Belur – A real gem of Hoysala Architecture. The town Belur is renowned for Chennakeshava temple, situated on the banks of river Yagachi in Karnataka.
We were staying in Hassan, and headed to Belur at around 8.30 am and we reached Belur by 9.15 am. It was a treat to our eyes to look at the beautiful Hoysala architecture. To be honest, I’m not a history lover but definitely these architecture have made me awwww! really got interest after seeing the Belur Chennakeshava temple architecture.
History goes like this
Belur was the early capital of Hoysala Empire and was known by the name Velapura. The town Belur is renowned for Chennakeshava temple. The Chennakeshava temple is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture. It was built by king Vishnuvardhana to celebrate his victory over the Cholas at Talakad in 1117 AD.
The temple has star shaped structure and built with soapstone on a platform with ornate carvings. Each and every corner, pillar, walls have unique carvings on them. Not even two were identical. Rows of Elephants, Lions and horses are carved the outside wall for the lower lines.
Quick facts to know about Belur:
Entry Fee: No Fee, It’s Free
Time Required: max 2 hrs
Best time to visit : November to March
Temple timings: 7:30 AM – 7:30 PM,
Inner sanctum of main deity will be stay closed between 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM, and 5:00 PM – 5:30 PM
Photography: Allowed (except the pic of main God)
Attractions of Chennakeshava Temple, Belur
There are more than 80 sculptures of Madanika in the temple, 38 bracket figures outside and 4 inside, Lady with her pet parrot, Kesha Shrungara, Gandharva Dance, Shantaladevi, Fortune teller, Songstress, Arch dancer, Lady with make-up, Kite dancer, Pony-tale haired lady, Drum dance, Nagaveena Dance, Huntress, Divine Dancer, Masculine woman, Musician, Flutist, Darpana Sundari, Thribhangi Nritya, Dwarapalakas flanking the Sukanasi doorway, Narasimha pillar, Kadle basava, Mohini pillar are some of those to name a few. I may not be able to put everything here in picture.
Gopuram & Deepastambha, Belur
The huge temple is enclosed in a walled structure. There are two entrances to the temple. The one from the east has a huge five-storeyed Gopuram. The main entrance was destroyed by the invaders from Delhi Sultanate which was later restored during the Vijayanagar Empire. There are two structures on the topmost corners in the shape of cow’s horns, hence the name Go-puram and between the two horns are five golden Kalashas.
Inside the temple complex 42 feet high pillar carved out of a single stone called Deepastambha. The most amazing thing about that is which stands on it’s own without any support.
Entrance to Temple has Hoysala emblem
The doorways of the temple’s mantapa features a Hoysala king slaying what historians believe is lion. It is also believed that this could be a symbolic representation of the defeat of the Cholas, whose royal emblem is a tiger.
The below picture represents the symbol of Hoysala and ‘Hoy’ means strike while ‘Sala’ refers to the name of forefather of their dynasty who saved a saint from lion by striking him dead.
Ceiling inside the Belur Temple
When you get inside the temple its dark. In the center of the hall is a large open square, above which is a domed ceiling contains a lotus bud with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva carved on it. At the bottom of the dome is a series of friezes with beautiful carvings.
Entrance to Sanctum
The mantapa leads to the Garbha Gruha or Sanctum. The door is flanked by dvarapalakas, Jaya and Vijaya. Its pediment has Lakshminarayana in center. Below it are musicians playing 12th-century musical instruments.
Mohini – Avatar of Lord Vishnu
This Pillar inside the temple has carving of the Mohini avatar of Lord Vishnu.
Gaja Samhara and other carvings on the pillars
Stepwell or Kalyani
Stepwell is right in the corner near the entrance. In olden days it was used for various temple rituals like customary bath before offering prayers. There is elephant carving on both sides as you can see in the below pic, Also small shrine on both sides.
Finally, it wouldn’t be complete without saying about the other surroundings of the Chennakeshava temple. Kappe Chennigaraya Temple, Somanayaki temple, VeeraNarayana, Andal Temple and Kalyan mantapa.
Kappe Chennigaraya Temple
It has two sanctums inside, one dedicated to Venugopala and the other to Chennigaraya (local popular name of Chennakeshava, Vishnu). The temple is called Kappe Chennigaraya because, according to a local legend, a Kappe (frog) was once found near its navel.
To the southwest of the Kesava temple is a small temple to Somyanayaki (form of the goddess Lakshmi).
Veera Narayana Temple
This temple is small and also with sanctum, some panels depict the Bhima story from the Mahabharata.
The Andal temple, also known as Ranganayaki shrine. There is a Shikara with a golden Kalasha.
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How to reach Belur
Bangalore city is 220 kilometres away from Belur via the NH75. If one is travelling from Mysore, the journey is 155 kilometres long via the SH 57. The coastal city of Mangalore is 153 kilometres away via the NH73. There are regular buses that ply to Belur from Hassan, Chikmagalur, Bangalore, Mysore and Mangalore. But the best way to enjoy your trip is drive and go. It takes 3 to 4 hours if you are driving from Bangalore.
The nearest railway station to the town of Belur is in Chikmanglur, which is 22 kilometres away. Hassan railway station is around 32 kilometres away from Belur town. There are many buses that ply between these towns.
Video on Chennakeshava Temple Belur:
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Once you are done with exploring Belur Chennakeshava temple, you can head to Halebeedu temple. Again there also you will be able to see beautiful Hoysala Architecture.
If you haven’t been to Belur & Halebeedu, then go for it.
- Best time to visit Belur is November to March, because the climate will be quite cool and enjoyable.
- There are very few places to stay in Belur, so it is better to stay either in Chikmanglur or in Hassan.
- If you are travelling from Bangalore, you can cover it in one day, even the roads are quite good.
Sivaramakrishnan Varadhan says
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