Nanjangud, the site of Srikanteshwara Swamy temple, is 23km south of Mysore. The Kapila/Kabini flows serenely on one side of the Chamarajnagar-Mysore highway, while the south Indian-style Raja gopuram of Srikanteshwara Swamy temple soars skywards on the other.
Srikanteswara swamy temple, in Nanjangud, is also known as Sri Nanjundeshwara Swamy temple. Lord Shiva, in the form of Nanjundeshwara, lends his name to the temple as well as the town. Nanjundeshwara is the title given to Shiva for drinking the halahala poison. During the churning of the ocean by the devas and asuras in quest of the nectar of immortality, poison emerged as a by-product. As it threatened to spread and destroy the universe and its inhabitants, Lord Shiva appeared on the scene. He put it into his mouth, while the Divine Consort, Sri Parvati, held His throat tightly to prevent the poison from percolating into the Lord's body. The poison it is said, then permanently lodged itself in the Lord's throat, giving Him the name, Nanjundeshwara (the Lord who consumed poison).
According to the sthala purana, sage Gowthama installed the Lingam in Nanjangud, which is at an altitude of 657 metres (2,155 feet). Sri Parvati is in a separate shrine. Also here are shrines for Sri Subramanya, Sri Ganapati, Sri Chandikeshwara, etc. The nandi is honored with a small shrine of his own in the front mandapam.
The original structure of this historic temple was built in the Ninth century by the Gangas. It was later renovated by the Hoysalas. Hyder Ali (1761-82) and Tipu Sultan (1782-99) are also said to have made some contribution to this temple. Tipu is said to have prayed to the Lord here to restore the eyesight of his favourite elephant. As his prayers were answered, Tipu adressed the deity as Hakim Nanjundeshwara and presented a jade Lingam, as well as an emerald necklace to the temple. The Jade Lingam can be seen in Sri Parvati's shrine. After Tipu's ouster, the Maharajas of Mysore gave handsome grants to the shrine.
Sri Nanjundeshwara is regarded as Vaidya (Healeer) Nanjundeshwara. Devotees whose prayers have been answered, bathe in the Kapila and then perform the urulu seva (circumambulating the sanctum by rolling round it). The river has a special significance here, not merely because it is the Sangam of the Kapila with the Gundlu, but also for its Parasurama connection. Parasurama, it is said, bathed in these waters to wash off the sin acquired by the act of beheading his mother, Sri Renuka Devi. The confluence is, therefore, known as Parasurama Kshetra.
The Nanjangud temple marks a definite break from the West Coast style. Here, we are in familiar terrain: the tall soaring south-India style gopuram, with stone, not wood, being the main structural ingredient. The Srikanteswara temple tower is a tall seven-tiered structure, with a sort of dark yellow shade, the kind you get when you mix turmeric with neem. The gopuram is not populated with figurines, save for one each guarding either side of the opening at the tiers. The top of the rampart walls, surrounding the shrine more than make for the lack of idols on the gopuram. Here, it is a statues galore, in the niches that run all round the tall parapet. Each contains Shiva or Shakti, in different postures, Subramanya or Ganapathy, with a small vimanam at the back. A later addition, perhaps, since the old walls the base show signs of age, while these intricately-carved niches and statues appear new, and are of the same color as the gopuram. The niches, with figures of gods, are repeated on top of the inside walls as well, the vimanams in the middle, being common for the outside and inside images. The arch over each niche is topped by that familiar south Indian temple icon, the yazhi. Also represented here are Vishnu and other Vaishnava icons. The entrance is massive, again a departure from the West Coast type.
How to get there:
From Sultan Battery, on the Kerala side, Nanjangud is around 75/80km. It is only 23 km from Mysore. Add another 140kms to Bangalore. There is a passenger train service that connects mysore with Nanjangud. Mysore is the nearest airport.
Accommodation: The Devasthanam offers neat, cheap rooms. There are private lodges as well.
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