I wrote about the Chennakesava temple in Belur yesterday. The information was presented in a lecture by Dr Chitra Madhavan, renowned historian and expert on temple architecture in Chennai.
Today, I will be writing about the Hoysaleswara Temple in Haleibidu. This temple was also built in the reign of King Vishnu Vardhana and is about 15 kms away from the town of Belur. The building of the temple was taken up in the same time as that of the temple at Belur. The town of Haleibidu was originally called Dwarasamudra because of a lake that stood there.
Although there are similarities between the temples at Belur and Haleibidu there are quite a few differences as well. The first thing that strikes you- especially if you visit both temples on the same day is how much more ornate the temple at Haleibidu tends to be. Where the sculptors at Belur squeezed every square inch of space into sculptures, the ones at Haleibidu squeezed every square millimetre of space to depict something of interest. Once again this temple was built out of chloritic schist and hence the architects made the temple pleat on itself like a star rather than having a four walled structure. In fact there is so much indentation that it sometimes becomes difficult to keep track of what you’re viewing. This photograph will give you a better idea of what I’m trying to describe.
As you would see once again there are elephants at the bottom of the platform- these elephants are also unique from one another and there are more than 1200 of them in the temple.
The temple, dedicated to Shiva (once again differing from Belur which was dedicated to Vishnu) has a dvi kuta style of architecture (which means that the temple has two principal shrines inside- one for Hoysaleswara (for the King) and one for Shantaleswara (representing the Queen Shantala)). It was also the royal temple and unfortunately this meant that it was often the first point of attack for enemies.
There are numerous impressive panels and friezes with sculptures. Here are some of them
A number of scenes from Dashavatara and Mahabaratha have been included in the panels
Denoted above for example is the fascinating tale of Vamana – the fifth avatar of Vishnu. In this tale, Vishnu in the guise of Vamana- a short Brahmin- approaches the kind Mahabali (a good but slightly vain ruler) and asks him for 3 paces worth of land. As soon as the king consents (shown above by the pouring of ritual water), Vishnu takes up gigantic proportions. With one step he covers the entire earth and with the other the Heavens. Mahabali having learnt his lesson offers his head as the third step and is then rewarded with immortality. In the panel above you see Vishnu taking his foot up to the heavens.
Here’s another panel of a ten headed Ravana lifting Mt Kailasa- an oft recurrent motive in temples (including in Cambodia). Here we see that Ravana has exerted himself to lift that massive mountain which is the residence of Shiva. Also notice how his foot is arched and how his knees are buckling under the weight of the mountain.
All in all the temples at Belur and Haleibidu are such interesting and magnificent pieces of art, architecture and history. If you haven’t already been there you should definitely visit and even if you’ve been there- visit again and explore the region- I’ve been told there are many more smaller but equally interesting temples.
I hope you liked the two posts. Let me know what you think in the comments.