Architectural marvel in the lap of nature

Architectural marvel in the lap of nature

The Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple near the Nandi Hills bears the stamp of five Indian ruling dynasties, resulting in structural wealth that leaves Hema Narayanan mesmerised.

If you are a Bangalorean or a visitor to this City, you most certainly have made a climb up to the Nandi Hills.  You sure have seen the huge statue of the bull in the temple on top.  But did you know, that at its foothills lays the Bhoga Nandeeshwara temple, an aesthetically beautiful heritage structure in stone?  A Hindu temple, known to be one of the oldest in Karnataka. Largely unexplored, untouched and unique…

It was by a matter of chance that I drove past this temple a few months ago during a visit to a farmhouse near Nandi Hills. Its lasting first impression made me go back to absorb more of this unique temple.

It is a magnificent large complex, with intricate work of stone carvings all over.  Talking to the priests, who turned out to be useful source of historical facts, made me realise what a place of wonder I had unravelled.

Walking in the corridors of the temple for the next two hours truly stunned me. Bhoga Nandeeshwara temple has the stamps of five Indian ruling dynasties – a record not many Hindu temples can claim to possess!

First of all, the complex houses not one, but three temples in all. Dating back to the 9th Century, the first phase was built by Queen named Ratnavali.

Then came the five masters of architecture and stonework, over the years — namely the Cholas, Gangas, Hoysalas, Pallavas and the Vijayanagara Kings. The temple portrays a medley of styles; the pillars, the ceilings, the statuettes, the shrines, the deities inside them and the infinite carvings have a distinct flavour of each of their architectural styles.

Each dynasty either extended it to make it larger or renovated it, but most importantly, left behind their own mark, in terms of their style of architecture! It is believed that the Cholas added the roof in the 11th Century, the Gangas built the main temple, the Hoysalas added the marriage hall in the 13th Century, whereas the Vijayanagara Kings made the building and the Pushkarni (tank).

The gopura (ornate monumental tower at the entrance of any temple in South India) is seen more on the inside at the Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple and not outside. This is an evidence in itself, that these were built by the Pallavas, since the origin of the gopura is tracked back to the early structures of Pallavas – who came in fourth (in order) in constructing this temple.

The gopura has added a majestic appeal against the backdrop of the deep blue skies and the hills of Nandi - the ranges of which are seen, all around the temple. Talking of five, it is an interesting coincidence that there are actually five hills here, which are in turn sources of five various rivers, namely Arkavathy, Swarnamukhi, Papagni, Palar and Pinakini. 

Dravidian style

‘Architecture starts where engineering ends,’ it is said. However, where was the engineering in those days?  It was only the sheer visual imagination, physical strength and creative skills of the architects that have made Bhoga Nandeeshwara, a fine example of Dravidian architecture.

Dedicated solely to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, I was in admiration of their well-thought out plan for the temples to depict different phases of Lord Shiva’s life, even though the construction spanned over time and dynasties. Of the three temples inside, the Arunachaleshwara represents the childhood days of Shiva, while the Uma Maheshwara and Bhoga Nandeeshwara temples represent his youth.

Aptly, the Yoga Nandeeshwara temple on top of the Nandi Hills, represents his final renunciation stage.

Mesmerised, I walked into the second part of the temple and came across a large indoor breathtaking water pond (Pushkarni), called the Shringi Theertha. It has deep green water at the centre, with rock-cut symmetric steps on all four sides. Legend has it, that the great Bull Nandi plunged its horns into the ground to draw out water from the River Ganga and thus created this pond, which henceforth was considered the source of River Pinakini.

It was a delightful outing for me as a shutterbug — every carved stone and step was waiting to be captured. Plan to spend some time here, if architectural photography interests you. 

To me, witnessing this century old temple, that was impregnable until the British stormed it in 1791 when they defeated Tipu Sultan, was like walking the path of ancient history. Especially when it was at the foothills of lush green Nandi valley, amidst pristine forests and surrounded by the monkeys!

How to get there

Located merely at 60 kilometres from Bangalore, it is a wonderful weekend getaway, along with Nandi Hills. Many celebrations happen all through, but thrice a year, 1,00,000 lamps are lit on the main festival days. Thus, Shivarathri is one of the best times to visit the temple. Plenty of buses ply on the route daily.

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