Nandidurga – Celebrating the childhood, youth and ascetism of the Shiva

Dear Apita Kuchamba

It’s not an easy name to call you especially for a North Indian Hindu. Worst, you are nowhere even a familiar name for us. Yet the meaning in your name is so profound and deep.

It was so surprising for me that for the good 3 years I spent in Bangalore I never heard about this Temple called Bhoganandeesgwar which is at foothills of Nandi hills. Often our attention would go to the mountain which is the coolest respite for the coolest metro city of India. Little did I realize that there is a treasure trove on the foothills here which can fulfill the appetite of all those denizens of Bangalore who want to see antique temples with detailed ornamentation without bothering to drive long distances.

While the Temple is not a Puranic one, but being built in 9th century by Nolamba Kings, clearly it is considered one of the oldest amidst the temples constructed in Karnataka by the royalty. That does explain the relative dearth of devotees which is neither negligible to ignore nor high enough to consider this one as a Temple of great significance. But What stands out is how this Temple along with the one on the hills celebrate the child, the youthful and the renunciation form of Shiva as Arunachaleshwara, Bhoga Nandeeshwar and Yoga Nandeeshwar.

Entering into the Temple campus, I was awestruck by the sheer size of the Temple compound. A local senior citizen told that the Shivaratri celebrations would be held in great size here and to accommodate the massive number of people from all around, they have kept the grand campus. For all the temples visit I have done, surely I can’t recall seeing some Temple compound with as massive empty space as this. It surely sounds practical but then leaves me curious on relatively lower proportion of devotees compared to the size designated to accommodate them.

The central gate of the Temple leads one to the Vasantha Mandapam (Spring Hall) with the Uma Maheshwar shrine apparently added later to celebrate the marriage of Shiva with Uma.

Clearly this is the visual treat which can make taking a stop at this Temple totally worth it. With brilliantly sculpted pillars showing the Divine couple with their perfect figures, the rich ornamentation on the pillars and the carvings on the temples’s sides with relatively lesser seen mythological episodes, this is a treasure trove.

But what stood out for me on an spiritual note is you. Your very Non-Sanskritic itself reminds clearly of an ancient folk goddess. My online search tells me that you are the mother goddess with unsuckled breasts. Few other websites mention you as the goddess who merged with Shiva in his famous Ardhanareeshwar (half woman, half man) form. Hey, I have been hearing about Shiva taking the androgynous form, but episodes of the goddess leading this event not so much.

It’s a great coincidence that today morning only I visited the Veerabhadra Temple at nearby Lepakshi just 60 km away from this site. This Temple remembers the wrath of Shiva when he lost his first wife Sati (whom he loved a lot , but never gave her the blessy of motherhood). Later he married Sati’s reincarnation Parvathi who’s blessed with kids like Ganesha, Karthikeya, Ashokasundari but did Sati ever got that pleasure of motherhood. Were her breasts suckled by her progeny? No

It’s amazing to note how entire India remembers Sati’s different parts which fell all over the subcontinent when Vishnu cut her dead body carried by a necrophiliac Shiva who couldn’t let go of her body once dead. But here we remember her plight of her incomplete desire of attaining motherhood , of her desire to get her breasts suckled by her kids, of her eventually absorbing into Shiva as his another half.

Now when I keep you in reference, somewhere these transitions start making so much more sense. Before meeting you, Adiyogi was a celebate ascetic – carrying a childlike innocence around him. The energy of Adiyogi was like that of Aruna the rising sun. Nandi his servant recalls him as Arunachaleshwara.

Once you entered in his life, there was immense passion in his life. So experimental were two of you wrt lovemaking that Nandi the guardian bull had remembered these postures and gave sermon later to Vatsyayana who composed Kamasutra basis this passion. Nandi recalls his lord as Bhoga Nandeeshwar.

But when you left Adiyogi, he retired from the plains of worldly life in the isolated hills living his life of renunciation. It was a phase of utter withdrawal. Nandi recalls his lord as Yoga Nandeeshwar.

I walk by the Temple galleries with the pillars endowed with bewildering amount of engravings showing hundreds if not thousands of concepts of our rich culture coded in these imageries which are seldom interpreted right by the modern scholars. Unfortunately, as usual, even the Temple priests don’t seem to have a deep understanding either.

The Temple campus gives an opportunity to the architecture enthusiasts to see the distinguishing marks of many royal dynastries of south : Nolamba, Rashtrakuta, Banas,Gangas, Cholas, Hoysalas, Vijaynagara, Gowdas each of whom made a little add on with time.

The outward portions of Gopurams(Temple entrance) and Pushkarni(step well) don’t seem to be in a very pleasant condition.As per the local senior citizens, when Hyder Ali marched here in eighteenth century there was major destruction caused to many structures of Temple. Now how much of these damages are due to our own apathy and lack of patronage and how much of it we attribute conveniently attribute to Invaders is a never ending political fight.

The more important aspect that we should remember the unfulfilled motherhood of the Sati and how she contributed to the transition of Shiva from an ‘innocent child’ to a ‘player boy’ to a ‘renounced ascetic’. Only when we do the due justice to this, we will do the due justice to you.

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