Sunday, March 6, 2016

Belur - Chennakeshava Temple

Belur was the early capital of the Hoysala Empire. It is one of the major tourist destinations in Karnataka. The main attractions in Belur is the Chennakesava temple complex which contains the Chennakesava Temple (chennakesava means handsome Vishnu) built by King Vishnuvardhana, surrounded by the Kappe Chennigraya Temple built by Shantaladevi, queen of King Vishnuvardhana and Sowmyanayaki Temple (form of the goddess Lakshmi)

Things to See

  1. Darpana Sundari (Lady with Mirrior) carved on the walls
  2. Intricate sculptures of Elephant,Lions,Horses
  3. Sculptures of episodes from the Hindu mythological epics
  4. Sculptures of Dancers(Shilabalikas)
  5. Ornate Pillars inside the temple
  6. Narasimha Pillar

A full view of chennakeshava temple in belur

Chennakeshava Temple

Chennakesava Temple:


The temple is one of the finest examples of Hoysala Architecture. The temple was built by King Vishnuvardhana in commemoration of his victory over the Chola kings of Talakad in 1117CE. It took 103 years to complete the construction of the temple. It has two Shiva Temples with a common platform and two garbhagrihas, one houses for Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleshwara Linga and the other for Shanthaleshwara Linga. In front of Hoysaleshwara is the Nandi mantapa and behind that is shrine of Surya with a two-meter-tall image. The Garuda (eagle) pillar facing the main temple was erected in the Vijayanaga Period, while the pillar on the right, the Deepasthamba(pillar with lamp) dates from the Hoysala period. There is a Pushkarni (Stepped well or Pond) to the right side of the main entrance. The Dravida style rajyagopura at the entrance is built by the Vijayanagara Kings, who considered this deity as one of their Kuladevatha (Family God).

rajya gopura of chennakesava temple or belur temple

Rajya Gopura

rajya gopura of chennakesava temple or belur temple

Rajya Gopura

garuda pillar in front of chennakesava temple in belur

Garuda Pillar


Outer walls have rows of intricate figures narrating episodes from epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata,and Bhagavad Gita. The facade of the temple is filled with intricate sculptures and friezes with no portion left blank. The intricate workmanship includes elephants, lions, horses, episodes from the Indian mythological epics, and sensuous dancers (Shilabalikas). Inside the temple are a number of ornate pillars. The madanikas or shilabalikas represent the ideal female forms such as dancers,musicians, drummers etc. Darpana Sundari (Lady with the mirror) carved on walls of Belur Temple is one of major attractions in the complex. Other figures are decorated as if they are full of life and vigor with variety of actions and movements.The doorways are guarded on either side by the gorgeously decorated dvarapalaka(doorkeepers) on either side. The doorways to the mantapa have on both sides the image of “Sala” slaying a Lion. The famous madanikas are

  1. Darpana Sundari – the lady with mirror
  2. The Lady with parrot
  3. The huntress
  4. Bhasma Mohini

lady with mirror statue in belur

Lady with Mirror

the sculpture of lady with parrot in belur

Lady with Parrot

Inside the Temple

An interesting sight within the sanctum is the ancient jet black Hoysala pillars. There are about 48 pillars of various sizes, shapes and designs, bearing testimony to remarkable artistry. The most popular pillar is the Narasimha Pillar which at one time could have revolved on its ball bearings. The ceilings inside the temple are well decorated. The finish of the four central pillars and the ceiling they support is great view to the eyes. These four pillars are chiseled but others were lathe tuned pillars. The center four pillars bear madanikas (Salabhanjika –celestial damsels). There are 42 of them in the temple complex, one each on the four central pillars and 38 outside the temple.Other interesting sculpture inside the mantapa are Sthamba buttalika (pillar with an image in frieze) which is more in the Chola style indicating that the hoysala may have employed Chola craftsman along with the locals. These images have less decorations compared to the other hoysala sculptures.

narasimha pillar in belur contains all the sculptures in belur temple in minute form. famous pillar in belur

Narasimha Pillar

Outside the Temple:

The base of the outer walls are friezes of charging elephant(650 different types) which symbolizes the stability and strength. Above that it is followed by Lions which symbolize courage, then horses which symbolize speed. Above the horses are panels with floral designs and above which are sculptures with depictions from the Hindu epic Ramayana and Mahabharatha. The important Sculptures are

  1. Narasimha (a form of Vishnu) image in the south western corner
  2. Gajasurasamhara (Hindu God Shiva slaying demon in the form of elephant) on western side
  3. The winged Garuda
  4. Dancing Kali ( a form of Hindu God Durga)
  5. Seated Ganesha (Son of Lord Shiva)
  6. A boy  with an Umbrella and a King( Vamana Avathar)
  7. Ravana shaking mount Kailash
  8. Durga slaying demon Mahishasura
  9. Standing Brahma
  10. Varaha (Avatar of Lord vishnu)
  11. Shiva dancing on demon (Andhakasura)
  12. Bhairava (Avatar of Lord Shiva)
  13. Pandava prince Arjuna shooting a fish seeing its reflection
  14. Sun god Surya

emblem of hoysala empire is a boy named sala killing a lion

Emblem of Hoysala Empire

a nice view of the famous hoysala temple, belur temple

Belur Temple

Best Time To Visit Belur

The best time to visit the Belur Temple is any time throughout the year.

How to Reach Belur

Belur is at a distance of 222 km from Bangalore, 194 km from Mangalore, 149 km from Mysore and 38 km from Hassan. Halebid is 17 km away from Belur.

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