Chennakeshava temple also known as Kesava, Keshava, or Vijayanarayna Temple is a magnificent temple located at a distance of about 35 km from Hassan in Belur, Karnataka. This historic shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu was built in the 12th century.
Chennakeshvas Temple is a popular tourist destination of Karnataka. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Every year lakhs of people come here to live the spiritual experience and admire the beauty of this holy shrine.
Chennakeshava temple’s construction was initiated in the year 1117 AD by a king of the Hoysala empire named Vishnuvardhana on the banks of River Yagachi. The construction of the temple, however, took about 103 years to complete. Chennakeshava translates to Handsome Keshava. It is a major Vaishnava shrine.
The temple is not only a religious center but also a colossal example of architectural excellence. It is famous world over for its sculpture, architectures, inscriptions, iconography, and rich history.
The Hoysala empire ruled south India between 1000 Ad to 1346 AD during their rule they built over 1500 temples in their region. The city of Belur is mentioned as Velapura or Velur in medieval texts. Chennakeshava temple has always been a highly revered one. Due to the presence of numerous shrines, it was often called Earthly Vaikuntha meaning abode of Lord Vishu and Dakshin Varanasi meaning Varanasi of South.
Unfortunately, this glorious temple has suffered a lot over the years. It was loots damaged, destroyed during various clashes. Hence over the years, it has been repaired many times
The Chennakeshava temple also stands as a storyteller. It tells us about religious tolerance and open-mindedness of the Hoysala rulers. The images carved on the temple reflect upon the secular life of the 12th Century. Apart from having Vaishnava features, the temple has features of Shaktism, Shaivism, Buddhism, and Jainism
Chennakeshava temple is huge in structure and it is built using soapstone. The height of the massive temple is over 37 meters.
Chennakeshava temple is one of the most significant architectural works of the Hoysala Empire. This temple boasts of military achievements of King Vishnuvardhana who ordered building this temple. The King fought and won against Cholas and western Chalukyas.
There are a lot of points of attraction in the temple complex. As you enter the temple premises you will notice lofty arches also called Rajagopura. The entire temple is adorned richly with elaborate carvings and intricately carved sculptures. The temple is also adorned with the scenes from Puranas, Mahabharata and Ramayana are depicted on various parts of the temple. Pictures of dancers and musicians can be seen in different parts of the complex.
Other than the primary shrine the temple has a smaller shrine dedicated to Goddess Sowmyanayaki (a form of Goddess Laxmi).
On the left of the Chennakeshvas Temple is Ranganayaki Temple and to its right is a temple called Kappe Channigraya. There are over 48 elaborately carved pillars
Other than this the temple include two elaborate pillars i.e the garuda and one with a lamp. Garuda was built during Vijayanagar time and the other one was built in the Hoysala period.
The beauty of India is that every part of it gives you a whole different vibe. Karnataka’s vibe is indeed such that it captivates you. It is heaven for tourists with numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites and nature’s beauty in abundance make it a must visit for the explorers.
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