Magnificent Belur – Poetry in soapstone
Belur, 40 km from Hassan city and 220 km from Bangalore, is in Hassan district of Karnataka state, India. The Chennakeshava temple was built by the Hoysalas under the rule of King Vishnuvardhana in 1117 CE. The deity of this temple is lord Vishnu and the word ‘Chennakeshava’ literally translates to ‘Handsome Vishnu’. Within the temple complex, the Chennakeshava temple is in the centre, facing east, flanked by Kappe Channigaraya temple on its right, and a small Sowmyanayaki temple set slightly back. On its left, set slightly back is the Ranganayaki temple. Two main Sthambhas (pillar) exist here. The pillar facing the main temple, the Garuda sthambha was erected in the Vijayanagara period while the pillar on the right, the Deepasthambha, dates from the Hoysala period.
TEXT AND PHOTOS: ANANTH V RAO
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: ANANTH V RAO is an engineer by profession and a hobbyist photographer with a passion for picturing architectural grandeur as well as nature and wildlife. He was born and brought up in Hassan, Karnataka, a place known for its culture and heritage. He lives in Bangalore.
Note from the Admin : – Yet another glorious tribute to the timeless splendour and enchanting beauty of my beloved Motherland.
The Hoysala emblem at the Chennakeshava temple in Belur depicts the fight between the mythical Sala and a tiger, the emblem of the Cholas. Historians and scholars believe it represents King Vishnuvardhana’s victory over the Cholas at Talakad.
The main entrance to the complex is crowned by a Rajagopura built during the days of Vijayanagara empire. The Rajagopura is a five-storey structure comprising idols of Lord Vishnu in different incarnations, as well as erotic idols.
A view of the temple with the flag mast in the foreground.
The Chennakeshava temple is built on a 4.5 feet plinth. The temple, including the plinth, is in the shape of Sri Chakra (star shape), a characteristic feature of Hoysala architecture. Sri Chakra is considered most auspicious in Hindu religion.
Another view of the temple.
A pillared corridor inside the temple complex.
Tourists at the Chennakeshava temple precincts.
Another view of the temple complex.
Lord Garuda, the sacred steed of Vishnu, greets devotees at the portals of the temple.
Note the intricate carving of the sculpture of Garuda, and its harmony with the temple in the background.
The main temple consists of three bottom friezes. The lower frieze depicts charging elephants, which symbolize strength and stability. The middle frieze depicts lions, which symbolize courage and valor. The upper frieze depicts horses, which symbolize speed. No two elephants, lions and horses are alike.
A priest in the temple precincts. Belur is among the few Hoysala temples where regular worship services are held.
Darpana Sundari (lady with mirror) is one of the main attractions in the temple. The intricate carvings include the mirror frame, the tendrils around the lady, and her jewelry. A maid on her right is feeding grapes to a pet monkey.
Shukhabhashini depicts a woman in conversation with a parrot.
The scene is called Gajasura Samhara.Lord Shiva, in one of his furious forms- Gajasura Mardana, is dancing on the head of Gajasura, the elephant demon, and ripping off his skin. Observe the ripped skin above Shiva’s head.
In Hindu mythology, Bhasmasura was an asura or demon who was granted the power that anyone whose head he touched with his hand should burn up and immediately turn into ashes (bhasma). The asura was tricked by the god Vishnu’s only female avatar, the enchantress Mohini to turn himself into ashes. The specialty of this sculpture is that a drop of water from the tip of her right hand would fall on the left breast, then on the tip of the left hand and then on the thumb of the left leg. Such was the brilliance of Hoysala architecture.
Here, a monkey is teasing the lady by pulling her sari. The lady is trying to shoo the monkey off by holding a tendril in her hand.
Tribhangi pose is considered to be humanly impossible in Indian dance forms. Tribhangi consists of three bends in the body; at the neck, waist and knee. The body is oppositely curved at waist and neck which gives it a gentle “S” shape.
The Hoysalas carved the sculptures incorporating the finest of details. In this photo, one can see the care taken and effort put to carve the fingernails to perfection. Their talent for detail and ability to match imagination to sculpture were matchless.
This is a scene from the Mahabharata. Here, Arjuna is piercing the eye of a rotating fish with his bow and arrow by looking at the reflection of the fish in a bowl of oil. He does so to win the hand of Draupadi. Some people say that the bow in this sculpture, which has been destroyed now, would twang when struck.
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