According to a legend, when the Devas and Asuras churned the Milky Ocean, there appeared poison before they got the sacred nectar. When no human or Devas could stand the poison, Lord Shiva drank the poison. Realizing that the poison would harm the Lord, Devi Parvati held His throat stopping the poison there. Lord Siva's neck turned blue. This legend earned Him the name 'Neelakanta.' This form of the Lord is worshipped in the Nanjangud shrine.
Shiva and Parvati have separate sanctums. Lord Vishnu as Adi Kesava is also installed in between these two shrines. Lord Subramanya as Dandayudhapani, Prasanna Vinayaka, Durga and Sharada have separate shrines. The 63 Shaivite saints are immortalized in life size images on the southern prakaram.
The temple is further known for the plethora of sculptures. The Shiva Leelas are of exquisite craftsmanship.
The Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan was a great patron of this temple. His elephant was cured twice of major ailments with the grace of Nanjundeswara. Hence Tipu Sultan called the Lord Hakim Nanjundeswara and presented to the shrine valuable jewellery and a Maragatha Lingam, which is installed by the side of the Goddess' shrine.
Sage Parasurama did penance on this holy soil. There is a shrine for him near the Swarnavati River. An ancient mutt of Sri Raghavendra is situated in the town. The Guru's image is said to have been found in river Cauvery by a king who consecrated it in the mutt.
Vidyanidhi Prasanna Somnathpura was the ancient name of this town. It is situated on the left bank of Cauvery. The Hoysala Temple built in the 12th century, dedicated to Lord Kesava, is known for its sculptural beauty. It was constructed by Somnatha, a minister in the court of Hoysala King, Veera Narasimha Devarasa. The 3 main shrines are dedicated to Lord Kesava, Lord Janardhana and Lord Venugopala. A 'sukanasi' for each shrine and a common Navaranga have been constructed. 64 cells around the shrine are now empty. The temple is a perfect example of Hoysala art. A local belief is that Jaganachary, the master sculptor, had to break a few sculptures when the whole shrine started moving heavenward as gods, enamored of the shrine, wished to take it.
These temples in and around Nanjangud predominantly reflect the South Indian architectural style of architecture.