Chenna Keshava Temple – Exquisite Stone Sculptures!!

It was a long weekend and  we had absolutely not planned for anything. We were able to spend a day at home and not more than that. Then we decided to churn out the nearby places to spend time and we finally arrived at Belur!! The Best decision made. We decided to visit the places around Belur,but could not get a stay (Everyone had planned their weekend better than us). But then not ready to give up, we decided to start by night, reach there by morning and return back the following night. So we both packed our Back pack,bugled up our shoes and were all set ready for the Visual treat of Hoysalas’s Art and Architecture.

We landed up in Belur at around 4.00 AM in the morning. The bus stop was completely deserted, and we, half asleep and not knowing where exactly to go, just roamed around the Temple Street(Chenna Keshava Temple). It was the month of ‘Margazhi’, lucky us, the temple was open, and there was a small place, where people can pay and take bath. Not missing to mention that ‘Thirupavai’ was played in the temple in Tamil, although the temple was in Karnataka. To pep our mood even more, there were school Children and Foreigners present to tour around the place.

As it began to Dawn, the magnificent temple complex opened up before us as the Sun sheds its glittering Golden light on the Gopuram. This temple is maintained by Archaeological society of India   and so there were a lot of guides to walk us through the temple providing us with the insights into the life styles of Hoysala Era. 

This temple is said to be the Symbol of Hoysala empire’s victory over the Cholas in the battle of Talakad. The main deity of this temple is Lord Keshava(one of the 24 forms of Lord Vishnu) and is popularly known as ‘Chenna Keshava’  or the Handsome Keshava. The main temple is in stellate form and there are vestibules that connects the main temple to the Pillared Hall. In the entrance of the main temple,we can see the emblem of Hoysalas standing erect, symbolizing the power of Hoysalas Dynasty.   At the top of the entrance there are Makras. Makras are an imaginary figure that has elephant trunk, Lion like feet, Pig like body, Monkey’s eyes, Peacock’s tail , Crocodile’s mouth and Cow’s ear. From their mouth, emerges a ‘Thoran’ that decorates the entrance of the temple.

The temple’s walls are so beautifully incarnated with the carvings, of much the most prominent one’s are the ‘Madanikas’  (Beautiful Women). There was a single row of beautiful women sculptures in different postures adorning the top portion of the walls of the main temple. There were 38 of it, of which my favorites are ‘Beauty and the Mirror (Dharpana Sundari)’,  ‘Lady with a letter- The mood of the lady is beautifully carved’, ‘Monkey pulling the Lady’s Garment – Markata Mohini’ , ‘Tribhangi Postured lady’, ‘Successful Huntress(One maid removes the thorn of the other and the thorns are also clearly depicted)’ etc. Even the hairdos of the ladies are completely different and the effort the sculptors have taken to bring even those intricate details into carvings is simply amazing.


Apart from the Mandikas, the temple also houses several other sculptures that depicts excerpts from Mahabharata and several other Hindu Mythology. One can see through scenes from Mahabharata viz, Bheeshma on thorn bed, Bheema throwing elephants at his rivals, Game of dice , Angry Bheema shaking the tree to make the Kaurava princes fall etc. There were also very few episodes from Ramayana.  The carvings also included scenes like the ones where Pragalad was being put into fire by his father and little Krishna dancing over the hood of cobra.

The incarnations of Lords in different form were also amazing. Lord Narasimha extracting the liver out of a daemon and having it as a Garland, Bhairavar form of Lord Shiva, Eight hand Lord Ganesha, Goddess Mahisasuramardini slaying Buffalo headed Mahishasura, 10 headed Ravana lifting Mount Kailash, Sita and her kids Lava and Kush, Lord Kama with his consort Rati and Sugar cane, Lord Vishnu in Varaha Avatar etc.

There was also incarnations like Arjuna aiming at the eye of the fish, by looking into its reflection in a oil bowl placed below the target pillar. During the war, its is said that this temple was being aimed to be destructed and the entire temple was saved by covering it with Sand. We could observe that some of the carvings are destructed here and there in this temple. We could also see a prototype of this temple at the left of the main entrance in the same stellate form.  Another interesting feature of this temple is the Gravity Pillar(42 feet), carved out of a single rock, that stands by its own weight with no foundation.

There is another temple near Belur,in Haleebeedu, where the presiding deity is Lord Shiva.This temple is said to have the incarnations of entire Mahabharata Story. More on this on my next visit….:)

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