I think it was during my multiple trips to Gujarat that I fell in love with architecture and history. Though I love history as a subject, I was never fascinated with monuments and their stories. However, places like Rani Ni Vav, Adalaj ni Vav, Modhera Sun Temple, and the like just made me fall in love with history and architecture. Ever since I’ve visited a lot of historical places in India including Bijapur, Hampi, and Aihole.
During my recent trip to Chikmagalur, not only I enjoyed coffee and sunsets, but I also traveled a bit to explore the gem of the Hoysala dynasty. There are two iconic temples – Chennakeshava Temple in Belur and Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebidu.
In this post, I’ll share my experience of visiting the Chennakeshava Temple in Belur along with everything you need to know and this should be in your Chikmagalur dynasty.
History of The Hoysala Dynasty
Before I talk about Chennakeshava Temple, I think it’s important to give a brief about the Hoysala dynasty. Interestingly when I was studying in Bengaluru, I was in the Hoysala house (pink color, high five to everyone who’ve been in the pink house).
The Hoysala dynasty was a prominent dynasty that ruled modern-day Karnataka from the 10th century to the 14th century. Belur was their capital which later shifted to Halebidu. Originally from the Malnadu region, they rose to prominence in the 13th century and ruled areas of modern-day Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana.
The story behind the name “Hoysala” is quite interesting. As per a popular Kannadiga folklore, a young man name Sala (Poysala) was asked by his guru to kill a lion and save his life. He was commanded, “Hoy Sala” (Kill! Sala) instructing Sala to kill the lion. One thing lead to another and Sala is dubbed to be the founder of the Hoysala dynasty. The symbol of Sala killing the tiger became the emblem of the Hoysala Dynasty and can be seen in various inscriptions about Hoysala Dynasty. Some of the popular rulers in the dynasty included Vishnuvardhan and Veera Ballala.
Interestingly the Hoysala rulers were linked with Harihara II and Bukka Raya II of the Vijayanagara dynasty. During the offense from the Delhi Sultanate, it was the Vijayanagara kings that helped the Hoysala dynasty resist the offense. However, as per the history books, Veera Ballala III was killed in the battle which ended the Hoysala dynasty which later came under the flourishing Vijayanagara empire of Hampi.
Chennakeshava Temple in Belur: A Timeless Gem
Chikmagalur was not only home to the first coffee in India but also the home of the erstwhile Hoysala dynasty. While not much is talked about Chikmagalur, Belur, and Halebidu, the capital towns of Hoysalas are well known. Belur is located about 30 km from Chikmagalur and the Chennakeshava Temple is a must-visit site when you’re in Chikmagalur.
I spent one entire day exploring both Chennakeshava Temple and Hoysaleshwara Temple in Halebidu and I’d recommend you to do the same. Like, me if you are also into history and architecture, you should visit this temple.
History of Chennakeshava Temple
Chennakeshava Temple was built during the reign of King Vishnuvardhana in the 12th century and took over a century to complete the construction, with subsequent rulers and artisans contributing to it. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple is known for its intricate carvings, sculptures, and exquisite craftsmanship. Despite attacks from various dynasties, Chennakeshava Temple has stood the test of time and stands tall to date.
Today, it’s one of the few temples which is worshipped actively and you too can conduct a pooja here. It’s one of the finest temples that represents the pinnacle of the Hoysala dynasty. When you’re visiting the temple, make sure to hire a guide. They charge Rs 500 and it takes about 45 minutes. Trust me this is totally worth it. I was here with my parents and they thoroughly enjoyed it.
Marvellous Architecture of Chennakeshava Temple
The temple is made using soapstone which is known for its soft nature as well as its black color. A similar stone was also used to construct the Ramappa Temple in Warangal. The softness of this stone allowed the craftsmen to create very detailed and intricate designs.
One of the notable features of this temple is the presence of dancing idols known as Madanikas or celestial dancers. These sculptures depict graceful female figures in various dance poses, showcasing the mastery of sculptors in capturing fluid movements and expressions.
There’s also a multitude of idols representing mythological characters from epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. These intricate sculptures bring to life the stories and legends associated with these epics. Furthermore, the temple’s design incorporates elements from nature, with sculptures of animals, birds, foliage, and mythical creatures adorning the walls and pillars.
The attention to detail and the harmonious integration of these elements make the Chennakeshava Temple a visual delight and a testament to the exceptional artistic skills of the Hoysala craftsmen. I always thought that the Virupaksha temple in Hampi was the most beautiful temple I’d visited, but this one left me speechless.
Even on the inside, the pillars are carved out of single stone and the ceilings are equally intricate. The finesse is something that is just amazing. Since this temple is worshipped even today, you can also book a pooja here which will happen in this very complex.
A Timeless Gem Worth Visting
Visiting Chikmagalur, I thought I’d visit only the coffee estates Little did I know that I’d also be visiting these architectural marvels. It was only when I researched about places near Chikmagalur, I came to know about this and decided to visit.
And I’m so glad. My visit to the Chennakeshava temple was nothing short of awe-inspiring. This timeless gem of the Hoysala Dynasty left me mesmerized with its intricate architecture and artistic brilliance. The graceful dancing idols, the captivating sculptures of mythological characters, and the seamless integration of nature’s elements all came together to create a truly enchanting experience.
This is a must visit place in your Chikmagalur itinerary and you won’t regret. That’s about it for this blog post, let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Tweet to me at @atulmaharaj, DM on Instagram or Get In Touch.