Belur – Jewel of Indian Architecture
Belur, known for the magnificient shrines was called the “Modern Heaven on Earth”. The temples at Belur are perhaps the best of Hoysala creations, showcasing the amazing sculptures in full glory.
Belur became the capital of the Hoysala dynasty after their original capital, Halebeedu, was abandoned in the early 14th Century. Please read about Halebeedu in the blog titled Halebeedu – The Parthenon of the East.
Like the temples of Hoysala, soap stones were used here too. The British historians called these Temples, “the jewel of South Indian architecture” because of its rich repository of ancient Hindu culture.
Belur is located about 220 kms from Bengaluru via Hassan. The entire stretch of road till you reach Belur is fantastic and though Halebeedu is nearer to Bengaluru, you can reach Belur much earlier. In fact a day trip to both Halebeedu and Belur can be planned if the journey starts early in the morning from Bengaluru. Belur and Halebeedu are located just 15 kms apart. However note that there are no good eateries either at Belur or Halebeedu. But thanks to their proximity to Hassan city (about 20 kms) you will not face much discomfort.
At Belur, you will notice the Hoysala emblem – the Lion at every prominent location in the temple premises. However compared to the Temples of Halebeedu, the damage to sculptures is not much and the variety is also much more. The Chennakeshava Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, which took close to a century to build. There are smaller temples or shrines in the vast complex. Every inch of the Temple is intricately carved and you will feel as if it was designed on soft clay than hardened rocks.
Hire a licenced Guide to show you the carvings inside the temple using lights and you will appreciate the beauty much more. The brackets are adorned with beautiful ladies known as “Madanikas” in various dancing and ritual postures. Some of the famous ones are – Darpana Sundari (Lady with the Mirror), Lady with a parrot, betel leaves, in make-up pose, dressing hair, hunting a bird, monkey pulling saree of a lady, in dancing pose, playing the drum, violin, flute, and a singing lady. Most of the sculptures narrate tales from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Dasha avatar etc. The hall inside the premises called “Navranga mandapam” has polished pillars and ceiling and each pillar carries a different theme or story. It is worth noting the effort the sculptors must have taken to carve the sculptures on the ceiling ! It is unbelievable how they could manage this astonishing feat, while looking up all the while in sleeping position. One thing to note is that each sculpture has the name of the sculptor inscribed on it, which perhaps indicates there could have been some form of competition amongst them.
The other temples within the premises are Kappe Chennigaraya Temple, Veera Narayana Temple and Saumyanayaki Temple. You will also notice a Gravity Pillar about 42 feet in height as you enter from the main gate. This was carved out of a single rock and stands
on its own weight. The complex also has a small pond perhaps used as a bathing tank. The calm and serene waters on a hot summer day seemed refreshing to the eyes.
The Hoysalas were known as patrons of art and this was evident during the visit to Belur. The carvings also indicate their deep love and passion for music and dance. The 300 years of their reign resulted in the creation of “Twin Wonders of Indian architecture” – Halebeedu and Belur.
Please click on this Link to view recent snaps, shot at the magnificent Belur Temples.
Acknowledgement: The Tourist Guide of Halebeedu Temples