Halebidu has a crown jewel of Hoysala Architecture- Hoysaleshwar Temple.
While it captures our attention, few of the gems slips from our sight, fading in the background somewhere. Kedareshwar at Halebidu and Veer Narayan Temple at Belavadi are couple of them.
Halebidu is about 215 Kilometers from Bengaluru, well connected through highways and state transport as well. Belavadi is about 13 Kilometers north of Halebidu. As I do not have a car, after some bargain, I booked an Auto Rikshaw for 300 Rs. to go there and come back.
The road towards Belavadi is in neat condition with paddy fields and Lantana shrubs on both sides. The entire path is filled with wildflower aroma and yellow-pink flowers on green background. You have to cross couple of small villages to reach there.
As I was closing down to the village, I started looking for some kind of hills nearby where Bakasura use to cave in. Why? because Belavadi is believed to be the Ekachakra Nagari, where Bakasur use to torment villagers and occasionally, snack on them. After the Lakshagriha episode, Pandav escaped with Kunti and came to this town to lay low for a while as Brahmins. Bhim killed hungry Bakasur after eating all of his food. As a hardcore Mahabharat fan (Old Mahabharat, not the crappy new Ekata Kapoor versions), I was a little bit disappointed to know, there is no such hill or cave nearby. Lost in my thoughts, I did not even realized when I arrived at the temple.
Marvelous architecture besides a serene lake is one of the extensive defining characteristic of Hoysala era. So, without exception, Veer Narayana temple was on the banks of Belavadi lake, built on a platform.ASI is taking care of the site, and they are doing exactly bare minimum of what they have been told. Watering lawns, trimming bushes and preventing people from taking photographs inside temples.
Why ASI prevent tourists taking photos of Idols? Baffles me. Sometimes they act ac ISI and not as ASI.
Temple is surrounded by lush green lawns. Few kids were playing in sand near entrance, and 2-3 villagers were sleeping under entrance roof. One joint family was having a picnic, trying to feed there kids as they run a muck in temple courtyard, chewing their food. What a sight.
A place, where Legendary kings use to pay their respects to the creator, a place where sculptors portrayed the creator on stones, today, deserted in oblivion.
With a sigh, I started climbing up the entrance. Two elephants greet you on entrance. Like rest of the south Indian temples, Veer Narayana does not have a tall tower and turret as entrance. Instead, it has a flat roof on outside, and ornate from inside.
Crossing the entrance, you will find yourself in front of flagpole and a harmonious symmetry architecture. At the end of your sight, you will find shrine of Narayana. On your left, you will see a shrine dedicated to VenuGopala or Lord Krishna, and on right will be YogaNarsimha.
VenuGopala and YogaNarsimha are established facing each other, in same hall. Narayana shrine is connected to this hall with a hall way, held by lathe turned pillars. It is to be said that temple was initially built for Narayana, and two shrines were added later on.
The ceiling has been divided in to many bays, for each bay, there is a different pattern for fall ceiling. As you loose yourself in awe with the intricate design above, you forget to look down after a while, only to realize it has started acing. Sanctum was closed for some reasons, hence i could not see the Vigraha (Idols) of all three. I got out of temple to circumvent.
Temple outer walls have decorations of Trimurti, Varaha, and many many iconic scenes from Ramayan, Mahabharat and Puranas. Its really fun to stand in front of each sculpture and identify the source. Most of them were unknown to me, I must admit with some remorse.
Being one of the earlier period Hoysala constructs, Veer Narayana shrine has plain walls with some decorative pillars in between. Never the less, the roof is brilliantly decorated with Kirtimukha, Sri Krishna, Lord Vishnu, Jay- Vijay, Garuda and Narsimha. Tower is divided in three layers. Each layer is the exact replica of the bottom layer, just getting finer and finer. Monolith turret on top is damaged but the beauty behind it, cannot be hidden behind the old scars of invaders.
YogaNarsimha and VenuGopala shrines are well decorated. Turrets are brilliantly decorated with Kirti Mukhas, Makaras and some more laser cut designs.
As far now, I have seen enough temples in south India with brilliant artistry. The standards, the symmetry, the magnitude, beauty, engineering, imagination- in every possible way, it surprised me. Delhi sultanate, spread across north India often raided here, plundered, raped and looted. Still, the remains of Vedic architecture awes us. Due to the lack of unity and by invading forces, many of us got separated. These ancient monuments, however broken, remind us the mistakes we have done and how to avoid them, in order to repel yet another military, cultural or mental invasion…