Nandi sculptures of Tamil Nadu temples - A few masonry works

Seldom will you  see a Shiva temple without his favorite vahana Nandi (Sanskrit meaning bull) often referred to as  Nandikeshwara or Nandideva. He is always placed in  a sitting posture  in front of the main shrine facing the deity in the Garbhagriha. Many  are with shelter above them or in the open yard. With exception, most of the historic temples have a stone nandi of various sizes within the covered mandapam. Nandi is also the guardian deity of Kailash, the abode of Shiva. It is rare to see a big nandi idol made of alloyed metal. 

Shiva temples' holy flag

Above image:  Nandi Flag is  the official flag of Hindu Saivites all over the world............

In many literature in Tamil and Sanskrit Nandi is more known as the gatekeeper of Kailash than as a vahana of  god Shiva. Further, he is also endowed with Agamic and Tantrik knowledge taught by Shiva and his consort Parvati.  Legend  has it that he appeared in a Yajna (yagam)  performed by sage Shilada and as he grew up,  he became an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva.   He  performed severe penance on Shiva to become his gate-keeper as well as his vahana / mount. Nandi flag or Rishabha flag, a flag with the emblem of seated bull is recognized as the flag of Saivism, particularly among Tamil community all over the world. 

On Nandi Shiva and Parvati, Madurai temple Gopuram,
Nandi in a sitting posture before the main shrine in the Shiva temples implies two things, while guarding the temple, he is in a meditative state. The other reason is prolonged sitting in one place suggests patience, it means you have got to attend the worldly things patiently so that you will get enough time to use discretion before taking final decision on a crucial matter. Nandi's sitting posture emphasizes virtues of patience and the implication is:   " patient. Haste makes waste".

In preponderance of Shiva temples, regardless of size you would have seen stone Nandi. There area some prominent temples in Tamil nadu where the Shiva's vahana is made of brick and lime mortar. I am at a loss to find the reason for avoiding stone bulls. In places like like Nellaiappar swamy temple,Tirunelveli, Ekambareswarar temple, Kanchi. Mahalingeswarar temple near Kumbakonam Rishabam/ Nandi is not made from hard rocks. With respect to temple rituals such a pradosham or anointing or abhishekam  etc., it is quite obvious masonry nandi is not suitable as the after cleaning process is a difficult one. 

Ekambareswarar temple, Kanchi, Tamil nadu

Above image:  One of the the Pancha Bhoota Sthalas representing  the element of earth, or Prithvi at Ekambareswarar temple, Kanchipuram near Chennai   Shiva is worshiped as Ekambareswarar and is represented by the lingam, which is called  Prithvi lingam. Covering 25 acres of land, the Cholas were the early contributors to the temple. Later Vijayanagara rulers built many hall (mantaps) here. The Shiva's vahana Nandi is made of brick lime mortar.  Why did the builders avoid hard stones to make the image of Nandi, though plenty of hard rock -granite out crops are found nearby? The bull is a huge one in a barricaded  enclosure...................

On Nandi Shiva and Parvati, Madurai temple

Nandi  Royagopuram, Madurai

Above image:  A huge masonry Nandi  in the incomplete Royagopuram area of Madurai adjacent to  Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Details about this nandi are not available.  The nandi here has been out in the sun and rains during rainy season for decades, so far so steps have been taken to build a shed over it. According to some local people there, the shed might block the view of the entrance gopuram from a distance. ..........................

Tirunelveli Nellaiappar Temple Nandi, TN.

Above image: Huge masonry Nandi at Nellaiappar temple, Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu. The nandi facing Shiva's shrine is milky white and is not made of hard stone.  The outer lime plaster is shiny  and it suggests that the masons used well-ground lime, etc to impart shiny look. Occupying fourteen and half  acres of land, the original complex is believed to have come up during Pandyan dynasty 7th century ;  the present masonry and other structures were later additions by  Cholas, Pallavas, Cheras, and Madurai Nayaks...........................

Mahalingeswarar Temple Nandi,near Kumbakonam TN

 Mahalingeswarar Temple Nandi, TN

Above two images: Huge masonry Nandi at Mahalingeshwara swamy Temple, Thiruvidaimarudur, near Kumbakonam, dedicated to God Shiva. Here, the nandi is made of lime-sand mortar and the lime is well ground to give a smooth surface. Noteworthy features are its erect ears, upwardly protruding curved tongue and the decorated collars with bells, etc........................... 

Presumably  of 7th century origin, various dynasties made contributions to the temple such as  Pandyas, Cholas, Thanjavur Nayaks and Thanjavur Maratha. There are 149 inscriptions associated with the contribution of various rulers.  Gopuram, gatehouses etc , are attributed to later periods, up to the Thanjavur Nayaks -16th century.The oldest structure is  that of Chola period..