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The Land of Temples: Nanjangud
Nanjangud, in the southern state of Karnataka, is a small town only 23 kms from Mysuru. Nanjangud is situated on the banks of the Kapila or Kabani River, which is a tributary of Kaveri.
The town of Nanjangud was known from the Chola and Ganga dynasties during the 10th century. This town is famous for the ancient Srikanteshwara or Nanjundeshwara Temple that is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This important landmark attracts hordes of devotees every year.
This ancient town is also known as Dakshina Kashi and Garalapuri and is often referred to as the Varanasi of the South. Nanjangud gets its name from Lord Shiva, who drank poison to save mankind. The literal meaning of Nanjangud is “the place where Nanja lives”. It is also believed that the Nanjundeshwara temple was constructed by the Kings of the Chola dynasty in the 12th century, with important additions made by the Hoysala and Vijayanagara Kings later. Kings like Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were also closely associated with the temple.
The town of Nanjangud is also home to various industries, mostly located in the industrial area. Around 36 major industries, 35 small-scale industries, and 12 medium industries can be found in Nanjangud. The extremely popular Nanjangud Rasabaale, a variety of banana, is also from this region and originates from the Devarasanahalli village.
Places to visit around Nanjangud
The town of Nanjangud is rich in heritage. The Nanjundeshwara Temple is one of the most famous landmarks of this ancient town. Other places that must be visited include the Parashurama kshetra, the Guru Dataatreya Swamy temple, the Prasanna Nanjundeshwara temple, and the oldest railway bridge in India. The Chamundeshwari temple is another place that must be included in your plans when you visit the temple town of Nanjangud.
Srikanteshwara or Nanjundeshwara temple
The town of Nanjangud is extremely famous for the Srikanteshwara temple. The Srikanteshwara temple is dedicated to Shiva in the form of Nanjundeshwara. Nanjunda means one who has had poison. The legend associated with this temple is about the churning of the ocean. Lord Shiva had to consume poison, making him Vishakanta, and also Srikanta for digesting it. This deity is therefore also known as Srikanteshwara, or the curer of diseases.
This temple is the biggest in Karnataka, measuring 385 feet by 160 feet and covering an area of almost 50,000 square feet. The main entrance, or the Mahadvara, is seven stories high. It is decorated with seven gold-plated Kalasas that add another 3 metres to its height. It is also flanked by two horns.
The outer walls of this temple are 12 feet high. It also has an expansive courtyard, or Prakara, with several stucco figures. The small, square garbhagriha has cylindrical pillars and was built in the Ganga period. The mantapa, set before the original sanctum, has Hoysala pillars. Another Hoysala sculpture found in the temple is the dancing Ganesha. The left side houses the shrine for Narayana with a shrine dedicated to Chandikeswara towards the back. A Parvati shrine is found toward the northwest. The Parvati and Narayana shrines are from the Vijayanagara period. A shrine of Subramanya seated on a peacock is found to the right of the main shrine. More than 122 images which include the largest number of sculptures associated with various manifestations of Lord Shiva, Saptamatrikas, and forms of Subramanya can be found here. The temple is also home to exquisite bronze idols such as those of Narayana, Bhudevi, Parvati, Tandaveshvara, Chandrashekaramurthi, and Chandikeshvara. The inner niches of this beautiful place of worship also showcase 32 forms of Ganesha. It is believed that the linga was installed by the Sage Gautama. Additionally, the temple also houses various lingas, carriages, and mantapas.
The temple deity, Sri Srikanteshwara, is worshipped daily through Pooja and Abhisheka. The Girija Kalyana, held in July, is the grand celebration of the marriage of Parvati and Shiva and is a sight to behold. The temple also possesses five intricately carved wooden chariots. On the occasion of Chikka Jathra, three of these are pulled, whereas on the occasion of Dodda Jatre, or, Panchamarathotsava, all five chariots are pulled. These chariots hold Lord Ganesha, Lord Chandikeshwara, Lord Subramanya, Lord Srikanteshwara, and Goddess Parvathi. The chariots are pulled with the help of ropes that are specially prepared. The festival also has an exhibition that is held by the district administration and other government agencies. Every year, more than 5 lakh devotees participate in this festival. As part of the Dodda Jatre, a floating Theppotsava is found on the River Kapila. The festivals of Maha Shivarathri and Navarathri and also celebrated with great fervour and devotion.
It is popularly believed, that when Tipu Sultan’s elephant was afflicted with an eye ailment, no hakim, or doctor, was able to cure it. On someone’s suggestion, Tipu Sultan prayed to Sri Nanjundeshwara and the elephant’s eye was cured. Tipu Sultan was so impressed by this that he called the God Hakim Nanjunda and gifted an emerald-green linga to the temple.
Parashurama, also known as Rama Bhargava, Veerarama, or Rama Jamadagnya, is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He is believed to be an immortal, who will appear at the end of Kali Yuga as the guru of Vishnu’s tenth incarnation, Kalki. Parashurama is also the guru of Karna, Bhishma, and Dronacharya.
The town of Nanjangud is witness to the confluence of rivers Kabina and Kaundinya. This Sangam is referred to as Parashurama Kshetra. It is believed that this place derives its name from Parashurama, who cleaned himself in the river after he beheaded his mother Renuka. Sage Parashurama beheaded his mother as per the orders of his father Sage Jamadagni. In order to undo his sins from Mathru Hathya, he followed the advice of sage Narada and reached Nanjangud. Here the sage prayed to Sri Nanjundeshwara. Parashurama was visited by Lord Shiva, who advised him to build a mantap and pray to the Shivling. While he was carrying out his task, Parashurama’s axe hit the linga and it started bleeding. This made the sage guilty as he felt he had committed another unforgivable sin. When he thought of atoning for his sins by killing himself, Lord Shiva appeared again and asked him to apply wet mud to the Shivling as it has healing powers. After this the sage was asked to build the mantapa and continue his penance. Parashurama prayed and performed penance here to atone for his sins. It is in this place that the sage found peace of mind. It is therefore believed that a pilgrimage to Nanjundeshwara temple is incomplete without a visit to the Parashurama Kshetra.
The Chamundeshwari temple is located on the Chamundi hills. One of the most prominent temples of the region, the Chamundeshwari temple is located around 13 kms from Mysuru. This temple is dedicated to Goddess Chamundeshwari, the deity of the Mysuru royal family. Chamundeshwari, or Chamundi, is a fierce form of Shakti, the slayer of demons like Chanda, Munda, and Mahishasura.
The Chamundi hills can be seen from all corners of Mysuru and stand tall at a height of 3,489 feet. Mention of these hills has been found in ancient scriptures such as the Skanda Purana. These texts mention a place named Trimuta Kshetra, a place surrounded by eight hills, one of which is the Chamundi hills. The hill was known by the name Mahabaladri, after the Mahabaleshwara temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It later came to be known as Chamundi hills, after Goddess Chamundi. This is also the oldest temple on the hills. The hills offer you a bird’s eye view of Mysuru, as well as a glimpse of Mysore Palace, Lalitha Mahal Palace, and the Dasara exhibition grounds.
The Chamundeshwari temple is around 1000 steps from the hill, and showcases the Goddess seated on a lion. The Goddess is seen killing a demon with a trishul, or trident.
The temple is built in the Dravidian architectural style and has a quadrangular structure. This temple is said to be more than 1000 years old. While the original shrine is said to have been built by the rulers of the Hoysala Empire, the tower of this temple was probably built by the kings of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 17th century. The 1000-stepped staircase that leads up to the temple at a height of around 3000 feet was built in 1659 by Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar. The massive sculpture of Nandi, Lord Shiva’s bull, was also built during his reign. With a height of 16 feet and length of 25 feet, this sculpture is believed to be one of the largest statues of Nandi in India. Captivating pendant bells can be found around the neck of this massive sculpture.
This significant landmark is surrounded by natural beauty. It has a seven-tier tower known as a gopuram with an imposing entrance called the dwara, both of which can be spotted from miles away. The grand silver gates to this temple present a glimpse of the past. The temple also has a Sanctum Sanctorum, Prakara, Navaranga Hall, and the Antharala Mantapa. A small tower known as a vimana sits atop the Sanctum Sanctorum.
In the year 1827, Krishnaraja Wodeyar lll renovated the shrine. It was during his reign that the imposing gopura, or tower at the entrance was built. Krishnaraja Wodeyar was an ardent devotee and presented a lion-shaped vehicle, or the Simha-Vahana, to the temple. This car, along with other vehicles, is still used for temple or religious processions. The front of the sanctum santorum also houses a majestic 6-feet statue of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar lll along with his wives, Ramavilasa, Krishnavilasa, and Lakshmivilasa.
The entrance tower also has a small image of Lord Ganesha. The doorway is plated with silver, with images of the Goddess in several forms. The doorway is also graced with images of Dwarapalakas or door keepers. A few steps in, there is a flagstaff, a small statue of Nandi, and footprints of the Goddess. The right side, before the flag staff, also has an image of Anjaneya. Visitors are welcomed to Chamundi hills with a statue of Mahishasura holding a snake and a sword. Another temple, the Jwalamalini Sri Tripura Sundari temple, is found on the foothill. This deity is believed to be the sister of Goddess Chamundeshwari. It is said that this sister helped the Goddess to slay the demon Raktabija.
The Chamundeshwari temple is known for celebrations during Navaratri, Ashada Shukravara, and Ammanavara Vardhanthi. Several devotees visit the temple during the month of Ashadha. Another festival celebrated with pomp is Chamundi Jayanti. On this day, the idol of the Goddess is taken around the temple in a golden palanquin. Navaratri is one of the most important festivals celebrated here. During this festival, the idol is decorated in 9 different ways, depicting the 9 aspects, or Navadurgas, of the Goddess.
The Chamundi hills are easy to reach and accessible by road from Mysuru as well as Nanjangud. Regular state transport buses, at intervals of less than 20 minutes are available from Mysuru to the hills. You can also hire a taxi to take you to the place.
The temple timings are 7:30 AM- 2:00 PM, 3:30 PM- 6:00 PM, and 7:30 PM-9:00 PM. Timing for abhishekam is 6:00 AM-7:30 AM and 6:00 PM-7:30 PM in the morning and evening respectively.
Guru Dattaatreya Swamy temple
The Dattatreya Swamy temple is located near the River Kapila. It is close to the Chamundeshwari temple. It is believed that Guru Dattaatreya was born with the blessings of Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma, and therefore possesses the qualities of all three. Due to this, Dattaatreya has three heads, signifying that Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma are all forms of the Parmathma.
Though the temple had only Sri Dattaatreya as a deity earlier, it now houses idols of deities Pratyangiraa Devi, Sri Sharabheshwara Swamy, Dakshina Murthy, Deva Dhanvantri, Sri Lakshmi Hayagrive Swamy, and Sri Amruta Mrutyunjaya Swamy.
Santhana Venugopala Swamy temple Hemmaragala
This temple is also known as Huchu Gopala Santhana Venugopala Swamy or Koundinya Maharishi Kshetra. It is believed that childless couples are blessed and able to conceive after visiting this ancient temple. According to legend, King Gangarasaru saw Lord Krishna in his dreams, in which he revealed his whereabouts. When the king was returning, victorious from war, his chariot wheel got stuck at a place mentioned by Lord Krishna. It was here that the king unearthed an idol and took it to the Koundinya Ashram. The sage installed the idol after offering his prayers. This temple was later renovated by King Veeraballava of the Hoysala Empire. The temple is famous for the Tribhangi Kolalu Gopala. While the Garbhagriha is in the Hoysala style of architecture, the outer structure showcases architecture from the Vijayanagara times. Though the entrance to the temple is covered, after crossing the gopura, there is a big compound that has the main temple. The temple is believed to be around 1800 years old.
Hemmaragala is around 180 kms from Bengaluru and 35 kms from Mysuru. Mysuru is the closest railway station and airport as well. There are buses as well as private taxis available that can take you to the temple.
You can also visit other temples that are close, such as, Sri Lakshmi Narayana in Raghavpura, Sri Rameshwara in Raghavpura, Sri Nagareshwara in Hedthale, Sri Lakshmikantha in Kalale, Sri Someshwara in Kalale, Sri Gunja Narasimha in Tirumakudal Narasipura, and many more.
The Kabini bridge, built across the Kapila River, is known as the oldest bridge with a road as well as a railway line on it. This iconic bridge is located at the entrance of Nanjangud. It was built in the year 1735 by Dalvoy Devaraj using brick, sand, and stone. The bridge was built using Gothic style of architecture and consists of a series of arches with a span of 10 feet and 56 piers with a width of 8 feet. The foundations are built in lime concrete. The bridge was built with stone and filled with lime concrete and mortar.
In the year 1902, a narrow-gauge railway line was laid out, connecting Mysuru to Nanjangud. The arched bridge was used to connect this line to Nanjangud Railway Station. This bridge was used for trains from 1902 to 2007, after which a broad-gauge line was laid out on a new bridge across the river. The Mysuru division of the South Western Railway has taken up the task to renovate this bridge.
How to reach Nanjangud
Nanjangud is around 23 kms from Mysuru and 165 kms from Bengaluru. The town is accessible by buses from Bengaluru as well as Mysuru. The nearest airport is Mysuru Airport, barely 16 kms from Nanjangud. This town has two railway stations, Sujathapuram and Nanjangud railway station. The best time to visit Nanjangud is during winters, when the weather is pleasant.
Nanjangud is a town that is rich in history and culture. A trip to this temple town will be etched in memories for years to come.