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Hoysala Temples - Belur, Halebid and Somnathpur

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 10:44 PM
Lord Krishna Stone Statue
UNDER THE INFLUENCE of the Jain Tirthankaras many of the South Indian rulers accepted the Jaina religion and patronized the erection of a large number of Jaina images and Jaina-Bastis in the Deccan plateau. But, due to the efforts of Kumarilabhatta, Sankaracharya, Ramanuja (Ramanujacharya) and others, Hinduism regained its lost position in the South, and quite a large number of Shiva and Vishnu temples were built by the South Indian rulers. Such was the case with the Hoysalas of the Karnataka and they are one of the greatest builders of Hindu temples and Jaina-Bastis. They constructed as many as fifty-three temples and seven Jaina-Bastis in different parts of Karnataka. Let us therefore turn our attention to the art-treasures of Belur Halebid and Somnathpur.

BELUR

Belur (Beluhut or Velapura) is in the Hassan district of the old Mysore State (now Kama taka). It was the capital city of Ballala I and his younger brother Vishnuvardhana. In the epigraphs this city is recorded as earthly Vaikuntha and Dakshina-Varanasi. The Chenna Kesava temple at Belur is one of the most exquisite specimens of Hoysala art. It appears from the inscription of the east wall near the entrance that king Vishnu-vardhana constructed the temple and installed Vijaya-Narayana there in A.D. 1117. He did this after his conversion to Vaishnavism from the Jaina faith by the celebrated Ramanuja. Again, according to tradition he installed five Narayana images (Pancha-Narayana-Pratishtha) at Belur, Talkad, Melkote, Tonnur and Gagag (Gundlupet).

Belur Temple Wall (Outside)
The Chenna Kesava temple is situated in a court measuring 135.18 by 120.70 m. (443' 6" by 396') with a high enclosure wall, and there are two other temples, Mandapas and lesser shrines. There are two gates, one on the east (Elephant's Gate) and the other on the north side with a very lofty tower (Gopuram) which was added later on by the successors of Vishnuvardhana, under the influence of the Chola-Chalukya style. The temple stands on a raised platform 0.91 m. (3ft.) in height, measuring 54.26 by 47.55m. (178' by 156'). The shrine consists of a Garbha-griha (Adytum), a Sukhanasi (vestibule) and a Navaranga (central hall) which has entrances from the east, south and north. The east entrance is for the priests and devotees, the south for the "Friday entrance" (Shukra-vara-bagilu) and the north is, "the Heavenly entrance" (Svargada-bagilu). Manmatha and Rati are sculptured on the eastern doorway, Hanu-mana and Garuda on the southern and female chauri-bearers on the northern. The pediments have projected panels with Garuda flanked by Makaras and the sculpture of Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu (demon) on the east, Varaha killing Hiranyaksha on the south, and Kesava on the north.

TEMPLE WALL (OUTSIDE)

The temple wall from the eastern doorway up to the north and the south entrances has a railed parapet (Jagati) having beautiful friezes of elephants, a cornice with beadwork surmounted by lion heads (Simha-lalatas) at intervals, and scroll work with figures in every convolution. Another cornice is decorated with beadwork, and small figures mostly of females. The projecting ornamental niches have beautiful seated figures of Yakshas and Yakshinis. The eaves are decorated with beadwork and thick creepers running along the edge of the upper slope having miniature turrets, lions and many other small images. The rail also contains figures; some are Maithuna figures (amorous couples) in panels and with ornamental bands. But the elephant frieze is strangely enough left blank throughout the temple. The rail to the right of the east entrance beautifully illustrates episodes from the Mahabbarata.

Belur Temple StatueBhima is seen worshipping Ganapati and Duryodhana falls unwillingly at the feet of Krishna who presses his foot against the earth in order to tumble his throne. Further on the creeper frieze different scenes from the Ramayana have been carefully sculptured along with tiny seated musicians: Above the rail there are twenty pierced stone windows (perforated screens) surmounted by the eaves, ten on the right and ten on the left of the cast doorway, covering the whole temple. Ten of them are decorated with Puranic scenes and the rest with geometrical designs. Among them five on the right and five on the left of the east doorway are especially noteworthy. On the top panel is Kesava in the centre flanked by Chauri-bearers, Hanuman and Garuda. Just below this, King Vishnuvardhana, the founder of this temple, holds a Darbar (royal court). He has a sword in his right hand and a flower in the left. Mahadevi Shantaladevi, the chief queen is' seen seated on his left, with her female attendant standing by her side. To his right, a little in front, two religious teachers (Gurus) are seated with two disciples behind them. One of them is apparently preaching something to the king.

There are also several royal officers and attendants at his beck and call. The king and queen have many pieces of jewellery on their persons, especially unusually large earnings. Then comes a tine scroll and below it a lion with a rider and another standing vigorously facing the visitors, signifying the vigorous rule of Vishnuvardhana.

Belur Temple Wall (Outside)
The next stone screen depicts the story of King Bali making a gift  to Vamana (Vishnu) and on the top of it Lakshmi-Narayana are flanked by Hanuman and Garuda. In the middle panel, Trivikrama (Vishnu) is in the centre with his uplifted foot which is being carefully washed by Brahma; Bali is seen standing on the right with folded hands. Garuda stands with folded hands and another drags away Sukracharya, the preceptor and minister of Bali. On the lower panel Bali's Darbar (royal court) is open to receive gifts.

At the top of the next panel, Lakshmi-Narayana are depicted along with their attendants. In the middle panel, Lord Krishna breaks the pride of the serpent Kaliya (Kaliyadamana) and the lower one depicts a band of musicians. The next screen re-presents Vishnu flanked by Garuda and Hanuman. Below this panel, Shiva sits on his bull vehicle Nandi, attended by Garuda and Kartikeya who in his turn is accompanied by a band of soldiers with flags, swords, spears and shields. Next to this ten Dikpalakas, including Kubera, are seen, and the rear panel represents a battle scene.

The next screen illustrates the story of Prahlada. On the upper panel, Lakshmi-Narayana with Garuda and perhaps Hanuman can be seen. On the middle panel, Narasimha kills Hiranykashipu accompanied by Garuda and Hanuman. Just below it Prahlada with folded hands is meditating on the deity in different poses; he has Tenkala-namam on his forehead, which is the significant mark of the Vaishnava faith. The Vaishnava faith and movement became more .active in the South and the perforated screens were added by Ballala II (A.D. 1173-1220), the grandson of Vishnuvardhana.

Statue of Goddess TaraWe must now discuss the sculptured beauty of the screens on the left of the eastern doorway. The first screen is the same as the first on the right. Here, Narasimha I, the son of Vishnuvardhana, is shown seated in the centre, with his chief queen on his left. He is in his Durbar (court) and holds a sword in his right hand and a flower in the left. On their left are three officers with folded hands along with a group of royal attendants. At the bottom, two lions can be seen. In the top panel Narasimha is in meditation along with Chauri-bearers, Garuda and Hanuman.

The fourth screen is rather interesting; here is the seated figure of Vishnu; the next panel illustrates the story of the Churning of the Milk Ocean (Samudramanthana). Again, on the seventh screen, Vishnu is flanked by Garuda and Hanuman. The next panel depicts the killing of Kamsa by Krishna; and on the next are seen his killing of the elephant-demon Kuvalayapeda and his contest with the wrestler, Chanura. Again on the next screen, Lord Krishna is playing on his flute and the cows and wild beasts, seem enchanted by the magic of his music. The ninth and the tenth screens are rather interesting; Ranganatha is seen reclining on the beautifully carved serpent. And' on the last Lakshmi-Narayana is flanked by Chauri-bearers. In the next screen Hanuman fights with Garuda for the possession of a Linga-like object. Both of them have placed their hands on it. It is finally split up into two halves by the discus (Chakra)of Vishnu seated above. In the midst of the fighting, Hanuman wears the crown of Garuda and vice versa.

The pillars at the side of every screen have on their capitals mostly standing female figures supporting the eaves. They are the masterpieces of Hoysala art. Once there were forty of them around and inside the temple; two or three are now missing. 'Ili Kannada they are known as Madanikas. Most of the bracket figures are shown either lancing or playing on musical instruments or dressing themselves. Two of them represent Durga and three are huntresses, one carrying a bow and the other shooting birds with arrows. Some of them are seen with breeches. It is interesting to note hat on the pedestals of eighteen bracket figures the names of the artists are inscribed :carefully. These Madanikas are again represented in miniature form in the sixth frieze of the railed parapet.

Belur Temple Statue
As it is traditionally believed, King Vishnuvardhana married one of the most beautiful of singing and dancing girls, Shantaladevi, for the second time. She had overwhelming influence over her royal husband. Under her direction the chief architect Daknacharia, along with many able craftsmen, beautified the temple with so many Dancing and singing girls (Madanikas). Further, she had mastery over contemporary ndian singing and dancing and hence there are so many different Bharat-Natyam poses f the dancing girls on the walls of the temple. But at Halebid, almost all the beautiful Madanikas have been removed by human agencies. I have seen many of these beautiful Sculptures in different museums and private houses of Europe and America. As a :suit, Halebid temple has lost much of its former glory.

Beyond the railed parapet (Jagati) there are eighty large images of gods and goddesses of which only nineteen are female. They are in a continuous row as Halebid, Kedareshvara and Somnathpur. Among the gods and goddesses are thirty-two images of Vishnu, two of Lakshmi-Narayana, one of Vamana, two of Narasimha, two of Varaha, one each of Ranganatha, Balarama, and Hara-Parvati tree of Shiva as the destroyer of Andhakasura and Gajasura, two of Hari-Hara, four of Surya, five of Durga and Mahisasuramardini, two of Bhairava, one of Man-matha and Rati, one each of Ganesha, Brahma, 'Sarasvati, Garuda and Chandra .. .sides these, there are images of Ravana, Daksha, Arjuna, Bali, and Shukracharya. The large images of Narasimha on the south-west wall and of Ranganatha on the north-east one add to the beauty of the temple. The artists, however, did not ignore e basic concept of life; some small erotic sculptures, can be seen on the outer wall d they do not mar the beauty of the temple. Moreover, on the third, fifth, and :th friezes of the railed parapet there are many Hindu divinities.

Belur Temple Outside
On the outer walls of the Garbha-griha (Sanctum). there are three elegantly executed :-like niches on two storey’s and in three directions. Each storey is decorated with ailed parapet. On the niches are sculptured friezes of elephants, lions, horsemen, turreted pilasters and rail with figures, mostly female. On the south niche there is effigy of Sarasvati with Vishnu below; and on their right wall again Vishnu is seen 1 a sixteen-armed Narayana seated on a lotus upheld by a four-armed Garuda. Again, see Vishnu on the west niche and above him, Bhima is seen fighting against Bhaga-datta's elephant; on the right wall a female devotee holds a vessel in her left hand and a flower in the right hand. Once again, Vishnu, Garuda and Sarasvati are sculptured above the devotee. Moreover, on the left wall on the north niche, a female figure holds two children, apparently representing Krishna and Balaram. On the right is a female figure and a child who holds a young lion with rope. He may represent Shakuntala's son Bharata. On the right wall of the same niche, Durga and her female attendant are seen.

Special attention must be drawn to some interesting sculptures, for instance, Balarama with a discus (Chakra) in his left hand and a plough in the right; Chandra holding Kumudas (water-lilies) in both hands; a sixteen-armed Narasimha slaying Hiranyakashipu; Kayadhu (Prahlad's mother) and Garuda are artistic and story-telling. Then there is a Madanika (Kirati) as a huntress to the left of the north doorway with two small female attendants, one with a bamboo lathi (rod) carrying a dead deer and a crane apparently shot in the chase. Another small figure is trying to remove a thorn with the help of a needle from the leg of one of the female attendants. This is almost a lyrical ballad in stone. Another Madanika in an amorous mood holds a betel leaf apparently for her lover, while her playful attendant squirts scented water with a syringe. Other Madanika to the left of the south entrance is dancing under a creeper canopy. The sculptor has a poetic vision; on the top near her head are a lizard, a Ely, and a ripe fruit (may be a jack-fruit); the lizard is preparing to pounce on the fly.

Belur Temple Outside
To the right of the north doorway, on the rail, the king and queen in a relaxed mood are witnessing a wrestling match and six Shaiva (or Vaishnava) devotees are also shown sitting nearby in a pensive mood. Just on the left of the same doorway a man with a long coat, hood and belt is about to cut off his head before a sitting Goddess (Durga) who at once prevents him from doing so. On the north-east wall, a story of a chain of destruction is beautifully carved out. A double-headed eagle attacks a Sarabha (mythical animal) which attacks a lion that in turns attacks an elephant who is about to destroy a snake that is trying to swallow up a rat before the ponderous gaze of a mendicant. Similarly, on the right of the north doorway one Madanika is stripping off her clothes on finding a scorpion in its fold; the scorpion is again shown on the base. Again, in the fifth frieze to the left of the south door, a lady is sketching a picture on a board.

At the sides, in front of all the three entrances, there are two fine pavilions with two more opposite to them at some distance and on a lower level. Vishnu, Bhairava, and Mahisasuramardini are on the upper level; and they have a frieze of elephants. There are likewise three more pavilions on a lower level opposite to the three car-like niches around the Garbha-griha. They have elephant, lion and horse friezes on the base and all the nine lower pavilions have both religious and secular figures. Here, it is important to note that each doorway has at the sides the Hoysala crest-Sala, the founder of the family, with a sword in hand ready to kill a lion (or tiger).

NAVARANGA (CENTRAL HALL)

NAVARANGA (CENTRAL HALL)
The Navaranga (main hall) of the Chenna Keshava temple appears to have been originally left open as at the Halebid, Kedaresvara, Somnathpur, and other places, without door-frames and perforated screens. The door-frames of the Navaranga were added later on, for the side pillars are mutilated and inscriptions on them arc mostly concealed. The door-frames, doors, and perforated screens were added to the temple by Ballala II (1173-1220), the grandson of Vishnuvardhana. The worksmanship is far superior to that of the outer walls of the temple. The image of Keshava (Vijaya-Narayana) is a handsome figure of 1.83 metres (six feet) in height with a halo (Prabha), standing on a 0.91 metre (three feet) high pedestal, with his consort, Iakshmi. He has four hands; in the upper hands he holds a discus (Chakra) and a conch; a lotus and a mace are in his lower hands. On the Prabha (halo), the ten incarnations (Avataras) of Vishnu are represented; the door-keepers (Dvarapalas) are elegantly executed on the Sukhanasi (vestibule) doorway. Its pediment with a fine figure of Lakshmi-Narayana in the centre has excellent filigree work. The Makaras at the side bear Varuna and his consort on the back. The four pillars were added to the Sukhanasi in A.D. 1381 to support the dilapidated roof, by the order of the Vijayanagar king Harihara II by his minister Kampanna.

The Navaranga has raised verandahs on both sides of the three entrances. All the pillars are artistically executed and are different from one another in design and the arrangement enhances the beauty of the Navaranga. Sufficient space has been left out in the central hall (Navaranga) for musical performances and Puja (worship) ceremonies by large numbers of devotees and others. The well-known Narsimha pillars are carved out with minute figures all round from the top to the bottom. A tiny bull (Kadali-basava) is in the size of a seed of the Bengal gram (Kadal). A small space on the south face of the pillar is said to have been left blank by the artist who prepared the pillar as a challenge to any artist who can appropriately fill it up. Another pillar, right of the Sukhanasi doorway, has the same marvelous filigree work. It is carved with a female figure in front and has eight vertical bands with fine scroll work the convolutions of which are made up of delicately executed figures representing the Hindu minor gods of the eight directions and others. Besides, the lions with faces of other animals add further to the beauty of the pillar; it is certainly one of the most beautiful pillars in the whole temple.

Navranga Central HallThe four central pillars support a large domed ceiling of about 3.05 meters (ten feet) in diameter, 1.83 meters (six feet) deep. It is a remarkable piece of artistic workmanship famous for the richness of ornamentation and elaboration of details. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesvara are shown on a lotus bud and the bottom frieze of Madanikas, standing on the capitals of the four central pillars, add much to the grace and charm of the Navaranga. Three of them are signed by the sculptors. The Tribhanga (triple bends) pose is really fascinating and a lovely parrot playfully sitting on the hand. The sculptor is so very skilful that the bracelets moved up and down. Another Madanika in a dancing pose on the south-east pillar represents "Dancing Sarasvati". Just to express the ingenuity of the artist, here head-ornaments can be moved. The third figure on the north-cast pillar is far more life-like. She has just finished her bath and is carefully dressing her hair by squeezing out the water from her hair. The last figure on the north-west pillar is simply dancing before the deity, expressing an exquisite dramatic pose in stone. Here, the artists have bestowed far greater attention and care than on the other Madanika. There is no denying the fact that most magnificent specimens of Hoysala sculpture are the Madanikas. For the sheer beauty of form, delicacy of worksmanship and perfection of finish, they are without parallel and may be called "poetry in stone." They have elicited un-qualified approbation from the art-critics of the world and to the temple, they have added great grace and charm.

Each one of Madanika figures here may be taken as a representative illustration of the rhythm and grace of which an ideal female form is capable. The workmanlike finish given to every one of them and the remarkable delicacy and skill with which details of decoration and ornamentation have been executed, have placed on them an exceptionally high value as pure works of creative art. Moreover, "the beauty and mirror" is another popular figure of Belur. A dancing girl, on completing her toilet, looks in the mirror with an air of supreme satisfaction and fully conscious of her own beauty. She is profusely ornamented. Her broad forehead, aquiline noze, well-formed lips suggesting a smile, large and almond shaped eyes with bow-like eyebrows and thick locks of hair tied into a large knot behind her head, represent the perfection of feminine charm. The slender waist and round breasts conform to the Indian ideal of feminine beauty.

Engraved Designed WallThe graceful curves of the tribhanga (triple bends) figure add rhythm to her pose. Another favorite theme of the artist is represented in the two Madanikas with their favorite parrot in hand; one is teaching her bird and the other is gracefully looking at hers. They too stand in Tribhangapose displaying the full charm of their well-formed limbs. Another figure depicts a monkey pulling at the dress of the modest lady. In her right hand she holds a small branch of a tree with wheel to strike her mischievous pet. A maiden arranging her coiffure, another with a lyre (Veena), another singing or beating a tune on a drum, others depicting well-known poses of the classical dance, another a huntress (Kirati) are the objects that caught the imagination of Hoysala artist into a matchless performance of technical skill. The secular nature of the subject matter gave them freedom of action; it enabled them to modify and even over-look the rigid rules of religious convention.

The Hoysala artists, like the ancient Greek sculptors, took poetic delight in depicting the female form; and they conceived beauty as an attribute of divinity and employed their skill to embellish temples. And to them any pretext was sufficient to display their skill. They displayed a keen sense of realism regarding the human form especially the female.

Temple Hall The remaining ceiling in the Navaranga is mostly flat and oblong in shape. In the front of the entrance, Ashta-Dikpalakas (guardians of the eight directions) are carved out on three panels; and on the east Narashimha is shown killing Hiranyakashipu. The figure of Varaha and Keshava are on the southern and northern entrances respectively. But the ceilings over the verandah show better workmanship of carving; the west verandah at the south entrance has a frieze depicting stories from the Ramayana. Moreover, one magnificent Gopuram and an elegant standing Garuda were subsequently added to enhance the beauty of the temple.

TECHNICAL EXPERTS (ARTISTS AND TECHNICIANS)

It may well be presumed that during the construction period each temple was left under the fostering care of one master artist-cum-technician who would dictate and guide each and every part of construction and decoration. It was, of course, assisted by a good number of able artists to complete the work. It may be that different sections of the temple were left to the care of a different artist; and thus, they were able to complete them in a specified period of time. This view was rather cofirmed when I visited the temples of Belur, Halebid, Kedareshvara, Somnathpur, and others. Here I should like to refer to a legend current in Karnataka; it is about the great Jakana-chari and his son Dakanachari. Jakanachari being suspicious about the fidelity of his wife, secretly left his home and took service under the Hoysala ruler, Vishnuvardhana.

Belur TempleHe was engaged to construct the Chenna Keshava temple at Belur. After its completion, when the king was about to install the Mula-Vigraha (main deity), a youth of eighteen years protested against the proposed installation. He argued that the Mula-Vigraha was unfit to be installed, since it was a Garbha-shila, i .e., it contained something within it. To prove his point he was allowed to break the image. To everybody's surprise, a living frog and a little quantity of sand and water were found within the image. Thus according to the Shilpa-Shastra the deity could not be installed. That youth was no other than the son of Jakanachari whose son was known as Dakanachari. He was much pleased to see his son well-versed in the Shilpa-Shastra and other religious texts and they both constructed many temples in Karnataka. Many other well-trained sculptors also assisted them in their work.

On the pedestals of the eighteen Madanikas on the outer-walls of the temple and the three inside the Navaranga and Vishnu on the west wall, the names of the sculptors are inscribed. I have seen many such in the Halebid, Somnathpur and Kedareshvar temples. Among the sculptors of the Keshava temple at Belur mention may be made of Dasoja, his son Chavana, Chikka Hampa, Malliyana, Padari Malloja, Kencha Malliyanna, Masada and Nagoja. Some of the lebels give details about their native places, parentage and qualifications.

Belur Temple WallBalligrame (Belgame) in the Shikarpur Taluk of the Shimoga district was the native place of Dasoja and his son Chavana. Dasoja had the title of "smiter of the crowd of titled sculptors" and his son was a "Shiva to the cupid titled sculptors". Again, Chavana is said to have "done his work at the instance of Keshavadeva". Chikka Hampa was the royal artist of Tribhuvanamalla-Deva and had "prepares some images in the Mandapa (hall) of Vijaya - Narayana built by Vishnuvardhana." He was the son of Ineja and had the title of" Champion over rivaj sculptors." Milliyana was the artist of Maha-Mandaleshvara Tribhuvanamalla and had the title of "a tiger among sculptors." Again, Padari Malloja had earned the title of "a pair of large scissors to the necks of titled sculptors." Moreover, Magoja is claimed to be the artist of god Shvayabhu-Trikuteshvara of Gadugu (Gadag): one of them had claimed to be the "Vishvakarma of the Kali age." The names of the sculptors on their artistic creation are a significant departure from medieval and early modern tradition of India, and the inscribed names have given us an important clue to the artists of more remote periods.

Belur Temple Statue
Now, it is better to sum up the structural beauty of the temple in James Fergusson's own words. "The arrangement of the pillars have much of that pleasing subordination and variety of spacing which is found in those of the Jams, but we miss here the octagonal dome, which gives such poetry and meaning to the arrangements they adopted. It is not, however, either to its dimensions or the disposition of its plan, that this temple owes its pre-eminence among others of its class, but to the marvellous elaboration and beauty of its details.” And "the amount of labour, indeed, which each facet of this porch displays is such as, I believe, never, was bestowed on surface of squal extent in any building in the world; and though the design is not of the highest order of art, it is elegant and appropriate and never offends against good taste.”

HALEBID

The Halebid village is (eighteen miles) from Banavar railway station, about 16 kilo-meters (ten miles) north-east of Belur. It has a direct bus service from Hasan via Belur. In the ninth century the Rashtrakuta rulers constructed a large lake, called Dorasamudra, but in the twelveth century the Hoysalas made it their capital city. Over a century and half they had a large kingdom south of the Krishna river. In A.D. 1311, Malik Kafur ransacked the city and took "camel-loads of gold, silver and precious stones" It was pillaged again in A.D. 1326 by Muhammad-bin-Tughluq. But in its heyday, Dora-samudra was a great city extending to the south and west of the present village of Halebid.

Halebid TempleRound about A.D. 1121 Ketamalla, an officer of Vishnuvardhana, undertook this great work of building the temple in the name of the king and the queen; and the whole structure was completed sometime after A.D. 1141. The temple contains two different sanctums, each with a vestibule. The Navaranga (Central hall) and bull Manda-pa (hall) and in fact two complete temples are joined by short corridors, both standing on a common plinth. As at Belur, the sanctum is star-shaped. The Linga in the south shrine bears the name Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleshvara (or Hoysaleshvara) and the one in the north has the name of Shantaleshvara'1° two Nandi Mandapas with two gigantic bulls are on the east. In the later period pierced stone (jali) windows and doors were attached to the temple.

FRIEZES

Halebid Temple WallAmong the temples of the Chalukyan style, none can compare in magnitude, exuberance of carving, and artistic majesty with the Halebid temple. On its outer walls thousands of figures are sculptured which gave the artists enough scope for imagination. The temple itself is 48.77 meters (160 feet) north and south by 37 meters (122 feet) cast and west. From the basement of the platform the temple is elaborately decorated by horizontal friezes. The first one represents a march of war elephants, and then between the two bands of scrollwork is a row of charging horsemen, which is again followed by episodes from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata, and the Puranas. Just above them are mythical crocodiles (Makaras) with long ornamental tails, tusks, riders, and a beautiful row of swans (or peacocks).

ROOFS AND TOWERS

On the eastern side, just under the eaves, there were many bracket figures on the pillars; most of them have now disappeared from there. Consequently, the structural beauty of the temple has suffered considerably. There is a great deal of controversy among art-critics regarding spires over the temple. James Fergusson states, "it was intended to raise two great pyramidal spires over the sanctuaries, four lower ones in front of these, and two more, as roofs-one over each of the two central pavilions.”

Halebid Temple Outside
NANDI – MANDAPA

 On the east of the each Linga as mentioned above, there are two multi-pillared pavilions, side by side with two colossal bulls which are really majestic in appearance and beautiful in composition. The bull in the south pavilion is largest and behind it in a small shrine there is a beautiful standing figure of Surya (Sun-god) with his consorts shooting arrows, and his car drawn by seven horses. The Nandi-Mandapa is further graced by beautiful images of Lakshmi-Narayana and a female drummer.

WALL  IMAGES

The upper part of the walls have perforated stone windows on the east side with the images of gods, goddesses, and Epic and Puranic heroes on the west wall. Most of them are about 0.91 metres (three feet) height, standing or sitting on a pedestal with ornamental canopies (or arches). They are usually in high relief and thus a great multitude of Hindu gods and goddesses in different poses and thus have given a deeper significance to iconographic studies. The majestic figure of Shiva as “Dvarapala (door-Keeper), Vishnu, Shakti and other deities of the Hindu pantheon arc well represented. Thus, the outer wall of the Halebid temple may be rightly called a museum of the Hindu gods and goddesses.

MYTHOLOGICAL FRIEZES

Halebid TempleThere are five important images on the north-east wall. It begings with the figure of king Vishnuvardhana or his officer Kitamalla sitting in his Durbar (Court). In the next panel the gods and the demons churn the milky ocean for nectar with Vasuki (great mythical serpent) as the rope, the mount Mandara as the rod supported on the back of Vishnu as tortoise. Unfortunately, many of the figures are mutilated. One after another we have the images of Sukracharya with a pot of liquor (Toddy) the Durbar of Hara and Parvati attended by gods, Joshada and Krishna, Lakshmi-Narayana, the Ganas and Dikpalas, and king Bali offering the world as a gift to Vishnu (Vamana), and Chandesh-vara-Shiva. But the east wall is blessed with eleven images; they are Shiva in his court (Durbar), a fight between Krishna and Indra for the Parijata tree, Shiva and Vishnu standing close together, and Krishna in his boyhood.
The south-eastern door is gracefully decorated by six images. Shiva is on the lintel of the doorway and the arches are fine examples of stone filigree work; the door-keepers are heavily be-jewelled. Major battles of the Mahabharata war are carefully depicted and the eighteen days of the conflict can also be identified. Each warrior hero is shown fighting from his chariot driven by a charioteer. One panel in the south-cast presents the appointment of aged Bhisma as the Commander-in-Chief of the Kauravas. And Arjuna's victory over Drona is celebrated by the soldiers, dancers, and musicians.

On the lintel of the south door, Shiva is dancing on the body of Andhakasura; his eight hands are more or less engaged and his beautiful face is beaming with a benign smile after his victory over the demon. But the fallen demon still looks at him and Nandi. The dancing god is also accompanied by musicians and drummers and above his head there is a five-hooded snake with a towering canopy. Brahma and Vishnu are on his right and left. The arches above are carefully decorated and are supported on each side by a mythic al Makara with a warrior in its mouth. Varuna (the Indian Neptune) and his consort are on the Makara's back and are followed by their attendants. At each end a lion is fighting with an elephant or with Sala, the progenitor of the Hoysala family. Just above this a group of heavenly musicians and the guardians of the quarters are assembled. Thus, the whole complexity of the panels enhances the grace and charm of the south door.

Helebid Temple GateThe south-west wall is further graced by seven images. They are seen dancing Ganesa, Brahma, Karna with his chariot and standard, Hara-Parvati sitting gracefully terrible Bhairava, Mohini's nude dance with Bhasmasura, Arjuna shooting an arrow at the eye of a fish, cowboy Krishna playing on his flute, dancing Sarasvati, Parijata-Sarasvati, Indra and Indrani on their elephant, Krishna lifting the Govardhana hill, terrible Bairava, Shiva as the slayer of Gajasura (elephant demon), Karttikeya (the god of war), Varaha (Vishnu) as the savior of the Earth goddess, Uma's marriage with Shiva, Durga fighting Mahisasura and Darpana Sundari.

The west wall is further decorated by fifteen images from the Mababharata, Rama-yana and the Puranas. There are the stories of Prahalad, Narashimha, Manmatha and Rati, Brahma, battle between Rama and Ravana, vengeance of Draupadi, Vishnu as Trivikrama, Gajendra Moksha, Parijat-harana, Keshava standing before dancing Lakshmi, Nritya-Sarasvati, Shiva-Nataraja, Kali, Shiva's war with Arjuna, Rama and the Vali-Sugriva story, his quest for Sita, and Shakti. Again, the north-west wall is graced by four Brahmanical images Mohini with a parrot, the killing of Abhimanyu, dancing Ganesha and the Earth goddess (Bhudevi) and Vasudeva, a dancer, one Gandharva (heavenly Musician) and a Kaunchuki (eunuch door-keeper of the heavenly harem). Moreover, the northern wall is similarly decorated with Epic and Puranic images, such as, Varaha Avatara of Vishnu, Gandharvas, Ravana lifting Mount Kailasa, Mahisasuramardini, Durga, a Huntress, Gandharva-Kanya and many others.

NAVARANGA HALLS

Designed Wall
The square-shaped Navaranga halls are joined together by a corridor. Among the two the southern part is better designed, for it contains finer pillars and more elaborately carved ceilings showing different gods, goddesses and floral motifs. The huge lathe-turned pillars once supported many bracket figures as at Belur; but most of them are no longer extant. In the niches stand the beautiful tiny images of Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Sanmukha, Sarada, Durga, Lakshmi, etc. The canopy and the tower of the central niche are for more decorative.

SANCTUMS

 The doors of the sanctums and the vestibules arc of different designs and each door has its own beauty; the door-keepers, Shiva as Dvarapala, and a chauri-bearer and attend-ants are far more beautiful. In each sanctum there is a huge pedestal and a large flat-headed Linga placed by the royal builder and his queen for their religious merit. Although they were devotees of Vishnu and disciples of Ramanujacharya, they dedicated this great temple to Lord Shiva.

OTHER OBJECTS OF INTEREST

In the southern compound of the temple and near the royal gateway there is a colossal stone image of Ganesha, and in the north-west corner over a Linga there was formerly a small temple which is now totally destroyed. Between the main temple and the Linga is a round pillar with a Kannada inscription recording a tragic story of Hoysal a chivalry. In olden times, when a Hindu King was crowned, the princes and his body guards (Garudas) took a terrible oath that they would not live after their royal master. Thus, when Ballala H died, his bodyguards, headed by prince Lakshmana, kept their vows and slew themselves. A relief sculpture on the pillar shows Lakshinana seated like a Yogi waiting to be beheaded, when his followers turned their daggers and swords upon themselves. Our study of Halebid temple would not be complete if we do not mention here the words of James Fergusson about the mythological friezes. "This frieze, which is about 5 to 6 inches in height, is continued all around the westren front of the building and castends to some 400 feet in length. Shiva with his consort Parvati seated on his knee, is repeated at least fourteen times; Vishnu in his various Avataras even oftener, Brahma occurs several times and every great god of Hindu pantheon finds his place. Some of these are carved with a minute elaboration of details which can only be reproduced by photography, and may probably be considered as one of the most marvellous exhibitions of human labour to be found even in the patient East....

Fine Wall Sculpture
If the frieze of gods were spread along a plain surface it would lose more than half its effect, while the vertical angles, without interfering with the continuity of the frieze, give height and strength to the whole composition. The disposition of the horizontal lines of the lower friezes is equally effective. Here again the artistic combination of horizontal with vertical line and the play of outline and of light and shade for surpass anything in Gothic art. The effect are just what the medieval architects were often aiming at, but which they never attained so perfectly as was done in Halebid.” Again, "No two canopies in the whole building are alike, and every part exhibits a joyous exuberance of fancy scorninge very mechanical restraint. All this is wild in human faith or warm in human feeling is found portrayed on these walls!" Here, again, we have the names of some of the sculptors, such as Demoja, Kalidasi, Kedaroja and Talagundura Hari. Unlike Somnathpur, this is a dead temple, for the daily worship of the deity is not held here. The temple is now looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India. In the compound of the temple there is an excellent and a very good library, museum containing some good examples of Halebid sculpture both of which are quite helpful to scholars; and the Curator and the Care-taker have done a lot for me.

SOMNATHPUR

Somnathpur TempleSomnathpur is a small village in the Tarumakudalu Narasipur Taluk of the Karnataka district and is situated about 0.8 kilometre (half a mile) from the Kaveri river. It is about 32 kilometres (twenty miles) from Sirangapatnam. According to epigraphical records, Somnath (Soma), an officer under Narasimha III (A.D. 1254-1291), built the Kesava temple in A.D. 1268. The temple is situated in a courtyard measuring 65.53 by 53.95 metres (215 by 177 feet) the main structure is placed on a metre (three feet) high stone platform. It is a three-celled structure (Trikutachala), the main cell facing the cast and the other two facing the north and south; they are surmounted by three elegantly carved towers which are identical in design and execution.

OUTER WALL

Temple of SomnathpurOn both sides of the entrance, there runs around the front hall a railed parapet (Jagati) and from the bottom upwards horizontal friezes of elephants, horsemen, scroll - work scenes from the Epics and the Puranas, turretted pillars, miniature erotic sculpture, and lions intervening between them, and a rail divided into panels by double columns with tiny figures, have enhanced the beauty of the temple. Above them are perforated stone windows (Jali); they are also beautifully decorated with filigree work and images. From the corners on both sides of the entrance, where the rail parapet ends, there begins a row of large images with different types of ornamental canopies. Just below these images there are six horizontal friezes the first four are identical with the railed parapet design but the fifth and sixth have a frieze of mythical beasts (Makaras) surmounted by' a row of swans (or peacocks).

Somnathpur Temple Wall OutSideWe can easily sum up the number of large images on the walls as one hundred and ninety-four. There are fifty-four in the south cell; in the corner between the west and north cells there are only fourteen figures, and there are fifty-four images round the north cell. The Brahmanical deities represented by the above images are Vishnu and his different incarnations (i.e., Narasimha, Varaha, Hayagriva, Venugopal and Parasurama), Brahma, Shiva, Ganapati, Indra-Indrani, Hara-Parvati, Manmatha, Surya, Garuda, Shakti, Mahishasura-mardini, Karttikeya, Lakshmi, Sarasvati and a Gandharva. Moreover, apart from the friezes of the Epics and the Puranas the portions running round the south cell presents scenes from the Ramayana; the west cell has scenes from the Bhagavata-Purana and the north has representatives Mahabharata stories.

INTERNAL ARRANGEMENT

As the temple contains three cells, each cell consists of a Garbha-griha (Adytum) and a Sukhanasi (vestibule). On the chief cell (Garbha-griha), just opposite to the main entrance, there was a Vishnu (Keshava) image about 1 .52 meters (5 feet) high, but it has been stolen. As a result, it is absolutely a dead temple; nobody cares to offer puja (worship) here. However, the authorities have replaced the lost Vishnu image by another of the same size. The temple is now under the exclusive control of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Somnathpur Temple
The north cell has a beautiful image of Janardana, of about 1.88 meters (6 feet) height, and Venugopala (Krishna) of the same height breaks the monotony of the southern cell. With a great amount of ecstasy VenugopaIa is playing his flute before his rapt listeners, including men and animals. And this panel is really a magnificent specimen of medieval Indian art. Thus, judging from the figures here the lost image of Keshava (Krishna) must have been a piece of wonderful worksmanship. The lintels of both the Garbha-griha and the Sukhanasi doorways of all the cells are carefully decorated.

The chief cell of the Garbha-griha doorway depicts a seated figure of Vishnu at the top, an image of Lakshmi-Narayana in the centre and the ten incarnations of Vishnu at the bottom. As the base there is a tiny elephant over the Sukhanasi doorway, Paravasudeva and Keshava are also seen, apparently Vishnu as a Dvarapala (door-keeper) is on the jambs of both the doorways.

Temple of SomnathpurThe Navaranga (central hall) has six ceiling panels and the Mukha-mandapa (front hall) has nine. All of them are 0.91 meter (three feet) deep and are artistically executed with the plantain flower (Kadali-Pushpa) design; and formerly difficult colors were painted on them. Four bell-shaped pillars support the Navaraga and fourteen of them hold the Mukha-mandapa; they are all artistically-designed.

Like many other Hoysala temples, some names of the scupltors are engraved on the pedestals of different images. They are Mallitamma (Malli), Baleya, Chaudeya, Bamaya, Masanitamma, Bharmaya, Nanjaya and Yalamasay. Thus, the sculptor Mallitamma played a very significant role in the decoration of the Keshave temple at Somnathpur. Most probably he was the artist mainly responsible for the magnificent work to be seen there. In A.D. 1249, he also worked in the Lakshmi-Narasinha temple at Nuggihalli in the Channarayapatna Taluk of Hassan district, and we necessarily must attach great historical value to three temples for their unique contribution to Indian plastic art. In this connection, we should discuss the role of the legendary sculptor, Jakanachari, who is believed to have constructed many temples of the Hoysalas. But no such name has been found in any temple of Karnataka. It may be a corruption of the Sanskrit word Dashinacharya, that is, a sculptor of the South school" and perhaps does not denote any particular artist. There is another possibility that he was the chief architect and sculptor of many Hoysala temples; and unlike an ordinary artist he did not like to inscribe his name on them.

Somnathpur Temple HallThere are many temples and Jain-bastis which were embellished with same amount of skill. Among them Lakshmidevi, Kappe-Channigarah, Kirtinarayana, Trimurti, Kedareshvara, Harihara, Someshvara, and many others, are of great artistic value and they were built during the heyday of the Hoysalas. “Whether we look at these temples as disinterested historians or art critics or engineers interested in the details of their structure and beauty, one fundamental truth stands out for all time, that from faith springs devotion and from devotion the virtues of courage, patience, sacrifice and intelligence. For otherwise it is hard to explain the enormous amount of labour and skill that hosts of masons and sculptors poured for centuries into the construction of these exquisite temples. To modern generations, they have become a legend. But still many devotees of Hindu culture who seek inspiration and enlightenment from a knowledge of the past will not be disappointed by a pilgrimage to these centre’s of ancient art of Mysore.”


Writer - S.K. MAITY

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1 Response to "Hoysala Temples - Belur, Halebid and Somnathpur"

  1. Nice Information .Sri Ramanuja Swamy is a beacon of the equality and hope for the generations to come.

     

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