|There are 650 carved elephants on the platform of the temple. Each of these has a different body language & expression |
Chennakesava Temple is situated in a small taluka Belur, in Hassan district of Karnataka. It is 220 km from Bangalore & about 40 km from city of Hassan. Nearest railway station is Chikmagalur which is 22 km away. Its average height is 3200 ft above sea level & breezy weather here is similar to that of Bangalore. Best time to visit is Oct-Mar when humidity level is low. Belur & it's surroundings are rural agricultural area & roads are in need of improvement.
|Deepastambha & Rayagopuram. This is said to be an addition during Vijayanagara period|
|Side view of the temple|
Belur or Beluru in Kannada, together with Halebidu which is 16 km away were the early capital of the Hoysala Empire. There is a legend about the name Hoysala. It is said that Sala & his guru Sudatta Muni were performing a ritual in a temple of Vasantha Parameshwari in nearby Sosevur & a tiger attacked them. Sudatta Muni gave a call of ‘Hoye” to Sala who struck the tiger (some say it was a lion) down. Thus began Hoysala dynasty which ruled for 300 years with Sala as first ruler. The scene of fight between Sala & the tiger has been carved out of stone beautifully & it became an emblem of Hoysalas.
|The emblem of Hoysalas on the right side of the entrance of Chennakesava Temple. Sala is fighting with tiger|
Of the Hoysala kings two names are very prominent King Vishnuvardhana & his grandson King Veera Ballala II. King Vishnuvardhana was great patron of art & is said to have commissioned 1500 temples of which 100 have survived. He started building the Chennakesava temple in 1117 to commemorate victory over Cholas & his grandson king Veera Ballala II completed the task after 103 years.
The temple is dedicated to Chenna-Kesava that is handsome Kesava or Krishna another avatar of Vishnu. The walls & the pillars of the temple are full of intricate & fine engravings & sculptures. Hardly any space is left blank. Besides elephants, horses & tigers, stories from ancient Hindu scriptures have been carved with great care, intricacy of design & poetic depiction.
Soap stone has been used extensively in the temple which is easy to work for creating ornate designs. Jakanachari & his son Dankanchari were main sculptors. Others have also been mentioned in inscriptions or have signed the statues. Some of them are Ruvari Mallitamma (over 40 sculptures), Dasoja and his son Chavana (10 madanikas), Malliyanna and Nagoja (birds and animals) Chikkahampa and Malloja (other than main temple).
|Dwarpals at right side entrance of the temple|
The temple is built on a large platform or Jagati 300 ft by 300 ft in star shape & provides for a walk-around or pradikshinapatha. The hall or mantapama is open & has three entrances while the top shikhar has been lost to elements. Ornate pillars inside the hall are a unique feature of the temple. Each of them has lots of engravings & intricate carvings which are technically brilliant. Smooth surfaces, geometrically perfect designs are magnificent. Guide informed that these heavy stone pillars were rotated with the help of elephants & while rolling they were hand-chiselled & hand polished. The result is fantastic & they look as if they have been smoothed & shined on mechanical lathes.
Another remarkable feature is delicate & beautiful bracket figures or madanika’s or Shilbalika’s at the top of pillars. They look so fine & fragile that it is difficult to imagine them to be carved out of stone.
The temple complex also has has Kappe Chennigraya temple built by queen Shantala Devi, Somyanayki(Lakshmi) temple, Ranganayaki temple & Pushkarni.
|Ornate entrance 'Toran' to the mantapam or the main hall|
|A portion of lower wall. This series of elephants representing strength, tigers representing courage & horses representing swiftness wraps around the platform of the temple.|
|Kappe Chennaswami & Lakshmi Narayana temples inside the precincts. The pillar has four sides. Three corners touch the stone platform & fourth corner has slight gap through which a newspaper can pass|
|Near the steps are two bhumijas - small shrines|
|Stone lattice & bracket figures Shilabalika|
|Shilabalika - a dancer |
|Understanding the intricacies|