Nandi (Hinduism)

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Nandi in a zoo-anthropomorphic form
AffiliationMount of Shiva
AbodeMount Kailash
Personal information

Nandi (Sanskrit: नन्दि), also known as Nandikeshwara or Nandideva, is the bull vahana of the Hindu god Shiva. He is also the guardian deity of Kailash, the abode of Shiva. Almost all Shiva temples display stone-images of a seated Nandi, generally facing the main shrine.

According to Saiva Siddhanta, Nandeeswarar is considered to be chief among the Siddhars, initiated by Mother Parvati and Father Shiva. He passed on what he had learned to his 8 disciples, namely, the Four Kumaras, Sundaranandar who later becomes Tirumular by a chance happening, Vyagrapada (also known as Pullipani),[2] Patanjali, and Sivayoga Muni. They were sent out in 8 different directions, to spread wisdom. His teachings continue to be upheld today by the Nandinatha Sampradaya, a line of gurus descending directly from Maharishi Nandinatha himself.[3][4]

The Cham Hindus of Vietnam believes that when they die, the Nandi will come and take their soul to the holy land of India from Vietnam.

The Sanskrit word nandi (Sanskrit: नन्दि) has the meaning of happy, joy, and satisfaction, the properties of divine guardian of Shiva- Nandi.[5]

It is recently documented, that the application of the name Nandi to the bull (Sanskrit: Vṛṣabha), is in fact a development of recent syncretism of different regional beliefs within Saivism.[6] The name Nandi was widely used instead for an anthropomorphic door-keeper of Kailasha, rather than his mount, in the oldest Saivite texts in Sanskrit, Tamil, and other Indian languages. Siddhantic texts clearly distinct Nandi from Vṛṣabha. According to them, Devi, Chandesha, Mahakala, Vṛṣabha, Nandi, Ganesha, Bhringi, and Murugan, are the eight Ganeshwaras (commanders) of Shiva.[7]

History and legends[edit]

Nandi is described as the son of the sage Shilada. Shilada underwent severe penance to have a boon– a child with immortality and blessings of Lord Shiva, and received Nandi as his son. Legends say that Nandi was born from a Yajna performed by the Shilada. Nandi grew as an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva and he performed severe penance to become his gate-keeper, as well as his mount, on the banks of river Narmada, near Tripur Tirth Kshetra in present-day Nandikeshwar Temple, in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.

Nandi was initiated into divine-knowledge of the Agamas and Tantras by Mother Parvati and Father Shiva. He then imparted that divine-knowledge to his eight disciples, who are identified as the progenitors of the Nandinatha Sampradaya, namely, Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanandana, Sanatkumara, Sundaranandar who later becomes Tirumular by a chance happening, Vyagrapada (also known as Pullipani),[8] Patanjali, and Sivayoga Muni. These eight disciples were sent in eight different directions by Nandi, to spread this knowledge.[4][9]

Many other puranic tales are available about Nandi. One describes his conflict with Ravana, the antagonist of Ramayana. Nandi cursed Ravana (the demon King of Lanka), that his kingdom would be burnt by a forest-dweller monkey (Vanara), since he behaved in a restless manner, just like a monkey,while waiting to meet Shiva. Later, Hanuman burned Lanka when he went in search of Sita, who was imprisoned by Ravana in Ashok Vatika.[10]

The ancient Tamil text Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam mentions another story in which Nandi is incarnated as a whale.[11] It says that Parvati lost her concentration while Shiva was explaining the meaning of Vedas to her. Parvati, then incarnated as a fisher-woman to atone for her lack of concentration. To unite his master and his beloved-wife, Nandi took the form of a whale and started to trouble the people. Fisher-woman Parvati's father declared that the man who would kill the whale would marry his daughter. Later, Shiva took the form of a fisherman and killed the whale, and received Parvati in her previous form.[citation needed]


Agamas describe him in a zoo-anthropomorphic form, with the head of bull and four hands, with antelope, axe, mace, and abhayamudra. In his mount form, Nandi is depicted as a seated bull in all Shiva temples, all over the world. This form has been found even in Southeast Asian countries including Cambodia.[12]

The white color of the bull symbolizes purity and justice. Symbolically, the seated Nandi faces the sanctum in Shiva temples and represents an individual jiva (soul) and the message that the jiva should always be focused on the Parameshwara. From the yogic perspective, Nandi is the mind dedicated to Shiva, the absolute. In other words, to understand and absorb light, the experience, and the wisdom is Nandi, which is the guru within.[13]

Nandi Flag[edit]

Nandi Flag, the official flag of Hindu Saivites all over the world.[14][15]

Nandi flag or Vrshabha flag, a flag with the emblem of seated bull is recognized as the flag of Saivism, particularly among Tamil community all over the world. Nandi was the emblem of historical Tamil Saivite monarchs, such as Pallava dynasty and Jaffna Kingdom.[16] Several campaigns to aware the Saivites about their Nandi flag is carried out continuously during the Shivaratri session, particularly among Tamil community of Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu, and diaspora.[17]

The nandi flag used nowadays was designed by Ravindra Sastri of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, according to the request and guidance of S. Danapala, a Sri Lankan Saivite personage, in the 1990s. The first Nandi flag was hoisted in 1998, at Colombo Hindu College at Ratmalana, Sri Lanka.[18][19] Following years, it was declared as the official Saivite flag in fourth International Saiva Siddhanta Conference, held in Zurich in 2008.[15] Nowadays, Tamil Saivites, especially in Sri Lanka, Canada, Australia, UK, South Africa, and Switzerland, hoist the flag in all religious and cultural festivals.[15][18][19] Nandi flag was declared as the official Hindu flag of Sri Lanka.[20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gopinatha Rao, T. A. (1997). Elements of Hindu Iconography, Volume 2. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. p. 213. ISBN 9788120808775.
  2. ^ "IN THE LAND OF THE SIDDHAS". Retrieved 14 April 2023.
  3. ^ The Swamis of Kauai Hindu Monastery (2011). The Guru Chronicles: Making of the First American Satguru. Himalayan Academy Publications. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-934145-40-1.
  4. ^ a b Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (2003). Dancing with Siva: Hinduism's Contemporary Catechism. Himalayan Academy Publications. ISBN 978-0-945497-89-9.
  5. ^ "Monier Williams' Sanskrit-English Dictionary". Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  6. ^ Gouriswar Bhattacharya, (1977), "Nandin and Vṛṣabha", Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Supplement III,2, XIX. Deutscher Orientalistentag, pp. 1543–1567.
  7. ^ Sabaratnam Sivacharyar, Dr.S.P. Shrimat Kamigagamah Purva Pada (Part One). USA: The Himalayan Academy, Kauai Adheenam. pp. 4:471–500.
  8. ^ "IN THE LAND OF THE SIDDHAS". Retrieved 14 April 2023.
  9. ^ The Swamis of Kauai Hindu Monastery (2011). The Guru Chronicles: Making of the First American Satguru. Himalayan Academy Publications. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-934145-40-1.
  10. ^ Jayantika Kala (1988). Epic Scenes in Indian Plastic Art. Abhinav Publications. p. 37. ISBN 9788170172284.
  11. ^ Indian Association for English Studies (1995). The Indian Journal of English Studies, Volume 34. Orient Longmans. p. 92.
  12. ^ "Shiva and Uma on the Bull Nandi". The Walters Art Museum.
  13. ^ Vanamali - (2013). Shiva: Stories and Teachings from the Shiva Mahapurana. ISBN 978-1-62055-249-0.
  14. ^ DBS.Jeyaraj (2013). Reviving Practice of Hoisting 'Nandi' (Crouched Bull) Flag As Hindu Festivals and Functions.
  15. ^ a b c Kalabooshanam Chelvathamby Manickavasagar (2008). "Fourth International Saiva Siddhantha Conference and the Glory of Nanthy Flag". The Island. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  16. ^ Rasanayagam, Mudaliyar (1926). Ancient Jaffna, being research into the History of Jaffna from very early times to the Portuguese Period. Everymans Publishers Ltd, Madras (Reprint by New Delhi, AES in 2003). பக். 390. ISBN 81-206-0210-2.
  17. ^ "Hiduism Today, (2008), Hindu Campaigns for Restoration of Nandi Flag Tradition". Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  18. ^ a b Taṉapālā, kalāniti., Ciṉṉatturai., (2013), "Nantikkoṭi ēṟṟīr! Koṭikkavi pāṭīr!", Omlanka Publication.
  19. ^ a b Ciṉṉatturai taṉapālā, (2008), "nantikkoṭiyiṉ mukkiyattuvamum perumaikaḷum", Manimekalai Publication.
  20. ^ "Nanthi Flag to Maithripala Sirisena". Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  21. ^ "Minister Swaminathan urged to Provide Nanthi Flags to Temples, Societies". Retrieved 5 March 2017.

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