If there is one place that will surely take your breath away; I bet these temples would be the top of list. The temples of Belur and Halebid are architectural marvel; oh these words don't justify. I don't think any words could actually justify the splendor. When you see them, all you could do is be dumb-struck, mesmerized and wonder where were you all these days without seeing them.
I studied them in my school history lessons, but never had the chance to visit until now. And yeah!! loved every moment of it. These temples are rich and grand repositories of Hindu culture and also Jain culture( the king Vishnuvardhana who initiated the constructions converted from Jainism to Hinduism) . You see people all over the world coming to take in these wonders, their rich intricacies and distinctive architectural style. Few of them staying over to know more about them.
The temples of Belur and Halebid were built by the Hoysala dynasty; who ruled the present day Karnataka from the 11th to 14th century. These temples were built then and still astonish people who visit for their sheer hard work with the detailed sculptural work. The temples are not huge; but it is compensated by extremely skilled craftsmanship. INTRICACY is the word there. The artists carved thousands of intricate and delicate figures out of soapstone. The facade of the temple are covered with ornately carved sculptures with no portion left blank. They have carved out Hindu deities, men at battle field, men hunting, birds, animals, ornate pillars, dancers, and yes!! erotic sculptures; if you pay enough attention to the finer details. I was pleasantly surprised to see how broad minded people during those times were after seeing those erotic sculptures.
These temples seemed to have taken 110-150 years to complete and is built with chloritic schist and is a type of soapstone.
Here is a trivia as to how Hoysala dynasty got its name. The words "Hoy Sala" meaning "Strike Sala" were called out to Sala, the legendary founder of the dynasty when he was involved in a combat with a tiger. He single-handed killed the beast immortalizing himself and the tiger. The tiger is the royal symbol of the Hoysala dynasty.
Here are few pictures. Please view them on large screen to appreciate the details
The Hoysaleshwara Temple at Halebid. It is star shaped and has two exact temple complexes. I thought that this temple has more intricate details.
The portion of the temple complex revealing the star shaped architecture
Intricacy is the order here
A facade with intricate and minute details
A beautiful sculpture of a dancing woman inside the temple
One of the many pillars
One more picture of the detailed wall
Carvings of God and the signature left by the sculptor in ancient Kannada script; which is not a usual custom to leave behind their signatures
The Channakeshava temple complex in Belur is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It was built by King Vishnuvardhana to commemorate the victory over Cholas at Talakad around 1117 AD. It took about 103 years to complete.
The main entrance
One of the many temples inside the complex
Another portion of a temple
An ornately carved portion of the pillar. This picture is zoomed to capture the details. This portion is not more than the size of the ring finger....Such details!!!
One of the many ancient writings. I could only read the letters but could not make out any meaning
A pillar with so much of details inside the main temple.
One of the facades
A dancing man
A part of many such carvings
I thought that the crosses below few carvings like this was out of place. I didn't have a guide; else would have asked about the presence of cross here
Many such delicate carvings could be found all over the temple walls
These Jain motifs were found at inconspicuous places; like this one here. This was carved at the base of the walk path. Seemed Jainism was no more important. Is it because Jainism was no more the religion of Vishnuvardhana as he converted to Hindusim? Maybe...But these are my observations. :-) Though there were prominent Jain sculptures at Halebid.
A "Stamba" at the centre and a "mantap"
PS : If any of you are interested to see more of these pics, please ask for it in comments section. I did not want to put numerous pictures as it would be overwhelming. But can always ask if you have not got enough of these pictures. There are lot more. :-)