A sculptural splendour

A sculptural splendour

While travelling from Hassan to Arasikere, you will pass through many sleepy villages and most of them have lesser-known marvels of Hoysala temple architecture. One such village is Haranahalli, which is 35 km from Hassan and 8 km from Arasikere. It houses two modestly sized Hoysala temples. The first one I visited was the Someshwara Temple. In typical Hoysala style, it is built on a platform which not only adds to the visual beauty, but also provides the devotees a path for circumambulation around the temple. Unfortunately, the  platform is in a bad state with loose stones.  

The temple has a star-shaped shrine (ekakuta) connected to a hall through a vestibule. The hall has screens in front and is closed at the back. The sanctum houses a linga and the hall has some minor shrines. The tower atop the sanctum is not too ornate and the kalasa, which is usually placed at the apex of the tower, is missing. There are plants growing out of the tower too. The priest mentioned that this was already leading to water seeping into the sanctum.  

From the rear, the temple looks like it is a trikuta  (three shrines). The wall images are good but not comparable to the ones in Belur or Halebidu. The base has six friezes of various animals and creepers, but they are incomplete at most places. The interior of the temple is richly decorated. Unfortunately, two later additions mar the beauty of temple - a large bull above the southern entrance and a small shrine attached to the lateral entrance of the temple.  

A few hundred metres from this temple, across the road, is the other temple which is a Vaishnava one and is surprisingly well-maintained. It is complete and devoid of later additions and is definitely the better of the two. Both the temples date back to about 1235 AD and are built with soapstone. The Lakshmi Narasimha (or Keshava) Temple is a trikuta with three shrines located around a common hall with the central east-facing shrine given more importance. The southern shrine houses Venugopala, the northern shrine houses Lakshmi Narasimha and the eastern shrine houses Keshava. All the three idols are finely carved in black stone and are a treat to the eyes. The doorways to the shrines too are carved to perfection. Only the central shrine has a tower and a nose. The tower, though complete, lacks the kalasa, and is devoid of the usual ornamentation. The front of the hall is partially open with screens. The temple is as usual built on a platform.  

The sculptures on the outer walls of the temple are of superior quality, comparable to Somanathapura. The sculptures include that of Varaha, Dakshinamurthy, Bhairava, Kalingamardana Krishna, Rati-Manmatha, Saraswati, Brahma, Vishnu etc. Mallitamma, one of the best-known Hoysala sculptors of the 13th century, was the main sculptor of the Keshava Temple. He is believed to have worked on the temples in Nuggehalli, Hosaholalu and Somanathapura. His signature can be seen on one of the panels at the temple.  

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