Nestled in the quaint village of Nandi within Karnataka, India, stand the resplendent Bhoganandiswara Temple and its counterpart, the Arunachaleswara Temple—a divine duo honoring the mighty deity Shiva. Dating back to the 9th-10th century CE, these twin marvels boast intricate carvings and timeless devotion.
Bhoganandiswara, the elder of the two, stands proudly as the oldest surviving testament to the Nolambavadi-style of Dravidian architecture in Karnataka. Its southern sibling, Arunachaleswara, was erected shortly thereafter, forming a sacred complex that has witnessed the ebb and flow of history.
Throughout the epochs, from the illustrious reign of the Vijayanagara Empire to the present day, these temples have endured, bearing witness to the grandeur of bygone eras. Adorned with sprawling sabha-mandapas, adorned with inscriptions and artwork depicting an array of deities—from the fierce Narasimha of Vaishnavism to the serene Lakshmi of Shaktism—they stand as a testament to the rich tapestry of Hindu spirituality.
Guarded as a treasure of national significance by the vigilant custodians of the Archaeological Survey of India, these temples not only embody architectural splendor but also serve as sanctuaries of profound cultural heritage. Within their hallowed precincts, the echoes of devotion reverberate through time, inviting pilgrims and scholars alike to behold the timeless majesty of Hindu craftsmanship and spirituality.
Situated at the foot of Nandi Hills, also known as Nandidurga, Nandi village rests just 8 kilometers (5 mi) southwest of Chikkaballapur town. Nestled approximately 55 kilometers (34 mi) northeast of Bengaluru city, the vibrant capital of Karnataka, Nandi village enjoys a picturesque setting amidst the natural splendor of the region.
In ancient times, the eastern regions of south Karnataka thrived under the rule of the Rashtrakuta and Ganga dynasties. By the 8th century, the Hindu Nolambas, also known as Nolamba-Pallavas, governed this area for these dynasties. The reign of Mahendra I (860–895 CE) brought renewed power and prosperity after defeating the Banas. His mother, Devalabbarasi, a great patron of arts, built the Nolamba-Narayanesvara temple, marking a period (850–1000 CE) known for the Nolambavadi style, a synthesis of regional Hindu arts.
Near Nandi village, early 9th-century inscriptions mention a temple for Shiva, possibly linked to the Nolamba dynasty ruler Nolambadiraja and Rashtrakuta emperor Govinda III. The Bhoganandiswara and Arunachaleswara temples, reflecting this style, date back no later than the 10th century. Successive dynasties—the Ganga, Hoysala, and Vijayanagara—patronized and shaped the temple complex, which endures as a testament to their contributions.
Structure of the Temple
The temple complex comprises two main shrines: Bhoganandiswara and Arunachaleswara. While they share similar architecture, Arunachaleswara, situated to the south, displays slightly more intricate artwork. Both feature a large courtyard, open sabha-mandapa, navaranga, antarala, sukanasi, garbhagriya, and Dravida-style vimana. Each shrine is adorned with Jali screens and a nandi mantapa in front.
Between the twin temples lies the Uma-Maheshwara shrine, hosting a kalyana mantapa supported by ornate black stone pillars depicting Hindu deities. Pyramidal towers rise from both major shrines, housing lingas in their sanctums. A 16th-century Vijayanagara pavilion stands between the shrines, adorned with relief sculptures. The minor Uma-Maheshwara shrine, believed to be added later, features relief carvings of deities and sages. A seamless wall connects the major shrines, concealing any distinction, while a spacious pillared hall adorns the temple’s forefront.
Other structures within the complex
Additional structures within the complex include two smaller goddess shrines of the Shakti tradition nestled within the outer bounding wall (prakara). Adjacent to these shrines lies a secondary compound featuring a navaranga mantapa adorned with Yali pillars. Further beyond stands a sizable stepped temple tank known as “Sringeri Teertha,” believed to be the mythical source of the Pinakini river, where ceremonial lamps illuminate on special occasions.
The Uma-Maheshwara shrine, renowned for its reliefs depicting Shiva’s sacred union with Parvati, attracts newlyweds seeking blessings, adding to its popularity.