Both Belur and Halebid enjoyed the importance of being the capitals of Hoysala rulers. Vishnuvardhana, who embraced Vaishnavism, constructed five Vishnu temples, known as Pancha Narayana shrines. They are at Belur, Melkote, Thonnur, Talakkad and Gadag. The Belur shrine was constructed to commemorate his victory over the Cholas at Talakkad.
Chennakeshava shrine: This temple, an architectural marvel, was built over a period of nearly 100 years. The main structure is star-shaped and is a homogenous architectural unit erected on a raised platform. The three doorways and outer walls contain ornate freizes and wonderful carvings.Lord Chennakeshava, a beautiful image radiating divine glory, is installed on a high pedestal.
The Navarang Mandap is a masterpiece of Hoysala artisans. The polished pillars reflect one's image like the mirror. The dancing figures on the pillars are delicately carved. The Narasimha Pillar contains details about the temple and numerous deities.The outer walls of the shrine depict scenes from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Sri Krishna Leela. A 40-foot¬tall stone pillar is another marvel, which appears to stand only with the centre of gravity.
An interesting feature is that a pair of large leather chappals is kept in a glasscase in the front mandapam. Local cobbler communitymen believe that the Lord treks to Bababudangiri daily to visit Lakshmi residing there. It is said that the Lord appears in their dream and informs them that His chappals have given way and that He needs a fresh pair. The cobblers then spread kumkum on the ground on which the Lord's footprints appear and prepare the chappals according to that size.
Other shrines :
Sowmyanayaki, Andal and Kappe Chinnigaraya are other important shrines in this vast temple complex.
Belur is 38 km from Hassan and 214 km from Bangalore.
Halebid: This city, one time capital of the Hoysalas, was known as Dwarasamudra. It was founded in early 11th century, but was ravaged by Muslim invasions by the end of the 14th century. Though many buildings had fallen prey, a few shrines like the Hoysaleswara and Kedareswara temples survived.
Construction of the Hoysaleswara temple was started in 1121 AD by Ketamalla, a general of King Vishnuvardhana. There are two shrines, one dedicated to Lord Siva as Hoysaleswara and the other to Shantaleswara. These are very similar to the Belur shrines in every detail. The most magnificent part of the temple is its outer wall, which is completely covered with freizes of amazing variety. The Kedareswara temple was built by Ballala II. The temple has three superstructures and some fine sculptures.
Halebid is 17 km from Belur and 27 km from Hassan.
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