Can anybody etch songs and dance in stone? The answer is Yes. If you don’t believe you have to visit Chennakesava Temple Belur. The architecture and sculpture will leave you stunned. You will wonder how skilled our ancestors were, how perfect their work was and how much patience they had to create such amazing stone structures.
Where is it?
Belur is located in Hassan District, at 35 Kms. from Hassan by Road and 210 kms. from Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka. The road is good and it is worth an early morning drive from Bengaluru or Hassan.
When to visit
Belur is thronged by visitors only for the Chennakesava temple. One can visit this place around the year, but better to avoid during the rainy season and when it is too hot.
Belur Chennakeshava temple
This temple is the main attraction of Belur and pulls visitors from all over the world. The temple has marvelous stone carvings and it is no wonder people from the world over throng this place.
The temple complex consists of Chennakesava temple which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu along with Veeranarayana Swamy Temple, Ranganayaki Amman Temple, Kappe Chennigaraya Temple, Sowmya Nayaki Amman Temple and Kalyana Mantapa. The temple is the contribution of Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. The rich Hoysala architecture makes the temple one of its kind. King Vishnuvardhana started this temple in the year 1117 and incarnated the Chennakesava diety. It took more than 100 years to complete this temple and got completed during the reign of the successor of King Vishnuvardhana, Immadi Veera Ballala. It was subsequently renovated by the king of Vijayanagar Dynasty.
What you should observe in this temple complex
This temple has many amazing architectural marvels and Belur Temple sculptures are unique and awesome. The entire temple constructed in stone has carvings all over. The outer walls consist of one row of elephants, one row of lions and then horses. Above this are the carvings narrating mythological stories like Ramayana are carved.
But the best part of this temple is the carvings of ‘Shilabalike’ or ‘madanike’ structures. These are the carvings of ladies in different postures and are done to perfection. The most prominent among these are ‘Darpana Sundari’ and ‘Shukha Bhashini’. These madanikas are carved to perfection and all the pieces of jewelery are etched in stone. You cannot stop appreciating at the intricate carving works and amazing jewelry designs on these shilabalikas. Each has a story which only an expert guide can narrate. The deities in every temple are carved to perfection and they hold a mystic elegance and inspire a devotional feel.
There is a pillar inside the Belur Chennakesava temple complex which is not to be missed. This pillar which is about 40 feet is said to be standing without any support for which reason it is called Gravity Pillar. There are four small holes at the bottom of the pillar and one can see across through these holes, which means the pillar is not attached to the ground!
The pillars inside the temple are full of carvings and present a beautiful view. The entire temple complex is said to be the handiwork of the architect named Jakanachari. One cannot stop admiring his imagination and artwork No words can describe the beauty of this temple.
There are many small temples in the complex. A kitchen, place to perform Yaga, and a Water pond or step well named ‘Vasudeva Theertha’ are to be observed in this complex. Do not forget to take a close look at Narasimha Pillar located inside Chennakeshava Temple. This pillar is full of intricate carvings and it is said that the pillar could be rotated!
If you are a person interested in architecture and can admire the carvings on stone, you can spend 8-10 hours in this temple alone. Don’t forget to observe the ceilings!
When you are visiting Belur, I suggest combining Halebidu and Shravanabelagola also which are close by. If you want to stay overnight, Hassan offers reasonably good accommodation and facilities.
One last tip – don’t blink your eyes when you are in this temple, else you may miss a wonderful story in stone!