My tryst with the Hoysalas continues. It was a hot Saturday afternoon and my aunt and I had a couple of hours on us. My uncle had excited us about a temple built around a “syambu pulaiyar “ ( An idol of Ganesha or Ganapathi is said to have been carved by itself) in a small hamlet called Belavadi . And I had heard of a Veera Narayana Temple , built by the Hoysalas in Belavadi .
The most obvious destination from Belur should have been Halebeedu, the capital of the Hoysalas after Belur . However the excitement in discovering something new took us to Belavadi and we planned to return to Halebeedu if time permits .
I had first heard of Belavadi as a suffix – as a surname attached to several people I knew and I have heard of. Later I was told that it was near Javagal..another hamlet prefixed to the name of India’s famous fast bowler- “Javagal” Srinath . Many people here still have the custom of their native village attached to their names, as a prefix or a suffix- an unique identity perhaps ..These were my thoughts as we were cruising down the highway from Belur to Belavadi.
It was noon when we reached this hamlet and we were greeted by silence. A few cows had strayed on to the road and a couple of shops were open..We asked for directions to go to the Veera Narayana Temple and a little detour took us right to the portals of the temple. As Belavadi is not in the tourist circuit, we were not surprised to find that we were the only ones in the temple.
Most Hoysala temples are broadly classified according to the number of Vimana or tower they have – Ekakuta, Dwikuta, Trikuta, Chatushkuta and Panchakuta.This ornate Trikuta was built in 13th century (1200)by Veera Bhallala II and like other temples, is built of soapstone .The sculptures on the outer walls are typical of the Hoysala period as Hindu deities come alive on these stones.
There are two temples here that face each other. One is square shaped and the other,raised on a star shaped plinth. They are all guarded by ornate elephants. The temple houses three shrines- Veera narayana, Venugopal and Yoga Narasimha, three forms of Vishnu . Its unique as two shrines face each other and there are a total of 59 bays with several pillars, most of which are lathe turned and bell shaped.
The central shrine has an 8 feet image of Veera Narayana with four hands which is considered one of the best examples of Hoysala art. .The second shrine has an 8 feet tall image of Venugopal (Krishna with flute) and the third shrine has a 7 feet tall image of Yoga Narasimha ,in meditation . An important feature of the temple is the stone bench which runs all round the edge of the temple.
The temple was almost shut when we came in, but the priest was kind enough to show us around. I learned a bit about the history of Belavadi, which is even older to the temple.
According to the legend, its a place called Ekachakranagara of Mahabharath, the epic. Its the place where the Pandavas when excaping from the Kauravas, their cousin, live in a Brahmin’s house , disguising themselves as Brahmins as well. This is where Bheema kills Bakasura, the demon or asura who torments the villagers and kills them if he is not fed .
I wanted more stories , but I did not hear more. We asked the priest where the Ganapathi temple is and he showed us a small road that was behind the Hoysala temple adjacent to a tank. The road led us to a recently constructed temple where a group of people were doing puja for their new vehicle.
We learnt that Udbhava Ganapathi temple was constructed recently by the devotees and it belongs to the Shringeri Samsthana, one of the mutts established by Adi Shankara . The villagers say that the Ganapathi “emerged on its own” and the idol has been ‘growing’ from many decades .Many of the ornaments that the devotees donated to the temple does not ‘fit’ the idol. Belavadi has been traditionally an adopted village of the Samsthana and the temple is managed by them.The legend is that Kaliyuga would end when the idol grows completly and fully upright.
Time, unfortunately is a cruel word and we are all bound by it. We could have lingered longer, asked a question here and there or gone over to Halebeedu, but we had to return ..But the Hoysala trail continues…
Belavadi is in Chikmagalur district in Karnataka and is about 30 kms from the town on the Chikmagalur-Javagal Highway . Its about 10 kms from Halebeedu.