara or Pataleshwara, Saikateshwara or Maraleshwara and Mallikarjuna constitue the Panchalingams here. These five Lingams are said to represent the five faces of Shiva. The Pataleshwara Shivalingam is said to change colors during the day (red in the morning, black in the afternoon and white in the evening).

Important days
Panchalinga darshana
is a rare pilgrimage occasion, occurring once in every few years.


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