BELUR – CHENNAKESHAVA TEMPLE, HASSAN, KARNATAKA
Chennakeshava Temple, Belur- History
The historic twin towns of Karnataka, namely Belur ( Beluru) and Halebid ( Halebidu) represent the brilliant and astonishing craftsmanship of the Hoysala architecture in Hassan District. Built over 100 years in the 11th Century, this Chennakesava Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This splendid Chennakeshava temple was believed to have been built by King Vishnuvardhana and the Hoysalas to commemorate the victory of the Hoysalas over the Cholas in the battle of Talakadu.
The construction of this spectacular Chennakeshava temple was commenced in 1116 A.D. by the greatest ruler of this empire the Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana Raya, furthered by his son Narasimha Raya and later on completed by his grandson- Veera Ballala. The temple is active since its inception. The puja is performed every day in the morning and evening.
This incredible temple is famous for its architecture, sculptures, murals, unmatchable carvings as well as its iconography, inscriptions and history. The temple’s artwork depicts scenes of secular life in the 12th century, dancers and musicians and a pictorial narration of Hindu texts from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas through numerous friezes. The Chennakeshava temple in Belur is a testimony to the artistic, cultural and theological perspectives in 12th century South India and the Hoysala Empire rule. The Hoysala period began about 1000 CE and continued through 1346 CE. In this period, they built around 1,500 temples in 958 centres. Belur was the early capital of the Hoysala kings. The city was referred to as “ Earthly Vaikuntha” and “Dakshina Varanasi “ for its Vishnu and Shiva temples.
Just 4 hours drive from Bangalore in Hassan District is this architectural marvel with lots of beliefs. The stories of Ramanaya & Mahabharata, Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva left us in awe. As our guide’s narration, this temple is believed to be Shristi, Sthiti and Laya which represents Lord Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver or who sustains and Shiva the destroyer or takes you away.
Various murals are depicting the stories of Trimurti. The temple is famous for its rendering of Mohini, the female avatar of Vishnu.
It took three generations and 103 years to complete the structure. The temples of Belur were carved with soapstone (steatite). Steatite stones are extremely versatile and easy to chisel. The Belur structures are maintained very well.
The entry to the main Chennakesava temple is through an enormous Gopuram built-in Vijaynagara style. As you enter the complex you will see the magnificent Chennakesava temple straight ahead. Cross through a tall pillar or a Stambha and a statue of a Garuda to reach the temple.
The outer wall of the Chennakeshava Temple
Built on a platform called Jagati, the temple is a star-shaped structure. The bottom part of the temple has seven bands. The lowest band is carved with elephants depicting the strength for taking the weight of the entire temple structure. Intricately carved frescos on the outer wall of the main Chennakesava temple depicts the stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata, dancing women, stories of Lord Shiva – Parvati, Vishnu, Brahma, Ganesha, Goddess Durga, Ravana and many other murals way ahead of their time. The artistic skills of women dressing up, playing, dancing, musician, drummers and instrumentalists. The incredible creativity and imagination in creating themes, and stories with animals and birds is something one should not miss out on.
In the outer circle of the main temple, you will see massive footprints in a square box on the floor. It is believed to be that Vishu’s footprints were unearthed during the excavation. People believe in and pray there.
The Stepwell Tank or Vishnu Samudra
Inside the temple complex is a big stepwell water tank called Vishnu Samudra. The tank has the steps to reach the water source or Pushkarni for the devotees to use the sacred water for their daily offerings or prayers.
Due to Covid protocols, the tank is temporarily closed for the public to reach the water. However, the top view is open.
LORD VISHNU’S FOOTPRINT
Interior of the temple
The temple has three entrances ornated with life-size beautifully carved sculptures of either women, dwarpalaks ( doorkeepers) or Ganeshas. The centre hall has an idol of Lord Vishnu where every morning and evening puja is offered. The hall has pillars and a ceiling carved to the precision. It surprises architects and mathematicians how it was possible to make something so unique in that era to that perfection without any knowledge of or applying any science to it. The beautifully carved square-shaped ceiling of the main temple is assisted with pillars. The intricate carvings on single stone pillars with animals, birds and other stories.
Belur is an exquisite example of imagination, architecture, workmanship and craftsmanship of the bygone era.
How to reach
Belur can be reached by road from its district headquarters Hassan. Hassan is well connected by road and railways. Belur is just 24 km from Hassan.
The nearest airport is Mangalore which is approximately 175 km and Bangalore is around 220 km.
Hassan, the district headquarters railway station is well connected with all the major towns in Karnataka.
Belur is just 24 km from Hassan. The connecting roads within the state are good. Enjoy the drive with scenic landscapes, green fields, lakes and other water bodies en route.
Temple Timings: 7.30 am to 6 pm. Puja is performed every morning and evening, a tradition being followed for almost 900 years now.
Chennakeshava Temple Beur
Belur is a historic temple with mythological and architectural significance too.
There is no ticket to visit the temple.
You can hire government-approved Guides from the temple with a fee of Rs 300-400.
You can include Halebid, Chikamagalur and Sravanabelagola in your itinerary as they are all very close by.
Shoes are not allowed inside the temple premises, however, you can keep them at a counter outside the temple or leave them in your car.
Cameras are allowed inside the temple but you cannot take pictures of the deity.
The best time to visit is October to March. Summers can be harsh in walking open air.
Washrooms are available outside the temple.