When the Chamundi hills beckon

If you want to get a feel of travelling over the centuries in a short span of time, the Mahabaleshwara temple atop the Chamundi hills is the place to be. The temple premises is akin to a museum where one can find bits and pieces of typical architecture spanning across time. One can have a brief glimpse of the history, art and culture of Karnataka when one pays attention to the different aspects of the temple. Though the temple was dedicated to lord Shiva, many other gods of the Indian pantheon found their place in the temple. The sheer diversity in the placement and style of the images can be a source of joy to a connoisseur of art and a history buff.

 This ancient temple was originally built by the rulers of the Ganga dynasty during the eighth century to show their reverence to the lord. History reveals that, during their period, the hills were known as Mahabaladri. When translated, Mahabaladri means the hills of Mahabala or Shiva.
A number of musical compositions on the lord and references to the temple and its deity in the neighbouring kingdoms speaks volumes about the popularity of the temple. When the Hoysalas came to power at the turn of the first millennium, they took it upon themselves to renovate the existing temples, besides building new ones in their unique style.

A casual look around the Mahabaleshwar temple will vouch for the presence of Hoysala craftsmen who renovated the temple to a large extent.
It is said that the kings of the Hoysala dynasty including Vishnuvardhana enlarged the temple premises by adding a Nava Ranga and an Ardha Mantapa to the temple. Archaeologists have recognised the images of Bhairavi, Nataraja, Sapta Matrikas and Parvathi to belong to the Hoysala period. The Chola bronzes found in the temple are an indicator of their contribution to the temple during their reign. It is amazing to note that the temple which was so very famous for such a long time lost its splendour during the rule of the Wodeyars who gave importance to Mahabala’s consort goddess Chamundeshwari. The Mahabaladri range of hills took to the new nomenclature when they came to be known as Chamundi hills.

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