A temple of great beauty

A temple of great beauty

More often than not, a thing of beauty such as a monument may eclipse another of greater or lesser beauty rendering it less popular and rarely appreciated or visited. In other words, a thing of beauty may mask another.

The Veera Narayana temple situated in the tiny village Belavadi, in Chikmagalur district, exemplifies this statement. The magnificence and popularity of the temple belonging to the Hoysala period at Halebid has masked the Veera Narayana temple at Belavadi which lies at a distance of about 10 km from Halebid. Renowned historian and critic Gerard Foekema has said, “It is amazing that such a spectacular temple situated close to Halebid is hardly ever visited by tourist”.

This speaks volumes on the splendour of Veera Narayana temple at Belavadi village. At the end of the visit to this stunning temple, a visitor will be overwhelmed by the keen competition between the architecture and sculpture, each vying for superiority over the other.

Veera Narayana temple at Belavadi is one of the few extant trikuta temples with all the three original towers in place. This temple, built around 1200 by the Hoysala King Veeraballala II, is exclusively dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

The central (western), a southern and northern cell facing each other enshrines the three different physical manifestations (avatars) of lord Vishnu: Narayana, Venugopala and Narasimha in yoga mudra, respectively, as is the tradition of the Hoysala temple architecture.

These finely sculpted black stone idols of Lord Veera Narayana, Lord Venugopala with their consorts and Lord Narasimha in his yoga mudra never fails to cast their spell on the devotees who come to them. These idols are said to be fine specimens of the Hoysala art.

The entry into the temple courtyard is gained via a spacious porch fronted to a structure built in the shape of an inverted cone with both the entrances flanked by a pair of impressively carved elephants, all built on a high ground, forming an attractive main gateway to this magnificent temple. This magnificent temple was built in two stages. In the first stage the temple dedicated to Lord Veera Narayana was completed.

It contains a garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) built on a square plan, an antharala, sukanasi, a closed navaranga mantapa, (halls) fronted by a open pillared mukhamantapa, supported by 22 pillars, 20 of which are round, bell shaped ones, while the other two are star shaped. A large stone kalasa crowning the elaborately decorated tower (gopura) above the sanctum sanctorum enhances the beauty of the temple.

The outer walls of this temple are devoid of the decorative relief panels usually found in Hoysala temples. Instead we find the plain projections in the wall being framed by slender pilasters. The extension in the second stage has a large open pillared hall with two lateral shrines, facing each other, attached at the lateral ends of the hall.

These shrines with two different designs of square and stellar, a rare combination, add to the beauty of the temple. The two finely carved and well decorated elephants flanking the flight of steps leading to this open hall greet the visitor. The idols of Gopalakrishna and Yoganarasimha reflect the expertise of the sculptors of that time. A deep double flexed cornice running around this hall makes the whole structure appear majestic.

An important feature of the temple architecture of the Chalukyan period, adopted by the Hoysalas, the stone bench, runs all-round the temple except the open passages. The bench is symbolically borne by elephants. There are 39 ceilings. It is said that on March 23 every year, sun rays falls directly on the idol of Veera Narayana after passing through the doorways leading to this shrine.

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