Chamundi Hills, a destination for touts and fat cats

Gone Unchecked

In as much as historical places countrywide have attracted tourists, those in pursuit of wanderlust have been soft targets of touts. Of late. Chamundi Hills, the heavenly abode of Goddess Chamundeshwari, Mysore’s presiding deity, has drawn tourists and touts alike.

The simple and pristine surroundings of the temple where the deity has seated for many centuries, appears to have been bespoiled by local traders who fleece tourists in the name of service. A litre of bottled water is sold for Rs 16 which is in excess of the price listed on the tag. A tender coconut costs Rs 15!

As touts and local traders make hay, the Temple Trust has turned a Nelson’s eye to the unfair and unsavoury practices within and outside the sprawling complex where annually lakhs of tourists visit to pay obeisance to Goddess Chanmundeshwari. They end up paying through their teeth to the touts.

The daily exploitation of tourists, a large number of whom come from various states in north India, where Chamundeshwari is considered an avatar of Durga, for darshan has become a local industry of sorts. The moment a bus-load of tourists arrives at the temple precinct, hordes of touts chase them, each promising the gullible and wonder-struck tourist to take him up the serpentine where he would otherwise have ended up standing for hours.

The going rate for “jumping” the queue is Rs 100, but even this does not ensure a satisfying darshan of the devi. For, the affluent get direct and unhindered access to the sanctum sanctorum where each spends no less than 10-15 minutes. The hapless, ordinary tourist, already conned by the tout, has to jostle for scarce space. Besides, over-zealous temple staff, who shower their attention on the affluent tourists, push the ordinary mortals out within no time of their entry into the garbha griha. To make matters worse, more recently, the practice of ‘aarti’ and offerings (of coconut, flower garlands and other puja material) to the goddess has been stopped for inexplicable reasons. The aarti lamps in hand, two to three priests stand outside the sanctum sanctorum, hurry through the process of asking devotees to do a quick job. The ‘aarti’ at the ‘utasava murthy’, which has been moved to separate place, has also been stopped.

As for the food stalls, they have been growing, though care is not taken to maintain hygienic conditions. Rakesh, tourist of Delhi, expressed shock and dismay at the pathetic condition around the temple and the prohibitive costs of water, fruit juice and other edible items. “Why isn’t the district administration is not cracking down on these touts?” wondered a distraught Rakesh.

Rakesh and his family said they felt “discriminated” against when their turn came to enter the sanctum sanctorum. “We saw an influential person being escorted in. And here we were in queue with no idea when our turn will come,” he said, chaffing at the “special treatment” to a handful of people in a temple where all should be considered equal.

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