Aralaguppe Chenna Keshava Temple: Hidden Sunday Getaway just two hours from Bangalore - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Aralaguppe Chenna Keshava Temple: Hidden Sunday Getaway just two hours from Bangalore

Hidden Hoysala gem of Chenna Keshava Temple, Arlaguppe

It is a 13th century Hoysala temple gem that is extremely well preserved and that takes the intricacies of Hoysala temple architecture to another level. The longer you stay at this temple, the more its beauty will unravel on you. Such is its wondrous architecture. And the best part about this temple is that it is located less than three hours from Bangalore city. I am talking about the Chenna Keshava temple located in a quiet little village called Aralaguppe in the Tiptur taluk of Tumkur district.

Aralaguppe wasn’t always a quiet village. It flourished under the Ganga dynasty in the 9th century and then under the Kalyana Chalukyas and then the Hoysalas in the 13th century. It’s important place in these kingdoms can be seen through its spectacular temples. The older one, built by the Gangas is called Kalleshwara temple and the other is the Chenna Keshava temple that was built under the rule of the Hoysalas.

The offbeat Hoysala era Chenna Keshava temple at Arlaguppe, Karnataka

Today, Aralaguppe is a peaceful village surrounded by lush farms and connected by rickety-rackety roads. This countryside atmosphere sets the right mood for a visit to this 13th century Chenna Keshava temple. Located right in the middle of a Agraharam like setup, you have to cross pretty little houses to reach the entrance of this temple that is beautifully maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Venugopala and Maha Vishnu at Arlaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

The only thing missing here is access to a proper guide as there is so much to see, learn and experience here. Right from the jagati that is in the shape of a sixteen-pointed star, the two different types of Hoysala bands right above it, the gorgeous sculptures on the exterior wall, the entrance porch, the awe-inspiring navaranga (closed hall) and sukanasi (vestibule) to the garbha griha, every bit of this ekakuta (single shrine) temple is amazingly carved with gorgeous sculptures, shapes and designs that tell us stories from our rich past through some magnificent work of engineering and creativity.

Miniature sculptures with temple like structure on the top - unique to Chenna Keshava temple, Aralaguppe

The best way to experience the temples of the Hoysala era is to do a slow pradakshinam (circumambulation) of the temple premises from atop the jagati. Each pradakshinam will allow you to see the sculptures and carvings in new light. At some times, you might decipher stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas or Upanishads. And at other times, you might find unique design elements used to signify a certain position of the sculpture. And you might also see something that is truly unique to this temple from the entire Hoysala era.

Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe enjoys a pristine rustic location

One such unique thing in the Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe has to be the temple bands right above the jagati. Unlike the crocodiles and swans that make up the bands at most other Hoysala temples, the style found on the porch wall has five bands in total. Starting from below, we have elephants with riders going into battle, horsemen with swords and lances along with camels, a long creeper scroll, mythological scenes from Ramayana and Bhagavata Purana and miniature temples with a seated Yaksha. These miniature temples are unique to the Chenna Keshava temple and exist only near the entrance porch. At other places, they are replaced by the crocodiles and swans followed by the large size statues.

Minute attention to detail - Aralaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

The other thing that catches your attention is the elaborately carved doorway and ornately carved mandapa ceiling. I could not take pictures inside the temple and hence cannot share them here, but I am pretty sure you jaw will drop open when you see them up close and in real. The mandapa ceiling is certainly an engineering marvel that will leave you scratching your head. The statue of Lord Chenna Keshava on an elevated pedestal inside the garbha griha is another work of pure art.

Yali or vaishya symbol inside Chenna Keshava temple at Arlaguppe

Symbols such as the one above also caught my attention as they are the traditional symbol of Vaishnavism that is so hard to find in other temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. But, the thing that I find the most impressive is how the entire plan looks like that of a pointed star and how the artisans managed to carve all the way from the jagati to the kalasa on the top. And it is not just plain carving, but one that hands to us Vaishnavism and Hinduism on a platter.

Every inch seems to be carved with rich detail - Chenna Keshava temple, Arlaguppe

The large statues on the outer wall that are bound to captivate everyone’s attention are ninety in total. 47 of these represent a male deity and the rest represent a female deity. 44 of these male sculptures depict Lord Vishnu is his various avatars. My favourite male sculptures are Kaliyamardana (Vishnu dancing on his serpent Adisesham), Lakshmi Narasimha (Lakshmi sitting on the left thigh of Ugra (angry) Narasimha), Rama with six hands, Vishnu holding sugarcane and dancing Ganesha.

Lakshmi Narasimha at Arlaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

From the female sculptures, the ones that caught my attention were dancing Saraswati and Mohini. Each one of these sculptures tell you stories that you know or have heard from your grandmother or mother.

Dancing Mohini at Aralaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

The lathe turned pillars that are a specialty of Hoysala artisans can be seen in the navaranga hall. The dvara palas in front of the garbha griha are also spectacular. There are so many elements to like in this temple that I can go on and on. Such is the beauty and aura of this Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe.

Intricate sculptures on a lotus like platform - Chenna Keshava temple, Arlaguppe

Photographs and videos cannot truly convey the real beauty of this place. You have to visit it in person to have the true experience. And under 3 hours from Bangalore, it gives you the perfect excuse for a hidden Sunday getaway. It does not matter whether you are a photo-enthusiast, a culture lover, an art student or just a simple traveler, Aralaguppe’s Chenna Keshava temple is bound to bowl you over with its intricate beauty and rustic charm. I cannot stop recommending this hidden Hoysala gem to all of you!

Maha Vishnu sculpture at Aralaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

Best season to visit:

The Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe is open all year around and can be visited even during the peak summer months. But, if you wish for an overall package with greenery, a comfortable road trip and pleasant weather, then visit during the rains or during the winter months.

Dancing Ganesha at Aralaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

How to get there:

There are two ways to get to Aralaguppe from Bangalore.

Option 1: Bangalore –> Tumkur –> Gubbi –> Kibbenahalli cross –> Aralaguppe. This is the main highway and is mostly crowded with heavy vehicles. It is not my preferred option.

Option 2: Bangalore –> Nelamangala –> Kunigal –> Yadiyur –> Turuvekere –> Aralaguppe. This is a mix of 4 lane highways that are not as crowded as the Tumkur highway and quiet 2 lane countryside state highways and finally a dusty last 5 km village road. This route has access to many restaurants, gas stations and is greener than other routes.

Extremely detailed sculpting at Chenna Keshava temple, Arlaguppe

Temple timings:

The Chenna Keshava temple at Aralaguppe is open from 8 AM to 5 PM. The temple priest is not present throughout the day and may drop by once in the morning for the daily mangalaarti.

There is a security person appointed by ASI who takes care of the temple and also doubles up as a guide. In case you find the temple gate locked, just hang around and call out for the security and he will come by and open the gate for you.

Dancing Saraswati at Aralaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

Where to stay:

The nearest places to offer accommodation would be Tiptur or Tumkur. However, if you crave for more variety or if you wish for luxury, you will have to stay in Bangalore.

If you yearn for some greenery, head to Hassan or Chickmagalur for stay inside coffee estates and spice plantations.

The rustic atmosphere of Chenna Keshava temple, Arlaguppe

Where to eat:

The nearest place to find restaurants would be Turuvekere, but if you wish for a wider range of options, you will either have to head to Tumkur city or make your way to the restaurants on the Hassan – Bangalore highway.

My favorite place to eat in this region is Hotel Madihalli Naveen, a simple family run place just outside of Tiptur city that has been dishing out traditional lip smacking breakfast items and snacks for the last 40 years.

The tilting sculptures of Arlaguppe Chenna Keshava temple

Other Hoysala era temples nearby:

1) Chennakeshava temple at Turuvekere

2) Ishvara temple at Arsikere

3) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Nuggehalli

4) Sadashiva temple at Nuggehalli

5) Chennakeshava temple at Anekere

6) Brahmeshvara temple at Kikkeri

7) Panchalingeswara temple at Govindanahalli

8) Mallikarjuna temple at Basaralu

9) Lakshmi Narasimha temple at Haranhalli

Hindu gods, their life stories, epics and much more on the walls of Chenna Keshava temple, Arlaguppe, Karnataka

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Shettihalli rosary church ruins in the Hemavati reservoir

2) Jayamangali Blackbuck reserve at Maidenahalli – a great wildlife getaway super close to Bangalore

3) The temple town of Melukote famous for its iyengars and their delicious puliyogare

4) The Jain pilgrimage site of Sharavanabelagola that is home to the mighty Baahubali statue

4) The toy town of Channapatna

5) The riverine island and temple town of Srirangapatna

6) The absolutely photogenic Mysore palace

7) Ranganathittu bird sanctuary – a haven for birds on the Cauvery

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