This charming city, renowned through the ages, was the capital of Mysore rulers. The sprawling and beautiful palace, the lovely Chamundi Hills, Sri Krishnaraja Sagar and Brindavan Gardens are all great delight to the tourists who step into this magic city, still exhuding old-world charm.
Chamundi Hills (13 km; Altitude 1073 meters): The shrine of Goddess Chamundeshwari commands a panoramic view of Mysore city on the plains below. Sri Chamundi is the tutelary Goddess of the Wodeyar kings, who lavished lots of gifts to the temple. The gopuram was constructed by Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1794-1868).
The Goddess is worshipped as Mahishasuramardhini. There is a life-size statue of demon Mahishasura, whom the Devi vanquished at this holy spot. Shrines dedicated to Siva as Mahabaleshwara and Vishnu as Lakshmi Narayana are situated near the Chamundi temple.
Navaratri: This festival is celebrated in a spectacular manner. The grand Vijayadashami procession marks a colourful finale in a royal way.
Nandi: This giant monolithic sculpture, about 5 metres high and 7.6 metres long, was consecrated during the reign of Dodda Devaraja (1659-¬1672). Known for excellent workmanship, this Nandi is equal in importance to those at the temples of Thanjavur and Lepakshi.
Shrines in Mysore Palace: The Lingam at the ancient shrine of Thrineeswara is said to have been installed by sage Thrina Bindu. The Goddess is Tripurasundari. There are other shrines dedicated to Varahaswami, Bhuvaneswari, Devi Gayatri and Lord Krishna.
Other shrines: Markandeya Ashram and Jwalamukhi Tripura¬sundari shrine are other holy spots.
Temples around Mysore
Srirangapatnam (20 km): This holy town is situated in an island formed by the waters of Cauvery. Puranas speak of this place as Gautama Kshetra. The sage, who had his ashram on the banks of Cauvery, is believed to have founded the shrine of Lord Ranganatha. Historical evidence dates back to the reign of Ganga king Thirumalaiya (897 AD).
Srirangapatnam is also revered as Adi Rangam like Srirangam near Tiruchi in Tamil Nadu is known as Andhya Rangam and Sivasamudram in Karnataka as Madhya Rangam.
Sri Ranganathaswami temple: It is one of the largest temples with a lofty gopuram. The Lord is reclining on Adi Sesha with the Goddess in His chest. The images of sage Gautama and Goddess Cauvery are enshrined at the holy feet of the Lord.
Saints and Alwars are enshrined on the prakarams. Two pillars in front of the inner entrance are called Chathurvimsati. The 24 forms of Vishnu with their names are engraved thereon.
In the north-west corner is the shrine of Ranganayaki Thayar and the sacred feet of the Lord.
Pattabhirama with Sita and Anjaneya at His feet and Lord Rajamannar are wonderful sculptures. There is another Krishna shrine, which is very popular among the devotees. The images of Srinivasa and Panchamukha Anjaneya, installed by Guru Vyasaraya, are noteworthy.
Tipu Sultan and Hyder Ali, who ruled the region, had great respect for Lord Ranganatha. They donated much to the temple.
Other shrines nearby: The temples of Gangadhareswara and Lakshminarayana are worth visiting. Rare images of Hamsa Gayatri, Dakshinamurthi and Sri Adi Sankara are worshipped.
Sri Nimishambika shrine (20 km): This ancient Siva shrine is dedicated to Mouktikeswara and His consort Nimishambika. Lord Lakshmi Narasimha is also enshrined. The temple, very popular among the pilgrims, is situated on the banks of Cauvery.
Melkote (48 km): The sacred hill shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu as Narayana is worshipped since Krutha Yuga. Vedadri, Narayanadri Yadavagiri, Yathisailam and Dakshina Badrikachalam are the Puranic names of Melkote.
The presiding and processional deities were given to Brahma by Lord Vishnu Himself. Brahma gave one idol to Sanatkumara, who installed it in Bhooloka for the benefit of Mankind. The processional deity, Sampatkumara or Ramapriya, was worshipped by Sri Rama and His son Kusha. This deity later came to Krishna in the Dwapara Yuga, who later installed it in the shrine.
Sri Ramanuja, the Vaishnavite saint of the 11th century, earned the patronage of Jain king Bittideva, who embraced Vaishnavism and changed his name to Vishnuvardhana. The king built five shrines known as Panchanarayana temples. At that time, Narayanapuram was in ruins, devastated by the invasion of Muslim rulers. Both the idols of Narayana and Ramapriya were lost for some reasons. Ramanuja had a vision in which Lord Vishnu revealed to him the place where the idol of Narayana was hidden. He found the image among Tulasi shrubs in an ant-hill in Yadavagiri and installed the deity again in the temple.
Ramanuja also brought back the processional deity of Ramapriya from the court of a Muslim ruler, whose daughter was keeping the idol in her custody. The princess, an ardent devotee of Ramapriya, also reached Melkote and attained mukti here. She is known as Beebi Nachiyar, whose image is also installed near the Lord.
The enchanting idol of Lord Vishnu is holding Shanku, Chakra and Gadha. The image of Ramapriya is in the Ranga Mandapam in front of the sanctum. The shrines of Vaikuntanatha, Chakrathu Alwar and Anjaneya are on the prakarams. Goddess Yadugiri Nachiyar and Kalyani Nachiyar have separate shrines in a sculptured mandapam.
The Melkote temple is flanked by mutts belonging to different sects of Vaishnavites.
Much significance is attached to the idol of Ramanuja in this temple. When Ramanuja wanted to go back to Srirangam, he made an image of himself and installed it in this temple. The other two images of Ramanuja are in Sriperumpudur (his birthplace) and Srirangam (his Brindavanam).
The spectacular 10-day Vairamudi festival during March-April attracts lakhs of pilgrims. The diamond crown is said to have been given to Krishna by the divine bird Garuda when He was taking it to Vaikunta from the Paathaala Loka. Krishna decorated Ramapriya with this crown, and it came to Melkote along with Ramapriya. The crown is held so sacred that it is seen on the Lord's head only at the time of the Vairamudi festival. Vaikunta Ekadasi is another important festival.
Theerthams: Kalyani Theertham, Narayana Theertham, Padma Theertham, Veda Pushkarni and Vaikunta Ganga are held sacred.
A shrine dedicated to Lord Yoga Narasimha is on this hill. Prahlada, an ardent Vishnu devotee, is said to have installed the deity here.
Access: Melkote can be reached by road either from Srirangapatnam via Pandavapura, a distance of 30 km, or from Mysore.
Nanjangud (23 km): This temple town is situated on the right bank of river Kapila. The Siva temple, dedicated to Lord Nanjundeswara or Srikanteswara, is built in Dravidian style. A beautiful Rajagopuram adorns the eastern entrance.
According to a legend, when the Devas and Asuras churned the Milky Ocean, there appeared poison before they got the sacred nectar. When no human or Devas could stand the poison, Lord Siva drank the poison. Realising that the poison would harm the Lord, Devi Parvati held His throat stopping the poison there. Lord Siva's neck turned blue. This legend earned Him the name Neelakanta. This aspect of the Lord is worshipped in the Nanjangud shrine.
Siva and Parvati have separate sanctums. Lord Vishnu as Adi Kesava is installed in between these two shrines. Lord Subramanya as Dandayudhapani, Prasanna Vinayaka, Durga and Sharada have separate shrines. The 63 Saivite saints are immortalised in life-size images on the southern prakaram.
The temple is known for its wealth of sculptures. The Siva Leelas are of exquisite craftmanship.
The Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan was a great patron of this temple. His elephant was cured twice of major ailments with the grace of Nanjundeswara. Hence Tipu Sultan called the Lord Hakim Nanjundeswara and presented to the shrine valuable jewellery and a Maragatha Lingam, which is installed by the side of the Goddess' shrine.
Sage Parasurama did penance on this holy soil. There is a shrine for him near the Swarnavati river. An ancient mutt of Sri Raghavendra is situated in the town. The Guru's image is said to have been found in river Cauvery by a king, who consecrated it in the mutt.
Vidyanidhi Prasanna Somnathpura was the ancient name of this town. It is situated on the left bank of Cauvery. The Hoysala temple built in the 12th century, dedicated to Lord Kesava, is known for its sculptural beauty. It was constructed by one Somnatha, a minister in the court of Hoysala King Veera Narasimha Devarasa. The three main shrines are dedicated to Lord Kesava, Lord Janardhana and Lord Venugopala. A sukanasi for each shrine and a common Navaranga have been constructed. Sixty-four cells around the shrine are now empty. The temple is a perfect example of Hoysala art. A local belief is that Jaganachary, the master sculptor, had to break a few sculptures when the whole shrine started moving heavenward as gods, enamoured of the shrine, wished to take it.
Talakkad (48 km): Skanda Purana speaks of this place as Siddaranya Kshetra and Gajaranya (as elephants lived here in large numbers). Once two hunters Tala and Kada saw elephants worshipping a Lingam with lotus flowers. When they were cutting a tree, a blow fell on the Lingam and it started bleeding. However, a heavenly voice bade them to treat the wound with the leaves of the tree itself. They did so and Lord Siva appeared before them and gave mukti to the hunters and the elephants there. The place thus acquired the name Talakkad after the two hunters.
There are five Siva shrines on the banks of Cauvery, which flows in all directions here. The Pancha Linga Darshan falls in accordance with a rare astronomical conjunction. Devotees take a holy dip at the Theerthams and worship at the five shrines of Vaidyanadeswara, Arkeshwara, Vasukeeswara, Maraleswara and Mallikarjuna. These five shrines denote the five faces of Lord Siva. Vaidyanadeswara temple is the most important one built by the Vijayanagar rulers. Keerthinarayana temple was built by Vishnuvardhana.
Talakkad had more than 30 temples. An unfortunate feature of Talakkad is that most of the temples lie under sand dunes. It is said that the place was devastated by the curse of queen Allamelamma. She immersed herself in Cauvery for the illtreatment meted out to her by the ruler of Talakkad.
Thirumukkudal(24 km from Talakkad): It is the holy sangama of rivers Kabini and Cauvery. The shrine of Lord Siva as Agasteeswara, installed by sage Agastya, is on the banks of Cauvery. Water is seen trickling from the head of Lord Siva.
Sivasamudram falls, known as Bluff, is a popular tourist spot.
There are two ancient shrines of Someswara and Jaganmohana Ranganatha. The Ranganatha shrine is known as Madhya Ranga.
Narasipur: The Lakshmi Narasimha temple here is popular among the pilgrims. The Lord is seen having a balance and kundumani in His hands. The place is revered as sacred as Kashi.
Biligiri Ranganna temple (120 km): This Vishnu temple of Puranic fame is situated amid thick forests on top of the Biligiri Ranga Hills at an altitude of 1566 metres. Known as Swetachalam, the hill and the various Theerthams are held as sacred as those of Tirumala. Sage Vasishta and his wife had worshipped Lord Vishnu for being blessed with a progeny. They got Shakti as their son, followed by Parasara, Vyasa and Suga as the illustrious lineage.
Sri Rama and sage Parasurama are said to have worshipped Sri Ranganatha. The presiding deity, installed by Vasishta, is worshipped as Srinivasa, Venkateswara and Ranganatha and His consort as Alarmelmanga, Lakshmi and Ranganayaki.
There is a separate shrine for Lord Gangadhareswara. The sculptures of Saraswathi, Krishna and Anjaneya on the pillars are noteworthy.
This place can be reached by road via Kollegal, Yelandur or Chamarajnagar.
Mahadeswara Hills (144 km): The Siva temple on top of this hill is dedicated to Sri Mahadeswara. It attracts a lot of pilgrims round the year besides on special occasions like Sivaratri.
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