Stone sculptures that seem as if they breathe life attract thousands of tourists to the temples at Belur and Halebidu in Karnataka. The temples built in Hoysala style of architecture are a favourite among lovers of history, art and culture who are thrilled no end by the poetry in stone.
Main features of the temples
One of the striking sculptures at Belur is that of a young woman playing a veena. Visitors are stunned seeing even the strings of the veena being chiselled in stone. There are several such pieces of art at the temple which is literally a lotus made of stone.
Located 15 km apart in Hassan district of Karnataka, the temples at Belur and Halebidu have carvings of stone sculptures on every inch of their space. A large number of tourists who are left spellbound by the stone art are foreigners.
The temples were built during the rule of the Hoysala kings and are approximately 1,000 years old.
Krishna as a child is the main deity in Belur and the temple is referred to as Chenna Kesava Temple. The walls surrounding the shrine are adorned with stone images of women in various dance poses.
It is best to view the temple at Belur first and then head to Halebidu. The main difference between the temples is the chief deity. At Halebidu, the main idol is that of Shiva and the temple boasts of a Nandi statue that is among the ten biggest in India.
Similar to Belur, the Halebidu temple is also embellished with store sculptures and images in every nook and corner, each of which is created out of a single stone. The interiors of the temples are also built entirely with stone – from floor to roof.
Take the Ernakulam - Kozhikode road. From Kozhikode, travel along the Thamarassery ghat road to Mananthavady. Then head to Kattikkulam and the Kerala-Karnataka state border at Kutta.
After entering Karnataka, negotiate the stretch through the Thithimathi forest to Periyapattana. From there, travel to Hassan and Belur.
The total distance from Ernakulam to Belur is 478 km.
Cars are allowed along the roads passing through the Nagerhole forest, but two-wheelers are banned.
Visitors can stay at 'Mayura,' the guest house belonging to the Karnataka government. Contact phone number: 08177222209.
Several popular tourist and pilgrim spots and important towns are located near Belur-Halebidu temples. They include, Chikmagalur, Sakleshpura, Hassan, Bhadra wildlife sanctuary, Shravenabelagola, Shimoga and Madikeri.
Things to remember
The journey to Belur-Halebidu would involve a three-day trip. An entire day needs to be set apart to enjoy the sights at the temples.
Avoid travelling at night while heading to Belur-Halebidu and back. Night traffic is allowed through Thithimathi forest, but not in Nagerhole and Bandipur.
Take the assistance of a guide at the temples. A visitor can then enjoy the sculptures with a better understanding.