Karnataka’s Belur is home to one of the oldest and grandest examples of Hoysala architecture, the Chennakeshava Temple. It was built in the early 12th-century by the Hoysala ruler, Vishnuvardhana, when the town of Belur was the capital of the Hoysala kingdom. Travellers flock to the Chennakeshava Temple all year round to admire the intricate work of art and sculpture and feel the old-world spiritual charm of the site. However, going there during winter months especially, is slightly more pleasant than the rest of the year.
Chennakeshava Temple was a centrepiece of the Hoysala kingdom; it was built after the land’s best architects and artists were recruited, who came up with designs and styles that would be the hallmark of the complex. As you enter this vast complex, a large gate arches above. The main temple sits in the centre, facing the east – a classic example of South Indian temple architecture.
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Built with soapstone, the stands 37 metres tall. Its outer walls are adorned with finely done artwork, with dancing girls in various postures. If you keenly study the details of the wall sculptures at the temple, you will find many references and depictions of important events from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. A careful observation would reveal subtle eroticism hidden amidst the detailed depictions. Animals that commonly feature in the wall sculptures include horses, elephants and lions.
Out of a total of 48 pillars, all uniquely carved and decorated – Narasimha pillar is one of the most popular ones at the temple. The four central pillars were hand chiselled by artisans and feature celestial damsels. The most popular one among travellers is the lady with a parrot and the huntress.
Having recently celebrated 900 years of existence, this complex of structures has been an integral part of Karnataka’s history. It now quietly and majestically sits on the banks of the Yagachi River, a central attraction and a reminder to travellers of the timeless legacy of one of South India’s most powerful kingdoms.
The nearest airport is the Mangalore Airport, around 130 kilometres from Belur, while Bangalore International Airport is around 222 kilometres away. From the airports, the most ideal way to get to Belur is in a car by road.