One lazy Saturday afternoon, I was switching channels on television when I happened to watch a wedding being solemnized against the backdrop of a magnificent temple. I soon realized that it was located an hour away from where I lived in Bangalore and off I went on a drive to see the hidden architectural gem of Bhoganandishwara which is the the most ornate of Dravidian temples. Tucked away in a small village enroute to Nandi Hills in the outskirts of Bangalore (about 50kms), this temple is a hidden architectural gem. Originally constructed by Queen Ratnavali of the Bana dynasty in 9th century AD and enhanced over the next 700 years by the Cholas, Hoysalas, Gangarasas, Pallavas and finally the Vijayanagar Empire. On entry to the temple premises, the impact of the Vijaynagar style of architecture akin to Hampi is amply evident.
The pathway from the gate to the temple entrance is lined with trees and the lush green lawn stretched out on either side is soothing to the eye. A series of small enclosures which appear like stables or living quarters of guards can be seen on the far side of the lawn. To the right hand side of the main entrance is the Mahanavami Dibba, the pillars of which have been destroyed over time. Mahanavami Dibba is essentially a royal enclosure for witnessing the Navaratri Celebrations and other events like musical recitals and other shows. Painted and Carved Stone wheels lying on the side date back to the glorious days of pomp and show of the royalty.
The main entrance is a square structure decorated with exquisite carvings. As is the case with most temple complexes in the region, the Dhwaja Stambha stands tall next to the main shrines. There are 2 major temples dedicated to Bhoganandishwara and Arunachaleshwara here and a small shrine dedicated to Umamaheshwara lies in between. The shrine towards the north is dedicated to Bhoganandishwara and the one in the south is dedicated to Arunachaleshwara. Each one has a separate garba griha (inner sanctum), sukanasi(the space in front of the garba griha) and navaranga (the hall divided into 9 sections). The 4 pillars of the Bhoganandishwara Temple Navranga is intricately carved on all sides in beautiful black stone. These exquisite carvings are unique to this temple and have not been noticed elsewhere. The ceiling carvings depict theAshtadikpalakas (eight gods ruling the eight directions) and the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. The highlight of the temple is the statue of Heramba Ganapati just infront of Bhoganandishwara. On the side, is the huge majestic Nandi carved out of black stone accompanied by smaller Nandi’s. On closer look, the pillar’s enclosing the Nandi seem to be scripted in letters that appear to be close to Kannada language.
The temple complex also includes Devi temples dedicated to Girijambha and Kuchambha, a large Square stepped Tank, Vasanthamantapa, Tulabharamantapa and Navagrahas. The tank is at the far end of the temple and is lined with enclosures which appear to be the changing rooms. Apart from rain water, the source of water for the tank is unclear though there are stories of rivers feeding it from underground. Vasanthamantapa, located just opposite is noted to be the place where Shiva and Parvathi were married. It is open on all sides, each exquisite sandstone pillar relating a story about the divine wedding. It is an ideal location for marriage with all the 5 elements of nature in abundant attendance and ample showering of divine blessings. It is a popular choice for modern day couples intending to infuse heritage and divinity in their wedding venue and thats what the couple on television did !!
Travel Tip: Drive past Bangalore Airport on the Highway and take a turn left into the Nandi Hills Road. At the end of the road, take a right towards Bhoganandishwara (10 mins) while the left winds up to Nandi Hills.