10 marvels of the Chennakesava Temple at Belur

Last Modified: Thu Jan 07 2016 09:29:44 GMT+0530 (India Standard Time)
  • 1117 AD
    Temple commissioned by King Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala Empire in this year, perhaps in celebration of his famous victory against the Chola dynasty.
  • 100 years
    It is said that the temple was built over three generations. A task started by King Vishnuvardhana was completed by his grandson. The temple derives it name thus: Chenna means beautiful while Kesava refers to Lord Vishnu.
  • #1
    Pushkarni (Stepwell) - This is right near the main entrance. In the olden days, it was used for various temple rituals including the customary bath before offering prayers. When here, note the perfectly carved elephants on the sides of the entrance and the small shrines at two corners.
  • #2
    Gravity Pillar or Lampost - Mounted on a star-shaped platform is a huge 42m high pillar or lamp post. This is right in the middle of the temple courtyard and the most amazing thing about this is - the pillar stands on its own! It does not have a foundation below it and since, it stands erect on its own weight, it is called as the gravity pillar.
  • #3
    Outer Walls - Along the outer walls of the main temple, you will see rows of carvings of various animals, scenes of Mahabharata and Ramayana and dancing damsels. Each carving is perfect and has a certain symbolism. The elephants at the base reflect strength, while the lions above them were a symbol of courage. Right above them you will see rows of horses, which I suppose, stood for speed.
  • #4
    Miniature Shrines - Near the entrances and around the temple walls, you will find several miniature shrines. It is said that these served as prototypes for the actual shrines to be built. The miniatures themselves are so intricately carved, that they do not look as model but actual mini temples.
  • #5
    Lintels over the entrances - Right above the various entrances of the temple are beautiful ornate horizontal pieces of art like the one in the picture above. Each entrance has a different one. This one here is that of Lord Vishnu as Narasimha while another one has Lord Vishnu with his wife Lakshmi.
  • #6
    Hoysala emblem - Hoy means strike while Sala refers to the name of a forefather of this dynasty who saved a saint from a lion by striking him dead. Hence, the symbolism of this sculpture and the crest of the kingdom
  • #7
    Madanikas - At regular intervals at the temple, you will notice several dancing nymphs carved onto brackets on the wall. The madanikas or nymphs are said to have been modeled after the beautiful Queen Shantala, wife of King Vishnuvardhana. The most popular amongst these is the Darpan Sundari (Girl looking into the mirror).
  • #8
    Ceiling within the temple - The inside of the temple is quite dark and yet the black interiors gleam with the reflection of the little light that is there. Remember to look up and spot this ornate circle in the ceiling. There is a prominent carving of Lord Vishnu as Narasimha right in the center.
  • #9
    Narasimha Pillar - Most popular and intrinsic in terms of art, is the Narasimha Pillar. Easily identifiable with the red vermilion marks made by the devotees, this pillar is covered with miniature figures all over. It is said that the pillar has ball bearings on the top and could be rotated in its hey-days.
  • #10
    Mohini and Vishnu Statues - the Mohini Pillar which has this amazing statue of Mohini - the female avataar of Lord Vishnu carved on it. The fine details and the glisten of the soap stone with the warm light of the diyas around totally enhance the beauty of this pillar.