Chennakeshava Temple in Belur
Halebidu was the 12th century capital of the Hoysalas. The Hoysaleswara temple was built during this time by Ketamala and attributed to Vishnuvardhana, the Hoysala ruler. It enshrines Hoysaleswara and Shantaleswara, named after the temple builder Vishnuvardhana Hoysala and his wife, Queen Shantala.
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.
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 from the lake, Dwara samudhra which means entrance from ocean[clarification needed]. The two Nandi 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 destroyed by invaders. So the temple is incomplete. Halebid means old abode. 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. Belur and Halebid are 222 and 216 km from Bangalore, respectively. This temple is now being proposed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The temple is a holy house for sculptures showcasing innumerable variety of ornaments, the doorways, the ceilings, the birds, the animals, dancers and other figures are fully decorated as if they are full of life and vigour with variety of actions and movements. The doorways are guarded on either side by the gorgeously decorated dvarapalaka (doorkeepers).
There are two more shrines here that are still in use by devotees and there is a Pushkarni or stepped well to the right side of the main entrance. The temple is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture. The facade of the temple is filled with intricate sculptures and friezes with no portion left blank. The main entrance is crowned by a Rayagopura built during the days of Vijayanagar empire. Within the temple complex, the Chennakesava temple is in the centre, facing east and flanked by Kappe Channigaraya temple and a small Lakshmi temple on its right. At Chennakesava temple daily pujas are performed.
An interesting sight with in the sanctum are the ancient jet-black Hoysala pillars, covered with bright vermilion smeared on by devotees. The main temple is surrounded by Temples of Soumyanayaki and Ranganayaki, beloveds of Sri Chennakesava.
Stories from the Puranas, Upanishads and other mythological stories have been carved in the most authentic way. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata also have been included .The bracketed figurines called the Madanikas or celestial nymphs are no doubt the highlight of the temple's magnificent architecture. The Madanikas are said to be inspired by the beautiful Queen Shantaladevi, epitomizing the ideal feminine form. There are about 48 pillars of various sizes, shapes and designs, bearing testimony to remarkable artistry. The main highlight of the temple is Darpana Sundari or "The lady with the mirror".
Inside, even in the darkness, you can see the shining pillars, each unique in its own splendor. The most popular being, the Narasimha pillar in the Navaranga, unique in its filigreed splendor. It is said to have revolved on its ball bearings once. Shantaladevi, a dance legend herself, built a temple in similar fashion to the main temple, which was called the Channigaraya temple. The entire structure with its intricate Filigree gleams like metal. Chloritic Schist, a light greenish soapstone, hard as granite was used to create the complex.
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. Mallitamma was the most prolific of all known Hoysala artists and more than forty well-executed sculptures stand in his name. However, even after a lapse of eight centuries, the art lovers of the whole world can adore this heritage centre. The Temple is not in a good shape still, you could spend hours studying the minute carvings on the exterior. The temple has lost its super structure but looks very imposing.