Bharatanatyam in Belur

What Makes Belur And Halebidu Special?

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Kannadigas are immensely proud of the beautiful architecture and the history of the famous Hoysala temples of Belur and Halebidu. They just can’t stop talking about it and neither could we after we visited the monument! Our only regret was that we couldn’t witness its magnificence any sooner.

Belur & Halebidu Temples Near Bangalore

How To Reach?

By Air

The nearest airports to Belur are Mangalore International Airport (159 Km, Airport Code: IXE) and Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru (243 Km, Airport Code: BLR). It’d take about 4 hours from either of the airports to Belur. The best way to reach your destination is by car.

By Train

Hassan Junction (40 Km, Station code: HAS) is the closest railway station to Belur that is connected by a wide railway network to various major cities of India. Ola or Uber is not available in Hassan. Opt for a local taxi or tuk-tuk to reach the temple.

By Road

Many direct bus services are feasible from Hassan, Mysore, Bangalore, and Mangalore. The best choice is to hire a taxi for a comfortable ride.

Where To Stay?

From basic hotels to luxury resorts, choose your stay in Belur depending on your budget. Staying at Hassan is recommended. However, you can also stay at the KSTDC guest house in Halebeedu.

 

Where To Eat?

Limited food options are available near the temple. Though there are many restaurants in Hassan city, we recommend Halli Mane or Swathi Delicacy on the Bangalore-Hassan highway. It is quite popular and dare we say the food is finger-licking good!

Best Time To Visit

Timings: 7 AM – 8:30 PM | Open throughout the week, but weekends are usually crowded. 

Hoysala Mahotsava, the dance festival held at the Hoysala temples of Belur and Halebidu is a glorious event celebrated in March. So if you want to take part in the celebration, plan a trip in that month.

Entry Fee

Admission to the temple is free. Hire a guide at an additional cost, who will take you back to the temples’ cultural history and architecture which are prime points of focus.

Note: Pay and use restrooms are located outside the Chennakeshava temple.

History of Channakeshava Temple, Belur

Side view of Belur temple

More than 100 years! That’s how much time it took to build this temple.  This 12th-century Hindu temple was built over 3 generations. The Chennakeshava temple, along with the nearby Hoysaleshwara temple and Jain temple at Halebidu has been proposed to be listed under UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Belur, referred to in inscriptions as Velapuri, was the first capital of Hoysalas. The temple was built by Hoysala Vishnuvardhana for Vijayanarayana in 1117 CE. It is popularly known as the Chennakeshava, Keshava, Kesava, or the Vijayanarayana temple. The name Chennakeshava means handsome Kesava (Vishnu). In later inscriptions, the city is referred to as “Earthly Vaikuntha (Vishnu’s abode) and “Dakshina Varanasi” (Southern holy city of Hindus).

Interesting Facts

Star shaped temple

The temple is star-shaped and has a sanctum (Garbha Graha). Chloritic Schist, commonly known as soapstone is used to build these temples since it can be carved easily. It houses several small monuments which include the Kalyana mandapa, water tank, and the Andal temple. An interesting piece of sculpture is a 42-foot-high gravity pillar that stands on its weight on the three sides and the fourth side has an unfilled gap.

Details on the exterior wall

In the Hoysala temples of Belur and Halebidu, the outer walls of the temple have numerous miniature artworks in a horizontal band. Elephants that symbolize strength, lions that depict courage, horses showcasing speed, stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata, scenes from common life that show artha (wealth), kama (love), and dharma (truth), mythical creatures, festivals, ceremonies, and much more. We know you couldn’t read that in one breath, but when you see those before you, it surely would be awe-inspiring!

The craftsmanship inside the temple is even more enthralling. The doorway with the Dwarapalakas is elegantly carved. The Navaranga hall (central space) has 48 pillars and no two pillars look alike except the central four which were hand-carved as later additions. One of the two particularly notable pillars is the Narasimha pillar which is carved with miniature figures from top to bottom. The other pillar is the Mohini pillar (Female avatar of Vishnu) which has eight bands of carvings including Brahma, Vishnu, his ten avatars, Shiva, the eight-direction deities, and a mythical animal that has the body of a lion and the face of other wildlife creature.

There are 42 Madanika or bracket figures on the corner, out of which 38 are outside and 4 are on the inside. A few popular ones are quite expressive and ostentatiously ornamented. These include Darpana Sundari (lady with mirror), huntress, and Natya Mohini.

History of Hoysaleshwara Temple, Halebidu

Front view of Hoysaleshwara temple

16 Km away from the Chennakeshava temple, Hoysaleshwara or Dwarasamudra temple in Halebidu was once the capital of Hoysalas after Belur. The Hoysala dynasty ruled for almost 20 years and in the 14th century, the armies of Alauddin Khilji and Muhammad Tughlak defeated the Hoysalas. This is why the place is known as Halebidu, meaning old house or old ruins.

Interesting Facts

A twin temple with two sanctums, dedicated to Hoysaleswara Shiva and Santaleswara Shiva are of the same size and has two large seated Nandi shrines outside, each facing the corresponding Shiva Linga inside. The four main doors of the temple are so intricately carved that if there’s a heaven they’d look like this doorway. The exterior wall is designed such that the carved figures look different at different times of the day, due to the varying sun’s position.

The polished Navaranga has minutely carved rows of monolithic pillars, towering more than 16 feet in height. These are mostly circular with designs of a bell or kalasha or flower vase combined perpendicularly to make a single stellar pillar.

Tip: The Gomateshwara statue (Bahubali) in Shravanabelagola could be visited on the same day on your way to Bangalore.

These temples are every architect’s muse. So if you’re someone who is fascinated by ancient buildings and is left spellbound by intricate architecture, this one’s for you!

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