Out of sight, but not out of mind

Out of sight, but not out of mind

Check out the lesser-known Veeranarayana Temple in Belavadi...

Veeranarayana Swamy Temple, Belavadi

On a recent visit to Chikkamagaluru, our homestay host suggested a few places that we should visit on our way back to Bengaluru. Most of the recommendations were places that were popular tourist destinations and ones that I had visited multiple times. When I mentioned that I was fascinated by the architectural beauty of Belur and Halebidu, he suggested that we visit the lesser-known Veeranarayana Temple in the Belavadi village of Chikkamagaluru district.

Veeranarayana Swamy Temple is located 29 km southeast of Chikkamagaluru town, and with the able assistance of Google, we arrived at our destination in less than 45 minutes. This temple is located at the end of a narrow street and can be easily missed. It is a stark contrast to the famous Belur and Halebidu temples which are teeming with tourists, and this was a welcome change for me. Veeranarayana Temple was built during the Hoysala rule in Belavadi. Belavadi, also known as Ekachakranagara, is said to be the place mentioned in the Mahabharata where the Pandava prince Bheema killed the demon Bakasura.

As I entered the temple, I was instantly mesmerised by the sheer brilliance of its architectural beauty. The majestic sculptures of two elephants at the entrance is a preview of the grandeur that lies inside. I could feel the heat of the sweltering summer immediately dissipate as I entered this ornate structure built solely using soapstone. This trikuta temple is a wonderful example of the magnificence of the Hoysala architecture and was built during the rule of King Veera Ballala II. A striking feature that one notices inside the temple is the stunning, lathe-turned and bell-shaped pillars. 

As I marvelled at the stunning decorations of the roof in the outer mandapa of the temple, the head priest escorted us to the main shrine which was the abode of an eight-feet-tall sculpture of Lord Narayana. The idol with four hands and seen standing on a padmasana (lotus seat) is a vision to behold. We then proceeded to pray at the other two shrines of Venugopala and Yoganarasimha. The north-facing shrine houses an idol of Venugopala, seen playing the flute; the south-facing shrine houses a seven-feet-tall idol of Yoganarasimha, seen sitting in a yoga posture.

Although the exterior of the temple does not feature the sharp, intricate carvings as is evident in other Hoysala temples, the sculptures on the towers and walls display what happens when art meets stone. As I went around the temple premises, I couldn’t help but admire the structure, with its three towers ornately decorated with exquisite carvings. It was a vision in black and a reminder of the prowess of the craftsmen during the Hoysala reign. This architectural treat, which has been overshadowed for far too long by the sheer brilliance of Belur and Halebidu, deserves to be on the tourist map. A visit to Veeranarayana Temple in Belavadi is truly a rewarding experience and the memories linger in the mind long after we ’ve left the temple.