Sunday 10 February 2013

The best Keshava of the Hoysalas

Hassan district in Karnataka is known all over the world for its Hoysala temples of Belur and Halebidu and also the mammoth statue of Gomateshwara at Shravanabelogala.
However, what many do not know is that there are several other villages and towns where the Hoysalas left behind some magnificent temples and Jain Basadis.
One such village is Agrahara Belguli, an enchanting hamlet, just 25 kilometres from Channarayapatna in Hassan district.
The village is home to the stupendous temple of Kesaveshwara, also known as Betteshwara or even Keshava. This temple is a Dwikuta with the deity of  Keshava facing south and a Linga facing east.
The temple was built in 1209 AD by Kesiraja or Keshava Dandanayaka, a commander in the employ of the then Hoysala Emperor, Ballala the second. An inscription near the main entrance of the temple also testifies to this fact.
The main attraction of the temple is the deity itself which is five and a half foot in height. It is consecrated in the northern Garbhagriha. This is a Chaturbhuja idol-Keshava with four hands each adorned with conch, disc, club and lotus.
The idol stands on a two-and-a-half foot high pedestal. Sculptors and historians say that this is one of the best representations of Kesava in Hoysala style.
The Keshava here has a restrained and serene look on the face. The prabhavali is highly ornamental with carvings depicting the ten avatars of Vishnu or the Dashavatars. Of them, the representation of Matsya and Kurma shown as fish and tortoise, are simply grand in design.
There are two exquisitely designed and decorated porches within the temple itself and attached to it is the Nandi Mantapa.  A beautiful idol of Nandi, which is four feet in height, is situated in this mantapa.
The temple is unique as it has two Mahadwaras. A rare feature in a Hoysala structure, Another inscription near the temple refers to an Agrahara called  Keshavapura, which seems to have disappeared.
The inscription also talks of two tanks called Keshava Samudra and Lakshmi Samudra.
The Keshava Temple has a starlet plan and it faces East. Unlike other temples, the exterior is rather plain but the interior is profusely decorated. The makara thoranas in the sanctum and sukhanasi will leave you breathless.  The navaranga, like in any other Hoysala temple, has nine different Bhuvaneshvari carvings with floral decorations. The Ashtadikpalakas in the central Bhuvaneshvari has minute details etched on it.
There are four lathe-turned pillars, which are typical of the  Hoysala style of temple construction. These pillars are taller when compared to other pillars. Elegant sculptures of Saraswati, Bhairava, Ganapati and Sapatamatrikas adorn this temple, where the linga is placed in the main sanctorum.
The temple is a complete Hoysala structure, but for the mortar shikhara added in the later days. A master piece of  Hoysala architecture, the temple is built  in soapstone (Chloritic Schist).The  western part was built first and the southern part added later.
Belaguli is about 25 km from Chennarayapatna.It is on the Chennarayapatna-Tiptuir road. Chennarayapatna is 148 kms from Bangalore and 30 kms from Holenarsipur. It is easily accesible by rail and road network.
Historians say that during the Hoysala period, the Agrahara housed several Brahmin scholars and their families who performed Shatkarmas -adhyayana-adhyaapana,yajana-yaajana,daana-pratigrahana). Today there are just three such families.
There are three other temples in the village-the temples of Kattappa, Honnadevi and Someshwara.
The Honnamanakere(formerly Lakshmi Samudra) and Nachanahallikere (formerly Keshava Samudra) situated at the either ends of the village have historical importance.
Copra available here is of high quality.

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