The origin of the Hoysalas is a matter of much interesting speculation and controversy. Like their distinguished contemporaries, the Seunas, the Hoysalas too claim their descent from Yadu (Lunar Dynasty) and call themselves the Yadavas. The conventional titles like, "Yadavanarayana", "Yadavakutambrad-yumani" and "Dvaravatipura-varadhisvara" are common to both the Seunas and the Hoysalas. These details are compiled from internet and by various sources by the Blogger over the years.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kesava Temple (1268 A.D), Somanathapura, Tirumakudlu-Narasipura Taluk, Mysore District.

A typical tourist spot visited by locals and international tourists alike, Somanathapura is a small village, situated about 40 kms from Mysore on the banks of Cauvery. It’s a symbol of our glorious past. In fact, the Department of Tourism welcomes you to Somanathapura with a note to enjoy the glory of Hoysala architecture and beauty of the frescoes. This is rather intriguing as the belief goes that there are no paintings done in the fresco technique in India, making us wonder whether they could be murals. However, there is no scope to get more insights about it here, as the State library, which usually throws light on such matters, remains closed during most part of the day!

One cannot help but be amazed at the grandeur on seeing the magnificent Kesava temple here. It is a magnificent structure that has survived the onslaught of medieval and modern vandalism ever since it was built in 1268 AD by Somadandanayaka, a general during the reign of Nara-simha III. Known for its prosperity during the heydays, the town was named after the same general. Somanathapura is the last of the ornate agrahara settlements of the Hoysalas.

Like all Hoysala temples, the Kesava temple is also a treat to the eye, which the artisans of subsequent dynasties could not, probably, better any further. The Hoysala art is a translation of the artist’s expression of gay abandonment, enhanced by the ingenuity of the Hoysala Chalukyan artists. It is said that even the great Cholas could not get their artists to produce works with the same effervescence.

The affluence of the age is testified by the people and activities portrayed in the sculptures. Members of the royal family riding in richly-decorated chariots, soldiers and commoners commuting in horse, elephant, and camel-drawn vehicles, gods and goddesses entertained by dancers and musicians, hunters armed with bows and arrows heading towards the forest along with dogs are all portrayed through the sculptures.

Also seen on this lithic canvas are palaces of kings and houses of noblemen protected by armed guards, besides jewellery (intricately-carved necklaces, pendants, waistbands, and rings) and hairstyles sported by dancers during olden days. The paintings depict the epics of Ramayana, Bhagavata, and Mahabharata.

The legends appear on the outer walls of the triple-shrined temple. It is built on a stellate jagathi, typical of Hoysala architecture. The jagathi also serves as a path for the devotees to take a pradakshina of the deities installed in the sanctum. At the entrance guarding the sanctum are the dwarapalakas. Though the original image of Kesava is missing in the main shrine, it is compensated by two other charming deities - Janardhana and Venugopala - in the sub shrines, but unfortunately with broken limbs. Judging by the workmanship, it can be assumed that the Kesava image must have been a marvel. Fortunately, the Kesava deity can be seen on the inscription stone at the entrance porch along with two other sub-deities.

The sub shrines are connected to one another by navaranga, a pillared hall. Each pillar is a specimen of outstanding workmanship and artistry.

Equally interesting are the ceilings supported by these pillars, each with a distinctiveness of its own representing multi-petalled lotus, banana bud motifs based on stepped ponds, and ananta knots symbolising eternity.

One need not go too far to find out the artists of these great works as they have documented their works of art by inscribing their names, the guilds they belonged, the place from where they hailed and above all the titles they bore.

Carving in Ceiling

A careful look at the details reveals the diverse background of these artists. Apart from the sculptors, there were silversmiths, goldsmiths, ivory-carvers, cooks, carpenters, wood carvers, soldiers and others who also contributed their bit to the temple. This also speaks about the demand for artists to work on massive temple projects in the past. Many of these artists could even hardly spell their names correctly, which is evident from the conspicuous errors. The inscriptions are helpful in tracing these artists to various geographical regions. Pallavachari, Chola-vachari, and other names ending with ‘Chari’ are believed to have migrated from the Tamil country, while Mallithamma, Masanith-amma, Chameya, Rameya, Chau-deya, Nanjeya and others are said to have been localites.

As per the Mysore Archaeological Reports, Mallithama’s name appears in 40 places and mostly to do with the ornamentation of the temple. It appears he had no rivals in the art. He scribbled his name to the shortened variant of Malli or a simple Ma. It is reported that he participated in most of the major Hoysala projects of the 13th century.

Being well versed in the iconography of Vaishnavite structures, he is believed to have been a favourite amongst the wealthy Vaishnavite patrons. Hence he was given a call by Somadandanayaka to build a magnificent temple at Somanathapura. He used to select some portions to himself and allocate the rest to his associates. In Somanathapura, his work can be distinctly found on the northern tower.

It is quite unfortunate that the place is used for shooting films and other purposes, with scant regard for the safety and sanctity of the structure.

Keerthi-Narayana Temple (1117 A.D), Talakad, Tirumakudlu-Narasipura Taluk, Mysore District.

The saga of temples in Talakad is supported by the rich history of the land. Of the ancient dynasties of south India, the Gangas (350-1050 AD) were one of the most illustrious who ruled over a greater part of Mysore, then known by the name Gangavadi. Along with the Kadambas, the Gangas rose to power and ruled over the southern part of Karnataka. They continued to rule over Gangavadi till the close of the 10th century. When the Cholas overpowered the Gangas during the 11th century, Talakadu was renamed as Rajapura. In 1117, Vishnuvardhana, one of the greatest rulers of the Hoysala dynasty seized Talakad from the Cholas and assumed the title of Talakadugonda. In commemoration of this achievement, he built the Keerthinarayana temple at Talakad.

Today, most of the magnificent temples of this ancient town are submerged in sand. All the stone pillars (square at the base and fitted into a wheel below the abacus) lie scattered throughout the town. Among the temples of Talakad, the Pathaleshwara, Maruleshwara, Arkeshwara, Vaidyanathee-shwara and Mallikarjuna temples form the pancha lingas. In honour of these five Shiva temples, a fair is held once in 12 years called Pancha Linga Darshana, which was last held in 1993. The Pancha Linga Darshana is held on a new moon day during the auspicious month of Karthika when there is a conjugate of the Khuha Yoga and the Vishaka star.

Besides the pancha lingas, there are many other magnificent temples in Talakad. The Kapileshwara temple is one such structure that has a navaranga with pillars, pierced stone windows and ornamented creepers with dancing figures. Another magnificent structure is the Keerthinarayana temple, which is the only temple in Talakad to have been constructed in the Hoysala style of architecture. A greater part of this temple is buried in sand. Other than the sanctum sanctorum, there is a sukanasi and a navaranga in this temple. Inside the sanctum sanctorum stands an eight-foot-tall statue of Keerthinarayana. Recent excavations in the temple complex have brought to light remains of earlier centuries. Among the findings are an intricately carved mantapa (with carvings of Ugranarasimha) made of stone, which is about 12 foot tall. A thulasikatte, remnants of a Garuda kamba, two stone inscriptions and walls of an unknown structure were also found here.

The efforts of the archaeological department are laudable in this regard. Each piece of stone has been numbered, and the mantapas are being rebuilt bit by bit. Work is still on at the site of excavation. The painstaking efforts of the archaeologists is bound to bring to light some more astounding facts about the structures that once stood in the precincts of the Keerthi-narayana temple. Currently, the repair work is on in the temple complex, for which the southern entrance has been sealed. It could probably bring to light some more facts that could enlighten us about the history of the temple. Although half-buried in sand, the Keerthinarayana temple still looks majestic.

The presence of a large mass of sand in Talakad amid lush green vegetation is something that is worth pondering. While geologists say that Talakad is filed with sand carried by the wind from the dry bed of river Cauvery, the locals still prefer to go by the age-old tale of Alamelamma and her curse.

Localite Rama Nayaka narrates the story rather dramatically. About 400 years ago, Srirangapatana is supposed to have been under the control of the mighty Vijayanagar Empire. Alamelamma was the wife of the king’s representative named Srirangaraya. Every Tuesday and Friday, Sri Ranganaya-kamma borrowed Alame-lamma’s jewels and returned it after the pooja. Meanwhile, Srirangaraya developed a tumour on his back, resembling the hood of a cobra (the disease is called Bennu Phani Roga or Raja Roga in Kannada). Srirangaraya, along with his wife, came to Talakad to worship Vaidyanatheshwara with the hope of being cured of his ailment. Srirangaraya, however, did not survive for long, and his wife settled down in a small village called Malangi. During this period, the Wodeyars took over Srirangapatna, and started demanding the jewels. When Alamelamma could not bear it no more, she sent a nose ring to Srirangapatana and jumped into a pond in Malangi with the remaining jewels. Before she ended her life, Alamelamma is supposed to have uttered three curses, of which one is “Talakadu Marulagi.” When translated to English, it means, “Let Talakadu be covered with sand.” The locals still believe that Alamelamma’s curse is the cause for the large mass of sand in Talakad.

Veera-Narayana Temple (1200 A.D), Belavadi, Chikkamagalur Taluk, Chikmagalur District.

Belavadi is a small village situated 29 kilometres south east of Chikmagalur on Chikmagalur — Javagal Highway and 10 kilometres North West of Halebid. This temple, declared as a protected monument, is one of the largest Hoysala temples.

It is a Trikootachala structure with three cells dedicated to Veeranarayana, Venugopala and Yoga- Narasimha. The temple is a fine example of Hoysala architecture. The west side of the temple consists of a square garbhagriha, a sukanasi, navaranga and square mukhamantapa. The whole structure has been constructed on a raised platform. The Veeranarayana cell has a tower over the sanctum and a large stone kalasa on the shikara.

The navaranga has large bell shaped pillars. The ceiling of the sukhanasi is a dome with an octagonal gallery and circles above. Inside the garbhagriha an 8-foot Veeranarayana is placed on the Garuda pedestal. The image is elegantly carved and elaborately ornamented where the deity is standing in stanaka pose with four hands. The idol is said to be one of the best specimens of Hoysala art. 22 pillars, 20 of which are round bell-shaped ones, support the Mukhamantapa of the Veeranarayana shrine and the other two are star-shaped. An important feature of the temple is the stone bench which runs all round the edge of the mukhamantapa. It is ornamented with rosettes and plasters.

To the east of the temple is a sabhamantapa with sukanasi and a pair of garbhagrihas facing each other, containing the images of Venugopala and Yoganarasimha. The image of Venugopala is about 8ft in height inclusive of the Garuda pedestal and prabhavali. Venugopala stands cross-legged and his fingers are lifted as if playing the flute. The image of Yoganarasimha is about 7ft high with prabhavali where Narasimha, seated in yogic posture, has a band carved around it to help keep the legs in position. The image has a fine kreeta and protruding eyes. The towers of Venugopala and Yoganarasimha shrines are similar to the Veeranarayana shrine and have turrets, ornamented keerthimukhas and varied sculptures.

All the ceiling panels of the temple, except those of the veranda, are well carved. Some of these ceilings are flat while a majority of them are dome-like containing intricate geometrical patterns of various designs. The flat ceilings have the images of Krishna playing on the flute, Kalingamardhana and Kamsavadha in different postures. To the east of this Trikootachala temple is a large inverted cone-like structure on a high ground with a square hall and a spacious porch. This is the mahadwara or the main gateway of the temple. A pair of impressively carved elephants flanks both entrances of this structure.

Vasanthika Temple, Angadi, Mudigere Taluk - the birthplace of the Hoysalas

“Hoy Sala " ( Strike Sala ! ) said the guru Sudatta Muni to his student , Sala who was in an armed combat with a tiger . The beast had just attached the duo who were immersed in rituals at a Durga or Vasantha Parameshwari temple in a village called Sasakapura or Sosevur. The student struck the animal in one blow, immortalizing himself and his victim . The guru was so pleased that he asked Sala to establish a kingdom and the Hoysala dynasty was established with Sosevur as the capital .

The story is believed to have happenned more than 1000 years ago. at Sasakapura or Sosevur which is today identified as Angadi, a small hamlet in Chikmagalur district in Karnataka The temple of the Goddess , along with the ruins of more temples and basadis is the only proof of this myth .The folklore however became so popular that every temple of the Hoysalas has this story carved in stone and it became the royal emblem of the dynasty.

The origin of Hoysalas

The Hoysalas were not born kings but they ruled for 300 years . They were natives of Malnad, Karnataka and were tribal chiefs who were subordinates of the Western Chalukyas. Some inscriptions show them as lords of the Male (hills) while some indicate that they were descendants of the Yadava clan. Historically though the first Hoysala family record is dated 950 and names Arekalla as the chieftain, followed by Maruga and Nripa Kama I (976).

But the kings who shaped the dynasties were Vishnuvardhan and Veera Bhallalla who became independent from the Chalukyas .Vishnuvardhan established his supremacy by defeating the Cholas in Talakadu . Historians claim that the story behind the Hoysala crest is a symbolic interpretation of this victory as the tiger , a symbol of the Cholas is shown subdued by a soldier.

But today the Hoysalas are remembered for their patronage to arts along with their exploits on the battlefield – a baffling 1500 temples built in 958 centres, of which the two famous ones are Belur and Halebid which were the capital cities of the dynasty. However, hardly a 100 survive today. Our trail had taken us down to 25 villages including Angadi , the original capital of the empire, where it all began.

Kesava Temple (1130 A.D), Marle, Chikkamagalur Taluk, Chikmagalur District.


Marle belongs to Chikkamagalur district. A road connects Marle to Hiremagalur. During the region of Vishnuvardhana Raya, two temples have been built here - one a Kesava temple, and the other, a Siddeswara temple. On the outer surfaces of each of these temples several wall carvings are found. Two attractive elephants holding lotuses in their tusks capture the attention of every visitor near the portico of the Kesava Temple.

In between the two temples there stands a 12 feet high stone slab on which are inscribed the details regarding the history of their construction. It represents the treasure of inscriptions and sculpture abounding in our Karnataka state. In the Navarangas of both the temples round pillars, ceiling decorations in the form of Bhuvanaeswari, along with the retinue of the eight deities guarding the quarters (Ashtadikpalakas) do exist. Despite all these facts of exquisite figures and features, the place has remained unknown to many lovers of sculptural art, just for want of adequate advertisement by responsible people.

Narasimha Temple, Nijagallu, Tumkuru Taluk, Tumkur District.

The Narasimha temple in Nijagallu Betta is one of those forgotten monuments. So much so that its name was not part of the list of ancient monuments. Situated close to Dobbaspet on the Bangalore-Tumkur road (NH 4), the hill is also called Siddhara Betta, as the 'Siddhas' were once believed to have meditated on its slopes.

The Narasimha Temple stands between the base and summit of the hill. One can get there by taking a left from the over bridge near Dobbspet bus stand. The visitor will have to take the small steps carved on the rock.

The ancient fort on the hill may have been built by Mysore king Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar in 1690-1694 AD, but now only the outer wall remains. And after crossing the small Darga the temple will be visible. There is a small fresh water pond called akka tangi in front of the darga, which is named after Syed Badshah Shah Kareem, a Sufi saint.

There is no precise history of the shrine, but carvings on the outer wall are similar to the Hoysala architecture and the temple itself resembles the Thirunarayana Shrine in Melkote. Localities believe it to be a Hoysala structure. It's shocking to notice the frontal being covered by thick overgrowth; entering the temple is therefore possible only from the left side.

However, the interiors of the temple are intact and in a good condition. There is a mantapa with fine carvings of Jaya and Vijaya, the two dwarapalakas of Vaikuntha, near the entrance. One enters the empty garbhagruha through a passage, which may have been built for the worshippers. The idol of Narasimha was shifted to a temple in nearby village.

Another fortification on the hill starts from the temple and goes on to the summit, where more monuments are located.

The hill contains another Darga (on the back of the temple). There's also a Shiva temple with statues of Ganesha, Subramanya and Veerabhadra on the outer wall. Inscriptions near the temple dating back to 1698 attribute the hill-fort to Chikkadeva. From here the scenes of the other hills are spectacular.

There is a cave temple dedicated to Lord Shiva with carvings of dikpalakas and Nataraja.

In 1771 AD Marathas led by young Peshwa Madhav Rao attacked this region. Hyder Ali was the army chief of Mysore and his forces were defeated. The battle took place in Nijagallu.

Lakshmi-Narasimha Temple (1286 A.D), Vigna-Sante, Tiptur Taluk, Tumkur District.

The Lakshmi-Narasimha temple was built in 1286 A.D by three brothers who were generals of the Hoysala King Narasimha III : Appaya, Gopala and Madhava. It is three celled structure raised on a stellate parapet, with the western cell having a stone superstructure and a vestibule. The hall has four pillars.

Yoga Madhava Temple (1261 A.D), Settikere, Chikkanayakanahalli Taluk, Tumkur District.

This temple is at Setti-Kere; The Yoga-Madhava temple is dedicted to an unusual form of Vishnu. The Santum houses an image about nine feet in height above a pedestal of Vishnu seated in the typical contemplative "Lotus Posture" {Padmasana}. Gopala Dandanayaka built this temple in 1261 A.D during the reign of Hoysala King Narasimha III. It is a Hoysala structure, raised on a stellate parapet, three foot high, with a square central hall. A stone superstructure adorns the sanctum.

Channigaraya Temple (1260 A.D), Turuvekere, Turuvekere Taluk, Tumkur District.

This Ekakootachala temple was built in 1260 A.D during the reign of Narasimha III by Soma-Dandanayaka. The temple, which faces east is built in potstone and raised on a stellate three-foot high parapet. A stone superstructure with five storeys surrounds the sanctum, which is a stellate plan, and the final Kalasa is made of stone. The vestibule and the hall are square in form.

Chenna Kesava Temple (1250 A.D), Aralaguppe, Tiptur Taluk, Tumkur District.

While traveling from Bangalore to Shimoga, after Kibbanahalli cross and 15 km before Tiptur a big signboard reads “Way to Chenna Kesava temple, Aralaguppe.” A couple of kilometers on this deviation bring us to the spellbinding 13th century architectural beauty of Hoysalas.

Aralaguppe was known as ‘Alariguppe’ according to inscriptions from the bygone era. The Chenna Kesava temple here has all the usual characteristics of the Hoysala architectural style, which is said to have been introduced first in the Hoysaleshwara temple, Halebid.

The raised platform following the contours of the stellate plan of the main temple, circumambulatory path ay to go round the temple, carved repetitive friezes for basement cornices, introduction of a second chadya or eave between the figure sculpture, turreted pilasters and decorative miniature towers, exuberant ornamentation of the figure sculptures, are all the predominant features of Hoysala architecture. In the absence of any inscription available, this style alone has helped the art historians to assign this temple to 13th century.

The Chenna Kesava temple stands on a raised platform in the centre of the village. This is Ekakootachala temple a single celled temple, with its star shaped garbhagriha and tower is of a simple ground plan consisting of an antarala (vestibule), navaranga and an entrance ankana fitted with pierced stone windows, which allows subdued light into the temple. The temple follows the contours of the vimana and has a flight of steps in the front flanked by two miniature towers on each side.

The decorative friezes running around the temple wall provides many spectacular scenes. The row of six friezes carved one above the other, separated horizontally by deeply cut recesses, consists of caparisoned elephants, horses, creepers, mythological frieze, makaras and lastly hamsas. The mythological friezes tell the story of Ramayana and Bhagavata. The lowest friezes of elephants and horses are picturesque representations of the turbulent wars fought by the Hoysalas to build and consolidate their empire. The makaras and hamsas are indicative of the peacetime prosperity, wealth and happiness of the subjects.

The wall decorations are as profuse as in any other ornate Hoysala temple.
Here also we see the regular scheme of dividing the outer wall into two portions by a horizontally running cornice. The lower half has the sculptures standing below a canopy of creepers. Most of them are the Chaturvimsati Murthy, the 24 forms of Vishnu and other deities with six hands and are the most spectacular iconographic specialty of this temple. Because normally they are shown only with four hands. Above these sculptures, the upper half of the wall shows varied forms of miniature towers, turrets on pilasters.

The vimana of this temple is in the shape of 16-pointed star and consists of koota aedicule each one rotated by 22.5 degrees, 45 degrees, and 22.5 degrees successively. The tower of the vimana with four talas has a vedike and koota roof at the top, which follows the contours of the sanctum below. The top kalasa is missing.

The outer wall of navaranga is of staggered squares and represents a saptaratha structure. Some of the sculptures here bear the name of 'Honnoja' on their pedestal while some others have only 'Ho' as a short form of the sculptor's name. This terse name without any titles or claims keeps us in darkness as far as the sculptor is concerned.

The navaranga is of the usual nine ankanas or divisions and has two niches containing Ganesha and Mahishasuramardini, both of exquisite workmanship.

A six-feet tall slightly damaged Kesava idol is kept in the navaranga and perhaps, was the original deity that adored the garbhagriha, but at present there is a smaller idol for worship. The pillars that support the navaranga and the ceilings are elaborately worked. The fine workmanship of the pillars is eye-catching.

But unfortunately the exquisite beauty of this temple has been marred by another temple, which is built for Ugra Narasimha, annexing the southern wall of the Chenna Kesava temple. Unless one has access to the garbhagriha of the Narasimha temple, it would be impossible to see the sculptural beauty of half the southern wall of Chenna Kesava temple.

Though Mysore archaeological report 1935, talks of removing this obstruction and building a separate temple for Narasimha, perhaps due to the unwillingness of the local villagers the project has remained on paper only. If not for this one flaw, the condition of this temple is fairly good.

Pre-Hoysala shrine

A pre-Hoysala shrine, the Kalleshwara temple attracted the attention of experts, as the Natesha in the middle of the ashtadikpalakas panels over the mukhamantapa ceiling, is considered the most beautiful sculpture found in the State.

Consisting of garbagriha, antarala, and a mukhamantapa (with three lateral shrines), the temple's sanctum sanctorum is adorned with a huge black-granite Shivalinga.

While the adhishtana is made of granites, the temple's walls and towers are constructed with bricks. The outer walls are insipid without projections and
recesses, but for the lone niche at the antarala that divides the vimana from the mukhamantapa. Pilasters built closer at the temple's interiors however, appears more refreshing.

The extraordinary ceiling of the mukhamantapa, with the Nolambas style portrayal of Umasahita (Shiva and Parvati together) at the central panel, is a stark contrast with the otherwise ordinary interior.

The image of Gajalakshmi on the doorway adds charm to the place. The four lathe-cum-pillars, with cubical bases, supports the navaranga's ceiling. Apart from the Shiva-Parvati panel, the ceiling has eight other carvings of ashtadikpalakas, depicted with their consorts and vehicles. Four vidyadharas, with garlands in their hands, face up to the Natesha (with the expression of approaching him from the corners of the panel's beams).

These garland-bearing vidyadharas are quite common to Nolamba architecture; a clear evidence of the elegance and comprehensiveness of their style. The Natesha, meanwhile, is a remarkable three-dimensional image, wearing jewels such as the katibandana and tassels. The dancing lord is accompanied by three bhutas playing a three-headed percussion instrument. They are also seen with ayut and other symbols.

The northern and eastern lateral shrines contain idols of Kesava and Surya, while the southern one contains the Umasahita mounted over a large stele with a lotus pedestal and a prabhavali with a couple of flying vidyadharas.

Located 20 kms above Tiptur, Aralaguppe can be reached by trains running in the Bangalore - Tiptur - Arasikere route. 120 kms from Bangalore, the village can also be reached by road from Tiptur.

Chenna Kesava Temple (1150 A.D), Kaidala, Tumkuru Taluk, Tumkur District.


Those of us who have visited Belur and Halebid will surely remember being awestruck by the sheer magnificence of the temples, wondering and praising the master sculptor - Jakanachari. But how many of us have bothered to find out where Jakanachari was born and which are the other temples that bear his signature. Jakanachari, the master sculptor was born and brought up at Kaidala, a small non-descript village nearby.

Kaidala situated a mere 9 km from Tumkur town off Gulur village on the Kunigal road, hosts two exquisite temples sculpted by Jakanachari. According to historical records, Kaidala was called Kridapura and was the capital of the state. Jakanachari, the famous architect and sculptor to whose skills are attributed some of the finest temples in the State including those in Halebid and Belur is believed to have been a native of this village.

The legend

Jakanachari’s life story speaks of romance, love and dedication to art. The master craftsman’s career began during the reign of Nripa Haya, a local chieftain ruling Kaidala or Kridapura. Jakanachari, a young sculptor, leaves his wife behind at Kaidala and travels far and wide; seeking to perfect his art and attains fame. During the course of his travels, he builds several elegant temples including Belur and Halebid. Working and travelling, Jakanachari becomes so engrossed in sculpting new and beautiful temples that he forgets his wife.

Back home at Kaidala, a son is born to him and his wife names him Dankanachari. The young boy grows up to become a sculptor too. Attaining adulthood, Dankanachari sets out in search of his father. At Belur, he notices that a Chenna Kesava temple is being built and goes to inspect the same. At the site, he points out a blemish in one of the images and says that the flaw makes the idol unworthy of worship. The architect, none other than Jakanachari himself, hastily vows to cut off his right hand if any defect could be found in the image he had carved.

In order to test the matter, the figure is covered with sandal paste, which dries on every part except around the navel. On examination, a cavity containing a frog in sand and water is found. Mortified at the result, Jakanachari cuts off his right hand as promised. Curious about the young man, Jakanachari makes enquiries and discovers that Dankanachari is indeed his own son.

Subsequently, Jakanachari gets a vision directing him to dedicate a temple to lord Chenna Kesava in his native place, Kridapura. Accordingly, he returns to that place and legend says that no sooner was the temple completed than his right hand was restored. In commemoration of this incident, the place has ever since been called Kaidala.

Chenna Kesava temple

The sprawling Chenna Kesava temple complex is completely surrounded by a tall fort-like wall. The temple is a fine blend of Hoysala, Dravidian and Vijayanagara styles of architecture. It was probably built around 1150 A.D by Bachi, samanta raja of Hoysala King Narasimha I.

The mahadwara or outer gate is surmounted by a massive gopura and has a large doorway flanked by beautifully anointed pillars. On the right pillar is a figure of Chenna Kesava, similar to the one inside the temple, with consorts on the side panels. The left pillar has a fine figure, about 11 ft tall, standing with folded hands, wearing an uttariya or upper cloth and a dagger, which is said to represent the celebrated sculptor Jakanachari. Another school of thought states that this figure represents the chief who sanctioned the construction of the temple or the mahadwara.

Enter through the main gate and the vastness and beauty of the temple complex strikes you. The large courtyard with its shady trees and lush green lawn provides a serene and harmonious ambiance ideal for spiritual thought and deliberation.

Two hero-stones are also placed to the right of the main entrance inside the temple courtyard. A short walk through the courtyard leads to the navaranga, which is supported by several artistically carved pillars.

The pillars and walls of the temple are adorned with carved relief images of dancing girls, sages, lions, elephants and demi-gods and incidents from Ramayana and Mahabharata.

The west-facing monolithic black-granite image of Lord Chenna Kesava is about 5½ ft tall and is installed on a 2½ feet high pedestal. The ten incarnations of Vishnu are carved on the prabhavali (representation of aura). Strikingly beautiful images of Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi – two consorts of Lord Chenna Kesava – flank the main image in the sanctum.

Gangadhareshwara Temple

The Gangeshvara or Gangadhareshvara shrine is situated adjacent to the Chenna Kesava temple. Though considerably smaller than the former, this quaint structure is in many ways grander.

The temple has only two parts, the navaranga, supported by four artistically carved black granite pillars and the garbha griha (sanctum). The outer wall of the temple has rows of intricately carved elephant figures and flower images adorning it. An exquisitely carved stone railing or parapet adorned with images of elephants, flowers and other relief flanks the navaranga. The pillars are strikingly beautiful and hold a stark resemblance to those in the Chenna Kesava temple at Belur, the Gangadhareshwara temple at Shivaganga, and the Virupaksha temple in Hampi among others.

This temple has two stone inscriptions in hale Kannada, which declare that a chief named Gule Bachi constructed these temples in 1150 AD during the reign of the Hoysala king Narasimha I. The name of the place is mentioned as ‘Kayadala.’

Travel to Tumkur and go past the town to reach the Tumkur-Kunigal road. Five km on this road is Gulur, turn right at the main circle and half a km later, you are at the Kaidala Chenna Kesava temple.

Pralaya-Varahanatha Swami Temple, Varahanatha Kallahalli, Krishnarajapete Teluk

Gigantic Pralaya Varahantha temple situated at Kalahalli, Krishnarajpet taluk is of Hoysala times. The Pralaya Varaha is 15 feet tall and Bhoo Devi is 3.5 feet and is seated in his left thigh. Mandya district is home to several ancient Vaishnava temples, mostly linked to the Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya. While some such as Srirangapattana, Melukote, Maddur and Nagamangala are popular with temple tourists, there are quite a few temples waiting to be discovered. One such temple is located in the obscure village of Kalahalli.

But, getting to Kalahalli itself is no mean task, for one has to make several stops to ask the locals for directions. After driving past River Hemavathi, surrounded by paddy fields and grazing cows, one finally finds a simple white structure which, on first glance, can fool the visitor into thinking that it is an ordinary temple.

There are neither stone sculptures like the ones found in the Hoysala temples of Somnathpur and Belur, nor the red-white paint on the walls that mark most South Indian temples. Yet, the simple structure contains something worth a look, a sight not seen in most temples. This rare sight is a 15 ft high black stone image of one of Lord Vishnu's lesser known incarnations, Bhoovaraha or the third avatar where the Lord appeared as a boar to rescue Mother Earth from the demon Hiranyaksha.

Only a few temples in India are dedicated to Lord Vishnu's Varaha avatar, mainly because the other incarnations of Narasimha, Rama and Krishna are more popular.

According to history, the image in this temple was installed by sage Gautama over 2,000 years ago and is under the management of the Parakal Math. The image has Lord Bhoovaraha with Bhoomidevi seated on his left leg. The conch and discus in the deity's hands are quite different in design from sculptures in other temples. The moolamoorthi is Salagrama Shila and the moorthi has Sudarshana Chakra on the back.

Due to the image's towering height, a wooden plank is placed in front of the deity to enable the temple's only priest to attend to dressing and offering flowers. A small Hanuman sculpture too sits under the Bhoovaraha image.

A visit to this temple is truly a step back in time, a time when people visited temples only to think of and glorify God.

To get to Kalahalli, one has to first get to Krishnarajpet, which is about 53 km from Mysore. From there, proceed to Vittalapura, which is 8 km away.

Continue driving straight down the road, till you pass Kattahalli. Kalahalli is 2 km from Kattahalli.

Birth star of deity is Revathy a major festival is organized on the day of appearance of Varaha - Masika Revathy (1008 Kalasa Abhishekam). Rivers in proximity are Cauvery, Hemavathi, Guptavahini. Temple timing: 10 am to 5 pm.

Adi-Madhava-Raya Temple (1270 A.D), Belluru, Nagamangala Taluk, Mandya District.

Madhava Raya Temple built in 1270 A.D is a Trikootachala, three celled temple raised on a stellate parapet. The main cell houses a fine image of Adi-Madhava (one of the 24 forms of Maha Vishnu). The unique feature of the form is that the Lord holds Chakra in upper right hand and Shanka in the upper left. The lower right hand holds Gada and the lower left has Padma. To the left of Adi-Madhava we find Janardhana image and to the left we see Venu-gopala.

How to reach: On Bangalore- Hassan road, take a right turn at Belluru Cross to go to Belluru.

Padmanabha Temple (1250 A.D), Hosa Budanuru, Mandya Taluk, Mandya District.

Padmanabha Temple built in 1250 A.D is an Ekakootachala, one celled temple raised on a stellate parapet. The main cell houses a fine image of Padmanabha (one of the 24 forms of Maha Vishnu). The unique feature of the form is that the Lord holds Padma in upper right hand and Chakra in the upper left. The lower right hand holds Gada and the lower left has Shanka.

How to reach: On Bangalore- Mysore road, about 3 Kms before reaching Mandya take a right turn to Hosa Budanuru.

Panchalingeswara Temple (1250 A.D), Govindanahalli, Krishnarajapete Taluk, Mandya District.

Belongs to the Mandya District and is situated near Kikkeri, near the border of Hassan District. This village harbors a Hoysala style Sivalaya. There is one long Navaranga in common to the five sanctuaries arranged one beside the other here. In the outer ring wall of this simple - looking temple the 24 Vishnu Caturvimsati forms on the eastern side and various forms of deities on the other sides have been accommodated. For the sake of entry there are two doors on the east with their respective Mukha Mantapas. At each of these entrances there are the images of two doorkeepers made by the sculptor Mallitamma. Nandi image is also installed in the portico.

In the five sanctums are installed 5 oblong sivalingas representing the quintuple facets of Iswara Viz Sadyojatha, Vaamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha, and Eshana. Every sanctum has a separate sikahara of its own.