The Chennakeshava Temple of Belur is a 12th-century Hindu temple, also known as Kesava or Vijayanarayana in the Hassan district of Karnataka state, India. This temple was commissioned by King Vishnuvardhana in 1117 CE. The temple is located on the banks of a river (Yagachi River) in Belur also called Velapura, an early Hoysala Empire capital. It took The temple was built over three generations and took 103 years to finish. This architecture was repeatedly damaged and plundered during wars, rebuilt and repaired multiple times over its history.
As we enter through Gopuram (The pyramidal tower over the entrance gate) and walk around the temple courtyard, and inside the temple, you can feel the positive vibes from this Hoysala Architecture.
The Living Sculptures
As you walk around the side of the ‘circumambulated’ platform of the temple, you can see bands of carvings on one wall. Everyone would pay respect to the artistic work and attention to details throughout these series of stone sculptures.
The first line (from bottom) is of elephants with different expressions. This is a symbolic supporter of the entire structure. Skipping the next empty line, next comes the cornice work with a periodic lion face. Above that is another band of the scroll and then cornice band (except at the back of the temple where a row of horsemen in various riding positions are depicted). The fifth line consists beautiful carvings of small figurines, mostly females with multiple expressions facing us, though some of those include Yakshas facing towards the inside of the temple. This layer also has many other sculptures of dancers, musicians, and professionals with their tools.
Madanikas of Belur
Above the entrance, you can observe an ornated lintel with the Makara (mythical beasts) on either side. Sculptures of Shilabalika (celestial maiden) provides capital support for the temple eaves. 38 (out of 40) of such the original statues have survived in Belur Temple.
The main deity in this temple is Kesava. The temple is an active house of worship, with Keshava dressed and decorated, priests present and devotees doing Darshana. At the corners of the roof centre, there are four ceiling dome madanikas
This temple is famous for its Mohini Pillar, a pillar with its base as a rendering of Mohini, the female avatar of Lord Vishnu.
Every temple you visit has some aspect that captures our interest or imagination. This Hoysala architecture took almost 100 years to build..! One can imagine the depth of faith and determination that each and every craftsman would have made to fulfil this architectural marvel.
This Hoysala dynasty masterpiece was apparently covered by sand and therefore survived destruction or damage by invaders. Now around 1000 years old, it stands as a lifelong testament to those fantastic craftsmen of so long ago.