Belur’s beautiful bracket belles

Bracket figures: Darpana Sundari, Chennakesava temple, Belur

Chennakesava Temple in Belur is known for its friezes, its pillars and stone lattices. Even the star-shaped platform on which it stands, a feature of its style of architecture. People who have visited there will tell you that between those sculpted pillars and decorative eaves are some beautiful stone ladies who also seem to have become some the of the major attractions of this temple in Hassan, Karnataka. These bracket figures really do steal the show here at this Hoysala masterpiece.

Built by the Hoysala rulers, this temple is like a gem on the architectural crown of the dynasty. The craftsmanship on the sculptures that this temple is covered in, is beyond awe-inspiring. And the bracket figures that we talk of here, make another specimen of the excellence of the handiwork of the sculptors of the time.

Call them Bracket figures, ‘Shilabalikas, Salabhanjikas or Madanikas,they will definitely make an impression on you, like they did on me. These, like the other sculpted features of the temple are carved out in soapstone. As our guide took us around the temple and pointed out the many Shilabalikas that support the roof of the temple, I noticed the work that has gone into making them. These voluptuous beauties seemed to be decked up in a lot of jewellery; from head gear to anklets, from necklaces to bangles and armlets, they had them all. Even heavy girdles for their waists. And their creators made sure that the details on the ornaments stood out too. Looking at the clothes that were draped on them, I noticed there were creases on them, making them more realistic.

Another thing that impressed me were the complete-scenes they made and the stories these bracket figures told. While each Shilabalika stood playing the protagonist, below them were supporting characters playing the roles of maids-in-waiting, assistants, musicians and companions putting together quite a picture of a time, aeons ago. Look at them carefully and you will see what I mean.

Darpana Sundari, Bracket figures, Belur:
Darpana Sundari.
This beauty-with-the-mirror is probably the most popular Salabhanjika, here.
Bracket figures: Lady with the parrot
The lady with the pet parrot.
Bracket figures - lady with the betal leaves, Belur
The lady with the betal leaves.
And her ladies with coloured water in pot and a water squirter.
Bracket figures, Chennakesava temple
The beauty who’s all dressed up.
Bracket figures: Monkey pulling saree, Bracket figure, Belur
The lady with a monkey (pulling her clothes).
And she in turn is trying to discourage the naughty primate.
Bracket figures, Belur Chennakesava temple
The lady who’s dressing her hair.
Notice her maids helping her with her accessories and cosmetics.
Bracket figures, Chennakesava temple
The dancer doing the Thribhangi Nritya.
Thribhangi refers to her dance pose in which her body is made to bend in three places.
Bracket figures: Chennakesava temple
The saint lady.
Bracket figures, Belur
The Bewitching Beauty.
And the lizard trying to catch a fly.
Bracket figures, Belur Chennakesava temple
Bracket figure, Belur Chennakesava temple
The curly haired beauty who is looking into a mirror and positioning her curls.
Bracket figures, Belur Chennakesava temple
The Masculine lady.
Bracket figures, Belur Chennakesava temple
The successful huntress.
This lady is supposed to be on her way back from hunting, with her fellow hunters carrying game.
Bracket figures, Belur Chennakesava temple
The Bhasma Mohini Dance.
Bracket figure, Belur Chennakesava temple
The beauty and the scorpion.
This is said to be the lady who has just had her bath and who has shaken out a scorpion from her clothes.
Bracket figure, Belur Chennakesava temple
Bracket figures, Belur Chennakesava temple
The Nagaveena Dancer holding her snake shaped stringed instrument.
Bracket figures, Belur Chennakesava temple
The lady holding on to a vine and letting her maid help her with a toe ring.
Bracket figure, Belur Chennakesava temple
The arch dancer.
Bracket figure, Belur Chennakesava temple
This must be the songstress and her musicians.
Bracket figures, Belur Chennakesava temple
This, I believe is one of the four bracket figures inside the temple.
This must be the Kesha Shrungara.
The lady who is wringing out the water in her hair.Take a better look and you will see  the water seems to have flown down from her long hair and is accumulated at the tips, ready to drop down.
Bracket figures, Belur Chennakesava temple
The Gandharva Dancer.

That seems to be all the pictures I have of these soapstone ladies. I am told that there are 42 bracket figures in the temple, with 38 of them inside and the remaining four adorning the four central pillars inside the temple. The information in the cutlines is what I gathered from my guide at the temple, one Mr. Satyanarayan and a guide book I picked up. If you have any tidbits about these beautiful bracket belles of Belur, that you’d like to share, I’m all ears.

Linking to the meme–

If you’d like to see more of the temple, which is the home of these beautiful stone figures, visit — A Sculptural Banquet in Belur; Hoysala Style 

Also visit:

Hoysaleshwara Temple in Halebidu

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64 Comments

  1. Wonderful.
    Beautiful pics Thanks for sharing.

  2. Have been there in my teens… Want to visit again….timeless beauties

  3. Have been there in my teens… Want to visit again….timeless beauties

  4. I remember seeing only one or two of them, you did a great job to find each one of them. I have never seen such intricately carved and well preserved figurines anywhere else. Hope to spend more time next time I am there.

    • Almost all of them, Prasad. And our guide pointed out to the important ones, so it added more meaning to that trip around the temple.

      I'm sure you'll go that way again and this time, you'll be there WITH your camera. 🙂

  5. Absolute marvels! Gorgeous belles. Imagine the days of hardship the creator must have gone through to make them look so beautiful. Your frames accentuates the beauty of each figurine. Wonderful post, Nambiare!! 🙂

  6. Just awesome, Divya! Superb sculptures and equally brilliant photography. As you said, each one is telling a story I'll definitely visit the place someday. 🙂

  7. Fantastic sculptures they are. I can't help admiring the architects of these wonders.

    Thank you for posting.

  8. those are fantastic and beautiful sculptures…

    Bikram's

  9. Indeed amazing! Leaves you speechless! You have done a great job of documenting it too!!

    • It is, Magiceye.
      I never thought I'd be THIS fascinated by Chennakesava temple, its pillars, the ladies on the pillars and all the sculpture that this temple is rich in.

      Thank you so much. I wish I had pics of all of those Shilabalikas.

  10. Wow Dee amazing, each of them mesmerising would love to write a poem on Shilabalikas 🙂 you captured them so well 🙂

  11. timeless marvels, aren't they Dee?? Thank you for bringing them so close to us 🙂
    Cheers, Archana – http://www.travelwitharchie.com

  12. Beautiful sculptures. Visited recently and was amazed by the beauty of the temple.

  13. These are simply mind blowing! Hats off to the architects! Just can't stop admiring them.
    Also, thanks to you for capturing them so well and sharing them with us.

    • Really — the people who crafted all these beautiful sculptures are wonders by themselves. These ladies are just the tip of the iceberg. Chennakesava Temple has so much to show. If you haven't been there already, you must visit, Arun. 🙂

  14. Such brilliant sculptures and an equally beautiful photography! 🙂

  15. Beautiful sculptures. So intricate and done to perfections. Thanks for sharing.

    • They details on the jewellery fill you with awe, right?
      Your welcome, Swati. Thank you for visiting. 🙂

      Btw, I just read about your experience when you went to watch Piku. 😀

  16. Hoysala architecture is one of its kind.. truly mesmerizing sculptures..

  17. Absolute marvels ! what a great art work is resemble in the statutes . Beautiful description .

  18. Indeed very graceful creations!
    Great photo essay.

  19. Exceptionally beautiful sculptures.

  20. Exceptionally beautiful sculptures.

  21. That is a very tinkling title, not that I need provocations to visit your blog. As it turned out, the belles were provocative to the hilt. Your pictures brought the treasure trove right to my desktop, complete with their individual intrigues.

    • Aww!
      And your comment on my desktop made my day, USP. 🙂

      The Chennakesava temple has so much more to show. You should go see it all if you get a chance to go that side.

  22. Amazing sculptures….the belles are essence of traditional Indian beauty… 🙂

  23. The beautiful fluid grace of these images is breathtaking. Reminder me of Didarganj Yakshini, a Mauryan era statue found in old Patna which still shines as if it was made yesterday

    • Long time, Puru.
      I hope you guys are doing well. 🙂

      Oh wow! that sounds interesting. Now let me go look up Didarganj Yakshini. 😉 Thank you so much for that, Puru. And for visiting. 🙂

  24. Wow! Such beautiful sculptures.
    Great photography 🙂

  25. Wow.. this is a very interesting post.. and loved the pics

  26. Lovely pics and amazing beauties, Divya!

  27. Beautiful sculptures.. Nice share.
    ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A Rat's​ ​Nibble

  28. Such intricate detail and such craftsmanship….amazing!!

    Though from my recent visits to 2 smaller hoysala temples i can totally expect this!!

    Btw, I could not help but notice that all ladies have full figures…which is kind of interesting from the context of idea of beauty n female form in India in ancient times… if we compare with present obsession of size zero!!

    http://www.myunfinishedlife.com

  29. Very intricate work with great details. How much they'd have taken to make these.

    The days I don't think we can do this kind of time consuming work. 🙂

  30. Wow… these are terrific sculptures. Beauty crafted so delicately and so exquisitely. Simply brilliant. And excellent captures too. 🙂

  31. I am in complete awe, they are simply breathtakingly beautiful!

  32. Wonderful photography! Very aesthetically shot.

    The Advaitist

  33. The intricate work really marvels… Will keep this in my bucket list!!!

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