Belur - Chanakeshava temple
Chenna Keshava Temple This photogenic temple is an excellent example of Hoysala architecture. Construction of this impressive temple was begun in 1116 AD. It took 103 years to complete. Built of gray-green chlorite, the temple is covered with intricate sculptures, including scenes from the Ramayana and Maha-bharata. It is named after the beautiful (chenna) long-haired (keshava) form of Lord Krishna. The 2m (6 ft) Deity rests on a 1m stand.
The two upper hands hold a disc and a conch, the two lower ones a lotus and a club. To the left of the main shrine is a shrine dedicated to Kappe Chenniga Raya. There are two altars in the temple.The shrine facing east houses Kappe Chenniga Raya, and the one facing north houses Venugopala.
To the west of the main temple is a shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu called Vira-narayana. Behind the main temple is a temple dedicated to the Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Chenna Keshava. The temple walls are 132m (443 ft) by 120m (396 ft). The temple itself is 53m (178 ft) by 47m (156 ft). There is a five-storey, 14th century gopuram over the main entrance. On either side of the main door are 2m (6 ft) sculptures of Jaya and Vijaya.
A tall stone pillar in the temple courtyard is balanced only by its center of gravity. There are 645 elephants carved at the bottom of the outside walls of the temple. No two elephants are the same. Inside the temple hall, to the left of the main entrance, is an intricately carved pillar with many small carvings of Lord Narasimha. This pillar used to rotate. There is one panel left blank on the pillar. It is said that the carver wanted to challenge anyone to carve a more beautiful image of Lord Narasimha than the ones already on the pillar.
There are ten perforated screens on either side of the eastern entrance of the assembly hall. The screens to the right include the story of Vamana (Trivikrama) and Bali, the killing of Hiranyakasipu by Narasimha, and the killing of Kamsa by Krishna. The panels on the left side depict the churning of the ocean by the demigods and demons, and Krishna’s pastimes (fighting with the wrestler Canura, killing the elephant Kuvalayapida, and the slaying of Kamsa). Other scenes depicted are from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. There is an inscription recording the date of erection of this temple in commemoration of Vishnuvardhana’s victory over the Chola viceroy of Talkad. It is said that about this time, Vishnuvardhana was converted from Jainism to Vaishnavism by Ramanujacharya. This temple is still used for worship, but non-Hindus are permitted to enter. The ASI guides give a good tour of the temple for Rs 75. You can have a spotlight turned on for Rs 5 to see the interior sculptures more clearly.