History of Belur
Belur, also referred in the olden days as velapuri was a flourishing town and the capital city of the Hoysala Empire. Hoysala dynasty ruled the erstwhile Karnataka between 10th and 14th centuries when for most part of the rule, Belur housed the seat of the king. Today, Belur is located in Hassan district of Karnataka. It is not the flourishing city it once was, but it is one of the highly popular tourist destinations in Karnataka. Belur along with Halebidu and Shravana Belgola in the area bring in a huge number of visitors every year. Chenna kesava temple is the most famous destination in this area.
Tourist Attractions of Belur
Chenna kesava Temple
The temple is built along the river banks of Yagachi. King Vishnuvardhana of Hoysala dynasty envisioned this temple and commissioned this in the year 1117 AD. The construction of the temple took more than a century, around 103 years and it was the grandson of Vishnuvardhana, Veera Ballala II who completed the temple. The temple is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture. In Kannada, Chenna means handsome and kesava is the name of Lord Vishnu. The name of the temple literally translates to Handsome Vishnu.
The outer walls of the temple are completely filled with detailed and intricate work. Sculptures of different animals, scenes from the epics and dancers adorn the walls of the temple with no area left plain. The intricacies are much appreciated by tourists visiting the temple. The decors on the walls usually can be seen in this order. At the bottom, elephants can be found which represents stability. On top of elephants lions representing courage can be found. On top of lions, horses representing agility and quickness can be found. On top of all this, some ornamental motifs can be found. After this stories from epics or pictures of dancers or other such paintings involving humans can be found.
Darpana Sundari is one of the sculptures which can be seen on the wall of the temple. This is basically a sculpture of a lady who is holding a mirror. It is also called ‘Lady with the mirror’ by tourists.
Kappe Chennigraya Temple
Most of the sculptures in the temple complex are attributed to the famous sculptor during the 12th century Jakanachari. Janakachari’s son Dankanachari found that the statue of Lord Vishnu was faulty as it had a frog inside it. The story says that the father shocked at this, cut his right hand. Thus this temple came to be called as Kappe Chennigraya temple, with Kappe meaning frog in the local language kannada. This complex can be found on the right of the main chenna kesava complex.
Inside the temple complex, we can find a tall pillar. This pillar is called the Karthika Deepothsava Sthamba. It is believed to have been added by the commander of king Devaraaya under Vijayanagara empire in the 15th century. The unique feature of this pillar is that it stands there all by itself without any base stone or foundation. It shows the scientific advancement that existed in those times many centuries back.
Veera Narayana Temple
The main chenna kesava complex is flanked on all sides by more temples and mantaps. While the kappe chennigraya temple is on the east, the west side houses the Veera Narayana temple. This complex is dedicated to Lakshmi Narayana and the walls on this complex have large images as opposed to the intricate carvings on the main temple.
Big Tank or Vishnu Samudra
Like most of Vishnu temples, Chenna kesava temple also has a big tank inside the complex. This tank is called Vishnu Samudra. This was added during the rule of vijayanagara empire. More changes to the tank were made during the rule of Krishna DevaRaaya by adding steps and a small island mantap in the middle of the tank.