Architectural treat at Belawadi

SCULPTURAL EXTRAVAGANZA: A pair of well-sculpted elephants flank the porch at the eastern entrance of the temple. Photo by B V Prakash

The district of Chikmagalur is well known for its natural beauty with mountain ranges, waterbodies and wildlife. It is also a hub of cultural extravaganza with some architecturally stupendous creations, particularly Hoysala temples spread all over. A wonderful example is the Veeranarayana temple at Belawadi.

Dates back to 12th century

Situated 29 kms southeast of Chikmagalur on Javagal road and due 10kms northwest of Halebid, this Vaishnavite shrine is one of the largest structures ever created by the dynasty. Said to be in existence from before the 12th century, the temple was built as an ekakuta, i.e., with a single sanctum. Much later, it was extended during the time of Veeraballala II into a trikutachala, by building the sabhamantapa connecting with two more cells complete. The eastern entrance to the main courtyard has an additional elevated porch called upparige which is flanked by two well-sculpted elephants.

Stepping into the sabhamantapa, one runs into Hoysalan pillars. These circular lathe turned pillars with a square base are each different from the other, though they all look alike.

Between them on the roof are 39 bays, some of which are hollow with intricate designs.

Two of the flat bays are particularly noteworthy; one with a relief of the mythical Kalingamardhana by Krishna (slaying of the demon Kalinga) and the other of Makaranda hailing the event.

The sanctum on the left (south side) is dedicated to Venugopalaswamy. The eight-foot image playing the flute is flanked by Sreedevi and Bhoodevi. The other sanctum of Yoganarasimha is where regular pooja is offered. Further inside is the mukhamantapa.

The hall has 22 pillars two of which are stellate while the others are circular. Beyond the navaranga and sukhanasi is the  sanctum of Veeranarayana.

The seven-foot image with four hands, standing on a lotus pedestal is attractive. The architectural skill is well demonstrated in that on March 23, the sun’s rays fall on the navel portion of the image.

Though the outer walls of the shrine have plain vertical columns, the tower is full of intricate designs and images. With three tiers topped by a kalasha, the tower looks impressive.

The fact that the other two towers were added later is discernible by the richness of the craftsmanship on these, especially the tower above the shrine of Yoganarasimha. The outer walls have reliefs of beautifully carved images of stories from epics and various avatars of Vishnu. The maintenance of the temple has been quite good thanks to the efforts of the archaelogical department.

However, a fencing of the complex would ensure the temple premises are not used as a thoroughfare.

In ancient times Belawadi was called Ekachakranagara (where Bhima is said to have killed Bakasura). The festival Bandi Bana is observed here even now when people carry food in a cart outside the village and feast.

Getting there: Belawadi is about 220 kms from Bangalore and can be reached either via Hassan(NH48) & Halebid or via Arsikere & Banavara (NH206) from Tumkur, passing through Javagal.

Food and accommodation: Chikmagalur, 29kms north has many options.

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