Saturday, February 21, 2009

Family picnic to Belur and Halebidu

Few words about Belur

Belur is a small town in the Hasan district of Karnataka. Here, kings of the Hoysala dynasty constructed the 'Chennakeshava' (handsome Vishnu) temple. It is about one hundred feet high and has a magnificent gateway tower (gopuram), built in Dravidian style. The main temple, surrounded by a group of subsidiary shrines, stands in the center of a rectangular, paved courtyard along the perimeter of which are ranges of cells fronted by a pillared veranda. The temple has lost its super structure but looks very imposing. It has a pillared hypostyle hall (navaranga), a square vestibule (antale ), and a solid, stellate vimana. Three entrances lead into the hall, each being flanked by a shrine. The doorways are guarded on either side by the gorgeously decorated doorkeepers called Jaya and Vijaya. The extensive hall is supported by forty-six pillars, each of a different design. There is one monolithic pillar can be seen near to navaranga.None of the pillars or carvings are similar thou it looks so, when we observed closely there will be slight changes in each design.The symbol of Hoysalas is a man killing a tiger.

Symbol of Hoysala dynasty

The temple was built using the soft soapstone with very intricate carvings.The temple looks like a casket and its 178 feet long(east-west wise)and 156 feet broad(north west wise)
The unique pillars were manufactured by rough-finishing a monolithic block of stone and then mounting it in upright position on a wheel. This was rotated against a chisel, set as a turning tool. Each pillar has a bell-shaped member towards the lower half of the shaft. A sloping bracket has been fixed to the capital by means of sockets. The brackets were carved from single slabs into images, enshrined with leafy aureoles of beautiful maidens known as 'shilabalakis'. The seductive, voluptuary emphasis is remarkable. The subjects are all secular and mostly represented are voluptuous maidens. All are graceful, charming and fascinatingly chiseled out. Each damsel is celestial, with exuberant serene beauty, exhibiting the virtuosity of the sculptors. They all are in conformity with the art of dance and sculpture ( 'Natya' and 'Shilpa' shastras). Hence, their breasts remind of the moon, the waist resembles that of a swan, and their hips remind those of an elephant.

Bittiga, the fourth and mightiest monarch of the Hoysala dynasty, was converted from the Jain faith to the Vaishnava faith by the sage Ramanuja. The king changed his name to Vishnuvardhana and built temples with great vigor and dedication. In order to commemorate his victory over the Cholas in the battle of Talkad, he built Belur Temple in 1117 A.D. and it took 103 years to complete and Vishnuvardhana's grandson Veera Ballala II completed the task.The intricate workmanship includes elephants, lions, horses, episodes from the Indian mythological epics, and sensuous dancers (Shilabalikas).The inside is even more richly carved on its panels and pillers. There is not a portion of the structure that has been left uncarved.The architecture is extremly complex, yet regard for proportion is well maintained. If you insert a thread into the pupil of an eye on one of the sculptures, it would emerge through the nose. suspend a taut string from the forehead of a dancer and it will fall straight to an uplifted toe. The queen Shantala, though a Jain by faith, was noted for catholicity of her religious outlooks. She was a well-known dancer and on one of the temple's brackets her dancing pose has been sculptured in the most ornate and in exuberant style.

The single pillar which stood outside the temple is a monolithic stone and surprising thing is only its three edges are touching the ground and we can pass the paper or kerchief under the pillar. It stood in gravitational force. Hats off to the technological idea which they had so long back.Such technology we can see in Hampi temple as well.

In the rich marble screens of the navaranga there are twenty-eight grill windows. Some are pierced with the conventional patterns. They are generally star-shaped, with bands of foliage, and with figures and mythological subjects. On one of the screens king Vishnuvardhana is shown beside his queen Shantala. A metallic icon of the period depicts the king in a standing posture which gives the exact idea about his stature, personality, dress and different ornaments he wore.

Historians find a tradition that the ancient and medieval Indian artists rarely sign their work of art. However, the Hoysala sculptors have broken this custom and signed their sculptures. They engraved their names, titles and even the place of their origin at the foot of their art work. The stone inscriptions and copper plates of the period give some more details about these artisans. Mallitamma was the most prolific of all known Hoysala artists and more than forty well-executed sculptures stand in his name. Dasoja and his son chavana(though legends assign it to one Jakanachari) were migrants of a nearby town called Ballegavi. Javana is credited for the sculptures of five madanakai damsels and his father is credited for another four. Malliyanna and Nagoja have included birds and animals in their sculptures. The sculptures located in the navaranga were carved out by Chikkahampa and Malloja. It is a great pity that no biographical details about these artisans are available. What these sculptures brought them in return to their hard and extremely pain-taking work must have been a pittance! However, even after a lapse of eight centuries, the art lovers of the whole world can adore them.

The temple occupied nearly 4 acres of land and there are other temples like Kappechennigaraya,Vijayanarayana,Saumyanayaki,Andal etc.


One of the rich carvings in Halebidu

Halebidu (which was previously called Dorasamudra or Dwarasamudra) was the regal capital of the Hoysala Empire in the 12th century. It is home to one of the best examples of Hoysala architecture in the ornate Hoysaleswara and Kedareshwara temples.
The Hoysaleswara temple was built during this time by Ketamala(Kethumalla) and attributed to Vishnuvardhana,Kethumalla was king's chief minister.He showed his loyalty to his king by builting the temple and worshiped as God.Then it was sacked by the armies of Malik Kafur in the early 14th century, after which it fell into a state of disrepair and neglect.Even while british govt. was in rule in India took all the shilabalika's whichever was in good condition(un destroyed by muslims). One can see the places in each nook blank.
The temple complex comprises two Hindu temples, the Hoysaleshawara and Kedareshwara temples and two Jain basadi. In front of these temples there is a big lake. The town gets its name the from the lake, Dhwara samudhra which means entrance from ocean. The two nandi bull statues which are on the side of the Hoysaleshwara temple are monolithic. soap stone or Chloritic Schist was used for the construction of these temples. However a number of sculptures in the temple are destructed by invaders. So the temple is incomplete. Halebid means ruined city. There is an archeological museum in the temple complex.

The Hoysaleswara temple, dating back to the 1121 C.E., is astounding for its wealth of sculptural details. The walls of the temple are covered with an endless variety of depictions from Hindu mythology, animals, birds and Shilabalikas or dancing figures. Yet no two sculptures of the temple are the same. This magnificent temple guarded by a Nandi Bull was never completed, despite 86 years of labour. The Jain basadi nearby are equally rich in sculptural detail.

Its worth to hire guide and get to know the description about the carvings. Each carving tells different stories and to be frank to get to know each temple it will take not less than 2-3 days.Belur is famous for inner beauty where as Halibidu outer beauty.

Though this was my fourth trip to Belur and Halibidu I never say no to visit these places whenever I get chance to go.

How to reach

From Udupi-->Karkal-->Ujire-->Moodigere-->Kottigehara-->Belur-->Halebidu

Nearly 250kms

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