NANDI – The Divine Bull of Lord Shiva

Nandi was both a divine bull and a human manifestation of S´iva. One account stated that Kandikeshvara (the tawny-colored dwarf), or Adhikâra-Nandin, had lived a good and long life that was coming to an end.

He prayed to S´iva for a longer life, and S´iva not only granted his request but placed Nandi, as he came to be called, over a portion of his dwarfs (ganas). Adhikâra-Nandin was Nandi in his human form with the physical appearance of S´iva and stands at the entrance to many South Indian temples as a door guardian.

There are several separate accounts of his birth. One had Adhikâra-Nandin springing from the right side of Vishnu as a gift to the brâhmin Sâlankâyana, whose austerities brought a son who looked exactly like S´iva. This was said to be Adhikâra Nandin’s forty-ninth rebirth.

Another version stated that the rishi (sage) Nandi earned a boon from S´iva by his great austerities and it was his wish to become head of S´iva’s ganas. Nandi the eternal bull had a number of roles—all in relation to Lord S´iva. Nandi was S´iva’s vehicle (vahana), his chamberlain, the chief of his attendants (ganas, dwarves), the guardian of all the four-legged creatures.

NANDI - Bull of Shiva

The Vâyu Purâna said that Nandi was the son of Kas´yâpa-Prajâpati and Surabhî. He married Suyashâ, daughter of the Maruts (who have become ganas in S´aivite mythology). Nandi is S´iva’s vâhana, his vehicle or mount.

The bull Nandi is prominent at all S´aiva temples, usually facing the inner shrine (garbha griha). He should be white as milk in color.

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