This trip was originally written at Winding Roads and Never Ending Tales
Bangalore and Nandi Hills have been each other companion for very long, for those who are not familiar with the name, this is a small hillock situated around 50 KM from Bangalore with an awesome view from the top and an ideal day for an excursion away from the hustle bustle of the city life. This place has been well maintained and you can see it being famous in all age groups because of multiple options it provides to all. temple for elderly, parks for kids, a stone cliff for youth. All in all a very famous and wonderful destination for your one day break or picnic. But tell me how many of you are aware of a very famous Shiva temple just at the foothills of this place. If you aren't the fault is not yours, this is intentional I suppose on behalf of the temple administration as it is a real place of solitude and bliss and it helps if it is not crowded like its counterpart. The place which I am talking about is called Bhoga nandeeshwara, a wonderful example of the great craftsmanship of South India.
Finding the place is really simple you go straight to the point from where the left turn will start the ascension to Nandi Hills but instead of turning left you need to turn right and just after 1.5 km drive throw narrow lanes of Nandi village you will start seeing the stone walls of a very old temple. As with most of the temples in this region, it has been carved out of stone and houses the deity of Lord Shiva and goddess parvati. The main temple complex itself is a large open area with stone corridors running alongside the boundary and lush green landscape in between. before you ask yes it's a photographers delight. In fact saw some pre-wedding shoots happening here as well with locals looking with mild amusement of a newly wedded posing for the camera.Once you move towards the main entrance to the temple you will be awed by the articulate designs carved in the gateway itself.
As it is a worship place the shoes are not allowed at this point and you could keep yours near the gate for a minimal charge of 2 INR. As you will enter the premises you will find an uncanny resemblance to Hampi and lepakshi temples. Don't be surprised as you have an eye for detail as the history of this temple is as diverse as it gets. The original temple in the complex, identified as one of the oldest temples of Karnataka, dates back to the early 9th century.
The earliest inscriptions referring to the construction of the temple for Shiva, according to the Archaeological Survey of India, are from Nolamba dynasty ruler Nolambadiraja and the Rashtrakuta emperor Govinda III dated c.806, and copper plates of the Bana rulers Jayateja and Dattiya of about c.810. The temple was later under the patronage of successive notable South Indian dynasties: the Ganga Dynasty, the Chola dynasty, the Hoysala Empire and the Vijayanagara Empire. In the post-medieval era, the local chiefs of Chikaballapura and the rulers of the Mysore Kingdom (Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan) controlled the region before it eventually came under British rule after the death of Tipu Sultan
The main enclosure has three shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva known as Bhoga Nandeeshwara, Arunachaleswara and Ardhanareewara (also known as Uma Maheshwara) along with several other shrines on the rear side of the temple. As per ASI booklets being sold at the gate The "Arunachaleswara" and the "Bhoga Nandeeshwara" forms of Shiva represent, according to Hindu legend, two stages in the life of the god Shiva: childhood and youth. The "Uma-Maheshwara" shrine has reliefs depicting the third stage, Shiva's marriage to the goddess Parvati. Hence this shrine is popular with newlyweds who come to seek blessing. Interesting is the link to Yoga Nandeeshwara temple on top of Nandi hills which represents the final "renunciation" stage in the life of Shiva and hence this temple is devoid of any festivities (I had wondered on same during my multiple visits to Nandi Hills).
The large mandapa in front of the main shrines has great artwork with each pillar possessing beautifully carved images of gods, animals, puranic characters, sages and scenes depicted from Hindu mythology. The sculptures are carved with great detail and lot of caring towards every minute part of the sculptures using black granite in trademark Hoysala's style. The outer walls of the shrine are also filled with nice carvings.
The beautiful temple tank situated on the northern side of the main shrine is a must visit. The tank has large corridors built all around the tank. The temple is currently maintained by Archeology department. Free lunch is offered to visitors of the temple. But unfortunately, we were not aware of it and did miss it in our visit. After seeing the pictures taken by fellow travelers was really cursing myself for missing it completely. A mental note was taken to cover and visit it next time I come to Nandi Hills and so should everyone that comes to this area. Bow to the gods and the bounty they have created for us, I was thinking as the sunset changed the hue of the entire place in a heavenly Orange Glow.
1. Plan your trip to hit this temple at either sunrise or sunset. 2. No food stall near the temple so make sure you have your stomach full near Nandi hill junction itself.