When I arrived in Mysore one of the first places recommended to me for sight-seeing was Chamundi Hills. I’d like to add one more thing to that recommendation- go at sunrise.
The Chamundeshwari Temple, a seven-story, ornate structure named after a form of Shakti, sits at the top of the hills. From the base of the hills there are over one thousand steps leading to the temple. If you plan on climbing the steps, which I highly recommend, remember to factor that time into your plans. Ideally you want to reach the temple just before sunrise. Alternately, you can always take a rickshaw to all the way to the top.
There is something amazingly peaceful about climbing those steps in the quiet hour before dawn. The locals climb barefoot and I followed suit but it is perfectly ok to keep your shoes on. We passed many people softly chanting or singing on our way up, something I didn’t experience later in the day on the way down, and it really added to the atmosphere of a sacred ritual.
When we reached the temple itself only the top of it was illuminated. In that light the temple looks like it’s made of gold. It was still fairly quiet that early but we were definitely not the first ones to arrive. It was a New Moon and there was already a line to enter the temple an hour before it opened. Vendors were also starting to set-up and thankfully there was already chai to be had.
We watched the sun slowly reveal the temple as it rose with tea in hand. Cows wandered by, clearing a path through the growing crowd of worshipers. Just before seven-thirty we removed our shoes and made our way to purchase entrance tickets. For one hundred ruppies you gain direct access or you can choose to wait in line for thirty ruppies.
Once inside the temple we joined a winding line of people that slowly made its way through the courtyard and then into the center of the temple and the main shrine. The New Moon seemed like an especially auspicious day to be there. We all wrote out intentions for the month and carried them with us.
Afterwards we lingered, taking photos and buying postcards and other small souvenirs. One small piece of advice: beware of the monkeys. They WILL steal your belongings if you leave them unattended even for a short period of time. One friend had a small sandalwood statue stolen while she was taking a picture.
On the way down from the temple, now in the light of day, we noticed several places that were perfect for yoga photoshoots. As you might imagine, our walk down took about twice as long as the walk up! The hills overlook Mysore city, who could resist such a pretty backdrop?
To finish off our excursion we asked our rickshaw driver for breakfast recommendations. Rickshaw drivers tend to know the best, off the beaten path but still safe, places to eat. We ended up enjoying idli and dosas on a little side street, resting our tired legs and soaking up the sun.