The Nanjundeshwara Temple stands close to the right bank of the Kapila River, and dates back to the ninth century AD when it was built by the Gangas. Over the following thousand years, it was greatly expanded by various patrons from the Chola, Hoysala, Vijayanagara, and Wodeyar dynasties that ruled over the region during this period.
During the nineteenth century the Tippu Sultan donated a precious jade Shiva linga and emerald necklace after his favorite elephant was cured of blindness by the temple deity. In addition, the magnificent nine-storied Rajagopuram (Royal Tower) dedicated to queen Devarajammanni, the wife of one of the Mysore kings Krishnaraja Wodeyar III, was also added to the Eastern Entrance.
Nearly 120-feet-high, the Rajagopuram dominates the surrounding skyline, acting as a magnet to the faithful. It features a collection of fine stucco images and decorations, including seven gold-gilded kalashas (pitchers) on top, each of which is three meters high. These are flanked by two massive horns in typical southern Indian style.
Inside the main hall of the temple are separate sanctums to Shiva in the form of Nanjundeshwara and his wife Parvati, the latter of which also houses the precious emerald Maragatha Linga donated by the Tippu Sultan. The ancient shrine to Vishnu in the form of Adi Kesava (Krishna the demon slayer) stands between the two sanctums.
The temple has a vibrant, pulsating atmosphere and attracts huge numbers of worshippers who come to carry out penances or pray for better health. Every year, it holds two major chariot festivals known as the Dodda Jathre and the Chikka Jathre, during which idols of Nanjundeshwara, Parvati, Ganesh, Murugan, and Chandikeshwara are pulled around the packed streets of the town in huge towering chariots by enthusiastic devotees.