The peacocks called in tandem serenading the commencement of my hike. The Robin sang as usual as I passed the Peepal tree and the incredible fragrance of wild Mysore Jasmin wafted in the air welcoming morning walkers like me as I crossed the First Kilometre of my hike.
‘1 kilometre in 10 minutes and 11 seconds’ uttered Siri.
Welcome to my morning world on Chamundi Hill.
My bond with Chamundi Hill in the city of my birth, Mysore, has taken different forms in the last 45 years before ultimately becoming a physical cum spiritual hike for me. Named after goddess Chamundi, the Chamundeshwari Temple sits atop the main hill. The trail that I take is tarmac with a distance of approximately 5.20 Kilometres(3.1 miles).
During my teenage years I frequently bunked my Engineering classes, went to Chamundi Hill on my scooter and contemplated very deeply about the mundane nature and futility of my Engineering Course.
The bond then transformed to Partying with friends with alcohol and music as I approached 20. I partied hard in the old temple ruins mid way to the top till wee hours in the morning.
The bond then progressed to demonstrations of my riding skills to the top with damsels behind me during my Post Graduation study.
It must have been Chamundi Ma’s blessings upon me for my affinity for her abode with my frequent visits to abate my hormonal mood swings that ensured that I completed both my Engineering degree and my M.B.A with flying colours.
It took the form of physical exercise as I turned 45 when I started alternating between climbing the 1128 steps and hiking the 5 Kilometre(3.1 mile) tarmac to the temple on top.
Finally it took the form of soul edifying meditative walks by the time I turned 55. The hikes started giving me an experience of a meditative calmness that I could not feel even during some of the best moments of my meditation sessions.
I got addicted to these hikes on the hill.
Hiking gives me space – no family, no work and most of all, no city noise. To me, hiking by myself is walking meditation. It connects me with my higher self and makes me witness the Almighty intelligence at work in the surrounding nature.
I turned 61 two months ago and I re-started my hike a few days ago after a gap of nearly 6 months. As it turned out,it was ‘Mahashivartri’ festival day on the 4th of March. The day is very important for Hindus since this particular festival is more contemplative than celebratory in nature. Hindus believe that is a day to remind oneself of the darkness and ignorance within and the day is observed not by eating sweets or playing drums but by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting, and meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, honesty, not hurting others, forgiveness, and the acceptance of Shiva.
It was very pleasant that particular morning with the winter chillness having completely disappeared. My Smartphone showed 6:12 a.m. and I activated my Endomodo app on as soon as I locked my Car. Wondering if it was cosmic conspiracy that my hiking day coincided with an unplanned Pradakshana(circumambulation) around the temple on top, I hoped that my ‘internal darkness’ would see semblance of enlightenment and illumination after my holy sojourn.
I had started my hike at a slower than usual pace since it had been months since I had taken the hike.
I upped my pace aware that by the time I reached the next Kilometre I would have completed 650 out of the almost 900 feet tall hill and a third of the distance.
“2 Kilometres in 18 minutes and 42 seconds, Lap time 8 minutes and 31 seconds”parroted Siri, her voice piercing the silence of the hill as I took the roundabout road towards Nandi.
Nandi,the “vehicle” of Lord Shiva, which is 4.9m(16 Feet) tall and 7.6m(25 Feet) long and carved out of a single piece of black granite arrived and I marvelled at the monument and the perfect Carving of a Bull.
I slowed my pace since I had hiked up almost 700 feet over a 2 kilometre (1.25 Mile) distance. The sunrise from the viewpoint after Nandi appeared surreal and kindled a spark in me to chant the Gayitri Mantra.o
om bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥom
dhiyo yo naḥ prachodayāt
‘We meditate upon the splendour or the glory of the most adorable Supreme-Divine- Being from which Savitur is born. Who may stimulate or sharpen our intellect”
Most of the Hindus chant this mantra without comprehending the intellectual and contemplative depth of this magical 5000-year old Rig Vedic Hymn seeking wisdom and enlightenment. They regard it as a ritual practice and chant it as a prayer for idol worship for limited gains. Their entire attention is on the worship rather than on invoking its inner power.
As a spiritual fan of Vedic philosophy and the concept of ‘Brahman’, I regard it as both an acknowledgement and a plea; acknowledgement of the collective divine intelligence behind all of creation and a plea to enlighten us and give us the spiritual and intellectual capacity to comprehend the magnificence of ‘That’. Savitur stands for bright, luminous, sun like inner power of spiritual light or the one that brings to self-realization. Thus, through Savitur the prayer is addressed to the light that lights up our inner self.
I regard walking alone in nature as a state of being in the meditative state since you have nothing else but your mind and your thoughts to witness in the company of Mother Nature and the route up to the Chamundi Temple on the summit has a mini forest with all types of Flora, Fauna and a couple of Leopards. Out of the hundreds of times I have been up here,sometimes almost an hour before sunrise, I am sure to have been considered for their weekly meals by more than a few Leopards since reports of missing cows were quite common in the recent past from township on top.
“Mohan please say a prayer for me to Lord Shiva and Chamudi on my behalf”, my wife Mamatha had told me while I was tying my shoe laces that morning and as if the Almighty wanted to remind me, the temple of Devikere arrived to my left.
“5 Kilometres in 46 minutes and 12 seconds, Lap time 9 minutes and 26 seconds” declared Miss Siri.
Just a couple of minutes later arrived the demon that was slandered by Goddess Chamundi, the demon king Mahishasura on this Hill thousands of years ago.
The brief mythology behind this is that Lord Brahma extremely impressed with Mahishura’s years of penance seeking His blessings granted a boon impetuously that no man in the Universe could kill Mahishasura. He abused it and started killing and conquering the world. Rishis(Ancient Hindu Seers) got very worried after both Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu expressed their helplessness and hiked up the Himalayas to met Lord Shiva. Shiva said he wished he could help but he could not as he was a man himself and therefore could not kill Mahishasura due to the boon granted by Lord Brahma. At this moment, Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva overheard the conversation and came out with a plan. Brahma’s boon was that no ‘man’ could kill Mahishasura, but a woman could!
All the Gods gladly started giving her their powers and weapons to Parvati. Suddenly She had so many weapons that she did not have enough arms to hold them!
So she grew more arms to hold them and this Avatar was named Chamundi.
Chamundi battled and took 10 days to kill Mahishasura. These 10 days represent the battle of good over evil and is celebrated as the festival of Dasara all over India. The hill on which she fought is now known as Chamundi Hill. Mysore was originally called Mahishana Ooru – meaning, the city of Mahisha and over a period of time it changed to Mysore.
By the time I reached the topmost point it was close to 8, and I was admittedly a sweatier, thirsty and excited man if not an enlightened one. Being the agnostic that I am I thanked the intelligence that created these trillions of cells in my body making me able to convey but did not forget to pass along my wife’s ‘Namaskarams” to Chamundi aka Durga Ma.She is seated with her right heel pressed against the lowest of the seven Chakras (Energy centres in the body). This cross-legged posture echoes the Yogic posture of Lord Shiva. Worshippers believe that this powerful yogic posture, if mastered, provides an added dimensional view of the universe.
“Finished your walk?” the man with glasses and head phones asked me. I smiled and wanted to reply with a snappy answer “ No. All this sweat on my face and my wet shirt was because I was sitting in my A.C Car” but said instead “yes”.
As I turned on the engine homeward bound wondering what was for breakfast, I felt the usual euphoric feeling of “high on life” and the song ‘Miracles’ from the movie “Unbroken” from my blue tooth gave me a sensation in my head akin to a Kundalini kick.
Thank you Chamundi Hill for being there for me.