Belur, home to one of the most magnificent temples of India and a famous tourist spot – it is situated in the Hassan district almost 223 kms (139 miles) from Bangalore in Karnataka, India.
The awe-inspiring Chennakesava temple along the Yagachi river was built during the Hoysala rule. Designed exquisitely, it is believed that the construction of this temple began in the 12th century when the King Vishnuvardhana won over Cholas in the Battle of Talakad. And after 103 long years, the entire structure was completed during the reign of Vishnuvardhana’s grandson Veera Ballala. Putting together such a marvelous piece of work does require all this time.
After a four hour drive, we reached the temple premises around noon, and decided to go for a guide to get more in-depth information. The conversation began with a brief background about its construction. And upon the guide’s insistence, we started our visit from a smaller structure alongside the main temple.
‘Why aren’t we seeing the main Temple first?’, we asked him.
He replied, ‘This is the model structure for the temple. So, before the craftsmen started working on the original temple, they built this model which took almost 20 years’.
That was a fascinating insight. And the guide was right about seeing it first.
And then, we walked over to the the main temple. It is evident from the kind of elaborate work one sees here, it must have been a long and gradual process.
Every stone here is carved to perfection – all the 80 sculptures in the temple are flawlessly crafted which includes the 4 well known statues depicting ‘Elegant dance poses’. The Garuda statue outside the main temple is another artistic creation, along with the life size dwarapala sculptures guarding the idols.
Not just the statues, even the pillars are intricately designed and the tales from various Indian scriptures are portrayed on the soapstone walls. The structure is uniformly ornate, both inside and out – the defined layers of designs show tremendous artistic skills.
Interestingly, the exterior wall of the temple has a layer of elephants carved at the base of the whole structure and we were curious to know the reason behind this. Our guide gave us a thorough explanation about this architectural detail.
He replied by saying that, ‘It symbolizes strength and stability – as elephants are the largest and the strongest animals – the weight of the temple is put on their shoulders, so that the structure lasts forever’.
No one can argue with that. The temple has already been here for over 800 years.
We spent all day there, immersing ourselves in the beauty of this alluring structure. Its a great honor to be able to experience our country’s rich history.
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