Nandi (bull) is the sacred vehicle (vahana) of Siva and is considered to be the foremost devotee of Siva. As Siva is the rider of the bull, every Siva temple will have a shrine for stone image Nandi, in reclining form as above, in front of and facing Siva. In the early Tamil literature, Nandi is synonymous with Siva.
There is a form of Siva called Rishabeshwar (Rishab means Bull) and then there is the human form of Nandi, called Nandishwar/Nandikeswara.
There are temples dedicated to Nandi, esp in Karnataka, India. The above Nandi is from Karnataka is probably from late 19th century.
It has a pleasant, almost smiling, face. It is not surprising given that Nandi actually means the ‘joyous one’.
One of the distinguishing features is the Lingam ( aniconic representation of the Hindu deity, Siva) in front of the Nandi, between its front feet, with its left foot appearing to protect the Lingam. This feature of Nandi, with a small Lingam in front of it, is more commonly seen in Karnataka.
The Nandi has pronounced hump, a characteristic of Indian bull. The Nandi here is reclining on a rectangular pedestal, Badhrapeetam. It is wearing two garlands of beads with a bell, just above Lingam. There is a decorative metal strap on the back and adorned with jewellery around its horns.
This is about 11.5 cm in height and 8.9 cm in depth. It may not be earlier than the 19th century.
This Nandi was probably used in a home shrine and has significant wear and tear. Lucky the smile is still there.