Shantigrama's Hoysala legacy

Shantigrama's Hoysala legacy

Shantigrama's Hoysala legacy
King Vishnuvardhana, one of the most famous Hoysala rulers, bestowed the village of Shantigrama, in the vicinity of Belur in Hassan district, on his wife, Queen Shantaladevi, who was an accomplished dancer and musician. There are four places of worship in this small village and all the structures display Hoysala influences.

The largest among them is Chennakeshava Temple, dedicated to a form of Vishnu, favourite to the Hoysalas. It is a small and simple temple bereft of any carving and ornamentation. It is an ekakuta with a closed hall in front. The sanctum houses a beautifully carved idol of Chennakeshava. The tower atop the sanctum is a later addition. So are the gateway and the front hall of the temple.

Many other modifications have been made to the temple over the years, taking away the originality of the heritage structure. The priest said that the temple actually dated back to the Chola period but was renovated by Queen Shantaladevi.

On the shore of the village lake is the temple dedicated to Sri Varada Yoga Bhoga Narasimha Swamy. This is the most popular temple among pilgrims. Again a simple temple in terms of the plan and carving, it was built by Acala Prakasa Muni in the 12th century. The idol dates back to the Chola period and depicts Narasimha in a meditative posture, hence the name Yoga Narasimha. The ring of nine forms of Narasimha (Nava Narasimha Vritta) incorporated in the ceiling of the portico of the temple is a rare sculptural work. The nine forms of Narasimha are Ugra, Krodha, Veera, Vilamba, Kopa, Yoga, Aghora, Sudharshana and Lakshmi Narasimha. The tower of the shrine is pyramidal in shape. The ekakuta temple consists of a shrine connected to a closed hall through a vestibule.

Queen Shantaladevi’s father Marasingayya also built a temple in the village, the Dharmeshwara Temple in 1123 AD. Today, it doesn’t even look like a Hoysala Temple because of the numerous renovations. It is an ekakuta with a shrine and a closed hall. The sanctum houses a linga and the tower atop it is a recent addition. The doorway of the garbhagriha is ornate and the ceiling of the mantapa too is well carved.

The fourth monument bearing the Hoysala influence is Bhagwan Shantinatha Basadi. It was probably built in the 12th century as King Vishnuvardhana and his predecessors were Jains.

It is incredible that a small village, in threat of being engulfed by the expanding Hassan, has such a rich architectural legacy. The next time you are travelling on National Highway 75, between Bengaluru and Hassan, don’t forget to make a stop at Shantigrama.

The temples at Belur, Halebidu, Dodddagadduvalli, Mosale, Koravangala are all within a radius of 50 km from Shantigrama.

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