Belur, Halebid, Sravanabelagola, Somnathpura

Dairy Entry

"Every part of these temples exhibits a joyous exuberance of fancy, scorning mechanical refrain. All that is wild in human faith or warm in feelings is found portrayed in these temples. As a monument of the phenomenal concentration, super technical skill, ingenuity,  imagination, and profound religious consciousness of those concerned in their creation, there is no parallel to these anywhere in the world."  ( Source article)

I fall short of words after reading the above lines on the Hoysala art and architecture. So profound is the verity of these words that one becomes aware of it the moment he enters one of these temples. Out of a dozen monuments of this style that exist today, i visited the three most prominent ones - Hoysaleshvara temple in Halebid, Channakesava temple in Belur and Kesava temple in Somnathpura.  

The Channakesava temple, filled with intricate sculptures and friezes, is an ode to the timeless beauty of the feminine form. The major highlight of this temple are the numerous bracket figures perched between the pillar and the ceiling all over the inside and outside of the temple. All these are images of women in various postures - dancing, singing, playing, thinking, etc. Absolutely impeccable are the proportions of their body parts and the iconic grace of their figure.

In its exquisite craftsmanship and immense attention to minute details, the Hoysaleshvara temple at Halebid surpasses Belur. Invaded and plundered multiple times by Alaudin Khilji, the temple till today is incomplete. The temple consists of two shrines - Hoysalaeshvara and Shantaleshvara - named after the king and his queen, with two majestic Nandis facing each sanctum.

The outer sanctum walls are adorned with a myriad deities and mythological episodes. The images of Narasimha slaying Hiranyakashipu, Siva dancing inside Gajasura's stomach, Siva slaying Andhakasura and Mahishasura mardhini are the most repeated ones. At every entrance both inside and outside temple, the imposing (human) figures of Nandi and Bringi as dvarapalakas (gate keepres) instantly catch one's attention. Every single detail - like the hollow space inside the tiny skulls in Nandi's head dress, the small gaps between the threads and the frame in Nandi's drum and his stunningly intricate hip dress - are carved with incredible precision.

Kesava temple at Somnathpura, although not as popular as Belur and Halebid, is an equally spectacular specimen of the Hoysala style. I cannot but wonder how this monument even today remains unconnected by public transport, in an unknown corner just 35 KM away from Mysore, while no one gets bored of touting Srirangapatna or Ranganathittu ! The three main sanctums of Kesava, Venugopala and Janardhana are mounted on a stellate (star shaped) platform.  The best part of this temple is the intricate work on the ceiling panels consisting of a number of designs, crafted with perfection, as though of wood.

Sravanabelagola is a quaint little town, in the same vicinity, with the statue of Gomateshvara (Bahubali) on top of the Vindhyagiri hill.

Itinerary

Day 1

Reached Bangalore by train at 7 in the morning. Took a bus  to Mysore (146 KM, 3.5 Hrs). After lunch, visited Somnathpura on a hired cab (35 KM, Costed Rs.800 both ways).  Reached Belur (130 KM, 3.5 hrs) for lodging in the night.

Day 2

Visited the temples at Belur and Halebid (16 KM). After lunch, took a bus a to Channarayapatna (96KM, 2.5 hrs) and from there to Sravanabelagola (12 KM). After visiting the shrine, came to Channarayapatna and took a bus to Hassan (80 KM, 2hrs). Boarded a late night slow train from Hassan to Bangalore. 

Day 3

Train from Bangalore to Pune

Tips

All places are quite well connected by buses, except for Somnathpura (You can take a bus till Bannur and will probably need to hitchhike the last 7 KM). Belur and Halebid deserve a guide, if you take interest in the details. Hotel Mayura (run by KSTDC) is the best bet for a budget accomodation in Belur.

Album

Temple at Belur

Dvarapalaka (Belur)

Decorated Friezes (Belur)

Varaha (Halebid)

Siva inside Gajasura (Halebid)

Kesava temple (Somnathpura)

Gomateshvara (Sravanabelagola)