Nandigrama- The site of a Celestial Wedding

The bride is wide-eyed and beautiful but unadorned because she is marrying against her mighty father’s wishes. But who needs jewels when there is love? She has spent the night preparing herself for this morning.  Her long hair is scented, her body gleaming with aromatic oils. Her large eyes are lined with kohl and her skin is luminous with happiness. She trembles ever so slightly because she cannot believe she is marrying the man of her dreams.

Long, long ago when this ancient world was still very young, the great Lord Shiva married Sati, the eldest daughter of Daksha, the son of Aditi, the mother of the Gods. Sati, the primordial Goddess who is also called Uma, lived with her Lord in a state of divine bliss up in the icy Himalayas, till the day her father Daksha, had his great Yagna and intentionally forgot to invite his ash-smeared, Soma drinking, serpent-haired son-in-law whom he disapproved of heartily.

A Gateway to a priceless treasure

Though attributed to being built in parts by five dynasties over the centuries  – the Nolambas, Cholas, Hoysalas and the Vijayanagara empire, records also state that the foundation was laid around 806-810 AD, along with a donation by Queen Manikabbe  (Ratnavali), the consort of King Bana Vidyadhara, son of Malladeva. The Banas claimed descent from Mahabali, an Asura King who was the grandson of Prahlad, and ruled over a substantial territory east of modern day Mysore, Kolar and all the way into Andhra.

Stucco sculptures all around the Kalyani

Since five seems to be the lucky number here (five dynasties, five peaks) let me tell you that Nandi Hills is also the birthplace of five rivers, the Palar,  Papagni, Chitravathi, the Arkavathi (a source of water for Bangalore), and one more name which eludes me. The afternoon sun turns the paving stones in the courtyard to silver. On my left is a gateway that invites me to step in, so I do. Only to have my breath taken away by a magnificent stepped well which is said to be the source of the Dakshina Pinakini (South Pennar). It is the fifth river on my list. The one I could not remember. Pinakini means `bow shaped’ and Shiva himself is ‘Pinaki ‘  – one who wields `Pinaka’ (the mighty bow).  Pinaka is also the name of India’s multi-barrel rocket launcher used by the Indian army.

Shringa Tirtha, the stepped well

Later I find a mention of the Kumudavathi and Suvarnamukhi rivers in the area, so am left wondering exactly which five rivers make up this list. The Shringa Tirtha built here is said to be in the Vijayanagar style and named after Shringamuni,  a sage who meditated at this place. Another story says that on a very dry day, a thirsty Nandi the divine Bull plunged his horns (shringa) into the earth and water gushed out, creating this pond.

But the dominant images in my head are that of Maha Shivaratri when the massive Ratha is rolled out for the Brahmarathotsava celebrations and Kartika-masa when the dark night is punctuated with the light from a million flickering oil lamps that are lit all along the steps of the pond. Like stars that have fallen from the sky to carpet the earth.

The Vasantha  Mantapa

Beautiful Yalis adorn the pillars

 It is only in India that families, matronly aunts, well meaning `go-betweens’, marriage bureaus, Nadi astrologers, sacred fasts, village priests, horoscopes and even the Gods all conspire for two people to say ” I do.”  In 18th century India, says Abbe Dubois,  once everyone said `we do’, the decision was made official with ” a new cloth, a coconut, five bananas, vermillion  and powdered sandalwood… “

The 10th century Arunachaleswara Temple below contains the `UgraGanapati’ the angry, almost lionfaced Ganesha, son of Parvati and Shiva. He is also called the `Simha Ganapati ‘ and looks angry because being Vigneshwara, he mirrors the mood of his father,  Arunachaleswara, who is depicted here in his furious form.

In the inner sanctum of the Chola built Bhoganandishwara Temple on the right of the Uma Maheshwara temple the air is musty. The stone floor has been  polished smooth by countless feet over the centuries and the bells have echoed here for eons.We whisper to each other in Shiva’s space, afraid to wake the past sleeping in the crevices.  There is also a black stone statue of Rajendra Chola I here and I am excited to finally meet my favourite Chola king !

Outside, the ever faithful Nandi sits with eyes wide and ears alert. There are many interpretations accorded to this sacred vehicle of Shiva. To some, he is powerful sexual energy that is transformed into spiritual energy when Shiva sits on him. Elsewhere, he is a symbol of Moksha, Sadhana, justice, cosmic order or fertility and his four legs represent Satya (truth), Dharma (religion/duty), Shanthi (peace ) and Prema (Love).

Intricate lotus petals under this Vijayanagara stone umbrella

The Bhoganandishwara Swamy Temple is about 1.5 hours from Bangalore, past the BIAL, on the way to Nandi Hills. It is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.


  1. Hi Aliyeh, the link in your email led me onto your blog. And I’m hooked now! The warmth with which you write has made me want to visit most of these places – first on the list being Basava Ambara 🙂

    1. Hi Rashmi, thank you so much for reading it ! Am glad you like it. Most of these places are all around us, we pass them by and never look twice, actually. I just write about them the way I see them, so hopefully people will want to visit them and take back their own images. Do keep writing in 🙂 your thoughts are most welcome :-).

  2. Beautiful! Thanks for the virtual visit. I’ll stop by on my way to Nandi Hills!

    1. 🙂 It’s really beautiful. I know you will enjoy it, so I hope you get to visit it some time soon when it’s cooler’.

      1. I had the chance to visit this past weekend, and thanks to the rains, it was cool… cool enough to climb to the top of Nandi hill too.

      2. Oh, how strange ! I was thinking with such lovely weather, what a perfect day it would be to head out there again ! Am glad you made it. 🙂

  3. laasya · · Reply

    Hi! Thanks for the writeup on this lovely place! 🙂 Its led me to think of having my wedding next year in the same place! Unfortunately the number given here seems not reachable, would you have any idea of whom i might contact? It would help v much to know! I did try the Kendrya sadan, but its uncler which bransh to ask..thank you!!

    1. Hi.Congratulations on your forthcoming wedding and wishes for much happiness. I am sure the ASI Office will be able to help you with sorting this out.P:25537348, 25537734 Fax: 25522531. I’m sure it will be a beautiful wedding! The temple authorities can also be contacted directly.

      1. laasya · ·

        Hey, thanks a lot for the response! 🙂 I already spoke to them, apparently no permission is needed from the ASI, only whoever runs the mantapa. One last request, have you or anyone you know of, actually organised or had a wedding here?? It would help very much to talk to such aperson to figure out the logistics of transport, cetring, facilities etc. Do let me know and thanks again!!

  4. What is the approximate cost involved in taking up a location like this – not coming from catering or transport etc., but more for the place?

    1. Kindly contact the temple authorities for marriage logistics and other details regarding the venue.There is no phone number.

  5. hi, has anyone got married at this place?

  6. S.Surendran · · Reply

    What arrangements are available for breakfast and lunch if a marriage is performed at the Bhoganandishwara temp;e

    1. Kindly contact the temple authorities for marriage logistics and other details regarding the venue.You will have to go there personally as there is no phone number.

  7. Beautifully written! Makes me wonder if I should have my wedding here too 🙂

  8. Hi
    I want to know is there any room to change the dress after each phases of wedding
    Because we need to change frequently 6 dresses according to Brahmins for our wedding
    Anyone please help
    My fiancé’s family is coming in huge
    So i need to accommodate around 60-70 people near Nandi hills
    Any affordable hotels near please mail me

  9. Hi Everyone, We recently heard from the temple authorities that they will not allow any fire in the altar during the wedding ceremony. Has anyone heard of this ? Since Hindu weddings consider fire as the first witness , we’re wondering how to have a wedding here without fire in the altar. Any help or information will be highly appreciated.

    1. Hi Sana, we recently did a candid photography assignment for a wedding here.It was a Brahmo Samaj wedding. The Vasantha Mantapa is centuries old and fire will create soot, therefore the authorities do not permit it.The choultry near the temple where the lunch is usually arrranged is a possibility to try out.But i understand that its not the same.

  10. Hi

    Can you please let me know if the marriages are held even now in the temple?

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