Friday, December 18, 2009

The Temples of Belur and Halebid

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 entrance

The portion of the temple complex revealing the star shaped architecture

Intricacy is the order here

Hindu Gods

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 temple

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. :-)


  1. Nice post. Thanks for the history lesson. And, super thanks for those beautiful pictures. These temples have extremely skilled craftsmanship. Those temple walls covered with men in battles and dancing women are sooo beautiful. Thanks for bringing this post. I thank you.

  2. Thank you!!! I have been to Belur and Halebidu countless times... with each and every relative that came home... so it felt very good watching them again...
    what always saddened me every time i visited the place was the way some of the carvings had been destroyed by the plunderers and conquerers... isnt it?

  3. Nice collection of photos! I've been there once...very very fascinating to say the least. But over the years, they've lacked maintenance, which is a bit sad. But it's wonderful nonetheless, however old it may look.

  4. great info, great snaps, great post...really nice collection...and u r right, no word would justify the beauty of these temples..

  5. I always wanted to visit Belur/Halebid.. Never been there !! :-( But through your splendid post and pictures, I got a brilliant tour. Spell-bound viewing the intricate carvings and sculptures. Truly, our ancestors were a talented bunch of people. So glad they left us all this behind.

    Thank You so much!! Your photos are beautiful.

  6. Regretfully,I have not been to the se places.Very nice pictures,very impressive.
    Thank you for sharing.

  7. Thanks SG. Its my pleasure to share these beautiful things

  8. Hi Tanmaya,

    Thank you. Yeah I felt very sad seeing few of the sculptures plundered. But hopefully the ASI of would do something about it.

    Look what our ancestors left for us, its our duty to protect them

  9. Hi Shaunak,

    Yeah, those are beautiful masterpieces. But I did hear that the ASI has maintained it quite well now as compared few years back.

    The temples were clean, with sign boards and the toilets were neat too. So its much better

  10. Hi Neha,

    thanks much :-) Yeah no words could justify their splendor

  11. cool snaps... liked the way you have captured the architecture... makes a good history lesson :)

  12. cool snaps... liked the way you have captured the architecture... makes a good history lesson :)

  13. Hi lostworld,

    Its really mt pleasure that you got a virtual tour of Belur and Halebid. But this is really nothing compared to the magnificence viwed for real.

    I would strongly advice you to please visit when you get a chance. Just takes 4 hours from Bangalore and you could finish the trip in a day.

    We are indebted to our ancestors for leaving such wonderful masterpieces.

  14. Hi Chowla Sir,

    Welcome to B Log. Its sad that you haven't visited it yet.

    Each one of our ancient architecture be it North or South are splendid. Hopefully I pray you get a chance to visit these wonders.

    Thanks for your comments.

  15. Hi Rajlakshmi,

    Thanks much. The temples are so beautiful that it would always look beautiful with any camera :-)

    Glad you liked them

  16. History has always fascinated me. So it's never enough no matter how many times I visit these places. Belur-Halebidu are gem of places really.
    Loved the post and pictures. And once again, you are a wonderful photographer. :)
    Thanks! :)

  17. Karthik,

    Same here :-)
    Hey thanks for acknowledging my photography. Me still ok-ok photographer :-)

  18. Beautiful description about a beutiful place. The pics are superb. And the cross is th ecross beam of the basement structure, I think. :)

  19. Hi Holy Lama,

    Thanks much. :-) No it didnt seem like a cross-beam at all. and even if it were, it should have been uniformly placed all over. And such there is no requirement of a beam. And its not the basement. Something mysterious about it, because it was startlingly out of place.

    1. Because it was a simple structure of two intersecting lines among so intricate and delicate details

    2. Because it was not uniformly present all over.

    3. It was as if just plugged in...

    :-) Too much of brain raking isnt it.. I shall leave the cross alone :-D

  20. Nice details... Reminded me of the good old days! And thank you for the wonderful pictures.

    If you could please send me the link where you have all the photos!

  21. @ insignia,

    wonderful pictures ... this is just a minute fraction of the immense greatness of our hindu culture, in all spheres i guess.

    i wonder if i can manage to have a house like the one in the first picture in this blogpost ... would be wonderful just to stroll around and have a late evening fag at the premises ;)

    btw, thanks for visiting my blog.

    cheers !

  22. Gautam,

    Thank you sweets :-)

    The places are so beautiful, I forget myself.

    Here's the link - Belur and Halebid

    Pardon me if you find last few pics non formatted. I haven't rotated them and auto corrected.

  23. Hi Vamsi,

    Welcome to B Log. You are absolutely right. This is just the tip of an ice berg; what with those large repositories of art and culture our country has.

    A house like this...hahahaha..dont you think you are asking for MORE :-P and fag? hmmm...that has to be thought about. If you would want to ruin such a splendid house with the smoke and all

    Thanks for visiting :-)


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