India has always been in limelight for the deep rooted belief of its citizens in religion and spirituality. This inclination of the people is evident from the various temples that were constructed in the ancient period and the recent past as well. While many other ancient structures such as forts, palaces. etc., have been abandoned, the ancient temples are still operational. One such ancient temple that has always been a centre of religious and spiritual pursuits of the devotees is the Chennakesava Temple in the state of Karnataka.
Where's Chennakesava Temple located?
Chennakesava Temple is located on the bank of Yagachi River in the city of Belur.
How to Reach
The nearest airport from Belur is located in Mangalore, at a distance of approximately 154 kilometres.
The city of Belur is well connected with other major cities of the state through government and private buses. Visitors can also opt for KSTDC Heritage Tour, which includes the Chennakesava Temple in its itinerary.
Regular passenger trains to Hassan are available from Bangalore, Mangalore and Hubli.
Best Time to Visit
This historical temple was constructed during the reign of Vishnuvardhana, an emperor of the Hoysala Dynasty in the early years of the 12th century. Several reasons are cited behind the construction of this temple. A group of experts suggests that the temple signifies the success of Vishnuvardhana as an emperor, while another body of scholars says that this temple signifies the victory of Vishnuvardhana against the Chola Kingdom of south.
Another theory behind the construction of this temple cites the reason as the conversion of Vishnuvardhana from a Jain to a Vaishnav. The city of Belur where the temple is located served as the capital of the Hoysala Dynasty.
The experts have came across a total of 118 inscriptions within the temple premises. It is believed that the design and appearance of the temple is an outcome of the hard work of several artisans and architects combined.
The architectural style exhibited by the temple is known as the Karnata Dravida style.
To the top of the temple entrance, there is a super-structure, also known as the Rayagopura, which was added to the temple during the 14th century. Inside the temple complex, the Chennakesava temple is situated at the centre, while Kappe Channigraya temple stands to its right and Sowmyanayaki temple and Ranganayaki temple to its left. Two large pillars can be seen in this side of the temple. One of these pillars faces the Chennakesava temple and is known as the Garuda Stambh (Eagle Pillar), built in 14th century. The other pillar, Deep Stambha (Lamp Pillar), was built in the 13th century.
The temple is famous for several ancient sculptures and pillars. One prominent pillar of the temple is the Narasimha pillar. This pillar was earlier supported by ball bearings which gave mobility to it. A group of four pillars is chiseled intricately, showcasing celestial damsels.
The outer walls of the temple are ornamented with 650 friezes of elephants, above which there are similar depictions of horses and lions, which symbolize speed and courage. At the top of all these designs, there are sculptures showcasing events from Mahabharata and Ramayana.
To the either side of the mandapa entrance, an image of Sala, who is believed to be the founder of the dynasty, can be seen. Other important sculptures of the temple include that of Narasimha, Gajasurasamhara, Garuda, Kali, Ravana, Durga, Varaha, etc.
The temple shrine is situated towards the back side of the temple. The shrine is made up of five vertical sections. These vertical sections consist of a two storey semicircular recess and two pillars on either side. The recess of each shrine is decorated with several sculptures. There are a total of sixty sculptures combined.
The main shrine of the temple features an image of Kesava (an avatar of Lord Vishnu). This image rises to a height of approximately six feet from its base. At the entrance of this shrine, there are sculptures of guardians.
Facts & Figuries
The crest of Hoysala at the Belur Chennakeshava temple is a major attraction because of multple reasons. Hoy means to strike and sala indicate forefathers of the dynasty. The story says that one of the ancestors of Hoysala dynasty saved a saint from Lion’s strike.
The inside of the temple is quite dark because of obvious reasons. However, you can still see the ornate center of the ceiling in the flickering light that comes through the door of the shrine. The ceiling has a prominent figure of Narasimha or Vishnu in its center.