Belur & Halebidu

The travel bug bit only when I was well into my twenties, a while after I’d flown the nest. So if someone asked me for great things to do in my home state right now, I would draw a complete, stupid blank. Sad, but true.

My fascination with old monuments, associated history and vivid imagination of knights and wars of yore was also predominantly associated with Britain, thanks to travel and Europe’s exhausting war history. Wait a minute, I thought. India has had its share of bloody murders and monuments across religions (although now decrepit), with added mythology to spice things up. Why don’t I know ANY of that?! Again, sad, but true.

It’s time to fix that, one little piece at a time, we thought; and starting close to home seemed like the best bet. Hasan district, home of the Hoysalas, beckoned.

Eloquently carved stone temples built over a thousand years ago by the Hoysalas are still standing tall today. With towering facades outside and weird star-shaped squatness inside the complex, Belur’s Vishnu temples reek of symbolism and devotion. In Halebidu, the well-maintained green lawn that surrounds the two squat Shiva temples is as much as a miracle as the still standing stone. They do a merry tango, these two, between the vastly divided Vishnu-Shiva schools of thought of Hinduism – things must have been calmer a thousand years ago!

In both temple sites, the stunning carvings outside felt like they would step out and shake our hands at any moment. Krishna threatened to serenade with his flute and Rama was probably itching to use his bow on a nosy spectator, not to mention their myriad cohorts and maybe even some animals. It is impossible to play “name the God” with these carvings, unless you’ve paid attention to Grandma when she gave you the inside story a couple of decades ago :) The other things that blew me away was the intricately carved pillars – symmetrical in some places and no-two-alike at others. I sat and stared at the patterns for a good while, and it dawned on me that it can be such an inspiration for the creative arts, for example jewellery. It was one of those “aha-I-get-what-“inspired by”-collections-mean-now” moments – when one plus one actually equals two and the world makes sense for that one fleeting moment.

So much to see, so little time to see it all!

Who wants to tango with the sculpture now?!
Look at ’em pillars!

(back-dated to Nov 2014)

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