Temple Trails of Karnataka: Part-3 – Belur and Halebeedu

January 15, 2012

After our exertions at Mullayanagari Peak, we returned back to Chikmagalur town by mid-day, had our lunch and reached our hotel. I had hoped to catch some of the action from the Perth Test(hoping to watch Sachin’s 100th hundred live), but the Indian team dashed any such hopes by losing the Test in two and a half days. Disappointed by the result, I took the opportunity to slip into a much needed nap.

Our next destination was Belur temple, 25 kms from Chikmagalur. Belur is a small town located on the banks of Yagachi River in Hassan district. The main attraction of the town is the Chennakesava (literally translates to Handsome Vishnu) temple. It was built by King Vishnuvardana of Hoysala dynasty. The temple is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture alongside Halebeedu and Somnathpura. Coupled with Halebeedu, this is one of the major tourist destinations of Karnataka.

The main entrance to the temple complex is through a Rayagopura. It was constructed in Dravidian style as a later day addition to the temple complex by the Vijayanagara kings.

The main entrance through the Rajagopura

The Chennakesava temple is at the centre of the temple complex facing east, flanked by Kappe Chennigraya temple on its right and a small Sowmyanayaki temple slightly back. On the left, slightly back is the Andal temple. There is a Pushkarni  ie well to the right side of the main entrance. That much for the history of the temple.

Walking around the temple, one will be amazed at the attention given to the details of  every small statue carved on the outside walls as well as the pillars inside . Every inch of the walls, pillars and roof of the temple is adorned with minute statues and carvings. No wonder the construction of the temple went on for decades. If you love art and history, then you can spend hours at this site marvelling the architecture. I must admit my photography skills are limited and definitely will not be able to do justice to the beauty of the temple. So don’t expect any great macro frames of the architecture with regard to the snaps which follow.

The entrance to the Chennakesava shrine.

History lessons to a group of schoolboys

Intricate delights at every turn

Ancient pillars inside the sanctum of the temple

Jet black pillar smeared with vermilion by the devotees

A snap from the rear of the Belur temple complex

The one disappointing aspect from my visit, was that very few of the tourists actually wanted to learn anything about the history of the temple and its architecture. Everybody was eager to use the temple only as a backdrop for their photographs. Nobody makes use of the guides available to appreciate the salient features of the temple and its architecture. But I think this applies to almost all historical places in India and will be difficult to change.

Next we hurried off to Halebeedu, 16 kms to the east of Belur and reached there around 5 pm.

Halebeedu literally means ruined city. It was the capital of Hoysala Empire in the 12th century. It was twice attacked by invaders who robbed it off its treasures. The Hoysalas then shifted their capital to Belur, leaving Halebeedu to its ruins. Halebeedu temple complex consists of two temples, Hoysaleshwara and Kedareshwara temples. Unlike Belur, the Halebeedu temple is situated amidst a wonderfully maintained park and there is plenty of lawn space for piligrims to relax after darshan. Halebeedu gives an impression of two temples stuck together, maybe because of the existence of two Nandis(Lord Shiva’s vehicle-The Bull) side by side. Like Belur, here too thousands of statues adorn the outer walls of the temple. Stories from the Puranas, Upanishads and tales from Ramayana and Mahabharata have been sculpted in the most exquisite and authentic detail. The temple at Belur is still functional but the Halebeedu temple, though open to the public is not used for devotional purposes (correct me if I am wrong on this).

In front of Halebeedu temple beyond the temple lawns, there is a huge lake. Boating activities are available in this lake for the visitors. We were a bit late for the boating but enjoyed a relaxing time on a sultry evening in the temple lawns.

Entrance to Halebeedu temple complex

Hoysaleshwara temple entrance

Carvings on the outer walls at Halebeedu


On the way back to Chikmagalur, we stopped at Yagachi dam, on the outskirts of Belur town. The dam is only 3 kms from Belur on the Chikmagalur road and is built on the river Yagachi, a tributary of Cauvery. Yagachi dam is a relatively new addition to the list of reservoirs in Karnataka, commissioned in 2004. The waters of the dam irrigates thousands of acres in Hassan and Chikmagalur districts. It also provides drinking water to the nearby towns. The waters of this dam accompany you on the left side of the road and provide a pleasing sight on the way to Chikmagalur from Belur. Most of the tourists visiting Belur just visit the temple and return back ignorant of the presence of this dam very near to Belur town.

We reached the gates of the dam at around 6 pm. The general public are not allowed to walk across the upper tier of the dam. We spent some time at the park adjoining the dam enjoying the evening breeze and clicking pictures. The dam site is a nice place to unwind after visiting Belur temple. I think it well get more popular in the future.

At Yagachi Dam near Belur

We returned back to Chikmagalur at 7 pm, had a light dinner and went to bed early. A long final day of our trip lay ahead of us tomorrow, where we hoped to cover Hornadu and Kalasa temples and the Kudremukh National Park. All those in my next post.


  • anupam.mazumdar says:

    Hi Venkat,

    I have never been to South India, but always have dreamt of visiting. What a nice help this post will provide to me :-)

    Wonderful pics and beautiful description. Thanks

    Anupam Mazumdar

  • Hi Venkatt

    once again nice post…………………….enjoyed a lot……….

    Both Belur and Halebeedu temples are very beautiful . The architecture is marvellous . Photos and descriptions are great and precise…………………..
    This is also getting to a very good and attractive series.

    And you are going on eastern side of Mangalore , I suppose.

    On 16th i am going on trip to Karnataka.Starting with Udupi I am going towards North…………
    But that will come in future posts.

    Waiting for your next one Venkatt……….

    have a good day…………..

    • venkatt says:

      Thanks Vishal for your appreciation. All the best for your Karnataka trip. Book a nice AC vehicle because Karnataka, especially the coastal areas, at this time of the year is going to be roasting hot.

  • Nandan says:

    Another one with lovely description. I think you are too harsh on yourself, the photos have come out much more natural and ‘Real’.

    On a different note, it did take some time but Sachin got his hundred last week. :-)

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Excellent post, Venkatt, as usual. The beauty of Hoysalan architecture with its magnificent scultptures and ornamental friezes is simply amazing. Hundreds of skilled craftsmen must have laboured for years to provide these masterpieces in stone. Thanks for the guided tour of the Belur-Halebid temples.

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