A trip to the sprawling Bhoganandishwara Temple at Nandi village enlivened my Sunday morning. The visit, a part of Intach’s Nandi and Sultanpet village Parichay (heritage walk), falling as it was just two days after Shivarathri had us walking into a temple complex that had still not woken up from a boisterous three days of festivities. The entire courtyard was littered with papers, plastic and what not, a far cry from its otherwise sparkling clean look which I had marvelled at on an earlier visit.
There was a colourful mini-market just outside the entrance with stalls selling an assortment of powders, grains and the like. Colourfully attired men in the guise of sadhus were the attention grabbers. This man with a conch stole the show. Every now and then he broke into a song.
At the entrance of the main shrine were three chariots, undoubtedly, a prominent part of the Shivarathri festivities.
The ASI-protected monument is the biggest Shiva Temple in this part of rural Bangalore. Built in the early 800s, there is a questionmark about who built it. Meera Iyer, Intach’s heritage expert, had a lot of information to share with us. While one section of scholars claim that the temple was built by the rulers of the Bana dynasty, descendants of the legendary king Mahabali, owing to various copper plate engravings found at the site, another section reasons that the engravings were fake and that it was built by the Nolambas. This is because a substantial part of the architectural work on the insides of the temple bear a strong resemblance to the style of the Ganga dynasty with whom the Nolambas had proximity through various marital alliances.
However, ASI information at the entrance of the complex says that the temple was built by Ratnavali, a consort of Bana king Bana Vidyadhara, based on information from copper plates.
The intricate work on the walls and pillars of the temple are dazzling. In addition to the Bhoganandishwara shrine, which is in the south, the temple complex consists of the Arunachaleshwara shrine in the north and the Umamaheshwara shrine, in between them. Behind them is a shrine dedicated to Kuchilamba and on the side another one dedicated to Girija. The intricate work on the pillars (see slideshow below) in the shrine bear a distinct resemblance to Hoysala architecture and the work on the towers of the shrines bear a resemblance to the Vijayanagar style. Away from the five shrines is also a shrine dedicated to Agni, the god of fire.
This mélange of architectural styles, all of them breathtaking, has been mesmerizing people for ages. Have a look at this slideshow.
Adding more splendour to the temple complex is a kalyan mantap. Though signs all around the temple clearly say that tripods aren’t allowed, we were surprised on seeing a music video being shot atop the mantap and an array of tripods.
The kalyani at the temple, which also had remnants of the Shivarathri celebrations, is otherwise a most tranquil place. It is one of those spots where one can finish reading a book in one sitting. Once upon a time, the kalyani was a recreation spot of Nandi village with village folks spending their leisure indulging in various ancient games.
Visitors to the temple will also love the well here, the parapet of which rests on a platform.
All around the temple one will also come across various golden statues. The pièce de résistance was this statue of Ravana.
As we exited the temple we saw this man with a broom, another of the colourful characters we saw that day.
And there were more architectural surprises in store like this raised platform below a tree.
Our next stop was at Sultanpet, a village founded by Tipu Sultan. We were shown around the Sultanpet cemetry, a collection of graves (12 of them) of English military officers and their family members. The architecture of the graves is akin to the architecture of graves belonging to the Victorian era. According to the information board at the site, after Nandidurg was captured by the English army under Lord Cornwallis in 1791, a regiment of the British army was stationed at Sultanpet which explains the presence of these graves here.
Our walk ended with a trek to the ruins of a mosque whose architecture suggests it was built during the time of Tipu Sultan. We thoroughly enjoyed this trek on a bright Sunday morning. And this wouldn’t have happened if not for a lorry that had blocked traffic on the kutcha road that led to the mosque. The path was dotted with innumerable plants and trees. This Red Silk Cotton tree was everyone’s favourite.
Inside the mosque it was really very cool, a result of the cross-ventillation. In spite of being in ruins, the mosque with its large windows is a nice place to be. Over here, one can experience the presence of a divine being. I only hope that it is preserved for posterity.