Friday, December 14, 2012



'Built from the wealth amassed from the sword' 
- King Vishnuvardhana, 
in context with his having built ChennaKesava temple,Belur.

To enjoy the temple art of Hoysala dynasty, homework before the trip is a MUST. There are lots of articles in Internet, giving history/timeline and photographs of the  more popular temples around Hassan and Mysore. I  even found a suggestion about a guide  of Belur temple - though  I could not locate him when we were  there during November,12.  Please search for Prof S Settar  and do not miss his interview in Frontline,April,2003.

Trikuta Kesava temple at Somnathpura.

Simply stated, Hoysala temples have a complex building plan with artistic projections aplenty, a 'scroll' of wall-reliefs of deities and other characters unfurling on the 'parikrama' , dazzling female dancers and musicians together with mythical animals staring down at you, rows of  human figures on animals and chariots fighting mythological and real battles. These temples are virtually a  gallery created to educate viewers of  Hindu Iconography and 'naba-rasa' as well as dance   plus music .

Rich wall frieze of Kedareswar temple of Halebid.

Kirat-Arjuna &  Bali-Sugriva duels, Hoysaleswara temple,Halebid.

Vishnu rests on Seshanaga - Lakshmi 'serves' at his feet, Yogamaya sitting near his head. He rests within  a pavilion, with roaring vertical waves filled with fish and tortoise - Vishnu's incarnations.
Kesava temple,Somnathpura.

Note : Interesting to watch one small part in each of the last two panels - Sugriva's right leg & Sheshnaga's tail - sneak out of the frame ! Typical Hoysala style .

And .... not-to-miss the exceptionally carefully executed  layout and 'art-work' in the  interiors of temples.Some of the secular ceiling art , round and serrated ends  of load-bearing columns, female bodies serving as brackets on  top-ends of columns almost hidden in the darkness of 'Mantapa' will not fail to mesmerise discerning viewers. Topping the list are the principal deities wherever we can view their splendour not hidden under silk robes and garlands.

Venugopala, one of the three deities of
Somnathpura temple.

Dancer on one of the four pillars within 'Garbhagriha' of 
ChennaKesava temple, Belur.

Hundreds of figures and motifs curved on famous 'Narasimha' pillar within'Garbhagriha' of 
ChennaKesava temple, Belur.
Notes :1.  It  is said  that this pillar used to revolve on its vertical axis.  
2. Comparable are stone pillars of Vitthala and Hazara Rama temples, Hampi.

Once  a person spends time among the temples built by Hoysala dynasty, it becomes clear that a martial spirit had worked in bringing these temples into being. The name  king Vishnubardhana chose for his lineage and also the symbol are result of this military spirit. We all know, 'Hoysala' means 'Kill Sala', reportedly the uttering of  a sage whose life Sala, a tribal leader and ancestor of the king , saved by slaying a pouncing lion.

My favourite 'Sala slaying the lion'. Sala is in pain , yet he pierces right ear of the beast with his long dagger, held in his left hand !
Wall-reliefs of Vishnu and Kamadeva in the background.
ChennaKesava temple, Belur.

This may be a myth,established  firmly by king Vishnubardhana , while adopting the 'Sala' symbol and sculptures of  'Sala and the lion' in the entries to ChennaKesava temple's 'Mantapa'.

While working within the limitations of 'canon', some of the artists broke ground in their efforts to stand apart among the 'many'.Collectively, the following characteristics will immediately draw attention of the viewer :
Krsna tames 'Kaliya-the-snake'. One of his wives asks for forgiveness 
on behalf of her husband.
Kedareswar temple, Halebid.
  • the decorative features of the wall-reliefs, e.g. the dresses , ornaments and other attributes are carved so meticulously that one feels s/he is viewing a wood, and not a stone-carving.
  • a toe here, a finger there overflow  the frame , just to add drama to the 'scene'.
  • the fierce manifestations of Siva and Shakti are often  not stiff, but in smooth postures of dance.
I end here with ten. nos of photos . More will follow.


R Niranjan Das said...

Nice post on those wonderful architectures.

Lokendra Nath Roychoudhury said...

Exceptionally beautiful. What a relief that these have not been vandalized by hordes of foreign invaders

Ashok Kalbag said...

Excllent post showing the beauty of the temples.


Thanks everybody for appreciation !