Sri Veeranarayana Temple, Belavadi, Karnataka
What draws me towards these Hoysala Temples is the ‘exquisite beauty of sculptures’ in the temples! Both interiors and exteriors have been chiseled with equal devotion and details! This style of architecture has been flourishing in Karnataka region since 11th century. Several temples (approx 92 only in records) have been built; some have unfortunately surrendered to the crumbling effects of TIME!
Here is a virtual tour of Veeranarayana Temple, Belavadi.
But first the Mahabharata connection
Belavadi village was known as Ekachakranagara during the Mahabharata times. It was here Bheema, the second of five Pandava brothers killed the demon Bakasura. This demon used to terrorize the villagers, so out of fear the villagers used to send cart full of food to satisfy his huge hunger. Bheema offered himself as food and went in the cart to Bakasura. After a good fight Bheem killed the demon. I had grown up listening to this story several times, never dreamed that I would visit this legendary place some day!
History of Veeranarayana Temple, Belavadi
Veeranarayana Temple was built by King Veera Ballala II in 12th century AD. This is one of the largest Hoysala temple built in those times. Historians claim that King Ballala II’s conquests had made the Hoysalas the most powerful dynasty of the Deccan. He was “the most outstanding among Hoysala kings”, and historian William Coelho in comparing Ballala II to King Vishnuvardhana writes, “He vied in glory with his grandfather“. King Veera Ballala II constructed the beautiful Amrutheshwara Temple; I had visited it in December 2015.
Architecture of Veeranarayana Temple
The entrance to Veeranarayana Temple Belavadi is impressive. The eastern entrance to the main courtyard has an elevated porch. Inside the temple is surrounded by well manicure green lawns. The steps to the temple is flanked by two well-sculpted elephants. Walking in towards the sanctum door was like crossing a path lined with mammoth sandstone pillars. This area is called the sabhamantapa, where the elders of the village would have assembled to discuss matters of importance. There is seating arrangement all around. The pillars are round, huge and hard to give a complete hug to some of them, and each with a different design.
The ceilings are exquisitely carved, some have geometric patterns and others have figures of Gods and warriors in different postures. Just a few minutes of photography of the ceilings hurt my neck; I wondered how the sculptors of those days did this marvelous work without any modern amenities!
Veeranarayana Temple is a trikuta (tri – 3, kuta – shrines) style of temple. There are 3 gopuram. The three Gods worshipped here are:Veeranarayana, Gopalkrishna and Yoga Narasimha, 3 avatars of same God, Lord Vishnu! Each idol is huge in size and beautifully carved. The main sanctum houses Veera Narayana. A seven-foot image with four hands, standing on a lotus pedestal is worshipped. The amazing architectural skill demonstrated here is that on March 23, the sun’s rays fall on the navel portion of the image. The left houses Gopalakrishna, an eight-foot image of Lord Krishna in tribhanga pose. He is shown playing flute and flanked by Rukmini and Sathyabhama on either sides. The right gopuram houses Yoga Narasimha in yoga pose, a carved band around his knees and eyes protruding. Unforgettable!
We spent equal amount of time going around the temple as much we spent inside because the exteriors too is carved with numerous figures and designs. Vimanas (towers) are decorated with sculptures such as kirtimukhas (gargoyles). The outer wall of the temple starts from the top with eaves running around the temple where the superstructure meets the wall of the shrine. Below this are miniature decorative towers on pilasters (shrines). This is followed by second eaves. Then there is elaborate panel of Hindu deities and their attendants are below. This eves followed by a set of five moldings that form the base of the wall. This is more or less the same pattern followed by all Hoysala temples.
Location of Veeranarayana Temple
Belavadi village is 29kms from Chikamagalur, 220kms from Bangalore. The temple is on a small diversion from Chikmagalur-Javagal Highway. There is a signboard indicating the direction. Veeranarayana Temple is a must visit if you are anywhere near this place because it is just 10kms north of Halebid.
#traveltip 1. No guide around this place, it will be good to read up about the place to know what you can expect to see there.
#traveltip 2. If you visit on March 23rd you can see the rising sun’s rays falling on the navel of idol of Veeranarayana.