Nandi is a small town at the bottom of the well-known hill resort, Nandi Hills, situated at a distance of about 60 km. north-east of Bangalore, and is famous for the ancient Shiva temple, popularly known as Bhoganandishwara. The temple as it appears today is composite. The Cholas the Hoysalas, the Vijayanagar kings, and the Pallegars of the middle ages, all have contributed to this making of this structure. It is of great interest to students of art and archaeology as a specimen of south Indian sculpture of about
the 8th century, and it is fortunately in a good state of preservation. it is considered as one of the most ornate among the Dravidian temples in this part of the state. Several inscriptions of the Chola period are found in the courtyard and around the temple. According to an inscription, it is believed that the original shrine of Shiva was constructed by Rathnavalı, the queen of the Bana king Vidyadhara, in the year 804 A.D. A copper plate inscription records certain grants made to the temple by the Rashtrakuta king Govinda. An inscription relating to the 9th century refers to the reign of the Nolamba king Nolambadhiraja and records the details of three temples. Judging from the character of the various inscriptions and the style of architecture, the later additions appear to have been executed during the 10th century.
The temple of Bhoganandishwara is a very large structure in Dravidian style, facing east and having a large ‘mahadwara’. It is a double temple consisting of two separate shrines standing in a line, with two ‘Nandi Mandapas’in front, and having a small intervening shrine. The north shrine is called Bhoganandishwara and the south shrine Arunachaleshwara. Each temple has spacious halls in front and a fine tower at the top. The pillars of the hall and the ceiling are exquisitely carved with idols on all sides, and with Shiva and Parvati in the central panel. In the main hall is a peculiar figure of Vinayaka, about a meter in height, with a small lion face and a lean proboscis, popularly called as Simha Ganapathi’, which is considered as a rare specimen of its kind.
In front of the shrine stands a magnificent four-pillared Kalyana mandapa built of highly polished black stone. The pillars are beautifully carved from top to bottom with the marvelous elaboration of details and exquisite workmanship. The ceiling over these pillars has figures of the ‘dikpalas carved in the different tiers. The open hall in the front is supported by twelve polished black pillars, which are very neatly dressed and finely sculptured in three panels all round. Nearby stands a fine stone umbrella with a tall staff. The outer walls of the temple are also carved with friezes of swans and fine figures at intervals. Behind the shrine runs a stone screen with figures of Dakshinamurthy and Nataraja.
During the Vijayanagar times, the two Nandi shrines Were joined by a shrine of Shiva, known as Maheshwara. To this period belong the shrines of the two goddesses in the ‘prakara’ one for Prasanna Parvathi, and the other Apitha Kuchalamba. Both the shrines have a row of large figures carved on the outer walls which represents the marriage of Shiva Parvathi. To the north of the enclosure is a large square pond known as ‘Shringi Tirtha’, which is surrounded by a pillared verandah having three entrances. A little away from the temple, at the approach to the Nandi hill, is a huge monolith bull, beautifully sculptured.
Nandi town can be reached easily from Bangalore by road. Besides the excellent accomodation available on the Nandi Hill, there are a few rest houses attached to the temple. The biggest festival at Nandi is held during Maha Shivarathri, when thousands of devotees and tourists assemble from all parts of Karnataka.