Belur – The Architecture of 1117AD

I was in Mysore on an official visit on New Year’s Day of 2010 and took some time to visit nearby historically important places. Belur a small town in Hassan district was my first choice as I have been seeing these magnificent places from my childhood in movies. With Halebidu which is only 16 km away, this is one of the major tourist destinations in Karnataka, India.

I was well equipped with all my cameras and gadgets to cover as much places as possible and as I wished weather too was very favorable for good photography. Here is some part my images with the historic background writing about Belur.

Belur is a small town located on the banks of River Yagachi, in Hassan district of Karnataka. Belur was the early capital of the Hoysala Empire. Belur is considered as the Banaras of South India and is thus also known as Dakshina Varnasi. From inscription it is learnt that Vishnuvardhana got the temple built in 1117 A.D., in memory of his victory against Cholas in Talkad. Legend has it that it took 103 years for Vishnuvardhana’s grandson Veera Ballala II to complete the task. The facade of the temple is filled with intricate sculptures and friezes with no portion left blank. The intricate workmanship includes elephants, lions, horses, episodes from the Indian mythological epics, and sensuous dancers (Shilabalikas). Inside the temple are a number of ornate pillars. Darpana Sundari (Lady with the mirror) carved on walls of Belur Temple is one of major attraction in complex. The doorways are guarded on either side by the gorgeously decorated dvarapalaka (doorkeepers).

Hoysala sculptors have broken the custom and signed their sculptures. They engraved their names, titles and even the place of their origin at the foot of their art work. Mallitamma was the most prolific of all known Hoysala artists and more than forty well-executed sculptures stand in his name. However, even after a lapse of eight centuries, the art lovers of the whole world can adore this heritage centre. The Temple is not in a good shape still, you could spend hours studying the minute carvings on the exterior. The temple has lost its super structure but still looks very imposing.

The main attraction in Belur is the Chennakesava temple complex which contains the Chennakesava Temple (dedicated to Chennakeshava , meaning handsome Vishnu) as the centre piece, surrounded by the Kappe Chennigraya temple built by Shantaladevi, queen of king  Vishnuvardhana.

There are two more shrines here that are still in use by devotees and there is a Pushkarni or stepped well to the right side of the main entrance. The Dravidic style Rayagopuram at the entrance which was a later addition by the Vijayanagar kings, who considered this deity as one of their Kuladevata or family god.

This temple along with Hoysaleswara temple in Halebidu and the Jain monuments at Shravanabelagola are being proposed as UNESCO world heritage sites.

These images are my own and copyrighted. I have selected a few from hundreds of images that I took during the trip to post here. You can see more of these in my Flickr album.