Thursday, July 29, 2010

WHERE STONES CAST A SPELL !


Belur is a quaint little hamlet located 38 kilometres from Hassan, 16 kilometres from Halebid and 222 kilometers from Bangalore, located on the banks of river Yagachi.

It was once the capital of the Hoysala empire, made unforgettable for its exquisite temples. The ancient city was also called Velapuri or Velur. It is also known as Dakshina Benaras.
From Bangalore we took the KSTDC one day tour to Halebid, Belur, and Sravanabelagola. As these places are difficult to reach by public transportation, this tour was a good way to see these remotely located marvels in one day, especially as we had very few days for holidaying !

It is here that the enchanting star – shaped Chennakeshava temple with hand lathe-turned filigreed pillars and sculptures, resides, in Belur ! One of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture, and it took 103 years to complete this temple !
It is the only Hoysala temple still in active worship. The Hoysalas used soft soapstone for their structures as they were found suitable for intricate carvings and was built in 1116 AD to celebrate King Visbhnuvardhana’s victory of Talakadu over the Cholas.

The winged figure of Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s carrier, stands at the entrance facing the temple.

The temple is built on a Jagati (platform), which provides the devotee the allowance to do a Pradakshina (circumambulation) around the temple, before entering it.

The main temple is surrounded by other small temples.
The fa├žade of the temple is filled with intricate sculptures and friezes – with no portion left blank. Awe – inspiring in their intricate workmanship. There are beautiful carved elephants 644 in number each in a different pose. It is surmounted by simhalalatas or lion heads on horizontal friezes.

The pillars inside the hall are another attraction and the most popular one is the Narasimha pillar which at one time, is said could revolve on its ball bearings. There is a rich diversity about the styles of pillars here. While all the 48 pillars and the ceilings are well decorated, nothing surpasses the finish of the four central pillars and the ceiling they support. All of the four pillars in the main hall bear Madanikas * (Salabhanjika, Shilabalika – celestial damsels or Bracket figures) and there are 42 of them, 4 inside the hall and the rest outside, between the eaves on the outer walls of the hall.
These epitomize the ideal female form and are depicted in various forms, such as dancers, musicians and drummers etc.

Other important sculptures here are the Narasimha (half man and half lion form of Vishnu), Shiva –Gajasure (Lord Shiva slaying a demon in the form of an elephant), the winged Garuda, dancing Kali, the seated Ganesha, etc.

Equally impressive are the temples of Chennigaraya, Viranarayana, Sridevi and Bhoodevi, housed in the same complex.

One can only configure why such a long time was taken to complete this temple upon paying a visit to this awesome architectural marvel ! Whilst admiring this beautiful temple, I wished that time would freeze, but had to face reality and move on …….

Note: * The 48 different Madanikas will be described in detail my next blog.

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