Belur, first capital of the Hoysala empire, Karnataka • India

Embark on a historical journey over 4 minutes deep into Belur, the first capital of the Hoysala empire. Discover the Chennakeshava Temple, a gem of Dravidian architecture, through its detailed sculptures and rich history. Don't miss this architectural masterpiece. Watch now!
00:00 • intro | 00:28 • the exterior of the temple, the courtyard | 01:24 • decorated exterior walls | 02:28 • in the temple

made with photos and videos taken during the trip Unknown India • Ladakh, Karnataka, Telangana,

Belur

 

Formerly known as Velapura, the small town of Belur in Karnataka, India was the first capital of the Hoysala Empire which spanned part of southern India covering almost all of present-day Karnataka, a part of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as well as a fringe of Tamil Nadu and Kerala from the 10th century. The city lost its capital status when Halebid was founded a few decades later. The city has several temples dating from this era, in particular the magnificent Chennakeshava Temple.

 

the Chennakeshava temple.

 

This temple is dedicated to Vishnu and is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture and the largest temple complex from that era to have survived to the present day. The first achievements of the Hoysala temple builders were strongly inspired by Chalukian architecture (whose capital was Badami a few centuries earlier).

The Chennakeshava temple was built in the 12th century and its construction lasted 103 years. Like many religious buildings, this temple was damaged by various wars in the region and has undergone many restorations over the centuries.

Dedicated to Vishnu, of whom Chennakeshava is one of many names, is a Hindu temple in continuous operation since its foundation and is an important place of pilgrimage for followers of Shiva.

The temple is remarkable not only for the beauty of its architecture, but also for the finesse of its statues and bas-reliefs. Scenes from the secular life of the time are depicted in this temple. In addition to statues of Shiva, the temple also has Jain representations as well as images of Buddha, thus testifying to the great religious tolerance that characterized this period.

A godsend for historians, the Chennakeshava temple (which is also sometimes called Vijayanarayana) is covered with inscriptions, dated from 1117, when the temple was founded, until the 18th century. 118 have been found which provide a history of the temple as well as valuable information regarding its maintenance and repairs.

The Chennakeshava temple is famous not only for its architecture in general, but great attention to detail on the part of its builders makes it one of the finest temples in South India. 

Among these peculiarities, we can cite the extremely detailed sculptures representing Hindu deities, scenes from mythology or the daily life of the inhabitants of the time. 

The ceilings of the temple are also unique, finely carved and representing geometric figures mixed with mythological scenes. 

The pillars, each of which is different from the others, are also remarkably sculpted. 

From an architectural point of view, it is interesting to note the thickness of the walls of the temple as well as the profusion of detailed carvings, typical of the Hoysala architectural style, but there are also elements of other styles such as the Chola style or Vesara. 

It is also interesting to note that the temple is still in operation and that ceremonies are regularly held there in honor of the deities of the temple.

 

The Hoysala Empire

 

The origin of the Hoysala empier dates back to the 10th century, occupying an elevated region of the Western Gaths. The Hoysala empire took advantage of the wars in the 12th century between the Chalukyas and the Klachuris to extend their empire by seizing areas covering present-day Karnataka and part of Tamil Nadu before extending towards Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

From the point of view of art, the Hoysala period is of extreme importance for South India. Moreover, if nowadays we remember this empire, it is largely thanks to the many temples which have survived until our days. The turbulent history of this region meant that most of the hundreds of temples erected at that time were destroyed. This destruction began in the 14th century with the invasion of this region of southern India by the sultans of Delhi.

Chennakeshava Temple, Belur, Karnataka • India

What's the weather like in Belur?

 

Spoken comments in the film: 

Having visited this temple in the monsoon rain, outdoor photos sometimes suffered from water drops on the lens... but does that take away from the charms of this magnificent temple?

 

The Chennakeshava temple dates from the 12th century and is dedicated to Shiva. It is located in Karnataka in southern India, in the small town of Belur, which was once, in the 11th century, the first capital of the Hoysala Empire. It is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture and is also the largest surviving temple complex from that era. It obviously did not escape the damage caused by the many successive wars in the region, but thanks to the restorations it has undergone over the centuries, it has remained in activity almost uninterruptedly until today.

some columns of the Chennakeshava  temple, Belur • India • Karnataka

some columns of the Chennakeshava temple

een van de plafonds van de Chennakeshava-tempel, Belur • India • Karnataka

een van de plafonds van de Chennakeshava-tempel

the gate and courtyard of the Chennakeshava temple, Belur • India • Karnataka

the gate and courtyard of the Chennakeshava temple

a bas-relief on the outer wall of the temple, Belur • India • Karnataka

a bas-relief on the outer wall of the temple

Belur, Karnataka • India