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South India Temples
The Chennakesava temple situated in Belur in Chikmagalur, Karnataka is home to the Hoysala temples from the 11th and 13th century. This temple was built by the Hoysalas during their 300 years rule in Karnataka and took over 102 years to get completed.
When you step inside the temple, you meet beautifully carved sculptures and monuments which show the best of Hoysala temple architecture. The name of the temple is derived from Chenna, which means beautiful and Kesava, which means Vishnu.
Chennakeshava Temple History
Victory over Cholas of Tamil Nadu
Historians say that this temple was built by King Vishnuvardhana and completed by his grandson after 102 years because of its massive structures and intricate architecture. This masterpiece was built to celebrate King Vishnuvardhana’s win over the Chola dynasty of Tamil Nadu in the battle of Talakad. The Hoysalas annexed Gangavadi from the Cholas in this battle.
The temple was anciently named, Vijayanarayana and later given the name Chennakesava because of its beauty. It is situated on the banks of the Yagachi river in Belur.
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The main entrance of the temple consists of a Rajagopura which was built during the Hoysala Empire. Uniquely, all the temples of the Hoysala Empire have their Gods and Goddesses figurines facing east. Similarly, the Chennakesava God’s shrine also faces east of the temple. The shrine or the main temple is covered by two temples, one at the right named Kappe Channigraya temple and a small temple behind the Chennakesava temple called the Sowmyanaki temple. On the left of the shrine is the Ranganayaki temple. There are also two main pillars or sthambas named Garuda and Deepa sthambas which are situated at the left and right of the main temple respectively.
Right at the centre of the temple stands a tall pillar which is carved from a single piece of rock and stands on its own. It is thus, called the gravity pillar.
The beautiful temple has three entrances and all the three entrances have magnificent lady dwarpals carved on the walls that are exquisitely dressed with ornaments. As the Hoysala architecture has another history of its founder, there are structures of little boy Sala killing a beast. The story goes, one day; young boy Sala along with his master was visiting a temple in Angadi where a menacing beast approached them. The master in all anxiousness threw at him an iron rod and shouted “Poy sala” which means “strike Sala”. The brave boy killed the beast with the same iron rod. All the Hoysala regime temples have this figure built around them. This figure became a trademark for the Hoysala dynasty which existed from the 10th to 14th century AD and Sala became the king.
A total of 100 temples were built in this period and there are only three temples which are popular today namely the Kesava temple at Somnathapura (Lord Vishnu), Chennakesava at Belur and Hoysaleswara at Halebidu.
The outer wall:
The intricate carvings throughout the outer wall leaves the visitors spellbound. Virtually every inch of the shrine is intricately carved and each carving is a masterpiece of craftsmanship.
Lower Frieze :
The horizontal row of friezes depict carvings of elephants, lions, scrolls of small female figures adorned with ornaments intersected by larger vertical images. An interesting point to note her is no two friezes in the complete range are alike. As you move your eyes higher up on the walls, the carvings gets more dense and intricate. The wall also features several screens with holes for ventilation purpose and bear carvings of the court scenes of King Vishnuvardhana and Veer Bhalla II.
There are a total of 40 pillars on the outer walls, each with a bracket figure of dancing girls also called Madanikas. Out of total 42 bracket figures on the corners, 38 freestanding bracket figures are outside the temple angled between the upper walls and the over-hanging eaves and the remaining 4 are inside the temple.
The madanikas are beautiful damsels in various moods representing feminine charm and grace. Each figure represents the grace of an ideal female form is capable of . These sculptures are finely proportioned and exceedingly ornamented.
Besides the madanikas, beautiful mythological depictions can also be seen on the outer wall.
There are also wall carvings of deities like Durga killing Mahisasur, Lord Surya on his Rath, Varaha, Brahma , Ganesha and other deities.There are dancing figurines of idols with bangles on their arms which are spectacular.
The main diety, Lord Vishnu has four hands and is flaunted by two lady deities on either side. The puja that goes on inside the temple once in the morning and evening is performed for 887 years.
The Main Sanctum :
The polished pillars and ceiling inside the The large navrang mandapam is one of its kind. The pillars differ in sizes and design patterns except for the 4 pillars at the centre crowned by bracket figures. One of the prominent ones is Queen Shantala Devi’s figure in dancing posture with a gem on her forehead.
The second one is Shilabalika with her pet parrot. The bangle on her right hand and can move up and down.
The third one is Gandharva Shilabalika wearing a number of bangles in her forearm
and the fourth one is Kesha Shrungara Shilabalika wringing her hair to squeeze the water after her bath.
The hall is separated from the entryway to the idol by an intricately carved gateway depicting detailed ornamental carvings of the 24 forms of lord vishnu and 2 dwarpals on either sides of the entrance. The beautifully ornamented 6 ft high idol of lord Vishnu has 4 hands, the upper 2 holding a discus and conch, while the lower 2 has a lotus and a mace. Idols of his consorts, Bhudevi and Sridevi can be seen on either sides.
Chennakeshva temple is the only functional Hoysala temple with pujas being performed both in the morning and evening. This tradition is being practiced for the last 887 years.
Besides the main shrine, there are other smaller shrines namely the Kappe Chanigaraya Temple, The Veernarayan temple, Saumyanayaki Temple and Andal Ammanavara Temple.
Regarded as one of the jewels of South Indian architecture. the temples have become rich repositories of ancient Hindu culture.
The sheer beauty of form, delicacy of workmanship and perfection of finish makes the Chennakeshva temple a must visit site on every tourist’s temple itinerary.
How To Reach:
By road- Belur is connected by buses to main cities like Mysore and Bangalore. It is well connected to tourist places like Hassan, Shrananabelagola and Madikeri.
By railway- The nearest railway station is Hassan with trains from Bangalore, Mangalore and Mysore.
By Air- The nearest airport is Mangalore.
Timings of the temple- 7.30am- 1pm and 2.30 pm to 7.30 pm.
Note: These temple complexes have been proposed to be listed under Unesco World heritage sites.
A Must Visit!
Halebidu was the first capital of the Hoysalas who ruled Karnataka in the 12th century. Being 40 kms from Chikmagalur, Hoysaleshwara temple is made from ornately carved soapstone structures which are magnificent in their architecture.
Halebidu – Hoysaleshwara Temple
The temple architecture has rows or tiers of carvings; one such carving shows men going to work with chisels or sickles in hand. Situated in the Hasan district of Karnataka, Halebidu was looted and ransacked twice by Muslim invaders named Malik Qafur and Mohammed bin tughlaq in the early 14th century after which it fell into disrepair and neglect. From then on, the Hoysalas changed their capital from Halebidu or Dwar Samudra as it was previously called to Belur. Halebidu is home to the best architectures of Hoysala namely, the Hoysaleshwara temple and the Kedareshwara temples which are the chief temples at Halebidu.
The ruler of Halebidu back in the 12th century was Vishnuvardhan Hoysala. He created the largest temple during his rule and named it Hoysaleshwara and dedicated it to Lord Shiva.
The Hoysaleshwara Temple is divided into two super structures and two shrines, one for the King and the other for the queen. There are two shrines at the two sides of the temple, one at the northern side named Hoysaleshwara for the King and the other at the southern side named Shantaleshwara for the King’s wife, the queen whose original name was Shantaleshwara Devi.
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Halebidu – Hoysaleshwara Temple
The tiers on the outside of the Hoysaleshwara temple are chiseled with ornate soapstone architecture of charging elephants for pomp and show of strength and stability. Another row is carved with lions for courage, horses for speed and hansas or swans for beauty.
There are also various Hindu deities like the dancing Ganesha on the Northern and Southern entrance of the temple. There are over 240 imageries and 35000 carvings on shrines in the temple. There are also opulent dwarpals at the temple entrance which are so enchanting, you will stop and stare for hours on end.
As the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, there are many carvings of him in and around the temple. One such carving is of Lord Shiva dancing, it is famously called the Nataraj. Then there is Shiv Parvati sitting together and also the Hindu God Vishnu. Vishnu is depicted lifting a big mountain in his Krishna avatar. He is also depicted tearing the breast of beast King and as a Vamana.
When you go inside the Hoysaleshwara temple, the architecture is even more beautiful. The pillars are carved and glistening as they are made with soapstone. Then there are pillars that are partially carved because the carvings could not be completed. The reason is the Muslim invasion. The marvelous ceilings are also filled with beautiful carvings of the temple which competes with the architecture on the walls. The Shivling is east facing and is decorated with chandan or sandalwood. There is also a huge Nandi, the buffalo mantap outside the temple.
In total, this temple makes it to the list of must place to visit at Chikmagalur, Karnataka.
Distance from Chikmagalur – 40Kms
Best time to visit– October to March.
Temple Timings– 9am to 6pm.
Photography – Allowed
Note: Please hire a guide so that you get all the valuable information of the temple.
On our most recent 6 days trip to Dandeli, we decided to visit the astonishing Kavla Caves located in the heart of Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. Kavla Caves is known for a naturally formed ShivaLing formed from the deposits of Limestone and we just cudn’t wait to explore this gem of a location.
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We started early at 4:30 am from The Hornbill Riverside Resort, where we were staying. towards The Kulgi Nature Camp. After collecting the permit from the forest department we headed towards the entry point for the Sanctuary – which is around 8-9 km from the office.
We hopped into the jeep provided by the forest department along with a guide and made our way into the Sanctuary.
India Ghoomo was at Kavala Caves
The jeep took us 4 kms inside the sanctuary and there came a point beyond which vehicles were not allowed. From there we walked for 4 kms. On the way we were lucky enough to spot wild bore, deers & a variety of birds. To reach the caves, we had to further climb down 540 steps.
There is a temple at the entrance of the cave with an idol of Nandi ji facing the entrance of the cave which otherwise remains closed and opens only when there are people visiting the caves .
The cave is over 40 feet in depth with a narrow passage and one needs to crawl inside. There are lights and bulbs inside, but are lit only during the Shivaratri festival, when the caves witness thousands of people. For the other days, one has to carry flash lights.
Kavala Caves in Dandeli
After crawling half the way inside the cave, we finally saw the the naturally formed ShivaLinga which is around 4 feet in height and roughly 3-4 feet in diameter . The texture of the Shiva Linga surface resembles Rudraksh beads.
Shivling at Kavala Caves in Dandeli
Shivling inside Kavala Caves in Dandeli
Towards the right of the Shivling is an idol of lord Ganpati & Brahma(though, we are not sure if it’s lord Brahma or Lord Kartikey’s idol) Plz let us know. On the left side of the Shivling is Maa Parvati’s idol.
Maa Parvati – Inside Kavala Caves in Dandeli
Dandeli Kavala Caves
There is an udder shaped stone formation just above the Shiva Linga from which water trickles all the time. After having the darshan and meditating for some time, we came out through the other half way. It is believed that these caves have been in existence since the prehistoric times.
Kavala Caves Pictures in Dadneli
We spent some time outside the caves soaking in the scenic view. There was a lot of steps climbing and walking ahead of us, so we we decided to have some sandwiches & water that we carried with us and then made our way back to the camp.
You will love it. The naturally formed ShivaLing is a miracle of nature and should not be missed.
- Don’t forget to carry water bottles and some food. The 4 Kms trekking and 540 steps to and fro can get tiring. It’s better to stay hydrated.
- Avoid bright colors and stick to muted shades of greens, grays & browns.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes that offer a good grip.
- Kavala Caves Dandeli Review and Pictures
If you’ve seen my last video, then you know that I recently took a trip to the jungle and had a fabulous time. My adventures didn’t stop there. After the jungle holiday, hubby and I decided to continue exploring Karnataka by making a trip to Chikmagalur – known for its multiple hill stations and more than that, its coffee. Although I love a good cup of java, I was more interested in the scenic views that Chikmagalur has to offer and a couple of temples that I’d heard of. Fortunately for me, the temples and hills went hand in hand.
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We started the drive to Chikmagalur at dawn. We arrived in the city at 11 am but our first destination – the Sharadamba Temple at Sringeri – was still two hours away. At around lunch time, we drove up to the lodge we’d booked rooms at. It was very close to the temple, the two sites within walking distance of each other.
Although we were keen to see the temple, the long drive had taken its toll. So we had a quick lunch and then just crashed, blissfully dead to the world for a couple of hours. A few hours later, we awoke refreshed in spirit. We took a bath to wash away the dust of the journey and finally set out to the temple.
My Temple Outfit
I had taken great care to put together a temple-visit outfit that was respectful but also reflected my personal style. I chose a white kurta to go with orange pleated pants, the top bringing the modesty required for the temple and the pants bringing the comfort for me. I did want to amp up the style of the look a bit so I added an ocean green stole with a print of multi-coloured flowers.
As for my hair, I had just washed it. The sun would set soon and I didn’t want to spend time styling my hair and losing day light, so I just left it as is and tied it into a ponytail when it dried.
At Sharadamba Temple at Sringeri
We spent the next 3 hours at the temple and were lucky enough to arrive just when an aarti was starting. If you’ve ever participated in a religious or spiritual ritual in the lap of nature, then you’ll believe me when I say the experience was absolute Bliss! I may have very well gotten a glimpse of Nirvana at some point, if just for a moment.
We returned to the temple very early the next morning because we wanted to spend some time there before going ahead with other plans later in the day. This time, I paired a plain orange T-shirt with dark green pleated harem pants featuring a white print that looked like embroidery from a distance. I thought I’d add a little temple mood touch to my look with a tulsi beaded necklace.
Once more, the scene captivated us and we spent a few hours there before checking out of the lodge and heading out to the next destination on our humble travel itinerary – Mullayangiri, the highest peak in Karnataka.
PICTURES- Sharadamba Temple at Sringeri – Chikmagalur
Although we’re not hardcore advocates of Valentine’s Day, hubby and I use February 14 as an excuse to take a break from our lives and head outdoors. We’d always wanted to take a closer look at the Himavad Gopalaswamy Temple that we’d heard so much about. The idea was even more inviting as we wanted to go to the Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary which was relatively nearby.
Himavad Gopalaswamy Temple – Video
We decided to club both destinations on the same day. We woke with the birds on Valentine’s Day 2014 and by 6 am we were on the road.
A Birdie Morning
Our first stop was the Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary which is about 140 km from Bangalore along the banks of the river Kaveri. It is one of the most important sanctuaries in the country frequented by lakhs of people every year. We arrived there at 8:30 and spent a couple of hours oohing and aahing at the variety of birds that has its home there.
Drive to the Temple
The Himavad Gopalaswamy Temple was our next stop, only 90 km away from the sanctuary, but since we weren’t sure quite how good or bad the roads would be we thought we’d play it safe and set out for it at around 11. We got to our destination at 1 pm, but I gotta tell you the drive was just as fascinating, if not more so, than the Temple itself.
Trees lined both sides of the road, the latter pothole-free and clean the entire way. There was plenty of many-hued greenery to satisfy any nature-lover’s soul. The hills were ever-present in the distance and made a rugged picture against a glorious backdrop of sky. And what a day we picked to travel! Although skies in February are generally quite clear, cyclone warnings had brought in the clouds to many coastal areas. So we had puffy, cotton ball clouds filtering in the sun, making the drive quite comfortable and pleasant even though the sun was at its peak.
There and Back
We were stopped at a check-point run by the Forest Department as the hill is a restricted area. We paid Rs 50/- to allow our car to pass through and proceeded with a warning from the officials to return in exactly 90 minutes. Staying there beyond that point would incur a fine. We thought this a pretty good rule and immediately started imagining what it would be like if ALL touristy spots enforced it!
The last 5 km took us up a hill and the view as we ascended was even more enthralling than the road had been thanks to the Bandipur forest that surrounds the hill. The vistas of natural beauty transport you to a different time and space. A fitting entrance to the Temple, we thought.
Himavad Gopalaswamy Temple
The Temple was built way back in 1315 AD by King Ballala for Lord Krishna (Gopalaswamy is just one of Krishna’s many names).The inner sanctum of the Temple has a sculpture of Krishna playing his flute.
Today, the Temple is a bright yellow that is starkly obvious from afar. A walk up a short flight of steps leads to the Temple’s outer yard and the Temple itself.
Like all holy places, there is legend behind this Temple too. The story goes that the great sage Agastya meditated and did penance at this location. It pleased Lord Vishnu so much that he said he would make his home there, thus permanently blessing the place and ensuring that generations would come to pay their respects.
The ancient vibe of the Temple has survived the modern world and if it wasn’t for the cameras and cell phones in our hands we could easily have forgotten which century we were in.
We would have loved to stay much longer than allowed but the time factor forced us to make our way back only after one hour of arriving so that we made the deadline at the checkpoint.
Temple Travel Tips
- There is no food available at the top of the hill so make sure to carry your own. Be extra sure to clean up any mess as they don’t take too kindly to litter there.
- Although there is a water pumps available that you can use to freshen up, it’s a good idea to bring your own water for drinking.
- There is no accommodation available up there so it’s a good option for a day trip. Well, a partial day trip anyway as you can’t stay up there for more than an hour and a half.
- Don’t go too far from the temple as they frown upon hikes or even partying and picnics. This isn’t some arbitrary rule. They just don’t want to disturb any wildlife in the Bandipur Forest that surrounds the hills.
- The timings to visit the Temple are from 8:30 am to 4 pm only. So plan your visit accordingly.