Last weekend we took a trip to the coffee land of Karnataka – ‘Chikmagalur’. For a change we booked a homestay in the middle of the coffee plantations. We started from Bangalore at 6am and reached Chikmagalur around 11am (the distance is ~250km). We had hired a car for our round trip. After reaching our homestay and unpacking we immediately set off for our first day of sightseeing to Bababudangiri and Mullyanagiri mountain peaks. We also spent some time at the beautiful Jhari falls. Cars can go up almost near the peak. After this there is a jeep service to take you to the waterfall.
On the second day, we first visited the Veera Narayana temple in Belavadi. Belavadi is said to be the place mentioned in Mahabharatha where Pandava prince Bheema killed the demon Bakasura and protected the village and its people.This ornate trikuta (three shrined) temple was built in 1200 C.E. by Hoysala Empire King Veera Ballala II. The material used is soapstone (steatite). This stone is extremely easy to chisel, but attains iron-like firmness when exposed to the atmosphere. To maintain the shine of the temple, the stone is treated with a chemical wash and then wax polished once in ten years. Each of the three shrines has a complete superstructure (tower on top of shrine) and is one of the largest temples built by the Hoysala kings. While the famous temples at Belur and Halebidu are known for their intricate sculptures, this temple is known for its architecture.
It is believed that Veera Narayana Temple was constructed in two phases. The temple is exquisitely crafted and is one of the architectural marvels of India.
This is a Vaishnava temple and all three shrines have images of the Hindu god Vishnu, though in different forms (avatar). The central shrine (older shrine) has an 8 ft (2.4 m) tall image of Narayana with four hands and is considered one of the best examples of Hoysala art. It is well elaborated with ornamentation and stands on a padmasana (lotus seat). The southern shrine has an 8 ft (2.4 m) tall image of Venugopala (the god Krishna playing a flute) including a garuda pedestal and the northern shrine has a 7 ft (2.1 m) tall image of Yoganarasimha, sitting in a yoga posture. Decorative sculptures such as kirtimukhas (gargoyles) are used to make the shrine (vimana) towers ornate. The Archaeological Survey of India has voted the idol of Lord Krishna here as the most beautiful of all Krishna sculptures in the world.
After that we visited the Chenna Keshava temple in Belur. The magnificent shrine is dedicated to Lord Vijayaanarayan, one of the twenty four incarnations of Vishnu. This temple was built to commemorate the victory of the Hoysalas over the Cholas in the great battle of Talakkad. According to historical records, it took over 103 years to complete this profusely sculpted masterpiece of Hoysala architecture. The huge temple complex enclosed by high walls has a garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum), a sukhanasi (vestibule) and a navaranga mandapa. There are two gateways, but only one is crowned by a gopuram. The brackets outside the temple are adorned with voluptuous beauties (Madanikas) in different dancing and ritual postures.
Our last stop was the Hoysaleswara temple in Halebeedu. The shrine is very similar to the Chenna Keshava temple at Belur, but its figures are more profusely carved. James Fergusson, an art and architecture expert was mesmerized by the beauty of the shrine. He remarks that the temple “may probably be considered as one of the most marvellous exhibitions of human labour to be found even in the patient east” and compares Hoysaleswara with the famous Parthenon in Athens. The temple complex consists of two identical temples each with its own array of navaranga and sukhanasi and Nandi mandapas. Both the sanctums have a characteristic star shaped ground plan. The two temple halls are joined by a common verandah creating a spacious columned interior. Thousands of intricately carved sculptures depicting scenes from the mythological epics Ramayana, Mahabharata, puranic legends, beasts and beauties etc. adorn the temple walls. There are about thirty five thousand sculpted pieces in the shrine, noted for their breathtaking beauty, but the south doorway unrivalled for its filigree work is considered to be a masterpiece of delicate carving. Both the sanctums enshrine an east facing lingam, preceded by a Nandi mandapa with a huge statue of Nandi bull, the celestial vehicle of Lord Shiva. Behind the Nandi are the large figures of Lord Suryanarayan with seven horses and Arunadeva.
The homestay experience was also refreshing. Breakfast and dinner were provided by our courteous host Subhada. There was a nice spread of delicious Malnad style food. She was also very friendly and took good care to see that we were comfortable.