Hoysala Temples, Part 6


BY: SUN STAFF - 10.3 2020


A serial presentation of Vaisnava temples built by the Hoysala empire.

Veera-Narayana Temple at Belavadi

Veera-Narayana Temple at Belavadi, in the Chikmagalur district of Karnataka is a magnificent example of Hoysala architecture. Built in 1206 A.D. by Hoysala king Veera Ballala II, this abode of Maha Visnu in His warrior form is one of the largest Hoysala temples in South India. Built in Chloritic schist, the temple appears to have a most beautiful slight green shimmer on the stones.

Veera Narayana

Also known as Ekachakranagara, the Veera-Narayana Temple is a three-cell structure (trikutacala). Lord Visnu in His Veera-Narayana form resides in the main sanctum, with beautiful Deities of Yoga-Narasimha and Venugopala housed in separate shrines nearby. Towering above Lord Veeranarayana's cell is an impressive vimana, with a large stone kalasa and shikara.

Temple vimana

The Deity of Lord Veera-Narayana is itself an exceptional example of Hoysala sculpture. The Deity is eight feet tall, sitting on a Garuda pedestal. The Lord is elaborately ornamented, standing in stanaka (standing) pose with four arms.

On the west side of the temple is a square garbhagriha, a sukanasi (low tower), navaranga and square mukhamantapa. The whole structure has been constructed on a raised platform typical of the style. While the temples at Belur and Halebidu are famous for their intricate sculptures, this temple is best known for its architecture. The plan of the temple is unique, having two of the three shrines facing one another on either side of a spacious open mantapa.

One of the most stunning architectural features of this temple are the large bell-shaped pillars. Of the 22 pillars supporting the mukhamantapa of Lord Veera-Narayana's shrine, two of them are star-shaped. The navaranga also has large bell shaped pillars.

The ceiling of the sukhanasi is a dome with an octagonal gallery and circles above. All along the walls of the mukhamantapa is a stone bench, ornamented with rosettes and pasters.

Inner mantapa (hall)

On the east side of the temple is a sabhamantapa with sukanasi and a pair of garbhagrihas facing one other. These shrines are the abode of Venugopala and Yoga-Narasimha. Also on the east side of the temple is the main entrance, with an impressive pair of elephants keeping the gate.

Yoga Narasimha

The beautiful Deity of Venugopala is about 8 feet in height, inclusive of the Garuda pedestal and prabhavali. Sri Krsna stands in tribhanga pose under a kadamba tree, playing His flute, while the gopis, gopas, cows and sages listen in delight.

The image of Lord Narsimhadeva in yoga pose is about 7 feet high with prabhavali. The Lord has an ornately carved band around His knees. The Lord's face is very striking, with a fine kreeta and protruding eyes.

Belavadi's beautiful pillars

The towers overtop Venugopala and Yoga-Narasimha's shrines are similar to the one over Veera-Narayana's sanctum, having turrets, ornate kirthimukhas and many carved ornaments and divine figures.

All the ceiling panels of the temple, except those of the veranda, are ornately sculpted. Some ceilings are flat, but most are domes, with intricate geometric patterns and motifs. The flat ceilings have images of Krishna playing on the flute, Kalinga-mardhana and Kamsavadha scenes in different postures.

Lord Nrsimhadeva in sanctum

Belavadi is mentioned in the Mahabharata as the place where the Pandavas lived after escaping from their Kaurava cousins, and also as the place where Bhima killed the Bakasura. This pastime is celebrated by the villagers of Belavadi each year as the Bandi-Bana festival.


Garuda and Naga shrine


Each year on the Summer Solstice, the sun's rays cross the seven gates of the temple, and illuminate Lord Veera-Narayana in the sanctum.