By Nithin Sridhar
Mysore – the city of palaces is a well-known religious, as well as a tourist destination. It has a rich cultural history and was for a long period ruled by the Royal dynasty of Wodiyars who had made it their capital.
The name of the city ‘Mysuru’ or ‘Mysore’ is actually derived from the name ‘Mahishasurana Ooruu’ which means ‘the city of demon Mahishasura’.
Legend of Mahishasura
Mahishasura was one of the prominent Asura (demon) kings who managed to control all three worlds and oust the Devas/gods from the heavens, according to Hindu mythology. Mahisha means ‘Buffalo’. It is said that he was a shapeshifter as he could take the shape of any animal, especially that of Buffalo or human.
Devi Bhagavata Purana describes how demon Rambha had performed intense austerity in the worship of Agni, the fire god, and in return had got the boon that a powerful son would be born to him, who would conquer all the three worlds. Thus, was born Mahishasura.
Mahishasura then performed austerity to Lord Brahma asking for the boon of immortality. As a fruit for this austerity, Lord Brahma granted him that he could not be slain by any man or animal and only a woman could kill him. Mahishasura, who perceived women as weak, gathered his army and attacked the heaven.
A great battle ensued between the Devas and the Asuras that went on for hundred years, but didn’t see any end. Realizing that they were in no position to defeat Mahishasura and his power was growing with each passing year, the Devas decided to unite the powers of all the Devatas and invoke the Supreme Nirguna Shakti in a female form.
Thus, was born the Great Goddess Chandika, who was the sum total of all energies in the Universe. Seeing her manifest, Mahishasura sent her a marriage proposal, which was calmly rejected by the Great Goddess. Angered by this, Mahishasura sent his army to imprison or slay the Goddess, and they were completely destroyed by the Goddess.
Thereupon, Mahishasura himself attempted to kill the Goddess. He tried to attack her by assuming various forms, like those of buffalo, elephant, and lion. Finally, the Goddess cut his body into two pieces using her chakra and ended the menace of the demon.
A similar story of the slaying of the demon Mahishasura can also be found in Durga Saptashati that appears in Markandeya Purana.
Local beliefs in Mysore
It is believed by the locals that this war between Mahishasura and the Goddess was fought on the top the Chamundi Hill, which is located 13 Kms from Mysore, overlooking the city.
Speaking to NewsGram, BK Sridhara, a retired bank employee, who is staying in Mysore for more than twenty years, said:
“It is widely believed that the war between the Durga and Mahishasura happened for nine days atop the hills, and on the 10th day the demon was slain by Durga.”
He further added that this 10th day is now celebrated as Vijayadashami in the city.
The Goddess Durga, who is called as Chamundeshwari in the city, because she also killed demons Chanda and Munda, is said to have stayed back permanently on the top of the hills for the protection and welfare of the people of the city. It is for this reason, the Goddess is the presiding deity of the Mysore royal family.
As if to corroborate this story from the Puranas, a temple dedicated to the Goddess Chamundeshwari exists on top the hills. The temple is at least 800 years old, and the original shrine is believed to have been built by Hoysala rulers. Later, Vijayanagar rulers, and the Mysore Wodiyar rulers have renovated and maintained the temple for many centuries.
On the outskirts of the Chamundeshwari temple, there is a giant statue of Mahishasura that stands as if symbolically reminding everyone who visits the temple, that a long time ago he was the king who ruled Mysore.