Saturday, April 9, 2011

There are some places when we see, we get a feeling that God himself created them. The Chennakesava Temple (also called Vijayanarayana Temple in olden DSC00700days) in Belur is one of them. This is one extraordinary temple which is so vast that it took 103 years to complete. Belur is 40 kilometres from Hassan town and is on the banks of the Yagachi river.

The Chennakesava Temple was commissioned by King Vishnuvardhana in the year 1117 A.D, which many scholars believe was to promote his military success against Cholas, Chalukyas and others. A total of 118 inscriptions have been recovered from the temple complex, covering the period between c. 1117 CE to 18th century, which give details of the artists employed, grants made to the temple and renovations. The Hoysalas employed many noted architects and artisans who developed a new architectural tradition, which some historians call Karnata Dravida tradition. The master sculptor was Jakkanacharya and later his son Dankanacharya completed the construction. Jakkanacharya was entitled ‘Amara silpi’ (Immortal Sculptor). The credit of carving most of the sculptures goes to Jakkanacharya. A legend says that Dankanacharya found that the main statue of Lord Vishnu was faulty and had frog inside it. Jakkana, shocked to believe this, cuts his right hand. He will begin to build the other temple and contemplates the task. Later, the old temple(which had faulty statue) came to be known as Kappe Chennigaraaya's temple (kappe=frog).

By the time i reached Belur, it was very cloudy and i anticipated downpour. One needs at least an hour to spend in this complex. I could have spent as much as half DSC00702a day, however due to the time constraint spent two hours. The main entrance to the complex is crowned by a rajagopura built during the Vijayanagara reign in the area. The view once i entered the temple is amazing. There lies a masterpiece in front stretching wide welcoming the visitors. The temple complex, the Chennakesava temple is in the centre, facing east and flanked by Kappe Channigraya temple on its right, and a small SDSC00705owmyanayaki (Lakshmi) temple set slightly back. On its left, set slightly back is the Ranganayaki(Andal) temple. There are also shrines dedicated to Saint Ramanuja and the twelve alwars in this temple complex.

There are smaller shrines on either ways of the steps that lead inside the temple. They are very beautifully carved out of one stone with intricate designs. Each shrine has a kalasa on top and sculptures of Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu beautifully carved inside. One the topmost step, you will find large life like sculptures of the Royal Emblem of the Hoysala Dynasty (Sala killing the Tiger) on either sides. The sculpture is so detailed that even some not so insignificant details like Sala holding the dagger are shown. The temple was built using soap stone which will be soft when unearthed, however turns hard as it gets exposed to light and air.

The Chennakesava temple has three entrances and the doorways have decorated sculptures called dvarapalaka (doorkeepers) on either side. Two main Sthambha (pillar) are there in this temple complex. The pillar facing the main temple, the Garuda sthambha was erected in the Vijayanagar period while the pillar on the right, the Deepa sthambha dates from the Hoysala period.  We will talk about this Deepa Sthamba after a little while. A dhwajasthamba signifies that the temple is still functional and there is a deity who is worshipped. Absence of flag post tell us that the temple is a monument.

This is just the beginning of an amazing temple constructed for over 100 years with 1000 sculptors working on it. As i move inside the temple, i look forward to have a great darshan of the beautiful Chennakesava.


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