Friday, March 11, 2011

My next destination is again to a small remote village called Doddagadavalli which is 16 kilometres from Hassan. Here you will find the magnificent Lakshmi Temple DSC00686constructed during the reign of King Vishnuvardhana. And the location chosen for this temple is superb. It is amidst coconut plantations and near a lake shore. Doddagadavalli is again a very small village with not more than a 100 houses. The temple was locked when i reached over there. We had to wait for 10 minutes before the priest was called.

There is nice landscaping done by the Archaeological Survey of India inside this temples complex. As we enter the main gDSC00656ate and move in, we come to a small mantapa which leads to the inner complex. There are two rows of round pillars between which there is the walkway. Right in front of this mantapa, we find some broken statues and inscriptions. I walk through the mantapa and enter the main temple complex.

This temple is said to have commissioned by a merchant called Kullahuna Rahuta and his wife Sahaja Devi. It is one of the earliest ones built in the Hoysala style and it does not stand on a “jagati” unlike normal Hoysala temples. The temple is a DSC00662chatuskuta construction (four towers). Three of the vimanas (shrines) have a common square mantapa (hall) with 9 bays. Each vimana has a vestibule connecting it to the central mantapa. On top of the vestibule is its own tower called sukanasi. The sukanasi holds the Hoysala emblem of Sala fighting the tiger. Of the four towers, three are undecorated and they look stepped pyramidal with a pile of dented horizontal mouldings with the kalasa on top. The fourth tower is very well decorated which is typical of Hoysala designs and is the tower of the main shrine that houses the Lakshmi Devi image.DSC00677

The temple is dark inside except for light sources in the sanctum. The ceiling of the central hall are extraordinary carved. Thanks to the closed nature of the temple architecture, you need some torch to see the details. If you are lucky enough, the caretaker would have a battery operated torch with him.

You will find round pillars right along the pathway inside the temple. Some parts of the wall are beautifully carved the others are very raw. The main deity Lakshmi is in the middle shrine and Vishnu and Siva are to the right. While the shrines of Lakshmi , Vishnu and Siva shares a common Mantapa ( square hall) , the shrine of Kali is connected to the Mantapa via an oblong hall. The two entrances to the temple are located in this oblong hall.

The Kali shrine is to the left outside which i found something interesting and unique. There are two sculDSC00663ptures of large demonic living corpses called ’betala’. As seen in this image, you see the skeleton and a human head held in it right hand. These betala images are absolutely unique to the temple of Doddagadavalli. Though it is not unusual to spot such demon images in other Hoysala temple, here they are carved in a mysterious style that evokes a cult like outlook to the shrine. I

Another unusual feature of the temple is the existence of four more shrines at each corner of the temple complex with two sides of each shrine attached to the courtyard wall. Each of these minor shrines has its own tower, kalasa and Hoysala emblem. On the whole the temple complex has nine towers which is unusual for a Hoysala temple. There is also a Bhairava temple in this complex, but its barred from entering inside. In the court , between the main temple and the Bhairava temple is a stone plank with inscriptions and images carved on it. This temple compound contains about six such inscriptions explaining the construction and patronage. In all probability many people would have contributed its construction at various points in time and hence many such planks installed at various points. This temple is almost intact except for the worn out sculptures outside. Nothing has been done by the ASI to preserve this amazing legacy. This temple needs urgent attention.

I spent nearly half an hour in this temple, covering every aspect and every corner inside. I was very excited with the fact that i was knowing about a new dynasty. The Hoysala rulers are not well known as their contemporary kingdoms are. As i am come outside this temple, i looked forward to my next pit-stop, the beautiful Chennakesava Temple at Belur.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Before we talk about the architecture, we will talk a little bit about the dynasty. The Hoysala Empire was a prominent South Indian Kannadiga empire that ruled most of the modern day state of Karnataka between the 10th and the 14th centuries. The DSC00674capital of the Hoysalas was initially located at Belur but was later moved to Halebidu. By the 13th century, they governed most of present-day Karnataka, minor parts of Tamil Nadu and parts of western Andhra Pradesh in Deccan India. The most notable rulers of the dynasty were Vishnuvardhana (1108-1152) and Veera Ballala II (1173 - 1220) in whose rule the kingdom flourished greatly in terms of art. The are became part of the Vijayanagara empire after the death of the last king, Veera Ballala III (1292-1343). We know about the dynasty and the administration from many inscriptions that are there in the temples in this part of Karnataka.

The Hoysala era was an important period in the development of art, architecture, and religion in South India. The empire is remembered today primarily for its temple architecture. Over a hundred surviving temples are scattered across Karnataka, including the well known Chennakesava Temple at Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura. The Hoysala rulers also patronised the fine arts, encouraging literature to flourish in Kannada and Sanskrit.

Kannada folklore tells of a young man Sala, who saved his Jain guru Sudatta by striking dead a tiger he encountered near the temple of the Goddess Vasantika at DSC00755Sosevur. The word "strike" literally translates to "hoy" in Hale Kannada (Old Kannada), hence the name "Hoy-sala". This killing of the tiger by Sala has become the royal emblem of the kingdom as you see in this picture. This legend first appeared in the Belur inscription of Vishnuvardhana (1117), but owing to several inconsistencies in the Sala story it remains in the realm of folklore. Now we will talk about the architecture in general.

The area in and around the districts of Hassan and Mandya are the only places where you can find this style of temple construction in the state of Karnataka. Study of the Hoysala architectural style has revealed a negligible Indo-Aryan influence while the impact of Southern Indian style is more distinct. The vigorous temple DSC00880building activity of the Hoysala Empire was due to the social, cultural and political events of the period. The growing military prowess of the Hoysala kings desired to surpass their Western Chalukya overlords in artistic achievement. Temples built prior to Hoysala independence in the mid-12th century reflect significant Western Chalukya influences, while later temples retain some salient features but have additional inventive decoration and ornamentation, features unique to Hoysala artisans.

The Hoysalas usually dedicated their temples to Lord Shiva or to Lord Vishnu (two of the major Hindu gods), but they occasionally chose a different deity. While King Vishnuvardhana and his descendants were Vaishnava by faith,  records show that the Hoysalas maintained religious harmony by building as many temples dedicated to Shiva as they did to Vishnu. Most of these temples have secular features with broad themes depicted DSC00643in their sculptures. The Kesava temple at Somanathapura is different in that its ornamentation is strictly Vaishnava.

A Hindu temple is a place of contact between the gods or deities and man. The focus of a temple is the centre or sanctum sanctorum (garbhagriha) where the image of the deity resides, so temple architecture is designed to move the devotee from outside to the garbhagriha through ambulatory passageways for circumambulation and halls or chambers (mantapas) that become increasingly sacred as the deity is approached. Most Hoysala temples have a plain covered entrance porch supported by lathe turned (circular or bell-shaped) pillars which were sometimes further carved with deep fluting and moulded with decorative motifs. The temples may be built upon a platform raised by about a metre called a "jagati". Such temples will have an additional set of steps leading to an open mantapa (open hall) with parapet walls. A good example of this style is the Kesava DSC00717Temple at Somanathapura. The jagati which is in unity with the rest of the temple follows a star-shaped design and the walls of the temple follow a zig-zag pattern, a Hoysala innovation.

The mantapa is the hall where groups of people gather during prayers. The entrance to the mantapa normally has a highly ornate overhead lintel called a makaratorana (makara is an imaginary beast and torana is an overhead decoration) as you see in this picture. The open mantapa which serves the purpose of an outer hall (outer mantapa) is a regular feature in larger Hoysala temples leading to an inner small closed mantapa and the shrine(s).

The vimana, also called the cella, contains the garbhagriha (Sanctum Santorum) wherein resides the image of the presiding deity. The vimana is often topped by a tower which is quite different on the outside than on the inside. Inside, the vimana is plain and square, whereas outside it is profusely decorated and can be either stellate ("star-shaped") or shaped as a staggered square, or feature a combination of these designs, giving it many projections and recesses that seem to multiply as the light falls on it.DSC01007

Hoysala artists are famous for their sculptural detail, be it in the depiction of the Hindu epics, yallis , deities, kirthimukha (gargoyles), eroticism or aspects of daily life. Their workmanship shows an attention paid tDSC00694o precise detail. Every aspect down to a fingernail or toenail is perfected. Salabhanjika, a common form of Hoysala sculpture, is an old Indian tradition going back to Buddhist sculpture. Sala is the sala tree and bhanjika is the chaste maiden. In the Hoysala idiom, madanika figures are decorative objects put at an angle on the outer walls of the temple near the roof so that worshipers circumambulating the temple can view them. They served the function of bracket figures to pillars inside the mantapa. These madanika were sculpted as seemingly engaged in artistic activities such as music (holding musical instruments) and dance.Kirthimukhas (demon faces) adorn the towers of vimanas in some temples. Sometimes the artists left behind their signatures on the sculptures they created.

The sthamba buttalikas are pillar images that show traces of Chola art in the Chalukyan touches. Some of the artists working for the Hoysalas may have been from Chola country, a result of the expansion of the empire into Tamil-speaking regions of Southern India. The image you see here is of mohini on one of the pillars in the mantapa (closed hall) of the Chennakeshava temple and is a fine example of Chola art.

We had a nice glimpse of the Hoysala art and architecture and this will take the further posts forward in our understanding. As for the blog, i will continue with exploring the Hassan District in further posts.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My first destination is a very small village called Mosale which is at a distance of 14 Kilometres from the town of Hassan. We had to take a detour from the main road, travel 3 kilometres on a very bad and muddy road passing through 2 other villages on the way to reach this village which has not DSC00655more than 25 houses. There is very limited public transport available up till here, so watch out. There are nice paddy fields on either side of this road and it is a pleasant journey with nice breeze. The Chennakesava and Nageshwara Temples are right in the middle of this very small village.

This is a twin temple complex facing east and is without any pedestal. Both these temples are modelled on the Ekakuta, meaning one floor. The temples are of typical Hoysala architecture and in active worship. The priest lives quite nearby opens the temple for the customary rituals everyday. Otherwise the temples are opened only if there are tourists. We will first visit the Chennakesava Temple which in the right of the complex. The temple has DSC00615been partially rebuilt outside and you get to see it by the sculptures made in cement on the top level. The entire outer part of the temple is carved with amazing sculptures. Each sculpture is carved in such a way that they reside in a shrine which is superseded by a turret. Most of the idols are disfigured with the wear and tear over the centuries.

As the main deity Chennakesava is one of the forms of Lord Vishnu, you will find the sculptures of his DSC00618incarnations on the outer walls. There is a small mantapa  supported by round pillars at the door. There are dwarapalas at this entrance through which i walk inside to enter the Mukhamantapa. Both the dwarapalas are evidently monoliths, however the faces are disfigured.

The mukhamantapa has four round pillars made of black stone. The upper structure lies supported on these pillars. The pillars are delicately carved with amazing design on the round wheel. However, for some reason the design is incomplete on some part of the wheDSC00635els. The temple is 950 years old and its clearly evident in the wear and tear inside. However, its being maintained on and off by the ASI. There are around 6 smaller shrines in this temple dedicated to the Devi form and incarnations of Lord Vishnu. One shrine is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the god with an elephant head. The main deity, Chennakesava occupies the shrine in the middle. The ceiling is entirely carved with various designs and human forms.  I spent around 10 minutes inside this temple and came outside to have a tour of the outer structure of the two temples.

As i mentioned earlier, the entire outer side is carved with various forms of Vishnu and others. For example, in this picture you can see Garuda, Lord Vishnu and a DeviDSC00641 idol. There are other sculptures like Krishna lifting the Govardhana mountain, dancing on the Snake called Kaliya and other stories in his life. Most of the idols are disfigured as they were made out of terracotta unlike the main structure which was made of stone. I entered the other temple in this complex once i completed my tour of the outside.

The Nageshwara Temple is similar in structure to the Chennakesava Temple, however the deity is Lord Siva in the Linga form. The architecture inside looks the same like the other temple with the same five turrets over a shrine.We find a small DSC00651antarala here unlike the other temple in the complex. We will of course find the Nandi Bull in the mukhamantapa right in front of the antarala. Even the pillars are of the same design. The ceiling has been recently renovated with the stone treated with chemicals by the ASI. There are again more than one shrine inside with Linga and Karthikeya as one of the deity. There are two inscriptions that you find in stone plates and the text wore off over the centuries. They are no doubt inscriptions mentioning about the King Veera Ballala and the commissioning of these two temples.

With the excitement of exploring a new place i moved on to visit the next place, Doddagadavalli. For the blog, we will talk a a little about Hoysala architecture and its nitty-gritty things in the next Post.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When i started researching for this trip, i never imagined it to be as satisfying as it turned out to be. It was a meticulous and thorough research for fifteen days. It was also very memorable as this was my last trip while i was residing in Bangalore and was soon to come back to Hyderabad. I could find very little information about the placeDSC00612s in this district. There are some places where lot of people visit, but that was not enough. I wanted to explore. I could get some information from the district website and some from other blogs. Apart from the pictures of the main tourist areas, all i got were names of villages and some pictures. I neither had a route map with me nor any information on the mode of transport.

Then my colleague Praveen came to my rescue. He is from Hassan and the first thing he did when i asked for help is asking his dad to book an accommodation. The second thing is hire a vehicle for me. That proved to be the best help i could get and because of which, i could complete by trip with utmost success. I would like to thank him for all the help he and his father had extended. I booked all the tickets and what i find, there was going to be government backed strike on the return date DSC00611of my journey. I somehow went forward with the journey knowing very well that there could a problem while returning.

I reached Hassan at around 4 AM and hired an auto rickshaw to proceed to my stay. What a wonderful place it was. Very Comfortable and at a less price. I thanked my friend in my heart before going to bed as i still had some time. I spoke to the cab driver a day before and so he turned up at the hotel at the stipulated time. He knew very well about the district and he promised that he would take me to all places possible. We then had a heavy breakfast and then started off.

We willMONUMENTS talk a little about the Hassan District before we embark on our momentous journey. Hassan is a picturesque town with a pleasant climate. It is about 180 KM from Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka. Hassan District was under the reign  of  Mouryas  of  North India in the  3rd BC  and   later kingdoms of Kadambas, Chalukyas, Gangas, Hoysalas and Vijayanagar empire. The Hoysalas (1000 - 1334 A.D) brought world wide acclaim to the district through their unique style of Temple Architecture. Hassan also has the proud privilege of housing the Master Control Facility of the INSAT (Indian National Satellite System) series of the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization).

This trip had come to be my most satisfying experience till date because of the fact that i could visit places where most of the tourists simply ignore. I had explored most of the Hassan District going to small villages and exploring the temples over there. This series is just a small and sincere attempt to show the Hoysala architecture in its true sense.