Monday, August 3, 2015

Nandi Bull of Chamundi Hill

At the outset, see some of the very old and rare pictures [click on them to view larger] of the Nandi Bull on our Mysore's Chamundi Hill. The old images are gathered from the web, years shown on them were as in their websites. The colour images are taken by me.  The one of Dodda Devaraja Wadiyar was kindly shared by Sri Nagaraj Gargya.

Photo by William Henry Pigou.

Nandi Bull can be found in all Shiva Temples.  In fact, there is also a small cave temple, carved under an overhanging boulder, close to its left. Also, the Hill's original shrine is of Lord Shiva [Mahabala] but the temple of Goddess Chamundi became famous in the 18th century. 

Above: From the book in our library you will find mention as you scroll.  Notice electric light poles. See water in Doddakere in the background.

A Picture Card from Shanker and Co., famous photographers in the 40s and 50s.

From "Life" magazine - may be from late 60s.

Ah there, another boy is coming out under the Bull's leg!

This Nandi Bull is listed as one of the seven largest monolith Bulls in India. It was carved in situ during the time of Dodda Deva Raja Wadiyar's reign between 1659-73, situated in the range of the 600th and 700th steps.  Climbing up the 1000 steps [read my other post on the legendary steps, click] on the way to the top of the hill, this is a must-stop place. Nandi is the vehicle of Lord Shiva in Hindu Mythology.

Let me reproduce a portion from the book "Mysore City", by Constance E. Parsons, Oxford University Press, 1930:

The Sacred Bull
Descending (by the footpath) past the little lake of Herekere, constructed 350 years ago by Bettada Chama Raja Wadiyar V, you may reach the Bull in a few minutes.  (A motor road, branching off from the 'Douglas Rice Circle', also leads to it.)  Fashioned, says a legend, in one night, out of the basalt of the hill, this recumbent, colossal Nandi (the vehicle of Siva) was a gift of Dodda Deva Raja, who reigned from 1659 to 1673; a valiant and pious king, who defeated enemies on all sides of the little kingdom, which he greatly extended and which he divided into four equal parts; the revenues of which, it is said, he gave to Brahmins, to the gods, to charities, and of the fourth, spent half on jewels for his queens and half on his State and palace. 'Temples', says an inscription, 'he has made, he is making, and he will make.'  He built rest houses at intervals of a yogana on all the main roads of the State, and stone 'rests' - a horizontal granite stone, laid on two upright stones - on to which weary travelers could slip their shouldered burdens.

Over 25 feet long and 16 high, adorned with ropes, chains, bells and jewels of stone, the Bull - from the days when in England Cavelier and Roundhead fought for mastery - has lain, massive, calm, inscrutable; with  half-shut eyes which seem, in yogi fashion, to be closing in meditation.  The carving, declared by Mr.Rice to be 'in no way extraordinary,' is bold and by no means without beauty. It is neither coarse nor finicking, and nothing could be more suitable for its exposed position and the distance from which it must be viewed.

Nearby is a small lamp-post, erected by a European and lighted, as part of the daily ritual, by the Brahmin priest in charge.

This picture was shared by my friend Gowri which shows probably the same lamp-post mentioned in the book. It is the oil lamp.

Whenever we climbed the steps of Chamundi, we had to stop over at the Nandi Bull for worshipping it. The most thrilling 'ritual' we children used to perform as we circumambulated was to pass under the left leg, crouching.  It was done on the same platform where the statue sits.  The gap we passed through appears 'wide enough', but when you actually pass you have to squeeze yourself out!  I do not remember any superstition attached to this 'passing through ritual'. In recent years, the 'Bettada BaLaga group [ಬೆಟ್ಟದ ಬಳಗ] has prevented people from going on the platform itself by building a fence [notice it in the 'colour pictures']. 

See the picture below.  The lady is doing what many of us used to do.  Do you know who she is? She is none other than the wife of the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt!!   Eleanor Roosevelt.  [Click]  She is 68 years old at this time.  She toured Mysore in 1952. 

Two more pictures of her trip to Chamumdi Bull:

In recent times, the statue gets 'decorated' with all kinds of materials, flowers, cloth, ash.  The statue also gets anointment every year which 'tradition' was never done before.  It is beautiful without decoration and the paint on its eyes is not a good idea in my opinion. 'Feeding' the Bull was also a ritual some people did - fix a banana horizontally in the mouth of the statue to please the Lord. 

See the picture above and the one below [taken at night].  
Interestingly, I have taken these almost one year apart and from the very same angle!

A portion of the Nandi Bull is actually visible from our house top, far away. Can you see?

See the indicated white structure.  The telescope I had made in the 70s could focus on the Bull. [Click] 
Click on the image and focus your eyes. The back of the bull is seen.

This is the spot. Shops mar the sanctity of the spot.
Such a beautifully serene environ has become a victim of commercialization with too many vendors and shops selling various items like cane juice, tender coconut and whatnot. 

Some different views of the Bull.

Superstition is that when this Bull stands up and bugles, it would be doomsday. Another rumour is that the bull is 'growing' in size!  

These are from picture postcards from the 1980s. 

May serenity and sanctity return!

I wrote a post on the Hill's beauty and legend recently. Click here.


Raja said...

Hi Dinu,

Long time we interacted ! Chanced upon this post !

Following comment caught my attention:

@ A motor road, branching off from the 'Douglas Rice Circle', also leads to it.....

I thought people who read your blog may be interested to know who is this Douglas Rice ?

Harold Douglas Rice was the fifth of Benjamin Lewis Rice ( famous telegraphist of Mysore state and author of Mysore Gazetteer) and Mary’s ten children, was born in 1876.

Douglas was sent to King’s College, London, to study Civil Engineering, living with his Garrett grandparents in Hampton Hill, Richmond-on-Thames. Just as he was about to complete his three years and the examinations were starting, he received a cable from his father who had secured a post for him in the Mysore Government. He left immediately, and in 1895 joined the Public Works Department at the bottom.

He was involved in the construction of Mari Kanave Dam ( Vani Vilas sagar), Mysore to Arsikere Railway line, Lalitha Mahal Palace etc.

Douglas was a friend and sporting companion of the Maharaja, His Highness Sri Krishmaraja Wadiyar IV.

This is what he says about the Road to Chamundi Hill:

‘One day, when I was playing tennis with the Maharaja, I enquired why he had never had a good motoring road made to the top. He replied that that had been his great ambition for many years, but all his engineers had said it was not feasible.’

Douglas planned and executed the road. Halfway up, where he made a circular space with an island in the centre, from which a wonderful view could be seen, the Maharaja had a placard placed, reading ‘The Douglas Rice Circle’.

Dinakar KR said...

Thanks Sri Raja. Wonderful addition of information to the Douglas Rice name - also speaks of the dedication one had towards the work in those days.