Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Hoysala Allure: Off-Beat Culture Trails

One of our best spent Saturday in 2013 was a day trip from Bangalore to visit two Hoysala temples between Mandya and Channarayanapatna. We had been speaking about it at home for a while, the discussion centering around the fact that there was Somnathpur on one side and there were Belur/ Halebid on the other - so what lay in between the 80 odd kilometers in between . We felt we were probably missing some lesser known Hoysala gems.

Some searches on the internet and after a round of discussion , the consensus was to journey to Nagamangala and Basaralu. After an early bath + breakfast, and a packed picnic lunch of puliyogere and curd rice, we drove out on the Bangalore-Mangalore Highway NH48. After the toll gate at Belur cross, at Nelligere , we took a left onto SH19 towards Nagamangala . Roads were in top condition and in 2 hours , we were in Nagamangala.


Nagamangala is home to the "serene" SaumyaKeshava temple. The main idol of Lord Krishna which is 6 feet in height is a beauty to behold . So are the other idols inside the main sanctum - Krishna with Rukmini Sathyabhama and Narasimha. We were captivated by the roof of the closed mantapa which is supported by lathe turned pillars (a standard feature in Hoysala architecture). These pillars divide the ceiling into squares (four central pillars create 9 squares in the closed hall) that are exceptionally well sculpted. The center square on the ceiling hosts a beautifully carved serpent (the Adi Sesha). People come from around the area to appease him to put them out of their big and small problems. Another interesting aspect is that we saw two distinct style of temple architectures.. the temple built on a raised platform in typical Hoysala style with a surprisingly austere gopura above the sanctum sanctorum and the outer structures and the Raja Gopuram at the main entrance in the Vijayanagar style.


After admiring around leisurely (and devouring our picnic lunch), we started out to our second stop of the day. We had to ask around a bit until we were directed on the correct road leading to Basaralu. However, the roads were good and in about 40 minutes we reached our destination. The first sight that greeted us was a rundown compound overgrown with weeds , but peeping out were parts of a tiny well sculpted temple from within with the Hoysala crest visible . Somehow we were sure that we were looking for something big and grand. After all, we were looking for the famous Mallikarjuna temple of Basaralu. At the village market , we were redirected back to this same compound. We were a bit disappointed and were wondering if it was really worth all the praise. At the entrance we saw the ASI notice board announcing it as a protected monument. The boy next door ran up to us and offered take us around. What a fantastic guide he turned out to be and what an incredible temple . We spent hours - actually until sundown going round and round just plain mesmerized.


The outer walls has friezes upon friezes from Ramayana, Mahabharata, other mythologies .. each one vying for attention. Since no poojas ere being conducted inside the temple, we could have a real close look at the Shiva Linga, Nandi and all sculptures inside the temple. Its a treat for the eyes .. each tiny detail starting from the crown until toe nails is so well designed and executed with soapstone . Our guide pointed out the other usually unnoticed features on Hoysala architecture - the cork screw based descending spires, interlocking stones , secret hiding places and many more. Just look into the Chandikeshwara shrine and you will understand what we mean by “detailing” on the sculptures.

Many photographs and flights of imaginations later, we were forced to leave due to fading sunlight.

We chose to return to Bangalore via Mandya and the crowded Mysore road... but nothing could hamper our spirits - at least for the rest of weekend!!

PS: Inspiration to write down a tripologue was triggered by an article in The Hindu in early January.

About the Author: A female traveler from Bangalore, the author digs ancient cultures and is keen on discovering off beat destinations. All the pictures in this post were taken by the author.

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