By 3.00 pm, I was at Belur Chennakesava Temple. The Gopura resembled the grand Vitthala Temple of Hampi. The complex had Main Chennakesava Temple in the centre, Kappe (Frog) Chanigaraya temple, Sowmyanayaki temple, Ranganayakai temple, Pushkarni and a Dancing hall.
King Vishnuvardhana started constructing the temple in 1117 AD and literally took more than 100 years. It was eventually completed by his Grandson. According to some theory, Vishnuvardhana was celebrating his famous victory against the Chola dynasty, in the battle of Talakad (1116 AD), which resulted in the annexation of Gangavadi (modern southern Karnataka) by the Hoysalas. Another theory points to Vishnuvardhana’s conversion from Jainism to Vaishnavism (a sect of Hinduism) after coming under the influence of saint Ramanujacharya, considering this is a predominantly Vaishnava temple in sculptural iconography.
The image of the lion/tiger subduing the elephant is everywhere in the main temple. The elephant represents the great Cholas and the lion/tiger represents the Hoysala kings.
There is no fees for entry, but when you are inside the temple and start clicking, you will be charged Rs. 30/- by a lady who is also the in-charge of lights and on request she actually puts on the light facing the ceiling and if you got whole day, you can just sit there and watch the finer details on the ceiling. Offcourse, I was again dumbstruck for the second time in the day. The repeating subject was Ugra Narasimha, seen everywhere. Since, it took a century to build, it is said that there were many contributors to the designing of the temple. This temple is a personification of fine Art, intricately detailed, every sculpture is bejeweled, details of war, expressions, weapons, animals, flowers. Just damn perfect!
There are several Shilabalikas / Madanikas on the outer and inner pillars and walls. Each of them inspired by the Queen Shantala Devi. Right from regular routines of grooming, playing instruments to dancing, to hunting all are depicted gracefully.
Darpana Sundari (Beauty with mirror) and lady talking to parrot, huntress etc. and all other idols made me circumambulate the temple three times, each time finding something new to capture and admire.
(Story behind Kappe Changraya Temple is as follows: Jakanachari left his family and entered the services of the various kings of Hoyasalas and produced works by which, his fame is upheld even today. His son Dankanachari grew up and decided to go in search of his father and reached Belur. At Belur, the Chennakeshava temple was in the course of being erected, where the young man remarked that one of the images had blemish. Challenging this remark, the sculptor, who was none other than his father Jakanachari vowed to cut off his right hand, if any defect was to be found in the image.
In order to test this, the figure was covered with sandal paste and to everyone’s surprise ,the paste dried everywhere except on the navel. On further examination, a cavity was found which contained a frog, sand and water. This way, the idol got the name of “Kappe Chanigaraya”(Kappe=Frog in Kannada). He had no choice but to cut off his right hand as per his word. On further inquiry about the boy, they became aware of the relationship between the sculptor and the boy. – Sourced from net).
After visiting the Sowmyanayaki temple, Ranganayakai temple, Dancing Hall, I walked through the Pillared walkway which had several broken pieces of idols finishing off the Belur visit with Pushkarni (Pond). It was 5.00 pm. Time to head back to the Hotel in Hassan.
Legs were paining, the plan to drop the Vindhyagiri Hill was perfect or else, it would have been a very hard task to complete these masterpieces in a day. As soon as I reached Hassan, I looked out for ATM, after finding no cash in almost 6-7 ATMs, I found a working ATM. I wondered how people in such cities manage when we are thinking of Digital India. Had dinner and retired for the day.
Next day, Arsikere and Harnahalli was last leg of the journey.