The most renowned architecture brilliance that exists in Karnataka today has originated from the Hoysala Empire. This dynasty which had rooted the Kannadiga power in India, has erected many temples and monuments which display the brilliant craftsmanship of the age. These strictures which still stand strong, are favourite locations of travellers around the world.
One such location which houses these age-old remnants is Belur town located in the Hassan district. This city was highly revered by the Hoysala dynasty that it was known as “earthly Vaikuntha” (Vishnu’s abode) and “Dakshina Varanasi” (southern holy city of Hindus) as per the inscriptions found in this place. The town was the early capital of the empire and was referred to as Velur or Velapuri.
With its many temples and religious relics, this town attracts a lot of pilgrims each year. One of the greatest testament of the past is the Chennakeshava Temple, located just 500 metres from Belur Bus Station. This marvellous beauty is fashioned with exquisite carvings and artistic stone sculptures with no space left blank. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple was built by the great King Vishnuvardhana. The piece of history adorns 645 elephant carvings, sculptures of Madanikas – damsels, carvings in Navaranga, episodes of the Puranas, the Upanishads and the epics of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Said to have been built in the 12th century, a 42-metre-high pillar called the Gravity Pillar can also be seen in the middle of the courtyard of the temple.
A highlight of this temple are the Madanikas or Bracket figures that are beautifully carved along the walls of the temple. Designed with utmost precision, these are also known as Celestial Nymphs. They are crafted in a way that it depicts various forms and postures of Bharatanatyam. On a total, there are 42 of these Madanikas in the temple, four of which can be seen in the temple and the remaining 38 figures dot the exterior of the temple.
The beauty radiating from the Narasimha pillars cannot be missed when one makes a visit to this temple. Crafted out of soapstone, these pillars loom at a height of 30 feet. This is one among fifty different pillars located in the temple and glorifies the artistic marvel of the age. It carries, in a miniature form, all the unique architectural features of the temple. All the sculptures of the temple can be seen to be carved onto this pillar.
The town comes alive in the month of March or April with the Hoysala Mahotsava which is a grand celebration of the rich Indian culture and heritage. This vibrant festival of dance, art, and music is held against the backdrop of the glorious architecture of the Hoysala temples of Halebidu and Belur. Through various art forms, this celebration marks the beginning of a new season. People from all age groups come together to celebrate this epic festival.
Hidden from the constant hustle and bustle of the busy streets, Yagachi dam which is located 2.5 kms from Belur is also a pristine spot to visit in the area. It is also a great place to delve into some water-sports and adventure.
With a promise of a peaceful visit, the town of Belur is truly a relic of the past, preserved by its inhabitants that make sure that the traditions and culture of the ancestors are kept alive.
Image courtesy Vishwakiran, Vasukrishnan57 and Bikashrd from Wikimedia Commons