Belur and Halebidu: Epics in Stone

Neither the temple tower is so huge and intimidating nor the temple complex. Did I waste my precious weekend, deciding to visit this rather small temple, some 4 hours drive from Bangalore?

That was my first impression, frankly.

As I got closer, I did come to know, it’s different, and it’s nothing like whatever I had seen before.

Belur-1Hardly you could find an inch of space without some kind of stone carving in the whole structure.

Belur-3

Then slowly the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata unraveled in front of me.

The Chennakesava temple of Belur was was built by the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana in 12th Century AD. Belur was an early  capital of the Hoysala empire, which is now in the Hassan district of the South Indian state of Karnataka.

What really makes the Hoysala temples different from the other grand temples of south India is the intricate and detailed stone carved sculptures. For this, the grand sculptors of Hoysala temples used soapstone (chloritic schist). when quarried, soapstone is relatively soft and easy to carve and it becomes harder as time passes. Perfect to endure for hundreds of years and wave after wave of attacks from north Indian kingdoms.

Belur-1bBelur-2Belur-4

The story behind the name of the dynasty, the Hoysala, is portrayed  in a beautiful sculpture where the King faces an attacking lion alone and kills it.

Belur-1cI really didn’t have an idea, what to shoot and what to leave behind. As I kept on clicking and time passed, my friend reminded me that we have to reach Halebidu before it’s too late.Belur-5Belur-6Belur-7Belur-8Belur-9Belur-10

Half a day was too short to explore this incredible place. After “sort of covering” the temple we moved on.

How to reach Belur: There are frequent buses from Bangalore City bus stand (Majestic) to Hassan.

From Hassan, state transport buses ply frequently to Belur, Which is around 40 km away in Chickmagalur route.

The Chennakesava temple is just walkable from the bus stand.

Where to eat: Though it’s a small town, there are some decent restaurants in Belur where you get mostly vegetarian food.

Best time to Explore: The seasonal changes are not much felt in this part of the world, which makes Belur visit a comfortable one all year round.

Accommodation in Belur: There are some basic accomodation available in the Belur town itself. But, a google search listed Mayura hotel with some really nice reviews(I haven’t tried this place personally).

HALEBIDU

It was already evening by the time we reached Halebidu and the first impression was, OMG we need days to explore this temple complex.

Even though we got a great introduction to the stunning Hoysala architecture in Belur, we weren’t really ready for the magic of the Hoysaleswara temple of Halebidu. The beauty and perfection of the intricately carved sculptures here is at a different level.

Halebidu-6Halebidu-5Halebidu-2Halebidu was once the capital of Hoysala empire and attacked many a times by the armies of Delhi Sultanate.

Because of these waves of attacks, even after 86 years of work, the temple could never get completed.

The signs of which is very evident in some of the sculptures and pillars here.

Halebidu-4Halebidu-3As it was getting dark, and we had to explore the Kedareshwara temple and the Jain Basadi nearby, we left the temple half-heartedly. Before leaving, I tried to capture a few more images and I was really lucky.

Halebidu-1Halebidu-7 Halebidu-8 Halebidu-9 Halebidu-10

Though relatively small in structure, the stone work at Kedareshwara temple is at the same level as the two temples we had already explored.

Halebidu-13

For a change, there was one more structure A Jain Basadi with a different style of architecture.

These two temples are less known and not many people visit here though it’s directly behind the main temple complex, but really worth exploring.

Halebidu-11Halebidu-12

How to Reach: Halebidu can be reached from Belur(17 km) or directly from Hassan(33km)

Accomodation In Halebidu: Again, I don’t have any personal suggestions here but heard highly about KSTDC Mayura Shantala

Where to Eat: Halebidu doesn’t have many an options as far as eateries are concerned.

Foot Note: Even though you can explore these two amazing places as a day trip from Bangalore, that would be quite tiring. Hassan is quite a big town and has got many options for accommodation, so plan for at least two days and appreciate these epics carved out of stone.

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68 thoughts on “Belur and Halebidu: Epics in Stone

    • And what an Epic Mahabarata is, right?

      If you know the stories in Mahabharata, it would be like, reading those stories in stone here.

      When we were kids, our granny used to tell different stories from this epic as well as from Ramayana.

      I need to go back and explore this place properly 🙂

      Like

    • Thank you so much, Ann 🙂

      Here, I was totally lost, I didn’t know, what to photograph and what not… just kept on clicking…

      Anything you capture will look great here, not because of the camera,lens or the photographer, but the place 🙂

      Like

    • Thank you so much, Sue 🙂

      The images are not of great quality, as I was using a point and shoot mostly and that too at bright day light.

      But, here no one can take a bad picture 🙂

      Great to see that you liked the way this story is presented with the map and other info. I could see that it really helps people when they plan a trip.

      Have a beautiful day ahead 🙂

      Like

    • Ohhh… you had been to India, last month?

      I had never been to these great places yet, but heard quite a lot about.

      Hope you had a nice time in India and monsoon rains didn’t bother you much.

      Hope to see your images and stories here, Kat 🙂

      and as always, thanks a lot for your nice comments and support 🙂

      Like

  1. Beautiful Hoysala temples. And as Sue said, great that you included the map so we can see where you actually went. Very realistic. It must have taken years and decades to carve the temples by hand. Sounds like you are a slow traveler, Sreejith, preferring to take your time to soak up the sights, atmosphere and the moment. I do that a lot too when I’m in a new place, but usually have to hurry along or I’ll miss my transport. Fair enough. We have to make the most of what he have around us and enjoy the simple things in life 🙂 Hope you’re well

    Liked by 1 person

    • You said it, Mabel, I am a really slow traveler and used to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
      This really helped to have a successful trip even when a highly rated destination was found to be just hype.

      In Belur and Halebidu, I don’t think any one can really rush, they will hold you like magnets 🙂

      The temple at Halebidu has taken 86 years and still incomplete.

      So insane people can be, such a wonderful work art been attacked and partially destroyed many a times.

      The guide told us that, the whole structure was designed in such a way that, it can get assembled and disassembled in a matter of day. They used to work on the sculptures in different places and hide it under sand when enemies from North India attacked. Once all pieces are ready they will bring all the pieces and assemble it.

      More stories to come from this part of the world, stay tuned 🙂

      Have a beautiful day ahead 🙂

      Like

      • This was such a good short story. Taking down and hiding such a huge structure like. Sort of like making a mini-town disappear in an instant. Poof 🙂 Genius.

        Looking forward to more of your stories, always a joy to read 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Great to see your feedback on this post, Yvette. It’s really a conscious effort to make my travel posts a bit more structured and make it useful for people who plans to explore.

      My idea is to come up with a well structured travelogue, and any suggestion to make it better is most welcome.

      Thank you so much for all the support and inspiration, Yvette 🙂

      Like

  2. The heritage one should be proud of. I am impressed with the quality of these captures. It requires patience and a still hand to take them that sharp. I would expect more visitors around the structures, and for once I was glad to see a few human figures in the first shot for the sense of scale. This is the first time I hear of soapstone. Thank you, Sreejith 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • India is a land of one of the oldest and still surviving civilizations in the world. There were numerous great empires thrived in this land and been ruled by great kings and emperors.

      They left their mark in history by building such magnificent structures like these temples.

      I am just lucky to be born in this part of the world 🙂

      Thank you so much, Paula for your encouraging words, it really means a lot to me 🙂

      Like

    • Yes indeed, Della, these temples are really beautiful.

      There are numerous temples in South India which are huge and rich in art work.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and have a beautiful day 🙂

      Like

  3. I wish I could be there someday. You has added on more place I want to visit if I go traveling to India. Haha, because before reading this, one place that always on my mind about India is Taj Mahal. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yea, “Taj” did symbolized India for a long time, and it’s still a dream for me also.

      India is so diverse that it has quite a lot more to offer, and I am trying to explore as much as possible.

      It’s always a pleasure to share what I have seen and when I experienced in a new place with all the wonderful people here.

      Have a beautiful day ahead, Noe 🙂

      Like

      • Thanks Sreejith, what you have described about india is the reason why it called “Amazing India”. Keep exploring and sharing here. I also do the same here in Indonesia. 🙂

        Good night, Sreejith. Have a nice day… ir night. Hehe

        Liked by 1 person

  4. amazing, Sreejith… I have always admired the ornaments of Indian temples… it requires great skill, craftsmanship and devotion to create anything so beautiful and intricate… !!! the pictures surely do these temples justice…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A wonderful post Sreejith.
    Thank you for the tour of these fabulous temples.
    Im always so amazed at the beautiful carvings, sculptures and the fine workmanship. It was interesting to see some unfinished. It gives a real ‘feel’ for the work they did.

    Like

  6. Wow Sreejith, this is truly an overwhelming series of photos…this place looks magical and my first feeling is that it rates up with al these temples that people travel in SE Asia (Thailand/Myanmar/Cambodia). Just a treasure with a fascinating history as well.

    As for your photos, just an excellent selection. The detail and perspective/use of light ~ making shots of temples striking in a photograph is not easy, and you did it so well.

    Tough to choose a favorite, but three really popped out to me (all at the Halebidu site): the third shot (just perfect calmness within so much work & beauty), the fourth shot for its incompleteness, the seventh shot because nothing like an artist with talent doing what they love… And I have to add a fourth, as the 9th shot shows the beautiful grandeur of the scene yet the very human touch of isolation. My favorite shot 🙂

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    • Yes, Dalo, these temples are right there on top in the list of must see places in south India. It really feels nice to hear that they are compared with the grand temples of South East Asia.

      Frankly speaking, I shot most of these images with my sony point and shoot and it was really tough for photography, as it’s bright sunlight outside and pitch dark inside.
      I am so happy that these images did impress you 🙂

      A couple of years back, I would have tried my best to avoid people in my frames, but now I am trying to give a human element to images as mush as possible.

      That’s one marked change in my photography and the the result is pretty positive indeed.

      Thank you so much for all the support and encouragement over the last year, Dalo and I really owe a lot to you guys in this amazing forum 🙂

      Like

      • Interesting, I too would shoot landscapes and building preferring to have zero people in the shot but that has changed. A human element, especially if done right, offers something special about the landscape/place and about the people & culture. Very much agree with you!

        Liked by 1 person

    • India is home to innumerable monuments as it’s one of the oldest civilization and been inhabited for thousands of years.

      Most of the kings and kingdoms left their mark in history by leaving behind something like this for generations to remember them and their glory.

      I am so happy that you could really appreciate these work of arts, Neoline 🙂

      Have a beautiful day 🙂

      Like

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