Stone Carvings in a Temple of the Nandi Hills

The Nandi Hills are about 60 km north of Bangalore in southern India, an easy rural day-trip escape from the loud city. The air is cool and fresh on your face. The view from the high hills reveals a countryside of farms and villages, and it’s very serene.

I came for temples. The stone carvings, specifically.

And I found them, at a temple complex in a village at the base of Nandi Hill. Here’s a carving that greets you as you pass through the stone entrance into the temple:

Entrance to Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple in Nandi Hills

These images are from the Bhoga Nandeeshwara and Arunachaleshwara temples. The temples are together in what looks to the eye like one big sprawling temple. It was first built in the 9th century, and ruling dynasties added to the complex over the centuries. In fact five rulers added to the architecture – the Banas, the Pallavas, the Cholas, the Hoysalas, and Vijayanagar rulers. These dynasties had differing styles to their architecture and art, but somehow they kept the look in these temples pretty much harmonious.

There are many hundreds of carved columns in the complex – in addition to carved walls – and I saw only a small portion of them. I felt like my eyes wanted to drink in every nook and cranny! Here are some images …

Entrance to Shiva Temple Near Nandi Hill in Karnataka India

The following patterns are above the figure in the image above. You can tell they were once more detailed and opulent. I like the graceful swirls.

Patterns Carved in Stone in South India Temple

Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple Entrance Carving

It’s one of the oldest temples in the state of Karnataka in India. It’s still in active use. While we were there, there was a large prayer ritual ceremony, a puja.

Let’s go in, shall we?

Chola Column in Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple

Chola Columns

See the flowers in the picture below? The openings in the wall there are windows to allow light and air inside the inner part of the temple.

Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple

I pointed the iPhone camera lens through a hole in a similar window, and look what was found inside:

Carvings Inside Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple

It’s like they’re waving back.

There were many carvings we could see while peeking through the windows. But there was a big ceremonial ritual happening in the inner sanctum at the time, and I did not want to interrupt it, no matter how badly I wanted to see what was in there.

So we circled the outside, trying to stay in the shaded areas because the hot sun on the stone floors was burning our bare feet (you have to leave your shoes outside the temple).

Stone Temple Carvings Carvings Bhoga Nandeeshwara

I believe the images below show another temple within this complex, a temple that was added by one of the other five dynasties that ruled this region. The style is different than the carvings above.

Nandi Hills Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple Carvings

After this long walk in the mid-day sun, my exposed skin was about as red as this stone!

Carved Column in Nandi Hills Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple

Monkey Carving in Column in Carved Column in Nandi Hills Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple

This was an interesting motif:

Motif Carved in Column in Monkey Carving in Column in Carved Column in Nandi Hills Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple

I tend to take photos closer up because I want to see detail, but this gives you an idea of what this area looked like.

Columns in Nandi Hills Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple

Not every surface is so heavily ornamented. Your eyes also get a rest with views like this:

Nandi Hills Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple

It’s like a visual palate cleanser.

Before diving into this area:

Nandi Hills Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple Well

Temples have these wells or pools for water supply, rituals and bathing. People in this area seemed to relax and not want to leave. It had that effect on me too. Something about the symmetry here is mesmerizing. This couple was enjoying a snack of bananas. When they left, I was able to snap this image from the center:

Nandi Hills Bhoga Nandeeshwara Temple Well

Feeling rejuvenated after this trip, we set off again back toward the city of Bangalore.

In a moment of perhaps divine intervention, as we were walking out of the temple, my husband’s phone rang. Who even has this phone number? He got the phone only the day before, as a temporary pre-paid phone to work within India. But somehow, a childhood friend of his got the number. Turns out, that friend lives right on the way back into the city, along the same road we were traveling. They haven’t seen each other in a decade! The friend’s wife was preparing lunch at that moment and invited us to stop by on our way back to the city. What timing! And because it was now about 2 p.m. and we hadn’t eaten since the breakfast at the hotel at 8 a.m., we were really hungry. So the afternoon was a lovely meal with two old friends – truly, since they were wee little boys – catching up.

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Textile Patterns in a South Indian Home

Rarely would I travel with a hardcover book. But for our long flight to India, I threw this book in the carry-on bag:

Textile Style Book

So glad I did! It was a pleasure to flip through the pages, and a nice break from movies like White House Down. So by the time we arrived in India, my eyes were primed for noticing textiles. Here are some from around my husband’s parent’s house in Chennai, India.

This cotton is printed with deep pomegranate red, turmeric color and bluish-grays (saying “shades of gray” is forever ruined!). This fabric covers a cushioned divan facing the main door. Someone is always sitting on that divan, watching for visitors. The main door is always open, and visitors are always stopping by.

Printed Textile in South Indian Home

This printed cotton covers a bolster pillow:

Pillow with India Print

Here’s a sampling from around the living room:

Textiles in South India Home

This shows how fabrics have been layered on chairs:

Fabrics in Living Room of India Home

This is the home of regular folk in South India. They aren’t designers or even interested in home design. In fact, the home is extremely simple and the fabrics are probably the most visual part of its decor, aside from the brightly-colored images of Hindu deities hanging on walls.

But without knowing it, they’ve perfectly captured many ideas shared in the Textile Style book. They’ve made an art of mixing fabrics. They have used some of them for decades. Any frays are okay, they show how much the fabrics have been enjoyed in the home. You can also see they used a mix of opulent embroidered designs paired with more subdued fabrics, so you don’t get overwhelmed visually. I think they did this all naturally, just what looked good to their eyes.

As a parting shot, here’s my favorite little view of textiles in their home. It’s a glimpse of the pillowcase underneath a cushion cover that’s tied over it. I bet nearly everyone overlooks this.

Bolster Pillow on Indian Divan

I’ve been to this home during many previous trips to India but didn’t pay much attention to these textiles, until Textile Style suggested I appreciate the simple ways people use them around their homes.

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India Travel Story Snippets

I’ll be posting quick updates and photos during our travels in India here for the next few weeks. Follow along there if you’d like!

Travel in India

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The Old Amethyst Gardens in Chennai

Yay! Today is the official start of frost-free gardening in Chicago. My gardens look really sparse, things just poking up now. So for now, here are photos of a gorgeous garden that was an oasis amid the great loud hustle and bustle of Chennai. These photos are from Amethyst, which I’ve heard has now moved. This was a walled garden — walls tall and substantial enough to keep all the honking at bay!

This is my style of garden: a bit unusual, bold shapes and color coming more from the leaves than flowers.

Amethyst Garden Chennai



With each step you took, the city receded further and further away.


This collection of pots was near the spot where we dined on Amethyst’s covered veranda.



It was an inspiring and refreshing place. The new location also has lush gardens, an escape from the city.

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