Mysore is the second
biggest city in the State of Karnataka. It lies 130 kms from the State
Headquarters, Bangalore. It is the erstwhile capital of the Mysore Maharajas,
who ruled Mysore State from this royal city. It is now the headquarters
of Mysore District with a population of over seven lakhs. The chief
language of the people, as in the State of Karnataka, is Kannada and
original Kannada is spoken in this part of the area. It covers an area
of more than 40 sq.km. and is administered by the Mysore City Corporation.
Situated 763 meters above sea level surrounded by hill ranges from north
to south, it is known as the 'Garden City' and the 'City of Palaces'.
The famous Chamundi Hill, which is mythologically associated with the
name of the city, is to its southeast.
Mysore is associated with the Pouranic story that is found in the Devi
Bhagavatha. According to this story in the mythological Devi Purana,
Mysore was ruled by the demon-king Mahishasura. He was called Mahishasura,
because he was a buffalo-headed monster. Hearing to the prayers of Gods
and Goddess to save them from the monster, Goddess Parvathi, wife of
Lord Siva, took birth as Chamundi or Chamundeswari and killed the monster.
Hence, this place came to be known as Mahishuru, the city of demon Mahisha.
After killing the demon, the Goddess resided atop the Chamundi Hills
where she is worshipped with reverence and devotion even today. However,
the original name of the hills is 'Mahabaladri Hills' and it derived
the name Chamundi Hills at a later period, after 17th century.
The earliest mention of Mysore or Mahishur historically is referred
to the time of King Ashoka in 245 B.C. On the conclusion of the third
Buddhist convocation, Ashoka is said to have despatched a monk to Mahishamandala
for the purpose of spreading Buddhism. However, some historians have
viewed that this Mahishamandala does not relate to Mysore or Mahishur.
Some edicts of Ashoka have been found in the northern parts of the present
Karnataka State. Similar reference is also found in the epic work, Mahabharata.
According to this legend, King Yudhishtira is said to have sent an expedition
and Sahadeva made an attack on Mahishmati. However, experts are of the
opinion that the reference made in this epic, one of the oldest legends
of an historical character, is not related to Mysore.
Till the rise of Gangas in 10th century we find very little or no evidence
at all relating to Mysore. The Ganga dynasty established its reign in
the 2nd century and the Ganga kings ruled over the greater part of Mysore
till about 1004. They established their capital in the 3rd century at
Talakad, on the bank of the Cauvery river in T.Narasipur Taluk. One
of their inscriptions has been traced in the Chamundi Hills. The inspection
of 950 A.D. is the earliest inscription found in Mysore. After Gangas,
Cholas rose to power and ruled for over a century. The Chalukyas followed
them. Mysore was a part of Chalukya Prince Narasinga's kingdom in the
10th century. The Cholas built a few temples in Mysore. Hoysalas drove
out the Cholas from Mysore region in the 12th century. Hoysalas, who
are known for their famous temples, built or expanded the existing temples
in Mysore and on the Chamundi Hills. Their 11th and 12th century inscriptions
are found in Mysore.
The Mysore Yadu dynasty came to power in 1399 A.D. They were feudatories
to the Vijayanagar kings, who followed the Hoysalas. They also contributed
to the development of temples in Mysore. Bettada Chamaraja Wadiyar,
the raja of Mysore, rebuilt the small fort of Mysore in 1584 A.D. He
made Mysore his headquarters and called the place as 'Mahishura Nagara'
or the city of Mahishur. Several inscriptions of 17th century and later
period make reference to Mysore as 'Mahishuru'. Raja Waidyar shifted
the capital of his kingdom from Mysore to Srirangapatna in 1610 A.D.
However, after the fall of Srirangapatna and death of Tipu Sultan in
1799, Mysore became the capital of the Wadiyars again. The transformation
of Mysore from a small town confined to the limits of the Fort to a
modern township began at the period of Krishnaraja Wadiyar III. It was
Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV who developed Mysore into a handsome city with
excellent planning. He brought fame to Mysore as a city of wide roads,
imposing building and fairy parks.
Several Kannada works make reference to Mysore. But it is the famous
Kannada work, "Kantirava Narasaraja Vijaya", written in 1648, which
gives a beautiful description of Mysore. Poet Govinda Vaidya, author
of the work, describes King Kantirava Narasaraja Wadiyar as "Maisoora
Narasarajendra". He exhorts the beauty of "Maisooru", the "Sriman Mahabalachala"
(Sri Mahabaladri Hills), "Bettada Chamundi" (Goddess Chamundi atop the
hills), the Palace, the fort, the streets, the parks and the people
in the town of Mysore. The very first chapter is dedicated to this beautiful
description, the landmarks of which are to be found even today. Similar
references to Mysore are also found in Kannada classics like "Chikka
Devendra Vamshavali" (1680 A.D.), "Soundara Kavya" of Noorondayya (1740
A.D.) and "Krishnaraja Vilasa" (1815 A.D.).