The Bhoganandishwara temple is a testament to intricate Dravidian architecture

An airplane scuttles across the clear blue sky, playing hopscotch with fluffy clouds as we pass by the Bangalore International airport at Devanahalli. An hour later we have reached our destination —the 1,200 year old Bhoganandishwara temple, its grey stone relief a far cry from the airport’s chrome and glass façade.

Nestled at the base of the more frequently visited Nandi hills, this ancient temple is a marvel of sorts, a testament to the intricate Dravidian architecture, so specific to this region. Outside the picturesque temple is a row of little shops selling myriad products — virulently coloured papads and peanuts, coconuts-tender and ripe, flowers, fruit biscuits, chips, knick-knacks and guide books. Religion and commerce, after all has always shared a rather intimate relationship.

Lush green lawns and the ruins of a long line of pillars greet you the minute you enter the temple compound. A long path, bordered with trees and shrubs lead from the outer wall to the main entrance. The entrance is huge and complex — a signboard says that it is among the finest and most ornate of the Dravidian temples in Karnataka and as we weave our way through it we realise that the claim is not unfounded.

The architectural impressions of five different ruling empires linger in the finely hewn walls, patterned ceiling and jagged floors of the temple. Believed to have been constructed by Bana queen Ratnavali, additions were made over the centuries by rulers of the Ganga, Chola, Hoysala, Pallava and Vijayanagara empires. Yet there is not visible discordance between the varying styles — the undulating lines of the sprawling edifice blend seamlessly together.

The temple contains the essential elements of a typical Dravidian temple which include the sanctum or ‘vimanam’,the ‘mandapam’ or hall, the towers or ‘gopurams’ and a temple tank. Intricate sculptures and beautiful carvings cover most parts of the temple.

It has three distinct shrines — the Arunachaleshwara, Bhoga Nandishwara and Uma Maheshwara. Statues of various forms of divinity are scattered throughout the temple—Ganapathi, shivalingas, Shiv and Parvathi, the snake god and of course, Nandi the bull. Legend has it that if you whisper your secret desires, into the ear of Nandi, they come true. It doesn’t hurt to try, I think and so lean over and murmur into his ear.

Our discovery of the temple tank is serendipitous — we stumble upon it when we take a wrong exit while trying to find our way out. The sunken tank is enclosed by shallow, stone steps and filled with gleaming fish that dart through the oily green water, leaving a trail of ripples in their wake. Silence resounds and with it a distinct sense of peace.

Getting there

You can drive down from Bangalore. The temple is about 60 km from the city.

Where to stay

There are plenty of places in Bangalore.

What’s to see

The stepped tank, the kalyanamantapa of black stone attached to the Uma Maheshwara shrine.