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

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