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Chennakeshava Temple Belur

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Chennakeshava Temple Belur, also known as Keshava, Kesava, or Vijayanarayana Temple of Belur, is a 12th-century Hindu temple in Karnataka’s Hassan district. It was built in 1117 CE on the banks of the Yagachi River in Belur, also known as Velapura, an early Hoysala Empire capital. It was commissioned by King Vishnuvardhana.

The temple was constructed over three generations and took 103 years to complete. Throughout its history, it has been repeatedly damaged and plundered during wars, then rebuilt and repaired. It is 35 kilometres from Hassan and approximately 220 kilometres from Bengaluru.

Chennakesava (literally, “handsome Kesava”) is a manifestation of the Hindu god Vishnu. The temple is dedicated to Vishnu and has been a functioning Hindu temple since its establishment. It is described reverently in mediaeval Hindu texts and is still an important pilgrimage site in Vaishnavism.

Significance of the Chennakeshava Temple Belur

The temple is notable for its architecture, sculptures, reliefs, friezes, iconography, inscriptions, and history. Through numerous friezes, the temple artwork depicts scenes of secular life in the 12th century, dancers and musicians, as well as a pictorial narration of Hindu texts such as the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas. It is a Vaishnava temple with many Shaivism and Shaktism themes, as well as images of a Jina from Jainism and the Buddha from Buddhism.

Chennakeshava Temple Belur

The Chennakeshava temple reflects artistic, cultural, and theological perspectives in 12th-century South India under Hoysala Empire rule. The Belur temple complex, as well as the nearby Hindu and Jain temples in Halebidu, have been proposed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

History of Chennakeshava Temple Belur

The Hoysala period of South Indian history lasted from around 1000 CE to 1346 CE. During this time, they constructed approximately 1,500 temples in 958 centres. In old inscriptions and mediaeval texts, Belur is referred to as Beluhur, Velur, or Velapura. It was the Hoysala kings’ first capital. In later inscriptions, the Hoysalas refer to the city as “earthly Vaikuntha” (Vishnu’s abode) and “Dakshina Varanasi” (Hindus’ southern holy city).

Chennakeshava Temple Belur

The main Chennakeshava temple at Belur was finished and consecrated in 1117 CE, but the complex continued to grow for another 100 years. Vishnuvardhana relocated his capital to Dorasamudra (also known as Dvarasamudra, now Halebidu), which is famous for the Shiva-dedicated Hoysaleswara Temple. Its construction lasted until his death in 1140 CE. His descendants completed the Hoysaleswara Temple in 1150 CE, as well as other temples about 200 kilometres away, such as the Chennakesava Temple in Somanathapura in 1258 CE.

Chennakeshava Temple Belur

The Hoysalas employed many notable architects and artisans who established a new architectural tradition known as the Karnata Dravida tradition, according to art historian Adam Hardy.

Chennakeshava Temple Belur 1

Malik Kafur, a commander of Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khalji, invaded, plundered, and destroyed the Hoysala Empire and its capital in the early 14th century. In 1326 CE, another Delhi Sultanate army plundered and destroyed Belur and Halebidu. The Vijayanagara Empire seized control of the territory. According to James C. Harle, the Hoysala style ended in the mid-14th century, when Hoysala king Veera Ballala III was killed in a war with the Muslim Madurai Sultanate, followed by his son.

The architecture of Chennakeshava Temple Belur

The temple is a 10.5 m by 10.5 m ekakuta vimana design (single shrine). It incorporates elements of both North Indian Nagara and South Indian Karnata architecture. The temple is built on an open, wide platform that serves as a circumambulatory path around the sanctum. The temple and platform had no walls, and the platform encircled an open mantapa that followed the contour of the temple. From the platform, a visitor could see the ornate pillars of the open mantapa. Later, walls and stone screens were added, forming an enclosed vestibule and mantapa that provided security but made the artwork inside too dark to appreciate.

Chennakeshava Temple Belur

The vestibule is the link between the circumambulatory platform and the mandapa (hall). On both the outside and inside of the temple, there is intricate and abundant artwork. The temple has a simple Hoysala design and only one sanctum.

The Chennakesava temple was constructed with chloritic schist, also known as soapstone. It is soft when quarried, allowing artists to carve details more easily. The material hardens over time. According to art critic and historian Settar, this Hoysala temple employed Western Chalukyan artists and their traditions that originated in Aihole, Badami, and Pattadakal. It is more straightforward than later Hoysala temples (such as the Hoysaleswara temple in Halebidu and the Keshava temple in Somanathapura).

Chennakeshava Temple Belur

Around the temple, the wall has 80 large reliefs. Of these 32 are of Vishnu, 9 of his avatars (Narasimha, Varaha, Vamana, Ranganatha, Balarama); 4 of Shiva in various forms including Nataraja (with or without Parvati); 2 of Bhairava (Shiva); 2 of Harihara (half Shiva, half Vishnu); 4 of Surya (Sun god); 5 of Durga and Mahishasuramardini; 1 of Kama and Rati; 1 of Ganesha, Brahma, Saraswati, Garuda and Chandra. Arjuna shooting an arrow to win Draupadi, Ravana lifting the Kailasha, Daksha, Bali, and Sukracharya are among the other major reliefs.

Chennakeshava Temple Belur

Some of the statues have exquisite details. For example, one madanakai figure depicts a fruit tree canopy with a small fly sitting on the fruit and a lizard nearby preparing to pounce on the fly. In another, an eagle is shown attacking a sarabha, which is then attacked by a lion, which is then attacked by an elephant, which is seizing a snake, which is then shown swallowing a rat – a scene that includes a pondering sage. These images depict life, such as an artist drawing or musicians lost in their music.

Chennakeshava Temple Belur

The Chennakesava temple has three entrances, each with a decorated sculpture known as a dvarapalaka (doorkeeper) on either side. The central hall (navaranga) was originally open on all sides except the west side, which houses the sanctum, but all sides were later closed with perforated screens.

Facts about Chennakeshava Temple Belur

  • The Chennakeshava Temple is located in the Indian state of Karnataka’s Belur taluk, Hassan district. It is approximately 35 kilometres (22 miles) northwest of Hassan.
  • The Chennakeshava complex at Belur consists of a 443.5-foot by 396-foot court surrounded by a wall with several Hindu temples and minor shrines.
  • The main temple is Chennakeshava temple, also known as Kesava temple. It is located in the centre of the complex, facing east and in front of the gopuram.
  • The temple honours Vishnu in the form of Kesava. The Kappe Chennigaraya temple, which measures 124 feet by 105 feet, is located to the south of the Kesava temple.
  • This star-shaped temple is believed to have taken around 103 years to build.
  • This temple dates from the 12th century. This lovely temple is located in Belur on the banks of the magnificent Yagachi River.
  • The temple was raided and damaged and its gateway was burnt down in a raid by a Muslim general Salar and his army working for Muhammed bin Tughlaq (1324–1351).
  • The Vijayanagara Empire repaired the temple under the sponsorship of Harihara II (1377-1404). In 1381, they added four granite pillars; in 1387, Malagarasa added a gold-plated kalasa to a new tower above the sanctum; and in 1397, it added a new seven-story brick gopuram to replace the destroyed gateway.
  • Within the temple complex, the Vijayanagara Empire funded the addition of smaller shrines dedicated to goddesses and the Naganayakana mandapa. These were built by collecting and reusing the war ruins of other demolished temples in the Belur area.
  • The temple pillars have some of the best details and finishing of sculpture and artwork in the entire complex. One of the most well-known temple pillars is the Narasimha pillar.
  • There are 48 pillars in total, each one uniquely carved and decorated. The four central pillars, which feature madanikas or celestial damsels, were hand-chiselled by artisans.
  • The madanikas are in various poses, some of which are popular with tourists and art enthusiasts, such as the lady with a parrot and the huntress.
  • The temple has a lovely stepwell (Pushkarani) near the entrance. This well was once used for bathing before offering prayers and other rituals, as was customary at the time.
  • The Gravity Pillar, a 42-meter-high pillar, has also been installed in the courtyard.

Festivals Celebrated in Chennakeshava Temple Belur

  • Rathotsava – Rathotsava is the main festival celebrated in Belur in the months of March and April, 12 days after Ugadi or Kannadiga New Year. The celebration lasts two days after the Utsava Murti is drawn on a massive wood chariot. On the first day, the eastern part of the temple was covered. On the second day, other parts of the temple are covered.
  • Jaatre – A fair or Jaatre is held during the yearly festival that lasts for 10 days.
  • Vaikuntha Ekadashi – Vaikuntha Ekadashi celebrated during the Tamil month of Margazhi (December–January) is the major festival celebrated in the temple.
  • Chitra Poornima is also a major occasion for celebration in the temple.

How to reach Chennakeshava Temple Belur

By Air: The distance between Bengaluru Airport and the temple is 47.8 kilometres.

By Railway: The distance between Bengaluru Railway Station and the temple is 17 kilometres.

By Roadways: The Lord Chennakeshava Temple is well connected to many major cities, and private vehicles are readily available for hire. The temple is 220 kilometres from Bengaluru Bus Station.

Also Read –  Chennakeshava Temple Somanathapura

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Sunday 7 AM - 8 PM
Saturday 7 AM - 8 PM
Monday 7 AM - 8 PM
Tuesday 7 AM - 8 PM
Wednesday 7 AM - 8 PM
Thursday 7 AM - 8 PM
Friday 7 AM - 8 PM
Address: Chennakeshava Temple, Temple Road, Belur, Karnataka, India
Phone: 08022352828Call Now
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Open Now

Sunday 7 AM - 8 PM
Saturday 7 AM - 8 PM
Monday 7 AM - 8 PM
Tuesday 7 AM - 8 PM
Wednesday 7 AM - 8 PM
Thursday 7 AM - 8 PM
Friday 7 AM - 8 PM
Address: Chennakeshava Temple, Temple Road, Belur, Karnataka, India
Phone: 08022352828Call Now