Sometimes, we pass by a certain place so many times, on our way here and there, that it becomes a routine place for us. We visit a place so many times that we begin to visit it with our eyes and ears closed, as a local rather than as a tourist. One fine day, when we see it through the eyes of an outsider, read up about it, we are surprised by the rich history that it holds in its humble premises. The Big Bull Temple in Basavanagudi was one such place for us. We have been to the temple a lot of times, passed by it several times, but never really thought of finding out more about it or seeing it the way a tourist would. It was a temple that we often visited, one that we liked visiting, and that was about it. An impulse decision to rediscover the temple a few weeks ago surprised us, and also set the tone for many such similar rediscoveries.
The Big Bull Temple located on a small hillock inside the Bugle Rock Garden in NR Colony gets its name from the huge statue of Nandi (the vehicle of Lord Shiva) that it houses. Localites refer to the temple as Dodda Basavana Gudi (‘Basava’ is ‘Nandi’ in Kannada, while ‘gudi’ is ‘temple’). It is this temple that gave the Basavanagudi locality its name.
The Nandi statue is a granite one, approximately 15 feet tall and 20 feet long. Some believe that it is the biggest statues of Nandi in the world.
The statue is quite beautiful and awe-inspiring, with the elaborate carvings all over it. Apparently, the black colour of the statue is due to years of its being covered with oil and charcoal.
The legend of how the temple came to be is quite fascinating. In the 1500s, the then ruler Kempe Gowda (said to be the founder of Bangalore city) was the one who had the temple built. In those days, what is now Basavanagudi and its adjacent areas used to be full of farmers engaged largely in the cultivation of groundnuts. A huge bull used to pillage the groundnut crop year after year, much to the worry of the farmers. Nothing could stop the beast from wreaking havoc, apparently. Clearly, it was no earthly bull. Kempe Gowda had the temple constructed to appease the rogue bull and, sure enough, the pillaging did stop after the temple came into being!
The farmers began to offer part of their groundnut crops in the temple, as their way of thanking the bull and being grateful to it for stopping its destruction. This tradition grew over the years and took the form of a full-blown fair – the Kadlekayi Parishe (groundnut festival) that is held in and around the temple premises during the Hindu month of Karthika. The fair has become quite a tourist attraction in Bangalore, with hundreds of groundnut sellers setting up stalls, and a number of other shops selling everything from food and imitation jewellery to clay idols, toys and other trinkets.
That is not all the legend that there is surrounding this temple. Another popular legend says that after installation, the Nandi statue continued to grow and grow and grow, threatening to shatter the small temple that houses it. The villagers had the idea of punching a trident (a trishul – that famous weapon of Lord Shiva) backwards into its head. This stopped the Nandi from growing, immediately. If you have been wondering as to why the statue sports a backward trident on its head, this is the reason.
A hazy story from my childhood that was somewhere in the back of my mind came to the fore when I read about the story of the rogue bull – When I was a little girl, I grew taller and taller with each passing year, much like the Nandi, outgrowing all my dresses quicker than my parents could buy them. I was always the last in queues in my school, thanks to my height. My parents, Amma says, used to wonder if they would have a punch a trident into my head to stop me from growing, like the Dodda Basava. 😛
The compound of the Big Bull Temple is also home to a number of trees that are considered sacred among Hindus. Consequently, one can spot earthen lamps and offerings by devotees at the foot of many of these trees.
The gopuram over the Big Bull Temple is not really stupendous, if you compare it with those in other Indian temples, but it does have an understated beauty of its own. It has statues that have been beautifully sculpted, parts of it quite colourful.
As you get down the hillock, you can spot another beautiful temple – Dodda Ganeshana Gudi, i.e. the Big Ganesha Temple in Kannada.
This temple has a lovely big statue of Lord Ganesha installed inside it, also by Kempe Gowda, approximately 18 feet tall and 16 feet wide. One of the rituals that this temple is famous for is the Benne Alankara (decoration with butter), wherein the Ganesha statue is covered with over 100 kg of butter. Unlike the Big Bull Temple, photography is not permitted inside the Big Ganesha Temple.
Both Dodda Basavana Gudi and Dodda Ganeshana Gudi are, thankfully, free of pushy commercialisation, in spite of the large number of tourists they attract. At least, till date. Both temples still hold the capacity to fill you with a sense of serenity as soon as you step inside the premises.