On the city map of Mysore, draw two lines, one vertical and one horizontal through the center of the city (the palace). The right bottom quarter of the map is the greenest part of the city. Chamundi Hills is at the center of this quarter.
Chamundi Hills is the prime landmark of Mysore city, visible almost from anywhere in the city center. The hill has very close association with the founding of the city. In fact the very name of Mysore is associated with the hill.
According to mythology this was the domain of the demon called Mahishasura ( the Buffalo Demon). The place was thus known as Mahishapura or Mahishuru , the land of Mahishasura. And that later morphed into Mysore in English and Mysooru in Kannada, the local language.
A boon made Mahishasura so powerful that no man can kill him. Unable to stand his atrocities, people prayed to the goddess to save them from Mahishasura. Goddess Shakti, the personification of cosmic energy in the feminine form, took the avatar (form) of the fierce goddess Chamundeshwari. She kills the demon and saves the people. Because of this act the goddess is called Mahishasuramardhini , the slayer of demon Mahisha.
The hilltop is the place where her shrine is located. The mythology continues… According to some beliefs the Chamundi Hills is in fact in the shape of the fallen demon!
Chamundi Hills has an important place in the history of Mysore. The oldest temple in Mysore, the Mahabaleshwara temple is located atop the Chamundi Hills. So is the oldest inscription found in Mysore. That was roughly made around the 9th century AD.
During those days the hill was known as Mahabaladri, denoting the location of Mahabaleshwara (Shiva) temple , that was the most prominent temple of the time. The shrine of the consort , goddess Chamundeshwari, was located nearby.
Later the Wodayar kings (the last dynasty to rule Mysore, before independence) treated goddess Chamundeshwari as the guardian deity of the royal family. The hill was renamed as Chamundi Betta (Chamundi Hills) during the 17th century. Also the small shrine of Chamundeshwari got expanded into an imposing temple, thanks to the royal patronage over the centuries.
Coming to the present day, Chamundi Hills is equally important from a religious and tourism perspective. So what are the attractions? Obviously, the most important attraction is the temple of Chamundeswari with its imposing Chola style tower. This temple is located at the highest point in the temple. Next to it are a few more (older) temples, notably the Mahabaleshwara temple.
A little before the temple, close to the parking lot and the Chamundi bus stand is the brightly painted statue of Mahishasura. For tourists, this is a must do place for a group photograph,Mahishasura included!
Further down is the imposing stature of Nandi (Bull), the mount of Lord Shiva. This 5 meter tall (16 feet) Nandi of Mysore is the third largest Nandi in India. The largest Nandi is in Lepakshi of Andhra Pradesh. If you are curious, the 4th, 6th and 7th largest too are in Karnataka. The fourth largest is in the Bull Temple of Bangalore, sixth and seventh largest are in the much famous Hoysaleswara Temple of Halebidu.
So that’s about the who is who of this sacred hill of Mysore.
Chamundi Hills is riddled with a few paths to go to the hilltop, where the main temple is located. The most popular and the most frequented is the so called Chamundi Hills Road. This road starts from a junction of NH 212, on the outskirts of the city and wriggles its way up to the hill top. This is the bus route.
The Chamundi Bus stand too is located close to the parking lot. Reaching Chamundi Hilltop by bus or even trek (!) is described later.
The hilltop is about 10-12 km drive from the Mysore city.
If you are driving get to the road that’s between the Mysore Zoo and the Race Course. This is NH212 going out of the city. There are huge traffic signboards on this road giving directions. A few kilometers after the Zoo, you’ll take a right turn out of the NH212. The road no is pretty straight and with practically little traffic. You can see the hill and this road heads towards its base. You’ll go through an arch welcoming you to the Chamundi Hills. From this point onwards it is a steep climb with many sharp turns (typically you are with 2nd and 3rd gear). A dozen or so turns later you get an ariel view of Mysore city on your right. Leave this beautiful sight to the passengers in the car and keep your eye on the road. The steep climb along the edges of a hill with numerous blind turns on a narrow road is a dangerous combination, the least to say.
You can always stop at a place called the “View Point”. You will know you have reached here, as the road expands into a large parking lot on your right, and also a huge billboard announcing the view point. If that is not enough to hint you, that omnipresent entry ticket chap will jump in front of you car with a Rs10 parking fee ticket. This is also the same point from where you’ve to take a deviation the Nandi temple. The hilltop is still a few kilometers up along the main road.
You can either continue to the top, after a brief stop at the “View Point” or decide to stop by on the way back, along with a detour to the Nandi statue. Typically this is done on the way back, after visiting the Chamundeswari Temple.
You need to take a right from this view point to the place where Nandi statue is located. The HUGE bull statue will appear on your left as you drive. Park near the statue area.
You can either trace back the path to viewpoint to join the main road or take another route to the base of the hill. In fact there are two routes. A little ahead of after the Nandi Image you will see a 3 way junction with a sharp right turn.The straight fork joins the NH212 heading towards Ooty / Calicut. The joining point is a few kilometers south of the city center. This is a very scenic and less traveled route with some fantastic viewpoints on the Chamundi Hills. On the other hands, if you take that sharp right turn after the Nandi statue, you’ll join the bus route to the hilltop at the foothills. This is a steeper, shorter and less traveled road. You can get a beautiful closer aerial view of the Lalitha Mahal Palace on the way down. So that about the detour to Nandi statue and the other alternative routes. Back to the view point on the main road.
The View Point is a vantage point to enjoy the sight of the city below. One of the interesting thing to do is to identify the city’s landmarks. Start with the Mysore Palace, it is easier. The quickest you can notice, straight down, close to the foothills is the Race Course track in oval shape. On your right is the whitewashed Lalitha Mahal Palace.
Farther views include the Mysore University saddling the Kukkarahalli Lake. Mysore Zoo on the fringes of Karanji Lake. If haze doesn’t limit your sight, you can even see the backwaters of KRS ( Brindavan Garden), which is a good 10 km from where you are. Most likely you can see that far only during the brighter part of the day, that too with sun in a favorable position.
The night view of the city , especially when the palace is illuminated, too a favorite agenda atop Chamundi Hills. In the night , the city glitters.The Palace is the brightest spot in the panorama. Some areas may look unusually dark, like a patch – that could be a power cut!
Talking of night out on Chamundi Hills, be prudent.There are leopards in the bushes of Chamundi Hillss! No, its not an urban myth.
After dark, stay away from the isolated areas, especially the pathways not frequented by fellow visitors.That’s common sense when you are atop of a remote place, whether there are leopards roaming around or not.
Like mentioned earlier you would continue on the main road to reach the last point of the road. You will either reach the point where the brightly colored statue of the Mahishasura is located, or if that parking area is full , a traffic police man would direct you to take a right turn into another parking lot which is a few meters before the statue.
In either case, you’ve to walk a few minutes to reach the Chamundeswari Temple. While you walk to the temple you’ll cross the Mahishasura statue. On the southeast side of the main temple are a couple of (older) temples. One of them is the Mahabaleshwara temple. Behind the temple is another view point (the tallest point) to see the city. There are large steps to sit and watch. Beware of monkeys, if you are carrying eatables. They are aggressive and bold.
As promised earlier, here is a details for how to reach Chamundi Hills by bus. Get to the city bus stand first. Note, this is not the same bus stand , that you’ve got down while traveling to Mysore from other cities. Ask for city bus stand ( CBS) , from where the city buses operate. It’s just around the corner of the Mysore Palace where the KR Circle is located. Every 30 minutes or so a bus would leave for Chamundi Hills. Sometimes it is a crowded affair, especially if it happened to be any special (Hindu festival) day. There are two types of buses, the regular city bus and the AC (ask for “volvo bus”) services. Both would take about 30 minutes to the hilltop from the city bus stand. Ticket is sold inside.
It’s quite simple , practical and cheaper to go to Chamundi Hills top by the local bus. There are a few disadvantages. The first one is about your plan to visit the Bull statue ( must see). As there is no bu service , and also a bit off from the main road you’ve to walk for 20-30 minutes to reach this place. The steps are located on your right, as you walk towards the Chamundeswari temple from the image of Mahishasura ( near the bus stand) . Also think of the walk back to catch the bus.
That brings to another option to reach the hilltop – that’s a trek!
If you are game for it try the 1000 plus steps built in the 17th century by the ruling Wodeyar King. In the year 1659, The then Maharaja of Mysore Dodda Devaraja built this stairway to the hilltop on the western side of the hill.
The starting point of the steps is located behind the JSS College area. Take the JLB road from the city and head towards the NH212 (Ooty Road/ Calicut Road). After crossing the busy NH212 at the junction before JSS college, head straight towards the JSS Mutt ( will appear on your right) . The road ends where the steps start.
Alternatively, you can take the Ooty road from the city and turn left (JLB Road joins on your right) at the junction before the JSS college. Further follow the same route as mentioned above.
A bus can bring you only up to the JSS college area. The footsteps is at about 1 km walk from the junction. Or hire an auto-rickshaw.
The steps are steeper in the first 1/3 of the climb. If you are climbing in the morning, you’ll get the company of the regular jog crowd of Mysore. A road will cross your trek path.That marks the mid way point approximately. Cross the road and continue with the steps. You’ll reach the place where the Nandi statue is located. Usually it is a good resting pint. From now onwards the steps are not as steep. And finally you’ll reach the Chamundeswari Temple. You can either traces the steps pack, or catch the next bus to the city.
The reverse too is possible. Arrive the hill top by bus and then go down by the steps. Usually auto-rickshaws would be waiting at the foothills where the steps end. If that is not available, you’ve to continue walk on the road for another kilometer to reach the main road. Now you can catch a bus or auto-rickshaw to the city center.
A word of caution on the trek path. Do not venture alone, especially in the dark. The best time to trek is in the morning before the sun gets harsher and also in the evening before dark. While trekking wearing a T-shirt printed with banana could be detrimental, as there are quite a few cheeky monkeys around!