By Aparna Ramachandran.
The temple towns of Belur and Halebidu are a must visit. Anyone interested in listening to stories can appreciate these beautiful pieces of work; each one of them has so many stories to tell, of an era long gone by!
Our first stop was the Chenna Keshava temple. We asked for a guide to give us a tour of the temple; this is a must have, or the purpose of the visit is lost. Chenna meaning handsome, and Keshava being the first name of Vishnu, this Vishnu temple has the Garuda standing at the entrance.
The temple’s construction work was started during the reign of King Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala empire. King Vishnuvardhana was born a Jain. During his reign, he became a disciple of Ramanujacharya and converted to Vaishnavism. That is how this Temple came into being during his reign. At the entrance, to our top left, there is a carving of the King Vishnuvardhana holding court along with his Guru Ramanujacharya. To the top right, we have the King's grandson holding court, during whose reign the construction of the temple was completed.
At either side of the entrance stand Rati and Kamadev. Rati and Kamadev are always seen together. However, when one comes to pay respects, it is believed that we have to leave all our worldly desires behind. Hence here, Rati and Kamadev are shown separated. There are two Makaras on either side of the entrance. Makara is a combination of five animals - pig's ears, monkey’s eyes, body of a fish, tail of a peacock and a crocodile’s mouth. The emblem of Hoysala adorns various spots of the temple. The name Hoysala came about from the ancient tale which talks about a student named Sala, who saved his teacher and friends by killing a beast (a combination of a lion and a tiger). Hoy means strike in Kannada. Sala’s teacher yelled "Hoy Sala", as the teacher believed that Sala could save them from this beast.
Inside the temple, there are various pillars, each unique in its design. The intricacies on the pillars are sure to leave one awestruck. A carving of Mohini stands as we enter the sanctum sanctorum. Vishnu took the form of a beautiful lad, to enchant the asuras and thus obtain the pot of Amrut to hand it over to the Devas. This avatar of Vishnu is carved with amazing precision. The proportion of the nose is 1/3rd of the face, and the proportion of the face is 1/7th of the body. The facial expressions speak for themselves. To emphasize that this is Vishnu in the form of a lady, even the sacred thread is kept intact in the carving!
Walking around the temple, one can see the carving of Ravana trying to uproot the Mount Kailash. The story - when Ravana tried to move the mountain, not knowing that Shiva and his consort resided on it, Shiva pressed his smallest toe on the Mountain. Ravana was held down by the mountain and could not move. The depiction of this event was brought alive in the work of stone.
The KalaBhairava, and the Gajasuramardhana stood out among the various carvings. The Narasimha avatar - Well, this was another outstanding work of art, highlighting small details with amazing precision.
Though the sun was burning down on our backs, the inside of the temple didn’t show as much as a hint of heat. The heat was reflected off the surface of the stone which made the insides of the stone temple cool to be in. Another interesting fact - The Dhwaja Sthambam that we see just outside the Sanctum Sanctorum indicates that the temple is functional. The absence of one means that the temple is not functional.
Belur and Halebidu are said to have been attacked by Malik Kafur around the 14th century. The Belur temple was saved as soon as the attack started, so it didn't incur too much damage. However, Halebid was destroyed to a great extent and is in a pretty dilapidated state.
Similar work of artistry is housed in the Halebidu temple, only major difference being, this is a temple of Shiva, and it has Nandi residing at the entrance. Also, there is no Dhwaja Sthambam at this temple.
|Nandi at Halebidu.|
Author Bio: The author is a software engineer, who loves travelling and writing about her experiences. Volunteering for NGOs when time permits and doing her wee bit to protect the greenery around her are a few other things she loves to do. She blogs at http://btsvoice.blogspot.com.