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|24th July 2008, 21:31||#1|
A Visit to Hoysala Temples
I was planning for a long time to visit Belur and Halebid. This month had been easy from work perspective and hence I decided to undertake this long pending trip. From my previous trips to places with historic significance, I have learned that it is mostly a waste of time if you visit such places without any prior preparation, I mean without knowing sufficiently about the historical context. I started my research on Belur and Halebid and what really to expect during my visit. Of-course online sources like enwikipedia, et al were some of the important sources of information. Additionally I bought a book titled A complete guide to Hoysala Temples by Gerard Foekema to help me plan my itinerary.
A brief historical context:
Hoysala Kings were from Malnad Hill region in the Western Ghats. They started as chiefs of hill tribes and gradually formed their own kingdow which during its peak (around 1200 AD)comprised of almost all of present day Karnataka, some parts of western Andhra and north Tamil Nadu
Historians believe that Hoysala Kings have made significant contributions to art and architecture in South India. They gave a unique temple architecture now known as Hoysala Temple Architecture. According to historical records, around 1500 temples in 958 centers were built during the Hoysala period - between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1346. However, only a few (around 100) temples have survived. And at-least 15-18 of them are worth a visit for any above average traveller.
Note: Discussion on Hoysala Temple Architecture is beyond the scope of this blog and I have no skill to discuss the subject as well. But it will help if one reads about it so as to better appreciate the temples.
I had carefully chosen some 11 temples to visit which were within 40-50 kilometers from Hassan. I have couple of good maps including India Road Atlas by Eicher but except Belur and Halebid, none of the places exist on my map. And I have no idea about in which direction from Hassan these places exist. Moreover I was not sure if there would be a guide available at these other temples located in some non descripts places. To make it even worse, I don't know the local dialect - Kannada. So how do I now ensure that my trip will be smooth and I will not be wasting time (I have only two days). So I needed a good guide who can be with me for two days and also help me in planning my visit to these temples depending on the route. I posted on some online communities to help find a guide as well as I approached one of my colleagues who is from Hassan. Fortunately for me my colleague was going to Hassan that week and he promised to help me. And he did. He was able to find a district guide. This guide accompanied me for two days and he also helped me with sequencing.
Day 1 - 15th July 2008
Getting up early to begin our day at 7:00 AM was bit of a challenge. We had logged in the lodge only at 2:00 AM and heavy rains during most of our drive didn't help either. We left for our first destination - Koravangala only at 9:23 AM
Koravangala is a small village located 10 kilometers north-east of Hassan. Our guide is from Koravangala and we were to meet him at Koravangala. We reached Koravangala at 9:45 AM. Our guide is patiently waiting for us at the gates of the temple.
The temple at Korvangala is called Bucesvara. It is a dwikuta temple with the two shrines facing each other. The main shrine has a Shiva Linga and the other shrine has mythological Surya. The temple was built in 1173 AD (during the reign of Veera Ballala II - 1173 to 1220 AD) by a rich officer named Buci. However, according to our guide the temple was built by king Buci. Whether Buci was an officer or a king? The locals may believe him to be a king as he was wealthy and commanded authority.
According to our guide the Hoysala temples follow principles of Atharva Veda. He explained me why but his explanation remained elusive to me. May be not enough information. He further shared with us some folk tales associated with the temple. And how the Cholas were defeated by the Hoysalas in a tug of war somewhere near the temple.
In addition to the beautiful Shiva Linga, the temple has some more interesting pieces like...
We spent around 2 hours and 45 minutes at the temple and were then ready to leave for our next destination - Arsikere.
Arsikere is around 40 kilometers North East of Hassan. It is around 35 kilometers from the Koravangala temple. Arsikere is a popular town for the Coconut trade and has remained a important city during the Hoysala rule.
We reached Arsikere at around 1:00 PM and decided to have lunch first. Our guide carefully selected a restuarant but the food was really awful. But we were happy to have our stomach filled.
After completing our lunch we reached the Shivalaya (also known as Iswara Temple) at 2:17 PM.
Arsikere temple was built around 1220 AD (during the reign of Vira Narasimha II) by some local rich merchants. It is a ekakuta temple having a Shiva Linga. Today the temple is flocked by the local population (mainly lingayats).
The Shiva Linga is nice and this temple sees regular prayers by the priest and devotees. The temple has a beatiful open hall in the shape of 16 pointed star. It had started drizzling and as we sat in the hall, cool breeze greeted our faces. I am missing that wonderful environment as I write this blog. One more thing that I feel is worth mentioning about the temple is the idol of Goddess Chamundeswari inside the temple sanctorum (it is located in the closed hall). Our guide once again advises to take blessing from the Goddess as he believes that many of his wishes were granted by the Goddess. We pray and pay our obeisance to the Goddess and quickly make wishes that we would like to be fulfilled.
We finally leave Arsikere at 3:10 PM after spending some 50 minutes. Our next destination is Haranhalli. Haranhalli is around 8 kilometers from Arsikere on the same route back to Hassan. Yes we came past Haranhalli to reach Arsikere but we wanted to have lunch first and Arsikere was a better place (among available options) to have lunch.
Haranhalli has two Hoysala temples. One Vaishnav and one Shaiva. Both these temples were constructed around 1235 AD during the reign of Vira Someswara.
We first go to the Vaishnav temple. This is the first Hoysala Vaishnav temple that we are visiting on this trip. the Vaishnav temple is called Lakshmi Narsinha temple but some texts also refer to the temple as Chenna Kesava temple. This is a trikuta temple having three shrines. The main shrine has Vishnu but there is one more idol (of Vishnu) that is referred as Kesava and hence the name Chenna Kesava. The other two shrines have idols of Krishna and Lakshmi Narsinha. We find that the wall scultures are more elaborate here and some are really good. We also encounter the trademark friezes that are found in the new kind of Hoysala temples (the friezes found in Hoysala temples are unique and not all temples have adopted the concept; but as temple building gathered momentum almost all later temples have these friezes).
After spending some 30 minutes in this temple, we make a move to Someswara temple. Someswara temple is just 200 meteres away from the Chenna Kesava temple.
The Someswara temple has nothing to marvel about. It is a good piece of Architecture but nothing unique about it. After looking at the Shiva Linga, we felt that no priest has come to offer prayers for weeks.
I click some pictures and we are ready to leave for next and last destination for the day - Javagallu.
Javagallu is some 50 kilometers North of Hassan and 20 kilometers west of Haranhalli. There is a direct road to Hassan thru Halebid from Haranhalli. The road is like this - Haranhalli - Javagallu - Halebid - Hassan. There are deviations for Belvadi (before Halebid) and Belur (at Halebid).
The road to Javagallu from Haranhalli is purely country road and is wonderful. All thru the route we see Sunflower plantations, Coconut trees and the Wind Mills installed on various small hillocks that are around. As I drive on this road, I am having some of the best times of my life. They say a picture is worth thousand words. But here this picture describes only a fraction of the beauty that we experienced. I feel the picture is just not worth it.
We can't resist plucking one of those Sunflowers. We continue to drive and reach Javagallu at 5:10 PM.
Javagallu is a Vaishnav temple and is named Lakshmi Narasinha. The temple was constructed around 1250 AD during the reign of Vira Someswara. The temple had a very quite atmosphere even though there were some people flocking to the temple. The temple is trikuta and has Vishnu in the main shrine. The other two shrines have Krishna and Lakshmi Narasinha idols.
The idols looked very refreshing and it appeared that the regular prayers are offered at this temple. The temple has some very fine wall sculptures. We took some time adoring the workmanship of the sculptors as we did our circumambulation.
After spending one hour marvelling at the temple, we are done for the day and are ready to leave for Hassan at 6:05 PM.
The drive thru the country roads continue to enchant. After driving around 8-10 kilometeres we see a diversion sign for Belvadi. Belvadi is just 7 kilometers but it is getting dark and we continue towards Halebid. By the time we reached Halebid, it was almost dark. I ask my guide if he can enquire with Mayura Santhala. This tourist guest house is adjacent to the Halebid temple and if it has rooms, it would be great to stay adjacent to the Halebid temple and also will help in reducing the travel time tomorrow morning. Luck is with us and the tourist guest house has rooms vacant (the guest house has just 4 rooms).
We book the room (pay advance) and continue our drive to Hassan as we want to have dinner in Suvarna Sagar restaurant as well as we need to vacate the Hassan lodge. We reach Hassan at 7:45 PM. It takes us around 30 minutes to pack up everything and vacate the lodge. The chosen restaurant for dinner - Suvarna Sagar is just a kilometer away from the lodge and we reach the restaurant at 8:35 PM. The food is nothing great and to compensate for bad food I treat myself with some ice-cream. We leave Hassan at 9:30 PM and are in our room at Mayura Shantala at 10:15 PM.
After dressing up for the night, I come out of my room expecting some romantic view of the Halebid temple under the almost full moon. My bad luck as it is clouded and the night is really dark. After roaming around the temple for 15 minutes, I decide to go back to the guest house for a good night's sleep.
To be continued...
|24th July 2008, 22:43||#2|
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Great pictures with good information. The information provided makes the reading more interesting.
You have great patience. When ever we go to some historic temple, I am out within just 5 minutes. I cant just see the scluptures on walls!
I just pray that others come out fast, and its never fulfilled.
The 360 degree rotating Nandiji is something I have heard for the first time.
|24th July 2008, 22:47||#3|
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Nice description and even i agree, it takes a lot of patience to describe the history. I am also a quick prayer.
Lovely pictures too, i especially liked the sunflowers pic, had it been a little more deeper in color, it would look awesome.
Maybe one of our resident photoshop experts can give it a shot
|24th July 2008, 23:51||#4|
I feel my tripod really helped. My camera has very less tolerance for a shake in low light conditions.
|25th July 2008, 09:37||#5|
Day 2 - 16th July 2008
It was decided to get ready and start the day at 6:30 AM. I edited the alarm respectively, set the right alarm ringtone, but alas, forgot to enable the damn thing. I am so smart. My son wakes us up at 7:00 AM and we realize we are already late. I quickly go to the tourist guest house office to speak with the manager. He had promised us a water heater. He tells he will bring the water heater in 10 minutes and I come back to my room. It is now 7:30 AM and there is no sign of the water heater. I am desperate not to waste time and one more visit to the manager. This time he is able to find a water heater and gives it to me. I come back and plug it. Bhu, a spark and the current is gone. I rush back and inform the manager. He comes to the room to check and finds that the fuse had tripped. He just switches back. But I enquired with him if there is any other way to get the hot water. He says the solar is not working due to overcast sky. He tells us that he will heat the water over a gas stove and give us. I realize that it would take time and decide to take bath in freezing cold water. As soon as I complete my bath, the hot water arrives. At-least my wife, son and mom will have hot water to take bath.
We are finally ready to start our day at 8:30 AM. We finish the breakfast and start walking towards the Halebid temple at 8:45 AM.
The Halebid temple was contructed in 1120 by the rich merchants (prominently Ketamala) of Halebid during the reign of Vishnuvardhana (original name - Bittideva). The construction may have gone upto 1150.
Halebid remained the capital city of the Hoysala kings during most of the 200 years that they ruled. It's original name was Dwarasamudra although today it is known as Halebidu. Halebidu when translated in English (from Kannada) means - a ruined city or old city. It is situated some 30 kilometers North West of Hassan.
It is a magnificent feeling as we walk towards the temple. The structure looks majestic from some distance but we had no idea of what we were going to witness as we inch closer. This is one of the most wonderful temples I have ever been to. Halebid is a twin temple, ofcourse a dwikuta. Both the shrines are equal and have a Shiva Linga. If one enters from the South facing entrance, the Shiva Linga that greets first is named Hoysaleswara. If one enters from the North facing entrance, the Shiva Linga that greets frist is named Santalaeswara after the queen Santala; wife of Vishnuvardhana. Both the shrines have a huge Nandi in the front.
The friezes of the Halebid temple are the best among all the Hoysala temples that I visited during this trip. The 6th frieze from the top depicts scenes from Mahabharat, Ramayana, Bhagwad, and other folklore. Many other Hoysala temples have this feature but it is in its most flourished form at Halebid.
I must have done atleast 8-10 circumambulations to marvel the wall sculptures at Halebid temple. They are extraordinary and cover a very large portion of Hindu Mythology. Most of the wall sculptures have some or other associated legend from Hindu Mythology and these legends have been sculpted to eternity by the sculptors of this temple. The wall structures start with a sculpture of dancing Ganesha at the South facing entrance and ends again with a sculpture of dancing Ganesah on the North facing entrance. In between there are about 240 great sculptures.
There is an interesting Stambha outside the South facing entrance of the temple with carvings of soldiers cutting their own heads. These are suppose to be king loyalists offering their lives once the king is dies.
Finally after marvelling at the temple for more than an hour we finally enter the temple sanctorum from the South facing entrance which was also used by king Vishnuvardhana. The sanctorum is peaceful and its design (which is as per Vastu Shastra) gives it wonderful shades of light and just right amount of air flow.
The priest has just arrived and is starting the prayer. We sit for some half an hour till the prayer is complete and pay our obeisance to the Shiva Linga. The Linga in this temple is bigger than any other Linga among the Hoysala temples. We then proceed to pay obeisance to the Santaleswara Shiva Linga. As we come out of the temple, I feel really really blessed.
We then proceed to the ASI Museum. The Museum has some fine sculptures and some other excavated art pieces from the Halebid and nearby Hoysala sites. The entrance fees is just 2 rupees and it is worth spending some time in the Museum.
After spending some three hours in the Halebid temple we are back at our tourist guest house at 11:55 AM. We request the guest house to prepare some sandwiches for us and at 12:30 PM leave for Belvadi.
Belvadi is 12 kilometers North of Halebid (around 42 kilometers North West of Hassan). Belvadi has a Vaishnav temple named Viranarayana. The construction of this temple dates back to 1200 AD and was undertaken during the reign of Veera Ballala II.
The Belvadi temple has been completed in various stages. Belvadi temple is a trikuta temple. However the main shrine is very different from the other two shrines. The lateral two shrines may have been constructed at a later date than the main shrine. There are no ornate wall sculptures on the main shrine.
The pillars in this temple are lathe turned (some other temples also have lathe turned pillars like the Halebid temple) and so very shiny (most shiny when compared to any other Hoysala temple). Please take time to review the roof sculptures at 59 bay mantapa connecting the two lateral shrines.
The other striking thing about Belvadi is the idols. All the three idols (Vishnu in the main shrine, Krishna and Yoga Narsinha in the other two shrines) are the most beautiful idols I have seen. Although the Narayana idol with four hands and the Narasinha idol in a Yog Mundra are superb, I liked the Krishna one the most. The priest tells that ASI is on record recognizing this as one of best Krishna idols found so far. It is evident that regular prayers are offered in this temple, mainly at the Lakshmi Narsimha temple. We were offered the holy water thru a Shaligram. It was a first for me.
The priest of this temple was quite knowledgeable and shared some intricate details from each idol with us. There was one ASI official who was present and shared some intricate details about the temple conversation at Belvadi and some of the sculptures from the super structures. All in all it was a great feeling to be at this temple and we enjoyed every moment while we were there.
We left the Belvadi temple at 2:40 PM. Our next destination was Belur but our guide suggested to visit a Swayambhu Ganesha temple in the Belvadi village before proceeding to Belur. After visiting the Swayambhu Ganesha temple, we reach Belur at 3:50 PM
Belur is around 30 kilometers South West of Belvadi (around 40 kilometers North West of Hassan on the Chikmagalur road). We had to come back to Halebid (from Belvadi) and proceed towards Belur.
After reaching Belur we take some refreshments. Belur temple had most number of tourists so far. It was crowded. Market in front of the temple. Lot of guides around. Typical tourist temple.
Belur temple is a Vaishanav temple and is called Chenna Kesava. Originally this temple was called Vijayanarayana as it was contructed by Vishnuvardhana to celebrate his victory over the Gangavadi region (after defeating the Cholas). The construction for this temple was completed in 1117 AD. This temple is ekakuta and hosts lord Vishnu.
We finally move inside the temple. Someone informs us the darshan will close soon so we first proceed for the Darshan. The Vishnu idol is ornate and is decorated with lot of silver and gold jewellery. We realize that our guide doesn't know much about the temple. He too realizes that he is unable to answer any of my questions. He then decide to give charge to a local guide - Udai kumar. Our Belur guide was very passianate about the temple and I was surprised that all the Madanikas have a unique name and are depicting some interesting daily life activities. Our guide seems to remember all the names. He was extremely well versed with the wall sculptures as well. We thoroughly enjoyed our hour long session with him. One should not miss viewing the two ornate pillars inside the temple sanctorum - Vishnu in the form of Mohini and Narasinha pillar.
There are some interesting wall sculptures as well; very unique to Belur temple. The wall sculptures are in best state of conservation here as Belur was never attacked by any armies. As Halebid was the capital, the Halebid temple had to withstand most of the attacks.
We finally leave Belur at 6:35 PM. It is late. We need to reach Bangalore at a reasonable time as I and my wife both have offices to attend the next morning. But we have Dodda Gadduvalli just 3 kilometers from the main Belur - Hassan road. We decide if there is some light, when we reach the diversion, we will like not to miss the Dodda Gadduvalli temple.
We are lucky and there is still some light when we reach the diversion for Dodda Gadduvalli. We take the diversion and reach the temple at 7:00 PM.
Dodda Gadduvalli is 25 kilometers South East of Belur. The primary diety in Dodda Gadduvalli is Lakshmi and hence the temple here is named as Lakshmi Devi temple. The temple construction was completed in 1113 AD. It makes this temple the oldest Hoysala temple that we visited so far. The temple was constructed by a rich Maharashtrian diamond merchant - Kullahana Rahuta and his wife Sahaja Devi. As per the story, the merchant use to supply diamonds to Vishnuvardhana and the king advised him to build this temple from the money he has made thru the diamond trade.
Dodda Gadduvalli is the only chaturkuta Hoysala temple. It has four shrines - the main shrine has Lakshmi idol. Just opposite to Laksmi shrine, there is a Shiva Linga. In the shrine left of Lakshmi, mythological Kali is present. This temple is quite popular for the two tall betala sculptures guarding the Kali shrine. The idol from the shrine opposite to Kali has been stolen and presently an idol of Vishnu has been placed. The architecture of this temple is quite different from all other Hoysala temples. There are no ornate wall sculptures and the design of the Vimana is also very different.
Honestly speaking this was one of the most mesmerising temple that I ever visited (for whatever reasons). The ensemble of the temple is marvellous. There is a pond behind the temple that can be approached thru the steps from the temple. The idol of Goddess Lakshmi is extremely lively and I had a time of my lifetime in this temple. A local priest offers prayer regularly. The priest was not present and another local had opened the doors of the temple for us. We chanted some Lakshmi Maha Mantral for 15 minutes, marvelled at the beautiful temple and finally left for Hassan at 7:40 PM.
We reached Hassan at 8:10 PM. I had to go to an ATM to withdraw some cash. Somewhere near the bus stand we find a Mysore Bank ATM. I withdraw cash and make payment to our guide. It is time to bid him goodbye. He has been extremely helpful and great companion to us for past two days.
As we had not liked the food at Suvarna Sagar, we decide to have food at Kamat Upachar. Kamat Upachar is located just before Chennarayapatna (Udayapura) when you are coming from Hassan side. We had good food for the first time in the last two days.
We start at 10:05 PM from Kamat and reach Bangalore at 1:15 AM.
Total Journey: 689 kilometers; undertaken in my beloved Fiat Adventure.
|25th July 2008, 12:44||#10|
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This is a tremendous knowledge enhancing travellogue. Your research was great. Hats off on taking a risk of going to places that you dont know if it is worth. This kind of adventures can pull out many unknown places of this great historical land of ours. Good Keep it up
|25th July 2008, 13:38||#11|
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|25th July 2008, 14:08||#12|
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Very nice and informative trip log. The photos are very good. The craftmanship on the walls is really amazing. Enjoyed!
|25th July 2008, 14:09||#14|
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Excellent Report and pics!!
Probably we will not require a guide when we visit these historical places, printout of your writeup should do hah !!
|25th July 2008, 15:19||#15|
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A fantastic report akbaree, you prepared in advanced for your site, that's really great. Visiting Hampi made me read the history after coming back, wish I had the foresight to do it in advance like you.
The photographs have come out very clean eventhough they are P&S shots. Your compositions are very good, and that's the key factor.
I am surprised Somanathpur was not in your list, it happens to be the most well preserved temple from the Hoysala period.
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