If you type your destination as Yoga Nandeeshwaraswamy temple in Google maps you will end up atop the Nandi Hills. We did the same mistake. Just before the climb to Nandi Hills we realised it.
Our destination was the Bhoga & Yoga Nandeshwaraswamy temple at village Nandi which is located a few kilometers away from the ascent point of Nandi Hills – a famous weekend getaway about fifty kms from Bengaluru. To keep it simple Wikipedia calls it Bhoga Nandeeswara Temple.
I found many striking and unique features about the temple. There is ample open space just outside the inner temple complex. This space is also enclosed and the lawns are well maintained. This outer lawn could be a later addition by the ASI as there are no ancient landmarks. The two small temple of Veerabhadraswamy and Sri Maramma Devi too are recent additions.
We entered the outer temple complex from the north side. Towards our left was the sprawling lawn and to the right a dilapidated podium which must have been used earlier as a podium for public speech or cultural performances. Coming form the land of tall temples one question that immediately comes to mind is – where is the famed temple?
But that is what distinguishes ancient Odisha temples from the Hoysala style temples of Karnataka. While the temples of Odisha are famous for their imposing heights, the Hoysala temples are famous for their ornate carvings and architecture. The Dravidian architecture can be distinguished by its large Gopuram.
The real glory of the Bhoga and Yoga Nandeeswhara temple is revealed once you enter the inner complex. It is like stepping into a different era.
There are actually three shrines behind the pillared hall that catches your eye as soon as you cross the entrance. Arunachaleswara temple, Uma Maheshwara Temple and Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple from left to right (as you face the deities) respectively. Huge nandis can be found facing the sanctum sanctorum of both the temples.
According to historians the three temples were built by different kings, in different times between 9th and 16th century. Even though there is no large Gopuram here, the temples have imprints of dravidian architecture. While the first temple to be built was the Arunachaleshwara Temple by the ruler of Talakkad, the Bhoga Nandeeshwara temple was built by a Chola King. The Uma Maheshwara temple, which is wedged in between these two temples, is believed to have been built by a local Gowda chief of Yelahanka.
There are two more interconnected complexes to the north of the temples. The middle one has the Basant mandap and the Tula mandap. The temple is said to be very auspicious for the newly weds.
The northern most complex contains the stepped pond called Pushkaraini, Kalyani or the Sringeri Teertha. Ablution is closely connected with the temple rituals. Not only are the idols given regular bath, it is mandatory for devotees to have their bath and enter the temple. In ancient days people came from faraway places spending days on foot or riding animals. A bath in such a temple pond must have been a tremendous sense of relief after their strenuous journey.
In Karnataka there are many temples with names prefixed with yoga. There are a number of Yoga Narasimha Temples. I wrote about one such temple in an earlier post.
Krishna is known as Yogeshwara (the lord of yoga) and Shiva is known as Adi Yogi (the first yogi). So associating Yoga with Shiva or an Avatar of Vishnu is understandable.
But it sounds odd when both yoga and bhoga are associated with a sacred place. Yoga and bhoga are considered to be mutually exclusive. Yoga takes you on an inner journey where as Bhoga makes you externally and materially oriented.
In Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple the pillars of the halls have carvings of Gods, human beings and animals. The human beings are depicted as being engaged in day to day life. There are also figures of women - some doing sringar and some are with frontal nudity. Of course in this temple there are no explicit sexual images like the ones found in ancient temples of Odisha.
My take is that the temples represent the holistic and integrative approach of Hinduism to life - that one should maintain a healthy balance between the material and the spiritual life, between the outer and the inner life.
Images depicting the daily life - both normal and profane- are found on the outer walls only. The interior of the ancient temples were made in such a way as to give you a calming effect to your body and soul.
A true yogi takes part in all the worldly activities. Yet he must not forget to withdraw from time to time to his inner sacred space.
Life long asceticism or 'celibacy for life' was not part of Hinduism. These practices seem to have come to Hinduism from the influence of Jainism and later Buddhism.
From mythologies we find that the Rishis or the seers used to be married. Even some Rishis had multiple wives. They lived in forests, but were very much connected to the society. They advised the rulers and took care of the education of the society.
According to historians, the Yoga & Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple is associated with three stages of life of Lord Shiva. Early yogic life as Arunachaleswara and then youth and marriage. The Yoga Nandeeshwara Temple at Nandi Hills is connected to his fourth stage.
So life should start as a yogi and end as a yogi. Same way one may start one's day with yoga and end with yoga. In between let there be active participation in the game of life.
Being a yogi amid the hustle bustle of daily life, being established in the inner self while being part of the ever changing phenomena of the outer world - perhaps that is what would constitute an integrative and holistic attitude towards the journey called life.
In my blog post - Lord Siva - the strange god from time immemorial
I have brought out how Lord Siva himself is a combination of all contradictions.