Not far from Halebidu — the capital city of the Hoysalas — is a symbol of the dynasty’s victory over the Cholas in the battle of Talakkad in 1116AD. This mark of victory seems to have turned out to be quite a sculptural extravaganza called the Chennakesava temple and it still stands tall in Belur, in Hassan District.
What a big celebration it must have been, if Hoysala ruler — King Vishnuvardhana had to commission a structure that needed a hundred years for its making. It is said that even that one-full century was not enough to complete this architectural and sculptural wonder.
To me, the Chennakesava Temple looked like a big grand sculptural banquet. What else would you call a stone structure that stood on a star-shaped base, and was decked with sculptured walls, pillars with soapstone filigree and dancing figures on them, friezes, and ornamental ceilings?
The Chennakesava temple is a grand display of Hoysala art and architecture and was even more fascinating than I thought it would be. The best thing we did was to take the services of a local guide who took us through the features and filled us in with anecdotes from the history of the Hoysalas.
Our guide Sathyanarayan began with pointing out that this temple dedicated to ‘handsome Vishnu’ or Chenna Kesava, brings together the Tamilnadu-style-gopuram, a north Indian type temple and also an example of the Karnataka’s temple architecture.
|The Tamilnadu style gopuram.|
|The North Indian style temple —
Sridevi Temple (Lakshmi Temple).
|(And) The Hoysala Style (Karnataka Style) temple architecture —
The Chennakesava Temple.
The Hoysalas are said to have ruled a vast area of land in present-day-Karnataka and parts of its current neighbouring states from 1026 – 1343 AD. And while they flourished and expanded their empire, they are said to have patronised a lot of art and architecture. Hoysala temples seem to have been a strong, bold mark of their heritage, and the Chennakesava Temple in Belur seems to be one of the most brilliant achievements as far as their temple architecture is concerned.
The Hoysala style of architecture features a star shaped base for the temples to stand on, finely ornate pillars, sculpted ceilings and bracket figures to name a few elements.
The details on the sculpted figures are also a telling sign of Hoysala architecture. To know more about the features of Hoysala temple architecture, click HERE
Here are a few pictures of some of the sculpted attractions of the famous Chennakesava temple, from my visit to the Hoysala temple early this year:
An idol of Vishnu that stands in front of this temple in Belur.
|The emblem of the Hoysalas.|
|The Grand Torana — the intricate doorway sculpture.|
|Do not miss the alignment of the corners of the sculpted temple walls.|
|The foundation of the Hoysalas.|
Our guide explained that the horses symbolised ‘Speed,’ the lions, ‘Bravery’ and the elephants, ‘Strength.’ Put together, this was the foundation on which the Hoysala dynasty thrived.
|Talking of elephants, I hear there are over 600 elephants running all through the bottom of the temple walls. What’s even more amazing is that no two elephants are alike.|
|The feet of Chennakesava.|
|Ravan lifting Mt.Kailash|
|More sculptures from the walls of Chennakesava Temple:
Arjun aiming at the fish, Brahma and Narasimha.
|The ceiling of the nrithya mantapa, inside the temple.
Many temples have a small platform just before the deity where dancers offered their art.
|The famous indoor pillars of Chennakesava temple.
They stand just outside the sanctum sanctorum. They are adorned with bracelets and necklace designs, and some fabric designs too.
|The stone lattices that let in light, another feature of the Hoysala Temple architecture.|
The temple complex in which the Chennakesava temple stands also has a Bhoodevi temple ( a temple for the earth goddess) and a smaller Veera Narayana temple.
Other things not to be missed here are the temple pond, the temple car (Chariot) and the gravity pillar also in the same complex.
|Bhoodevi Temple in the
Chennakesava Temple complex, Belur.
|Veeranarayana Temple, also in the same complex.|