Lord Chennakesava

Temple History

Belur is very famous temple town situated in Hassan District of Karnataka State. It is renowned for the grand Hoysala Temple dedicated to Lord Chennakesava, an incarnation of Vishnu. It is the best of three Hoysala temples nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Sites (other two being the temples at Halebid & Somnathpur). The Hoysala temples are known for minute & intricate carvings and sculptures with metal like polishing. It is one of the best heritage sites in Karnataka, situated on Bangalore to Chikmagalur route. Belur is one of the well known Karnataka tourist places.

Belur was the early capital of the powerful Hoysala Empire on the banks of River Yagachi. As per inscriptions found here, Belur was formerly called as Velapuri. Hoysalas were initially under the control of Chalukyas and build their own kingdom after the fall of Chalukyas. The Hoysala dynasty originally had their capital at Halebid where they ruled for over 150 years. However, it was invaded by Malik Kafur in 14th century, plundered to poverty and ruins. Thus, the Hoysalas shifted their seat of power to Belur.

The Chennakesava temple is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture. It was built by king Vishnuvardhana to celebrate his victory over the Cholas at Talakad in 1117 CE. It took 103 years to complete the temple and Vishnuvardhana's grandson Veera Ballala II completed the task. Standing on a star-shaped platform, the temple has three doorways. There are two more shrines for Soumyanayaki and Ranganayaki, consorts of Sri Chennakesava. There is a Pushkarni or stepped well to the right side of the main entrance. The dravida style rajagopuram at the entrance was a later addition by the Vijayanagar kings.

The facade of the temple is filled with intricate sculptures and friezes with no portion left blank. There are about 48 pillars of various sizes, shapes and designs, bearing testimony to remarkable artistry. Narasimha Pillar is an example of the fine art work done by Hoysala artists. The main highlight of the temple is Darpana Sundari or The lady with the mirror. There are four well-known bracket figures on the ornate ceiling that are inspired by Shantaladevi's well-endowed beauty. Visitors can see several carvings depicting episodes of Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Upanishads. Sculptures of birds and animals also can be seen. The beautiful sculpture of Shantaladevi is placed on the circular platform in front of the shrine. It is unique for its hollow and movable jewellery. The extensively carved doorway of the sanctum and the large life size sculptures of Lord Vishnu and other gods inside the temple exhibit wonderful workmanship.
Beautyful Belur the Quaint little town set elegantly on the banks of river Yagachi amidst lush surrounding was earlier Known as Velapuri. It was chosen as the capital of the Hoysalas, after the sacking and destruction of their capital at Dwarasamudra (Halebid), by the Delhi Sultans. The Hoysalas Ruled this reigon between 44 th and 13 th centuries. They were great patrons of art and architecture and builts a number of magnificent shrines during their 300 years regin. The temples and monuments at Belur are indeed the best Hoysala creations, showcasing their amazing architecture and sculptures in full glory Belur was highly revered for its magnificient shrines and came to be Known as “modern vaikunta (heaven) of the earthe”.
The Hoysala temples are characterized by typical star shaped ground plan and are usually ste on a platform. They are compact, squat structures and are more human in scale as compared to other soaring shrines of the south. Ornately carved shrines indicate the music and dance were highly regarded by the Hoysalas and were used to express religious fervor. The temples at Belur are carved out of soap stone (steatite), quarried from Tumkur, About 200 Kms away. This stone is extremely easy to chisel, but attains iron-like fitness when exposed to the atmosphere. To maintain the shine of the temple, the stone is treated with a chemical wash and then wax polished once in ten years.
Today this small town basking in the warmth of its luxurious greenery and glorious past is regarded as “one of the jewels” of South India architecture. Its temple have become rich repositories of ancient Hindu culture and a must visit site on every tourist’s temple itinerary.
Hoysala Dynasty is said to be named after the words “Hoy Sala” meaning “Strike Sala” Which were called out to Sala, the legendry head of this dynasty, When he w as combating a tiger single handedly. Sala Killed the tiger and this act of bravery was immortalized in the royal emblem of the dynasty. The hoysalas ruled the Deccan and parts of Tamil Nadu between the 11 th and 13 th centuries. They had their origins in the hill tribes of the western Gahts converted to Jainism in 10 th century, but readopated Hinduism in 11 th century. Hoysalas rose to prominence under Tinayadithya (1047-78 A.D.) who took advantage of the declining power of the Gangas and with Rashtrekutas.
Later on, king Bittiga (1110-52 A.D.) better Known by his Hindu name- Vishnuvardhana, defeated the western Chalukayas and with the decline of Chola power he expelled them from Karnataka. Vishnuvardhana built several grand temples dedicated to to lord Vishnu.


Additional Information

Hoysala Mahotsava, a dance festival held in the temples of Belur and Halebid is celebrated in the month of March. It is one of the important festivals in Belur and Halebid. This place can be visited throughout the year. Usually it takes 2-3 hours to visit Belur.

Mangalore Airport is the nearest airport, which is 174 km from Belur. Nearest Railway Station is at Hassan, which is about 24 km from Belur. It has trains from Dharwar, Cannanore, Bangalore, Mysore, Shimoga and Arsikere. Regular buses ply from Bangalore, Chikmagalur, Halebid, Kadur, Hassan, Mangalore and Mysore to Belur.
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  • Contact Number: 08177 222218