Nanjangud – a small town located on the banks of the Kapila (Kabini) river, about 23 km away from Mysuru city in the Mysore district of the South Indian state of Karnataka is best known for the historic temple it houses – the Srikanteshwara Temple, often just called the Nanjangud Temple. Nanjangud is also sometimes called Garalapuri. Dedicated to Lord Shiva who consumed poison that emerged out of the Samudra Manthan or the churning of the ocean, to save Earth, this temple is an iconic temple known for its architecture and the Dodda Yaathre festival, similar to the Rath Yatra celebrations of Jagannatha Puri celebrated here.
The Legend of Nanjangud
It is believed that Nanjangud is mentioned as Sri Garalapuri in the Shiva Puranas. The place is said to the the abode of Lord Shiva in southern India.
The demon Keshi had obtained a boon from Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu that they will not be able to kill him. With this boon, Keshi felt he was unbeatable and immortal. He began troubling everybody – mortals, Gods, everybody. Fed up with this trouble, Sage Narada along with the Gods pleaded to Lord Shiva to help them out of this situation. It is believed that Lord Shiva then appeared in Garalapuri Sri Kshetra, what is the present-day Nanjangud and killed the demon Keshi. He assured the people and the Gods that a part of Him would always reside in Garalapuri and protect them. He also blessed the place to become a paap vinashini or a remover of sins.
It is said that when Tipu Sultan’s elephant had an eye affliction that could not be cured by any hakim in the kingdom, he prayed to Sri Nanjundeshvara. The elephant’s eye is said to have healed completely after and Tipu Sultan gifted an emerald green lingam to the temple as a token of gratitude.
There are many other stories and mythological tales associated with this place, of the miracles that have been performed here, of saints and sages and kings having come here to offer their prayers or seek divine blessings and interventions. To put it all in a nutshell, Garalapuri or Nanjangud is considered a very holy place dedicated to Lord Shiva.
It is believed that the Shiva Linga present here was installed by Sage Gautama who had stayed here once. Along with the main linga, the temple also houses smaller shrines, lingas, mantapas, and carriages. The chief highlight of the temple is the nine storey high tower that bears testimony to the finest Dravidian architecture and history, and the large Shiva statue present just outside the temple. This nine-storey gopuram was built by Queen Devajammani, wife of Krishnaraj Wodeyar III n 1849.
The Gangas built the small garbhagriha in the 9th century while the Hoysala pillars & the statue of the dancing Ganapati of the temple were built in the 13th century. During the times of the Vijayanagar empire, the shrines of Goddess Parvati and Narayana were built in the temple complex.
The temple complex also houses the statue of a tall bull. This statue was built by Dalavayi Vikramaraya in 1644. The temple prakara has multiple niches showcasing 122 images of Lord Shiva, Lord Ganapati, Saptamatrika, and other deities. These sculptures reflect some of the finest craftsmanship and are crafted from stone & metal. The temple also has the statues of Maharaja Krishnaraj Wodeyar III and his four queens.
Festivities at the Nanjangud Temple
Twice a year, a rathotsava is organized at the Nanjangud temple. During this time, the idols of Lord Ganapathi, Lord Chandikeshwara Lord Subramanya, Lord Srikanteshwara and Goddess Parvathi are placed in separate chariots, and special prayers are offered. After the prayer ceremony, thousands of devotees who have gathered for the festival, pull the chariots across the town. The entire town decks up for celebration at this time and there is a festive spirit everywhere.
Mahashivaratri is another festival that is celebrated with a lot of pomp and gaiety at the Nanjangud Temple. Devotees take a dip in the holy River Kapila that flows by the temple before offering prayers at the Nanjangud Temple during this time.
Why visit the Nanjangud Temple?
There usually shouldn’t be a reason to visit a temple of worship, I believe you shouldn’t need reasons to visit the abode of God. But if like me, you are also not a very religious person or have a complicated relationship with religion, having some reasons might not hurt after all.
So, the first reason you should visit this temple is for its marvelous architecture. The temple showcases some of the finest Dravidian architecture work and is quite a sight to behold, especially in rainy evenings or during festival times. Even if you’re here only to capture a few shots for the gram, the temple won’t disappoint. You will be able to enjoy the beauty of the temple and the large Shiva statue outside.
Second, visit the temple for the peace and calm. It is alright if you don’t believe in God. But you can’t deny the peace and the calm in the air. Some temples just inspire that feeling in you, the moment you step in, you feel that life is not so bad after all, that everything will eventually be ok, and you’ll be ok. Call it a peaceful, positive energy in the air, call it the vibrations of a holy place, or just being amidst the nature, there is an undeniable positive energy to this place that you will feel even when the temple is closed for darshan.
Third, the drive to this temple is awesome. The roads are fantastic and it makes quite a drive from Mysore to Nanjangud. I thoroughly enjoyed driving down to the temple and back. There is a toll tax to be paid on way, but the trip is totally worth it. The scenery around is great, and you need to go beyond the airport to reach the temple town.
I was visiting the temple on the day after Dasara, and the crowds were rather slim at the time I was visiting in the evening. I loved the drive, the air was cool and breezy, there was some drizzling even along the way, the road conditions were really good, and it was quite a fun outing. The bridge over the River Kabini that comes on way is one of the oldest bridges in India. It is a road bridge as well as a railway bridge. The bridge is almost 300 years old and you need to cross the bridge to enter Nanjangud. The bridge is one of the Heritage Monuments of India.
How to reach Nanjangud?
The nearest airport is Mysuru airport which is one of the most beautiful airports I have seen. You will get cabs and cars on rent from here.
Nanjangud has a railway station and you can get trains from nearby Mysuru to reach Nanjangud.
You can drive down from Mysuru or Bengaluru easily by road. You can also take a bus from Mysuru city as well as from Chamrajanagar.
Have you visited the Nanjangud temple or would like to in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments or find me on Instagram – @banjaranfoodie.