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Karnataka and South India - 04 Bhoga Nandeeshwara and Arunachaleswara Temples



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple (also spelt "Bhoga Nandishwara" or "Bhoga Nandishvara") is a temple located in Nandi village, at the base of Nandi Hills (or Nandidurga) in the Chikkaballapur district of Karnataka state, India. It is dedicated to the paired Shiva and Shakti.  The architectural style is Dravidian. The temple complex is located at a distance of 60 km from Bangalore and is protected as a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India.


The original temple in the complex, identified as one of the oldest temples of Karnataka, dates back to the early 9th century.  The earliest inscriptions according to the Archaeological Survey of India, are from Nolamba dynasty ruler Nolambadiraja and the Rashtrakuta emperor Govinda III dated c.806, and copper plates of the Bana rulers Jayateja and Dattiya of about c.810.  

The temple was later under the patronage of successive notable South Indian dynasties: the Ganga Dynasty, the Chola dynasty, the Hoysala Empire and the Vijayanagara Empire. The Vasantha mantapa is an ornate 13th century contribution from the Hoysala era.

In the post medieval era, the local chiefs of Chikaballapura and the rulers of the Mysore Kingdom (Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan) controlled the region before it eventually came under British rule after the death of Tipu Sultan in c.1799.

The two main temples

The temple complex has two large shrines: the "Arunachaleswara" shrine to the south built by the Gangas of Talakad, and the "Bhoga Nandeeshwara" shrine to the north built by the Cholas.

There is a sculpture of a dancing Shiva on the south wall of the Arunachaleshwara shrine and Devi standing on a buffalo head on the north wall of Bhoga Nandeshwara shrine.  According to Shaktism, Adi Para Shakti—the Goddess, Devi—is the root cause of creation, sustenance and annihilation. She is pure energy (referred to as Shakti). Being innately formless (known as Adi Parashakti), she manifests herself within the gods and demi-gods ‘so that she may fulfill the tasks of the universe via them’.

In effect, this temple complex celebrates the marriage of Shiva and Shakti, which by definition is the creation, the act of creation in particular.  By this symbolic marriage all the Intelligences in the Intelligence hierarchy are obtained – the symbolic Tree of Life.

As one would expect, given that the two temples are of the two supreme beings, there are two pyramidal and tiered towers (shikhara) rising from the two major temples.  The large shrines each have a sanctum (garbhagriha), a vestibule (sukanasi) and a closed hall (navaranga or mantapa). The vestibule and hall are provided with perforated stone screens called Jali.

Temple to the Mystic marriage

To celebrate and reinforce this symbolism, there is a small shrine between the two main temples called the "Uma-Maheshwara" shrine with a kalyana mantapa ("marriage altar") supported by ornate pillars in black stone with reliefs depicting the Hindu gods Shiva and Shakti in their manifestations as Pashupati and Parvati – in  effect their form as opposed to their spiritual selves.  There are also decorative creepers and birds in bas-relief.

This is thus the ‘mystic marriage’, which at every level is the creative act.  The marriage of the masculine with the feminine that starts creation [and destruction is some instances]


Linga and yoni

Each major shrine has a large linga in the sanctum.  The linga is here symbolically showing the idea that both figures – the masculine and the feminine are ‘mountains’ within the cosmic egg in their own right.  The rather crude interpretation put by the more repressed commentator that the lingum is the penis and the base the yoni is seen to make no sense here, [which in fact it doesn’t in most of the temples.  The sexual explanation is often reserved for the naïve].   

Bull and cow

Each shrine has a nandi mantapa in front  - a hall with the sculptured image of Nandi the bull -  facing the sanctum.  There is also a sculpture of Nandi (the bull) in a pavilion facing the central shrine.


Step well

The outer bounding wall (prakara) of the complex has two minor shrines.  To the north of the shrines is a second compound with a navaranga mantapa (pavilion) with Yali pillars. Beyond this compound is a large stepped temple tank (kalyani or pushkarni), locally called "Sringeri Teertha" (the mythical source of the Pinakini river) where lamps are lit on certain festive days


The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items

Activities and commonsteps



Creating a sacred geography