Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Belur, Hassan.

Halebidu and Belur though taken in the same breath are actually 17 kms apart. You cannot however come to either one of the temples and not see the other. The Chennakeshava temple in Belur is not very spectacularly different from the Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebidu. Considering the fact that the two temples were built in the same century (or there abouts) it’s no surprise, they resemble almost the same. In fact, you will find at least four or five duplicate sculptures between Halebidu and Belur temples.

Whilst comparing the two temples it’s not hard to notice that the Belur temple is only half the size of the Halebidu temple. Another major difference one would notice is that the Belur temple is thankfully complete - after 103 years of artistic perseverance.

The Chennakeshava temple was built by fourth ruler of the Hoysala dynasty after he was converted to Vaishnava faith from Jainism by sage Ramanuja.The most striking architectural marvel of the Chennakeshava temple is the richly adorned Narasimha pillar. Until the 18th Century one could turn the pillar at will which used to be suspended from the equally adorned ceiling. But the wrath of nature took its toll when the roof from where the Narasimha pillar was hanging slightly caved-in covering the tiny gap between pillar and the pedestal. The Narasimha pillar is one among the forty-six distinctly carved pillars in the temple. Such is the wizardry of the Hoysala sculptures that one could notice that the earrings on the lobes of the dancers could be rotated. They have even carved stones into the pendants of the dancers. You could also notice the gaps between two overlapping necklaces!
Sadly, this temple has also not been spared of vandalism from the countless visitors and treasure hunters. And despite this vandalism the government apathy continues with no police presence to guard this invaluable Indian culture. Funnily the only two policemen posted at the entrance of the temple diligently check for cell phones of every visitor and deposit it with them for the time of their visit. I’m sure they would go back home with their head held high for saving an Indian monument!!
Such is the brilliance of these stone poets that devotion takes a step backward. You constantly need reminding that you are in a holy place and that presiding deity should be getting all the attention rather than the magnificence of the sculptors. Halebid and Belur are a must-visit for those searching for the rich Indian Heritage and culture. Truly mesmerizing and worth all the trouble getting there.

Getting-there: A couple of Trains and numerous buses ply from Bangalore to Hassan frequently. From Hassan it’s another one hour to either Halebidu or Belur.

Must-Do: Engage a guide to take you through the interpretations of the epics depicted in stone.

Must-Don’t: Engage in vandalism or speed-up the destruction of such great works of art.

My Rating: 9/10

Monday, March 22, 2010

Halebidu - II, Hassan

A short half km walk from the Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebidu and you find yourself at two more such temples from the same era - the Basadi Halli (Jain Temple) and the Kedareshwara Temple. The Kedareshwara temple looks an exact replica of the Hoysaleshwara temple except that it has only one entrance as opposed to three of the latter.
Basadi Halli: This temple is about 300 mts from the Hoysaleshwara temple and less visited by the tourists who come to Halebidu. In fact we found the temple totally deserted but for a local who was found enjoying his afternoon siesta. The notable wonder of this temple is the richly polished stone pillars where you can actually see your image, and that too inverted! Though its a Jain Temple, the Sanctum Sanctorum belongs to the bats!

Totally deserted and quiet temple but thankfully not much vandalized. Do not miss it if you have made it to Halebidu.

Kedareshwara Temple: Another 200 meters from Basadi Halli and you reach the Kedareshwara Temple. Built in 1220 AD this temple still stands majestic in its wake braving all the odds. More info about the temple can be found here.
Unfortunately the temple is locked but you can peep through the door and see the inside of the temple as there is enough natural light that come through the perforated walls of the temple.

A must-visit if you have made it to Halebidu.

My Rating: 8/10

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Halebidu, Hassan

Other names: Halebid, Dwarasamudra.

After yet another cancellation of a Wayanad Trip (it's become totally jinxed now!) we made a hurried plan to visit Halebidu and Belur since we had only one day to spare.
Caught a 6 AM Karnataka Sampige bus from Kempegowda Bus Station, Bangalore and reached Hassan by around 10:30. From there we took another bus and reached Halebidu by 11:30.
The 12th Century Hoysaleshwara Temple stood majestically in the blazing sun. And no, I’m not talking about ruins here. Every stone, that has not been vandalized, stands its ground. Quite unbelievable that a 12th Century monument braved the wrath of nature and more importantly careless human vandalism.
When you come to a place as historic as this, it would be criminal to not engage a guide and learn more about the place. For Rs. 200 (with a receipt) you would end up earning more than you bargained for. Our guide turned out to be quite eloquent with the history of the temple and Hindu mythology in general. Hence you can imagine our shock when we found out that he was actually a Muslim! It was quite embarrassing to note that a Muslim knows more Hindu mythology than (a Hindu) me.
Coming to the artwork of the temple, all I can say is that it will blow your brains out of your skull. The imagination, the visualization, the talent and the execution is simply numbing. Attention to detail is buzzword among the Hoysala sculptors. Giving shape to their imaginations looks like piece of cake for these extremely skilled craftsmen. Jakkanna Achari is believed to be the chief architect of the Hoysala Temples in Halebidu and Belur.

The Hoysaleshwara temple is dedicated to the King Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleshwara. The temple was built by one his Ministers. The temple has two main Nandi idols. The 9 ft Nandi is dedicated to King Vishnuvardhana and the 8 ft Nandi is dedicated to his queen Santhala. The facts regarding the temple, its idols, its structure (like a star), it’s artwork, it’s story telling through sculptures are all but staggering. Just when you find a dynasty spending 87 years with thousands of money and manpower as shocking, comes the biggest shocker of all. This city and hence with it, the temple, has been abandoned by the Hoysala rulers after two attacks by the Delhi Sultanate and then shifted base to Belur where they undertook the exercise all over again!
Two hours after we started our tour of this magnificent temple, we still wanted more of it! And more is what we got in the form of the Jain Temple and the Kedareshwara temple just half a kilometer behind the Hoysaleshwara Temple. The Kedareshwara temple is just like an extension of the Hoysaleshwara temple, whereas the Jain temple has some finely polished stone pillars where you can see your reflection – inverted!!!

While we were at Kedareshwara temple it started to rain, the first for the year, and it was just magical. The soapstone structure of these temples suddenly looked all the more appealing. We surely got more than we bargained for, from this trip to Halebidu, talking of which we still have Belur to devour…
Getting-there: Frequent KSRCT buses ply between Bangalore and Hassan. From Hassan you can take a bus to either Halebidu or Belur, whichever you chose to cover first.

Must-Do: Engage a guide to get a sneak peak into Hoysala Dynasty and interpretation of the sculptures.

Must-Don't: Vandalize the rich culture of our country!

My Rating: 9/10