My earliest memory of Belur and Halebidu in Hassan District of Karnataka, a State of India was in February 1986 when I visited it as a group of newly joined faculties and was completely taken aback in by these architectural splendours which were built centuries ago.
Known for its famed impeccable masterpiece of temples on intricate stone carvings and sculpture, Belur and Halebidu provides an insight into ancient Hindu culture and Karnataka’s rich history.
On 14th August, 2016 I made a leisure trip to the ancient capital twin temple towns of the Hoysala Dynasties with my family (daughter and wife) to soak in the beauty of amazing artistry created on stone amid the backdrop of quaint landscapes. Being only around 220 KM from Bangalore, we reached the destinations by an Ola cab. The drive to all the way to Hassan is smooth and mesmerizing with paddy fields and distant rocky hills on both sides of the road.
The Chennakeshava Temple of Belur, dedicated to Lord Vishnu was built between 11th and 12th centuries by the Hoysala Dynasties. It is the temple that is the highlight of this town, which is a mix of tradition and modernity.
The guide has answers to all queries of visitors. The temple was built to commemorate Hoysala’s victory over the Cholas. The guide explains, the four steps of carving that forms the base; Elephants in the lowest frieze denotes the stability & strength, above these are the Lions that symbolize courage, next are Horses showing speed and finally Flowers representing the king as considerate towards his people.But whats most astonishing is that no two elephants, lions, horses or flowers are similar in carving!
The surface of the temple exterior is intricately filled with carvings, stories from the Ramayan, Mahabharata, Puranas, Upanishads and other mythological stories executed in the most authentic way, and also the beauty of womanhood and tradition followed in the past.
Around 16 KM from Belur is Halebidu, the Old City. It was one of the capitals of Hoysala Dynasties in the 12th century. Magnificent Hoysaleswara temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is the major attraction here. Similar to Belur temple, it is adorned with the exquisite portrayals of the mythological tales.
Hoysalas were great patrons of art and architecture. They built more than 1500 temples to establish their supremacy in the region. Chennakeshava at Belur and Hoysaleswara at Halebidu are the most spectacularly ornate temples in the area.
Belur and Halebidu, I believe, cannot be explored in one 2 hour visit. Like many others who thinks that the ancient capital towns of Belur and Halebidu is all about those stone carvings, a visit to this places is an eye-opener. A short visit can barely seen anything beyond the tourist angle, nonetheless one takes a lot back from here.
Amid these stone carvings, one did not need to know the story or the history in details, but for me just being there was a great feeling. It was simply overwhelming.