ONE OF THE JEWELS Of South India n architecture, Belur’s Chennakeshava Temple was built in 1117 by Vishnuvardhan to commemorate the Hoysala triumph over the Cholas. At the end of the town’s main street, a towered gopura, erected by the kings of Vijayanagar in the 16th century, marks the entrance to the temple. Inside is a spacious paved courtyard, surrounded by subsidiary shrines and colonnades. In the centre is the main temple, a single star-shaped sanctuary opening onto a columned hall fronted by a screened porch.
The entire surface of the grey-green schist structure is covered with richly textured relief carvings. The lintel have foliate frames running between open-mouthed aquatic monsters (makaras) with exuberantly foliated tails. The stone grilles that filter light into the porch are raised on friezes of elephants, lotus stems, garlands and amorous couples. Brackets fashioned as female dancers, musicians and huntresses, standing gracefully under perforated trees, support the sloping eaves above the grilles. Many bear the artists’ signatures, a sign of their elevated status under the Hoysalas. Even finer bracket figures can be seen inside the temple. Though none of the original votive figures are preserved within, ornate guardian figures flank the doorway.