The Hoysalas were at it in Belur even before they reached Halebidu – building beautiful temples.
Belur, called Dakshina Varanasi (Benares or Varanasi of the south), was known as Velapuri, Velur and Belapur in olden days; it was the second capital of the Hoysalas after Sosevur but before Halebidu.
Located on the banks of the Yagachi river, it is famous for its cluster of temples, the most beautiful being the Chennakeshava Temple, originally called the Vijayanarayan Temple.
The Chennakeshava Temple was consecrated by the then emperor Vishnuvardhana in 1116 to commemorate his victories against the Cholas. It took 103 years to complete it. The main deity of the temple is Lord Chennakeshava.
The Hoysalas used soft soapstone for their structures, which is close grained and allows for intricate and delicate carvings. The father-son duo of Dasoja and Chavana were the master craftsmen of the temple.
The main temple is surrounded by others dedicated to Kappe Chennigaraya, Saumyanayaki, Andal and other Vaishnavi manifestations.
The Veera Narayana temple has outer walls marked with sculptures of Vaishnava and Shaiva faiths. It stands on a raised platform and built at the same as the Chennakeshava Temple.
The Saumyanayaki Temple has a Garbhagriha (the small unlit chamber of a Hindu temple, where the main deity is kept and usually accessed only by priests) surmounted by a tower. The original tower was damaged and repaired in 1387 by Muddappa, a minister under Vijayanagara king Harihara II – and a metal kalasa or finial fixed on it.
A Kalyani (tank) known as the Vasudeva Sarovara is situated at the north-east corner of the complex, and is used for temple rituals. It has pavilions on two sides and steps going down on all four.
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