The temples and monuments at Belur are indeed the best Hoysala creations, showcasing their amazing architecture and sculptures in full glory. Belur was highly revered for its magnificent shrines and came to be Known as modern vaikunta (heaven) of the earth. Belur, the quaint little town set elegantly on the banks of river Yagachi amidst lush green surrounding was earlier Known as Velapuri. It was chosen as the capital of the Hoysala kings, after the sacking and destruction of their capital at Dwarasamudra (Halebid), by the Delhi Sultans.
History of Hoyasala Kings and Belur Temples
The Hoysalas Ruled this region between 11th and 13th centuries. They were great patrons of art and architecture and built a number of magnificent shrines during their 300 years reign.
The Hoysala temples are characterized by typical star shaped ground plan and are usually site on a platform. They are compact, squat structures and are more human in scale as compared to other soaring shrines of the south. Ornately carved shrines indicate the music and dance were highly regarded by the Hoysalas and were used to express religious fervor. The temples at Belur are carved out of soap stone (steatite), quarried from Tumkur, About 200km away. This stone is extremely easy to chisel, but attains iron-like fitness when exposed to the atmosphere. To maintain the shine of the temple, the stone is treated with a chemical wash and then wax polished once in ten years.
Today this small town basking in the warmth of its luxurious greenery and glorious past is regarded as one of the jewels of South India architecture. Its temples have become rich repositories of ancient Hindu culture and a must visit site.
The magnificent shrine dedicated to lord Vijayanarayana, one of the twenty four incarnations of Vishnu was built to commemorates the victory of hoysalas over Cholas in the great battle of Talakkad. Some also believe that it was constructed when Vishnuvardhana adopted Vaishnvism under the influence of the great guru Sri Ramanujacharya.
The construction of the temple commenced in 1116A.D. at the instance of king Vishnuvardhana, his son and later on, his grand son, completed it. According to historical records, it took about 103 years to complete this profusely sculpted masterpiece of hoysalas architecture. The huge temple complex enclosed by high walls has a garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum), a sukhanasi (vistuble), a navaranga mandapa. The complex also has many smaller shrines, mandapams and other structures.
Architectural Wonders of Chennakesava Temple
The star shaped main sanctum is a homogeneous architectural unit set on a raised platform in the center of a spacious paved courtyard surrounded by subsidiary shrines and colonnades. It looks like a carved casket made of wood and polished to perfection. The towering vimana of the sanctum made of brick and mortar was supported by wood work and plated with gold glided copper sheets. Unfortunately, the crumbling vimana had to be dismantled in 1879, to protect the main sanctum. The bracket figures supporting the eaves of the walls are masterpieces of craftsmanship. Virtually every inch of the shrine is intricately carved. The outer walls are adorned with jagati or railed platform sculpted with horizontal rows of friezes with carvings of elephants, simhalatas or lion and scolls of small female figures in ornamental niches and intersected here and there by larger vertical images. And no two friezes in the complete ranges are alike. The lower friezes are not so extensively carved as in other Hoysala temples, but the work higher up on the walls is simply outstanding. The lowest of these carved bands has 650 caparisoned elephants in different moods, some charging, some playful and some just peacefully standing. Singularly beautiful are the 38 freestanding bracket figures angled between the upper walls and the over hanging eaves around the outside of the temple and navaranga (Pillared hall) The brackets are adorned with voluptuous beauties Known as madanikas in various dancing and ritual postures and depicts an amazing variety of sculpted forms.
Kappe (frog) Chennigara Temple
This small shrine resembling the main temple lies directly to the south of the main sanctum. It is dedicated to kappe Chennigaraya and was consecrated by Shantala Devi, the the senior queen of king Vishnuvardhana, who herself followed Jainism. The impressive idol of lord kappe Chennigaraya was installed by Shantala Devi, about the same time when the keshava idol was put up in the main temple. An inscription indicated that Vijayanarasimha I, the son and successors of Vishnuvardhana made grants for the maintenance and regular prayers at the shrine.
The Chennigaraya idol in the sanctum is associated with an interesting legend. It is said that the famous sculptor, Jakkanachri from kaidala (Kridapura) village in Tumkur district was given the responsibility of sculpting this shrine. According to the legend, Jakanna left his village to built temples just before the birth of his son Dakanachari. When Dakanachari grew up, he came to find his father at Belur and saw Jakanachari sculpting the main image of the presiding deity. He interrupted jakanachari and informed that the stone on which his was working was defective. The master sculptor was taken a back and got furious at the audacity of the young stranger. Jakanachari vowed that he would cut off his right hand, if the stranger proved himself right. Thus the young strenger smeared sandalwood paste all over the image remained moist. When the spot was tapped with a chisel, some water and sand trickled out of it along with a frog. The humbled sculpture cut off his right hand before the strenger could stop him. The young strenger then revealed his identity as the sculptor’s own son. Who had come here in search of his father. It is believed that since then the main image in the sanctum is Known as kappe (frog) Chennigaraya. The story mention further that Jakanachari was directed in a vision to build a shrine dedicated to Lord Keshava in his native village. When he followed the divine instructions, hisright hand got restored and the village came to be Known as Kaidala, or the restored hand.
The Story of Kappe Chennigara Temple
The kappe Chennigaraya has two sanctums, one for Kappe Chennigaraya and other for Venugopal, Other notable features of the shrine are its five turreted nicehes in the hall, enshrine splendid sculptures of Ganesha, Saraswathi, Lakshmi-Narayana, Lakshmi-Sridhara and Durga.
Veera Narayana Temple
The small but beautiful shrine is lacated at the west of Keshava temple and is dedicated to veera Narayana or Lakshmi Narayana. Its outer walls rare decorated with large images, the most impressive is an image on the western wall showing three crowned heads, believed to be representing the three divinities Vija Narayana ( the old name of the Keshava or Chennigaraya and Lakshmi Narayana Image).
This is another important shrine of the temple complex. It lies to the south – west of Keshava temple and is adorned with an elegant vimana said to be resembling the vimana atop the keshava temple, which was dismantled in 1879.
Goddess Andal Shrine
The sacred shrine in the temple complex is associated with poet saint Alwar. Its outer walls are also decorated with row of large image. Other smaller shrine in the complex are of Ramanujacharya, Krishna, Narasimha, Anjaneya and Ramachandra.
This unique 42 feet high pillar carved out of a single rock and stands in its own weight. The paved compound of the temple complex has a pavilion near the bathing tank. Sculptures of Vishnuvardhana and Krishnaraja Wodeyar can seen here. Other statues of note are Garudagambha and Garuda. The celestial vehicle of Lord Vishnu. These images face towards the central shrine of Channa Keshava.
The first figure is of a lady admiring her beauty in the mirror, held in her left hand.
A lady holding folded betel leaves and flanked by maids. A handmaiden to her right carries a vessel filled with water, while the maid to the left is filling a 'syringe'
A lady writing to her lover, while the helping maids are standing besides her.
A mischievous monkey pulling the saree of a lady and snarling, While she is threatening her with a twig. It is one of the most popular sculpture.
A lady aiming her arrow at the bird.
A lady is dressing her hair after bath and her attendants are holding flowers and toiletry.
A lady performing the most difficult Tribhangi Nritya, involving three poses of the body at the same time.
A lady disguised as a saint.
A lady playing a drum.
A lady playing a flute and the maid is sitting besides her.
A singing lady.
The sculpture of a beautiful lady is located just before the southern entrance. It also portrays a lizard about to catch a fly sitting on a jack fruit.
The series of
acket figures continues on the other side of the gateway, Known as “Friday door”, as it as it is opened only on certain days.
A lady with violin.
A lady arranging her curly hairs with right hand while holding a mirror.
A lady plucking a mango from the tree with her right hand.
A lady dressed like a hunter and aiming at the birds.
The eighteenth figure of the series shows a strange lady dressed up like a man with a beard and a mustache. She is playing on her drum, While two men wearing “monkey caps” are wrestling.
The series of the
acket figures now resumes on the other side of the shrine.
The first figure depicts a lady portrayed as an arch dancer and her maids playing upon the misical instruments.
A lady as a songstress with metallic time keepers.
A Beautifully dancing lady.
A lady holding a spear with a skull at its top.
A lady returning after hunting. Her maids are carrying the prey and one maid is removing the throns.
Lady practicing dance steps. Her maids are playing on there musical instruments.
The interesting figure portraying the Bhasma Mohini Dance story lies by the northern doorway. The unique figure although has its hands and feet in different poses, but they are in a straight line.After the northern entrance the series continues further.
The twenty sixth figure shows a frightened beautiful lady shaking a scorpion from the folds of her saree and snarling when she tries to shoo it off.
Beautifully dressed lady waiting for her lover.
A gypsy girl holding palm leaves.
A lady about to relax after her dinner.
A fully dressed and ornamented lady proudly admiring her beauty in a mirror.
A gypsy girl predicting future to the world.
A lady performing kite dance.
The last group of
acket figures shows beautiful ladies in in different poses and occupations.
A lady showing her hairs tied in to a knot.
A beautifully dressed lady ready for a dance performance.
A lady sporting beard and mustache is dancing holding a drum in her left hand.
A lady singing with the help of time keeper sets.
An arch dancer dancing to the tune of her accomplice.
There are also hundreds of intricately carved figures projecting out from the ledge, about 2 metres above the ground. The beautifully carved Hoysala emblem, depicting a man fighting a tiger at the three gateways of the temple are noteworthy.
The interior of the shrine with ornately carved panels, pillars, ceiling, doorways and
ackets figures are considered to be even more attractive compared to the outer walls. The four acket figures in side the shrines depicts-A beautiful lady in conversation with her pet parrot, which sitting on the fore palm of her left hand.
A dancing figure of Shantladevi wearing a gem on the head.
A lady wearing a number of bangles and performing Gandharva dance.
A figure lady portraying kasha Shrungara. She is writing her hairs after the bath.
Address of Belur
Belur town is located in Belur Taluk, Hassan district of Karnataka state, India - 573115.
How to Reach
Belur and Halebeedu are just 17 km away to each other.
Distance From: Bengaluru - 210 km, Mangaluru - 153 km, Hassan - 38 km, Shivamogga - 122 km
Nearest Nearest Airport: Bangalore, Mangalore
Nearest Bus Station: Belur
Nearest Railway Station: Hassan
Where to Stay
Karnataka Tourism Department runs the hotel 'Mayura Velapuri' near to the temple. For online booking: http://www.karnatakaholidays.net
Other budget hotels available at Belur and Hassan town posses luxury hotels.
What to Eat
Belur has few small restaurants offer North and South Indian food varieties.
Raagi Mudda, Avarekaalina Saaru, Puliyogare and Sakre Pongal are the local food specials, a tourist can taste.
Things to Take Care
Temple Darshana Timings
07.30 am to 01.00 pm
02.30 pm to 07.30 pm
Visiting Places near by
People usually plan to visit Belur & Halebidu temples in one day. Because these two places are near together and same historical and architectural importance.