|One of the guardians at the entrance to the Sanctum|
Michelangelo once said every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. This is a beautiful quote I'm always reminded of, when I visit monuments with stone/marble work. And so I was this time too, as I went about looking at the walls, pillars, ceiling- every inch of the temple complex in Belur. The description would seem superfluous, but is every bit deserving. Of course, it depends on what you're looking for, as to someone not interested much in history, it would all look repetitive.
The pillars are magnificent, and I didn't find two pillars that were exactly alike. Some of the pillars are very wide too. One of them stood out from the rest, and the carvings were intricate- tiny Gods and Goddesses all over it! There was kumkum and turmeric smeared over the pillar.
One striking feature was the carvings of tiny humans or animals, or part-humans, or even mythological animals at the head of every pillar. We noticed these at first, without realising the significance. On observing closely, we realised these figures were carved in such a way, that it actually seemed they were supporting the ceiling on their shoulders. Just give it a thought, the gopura of the entire temple being supported on the shoulders of these able-bodied tiny figures, from 800-plus years! How artistically thoughtful! They even had a serene content smile on their face.
There are two other frames etched in my mind from this particular temple. One is the panel of work just above the door of the sanctum sanctorum- the detail is mind boggling. How could someone possible carve out a stone into such a beautiful pattern! And equally beautiful is the ceiling. The temple official says it consists of scenes from the Mahabharat and the Ramayan. The pièce de résistance, the central hanging pillar with a carving of Narasimha, is beautiful. We gaze at the ceiling till our necks begin to hurt!
I would strongly recommend setting aside a minimum of 30 minutes to spend inside the temple. Many people spend a lot of time outside without bothering much to look at the carvings inside the temple, except the celebrated ceiling. I assure you, the time spent inside the temple, will be absolutely worth it!
*For an extra charge of Rs. 20, photography is permitted inside the temple (except of the main idol)
*They put on a light that focusses directly on the ceiling, and you can study the work better
*This is a place of worship, so one is expected to follow some general discipline what one would follow at any such place!
Read also: Hoysala Grandeur: A Snapshot (Part 1), To Hassan (Part 2), Chennakeshava Temple, Belur (Part 3),
Chennakeshava Temple, the Flamboyant Walls (Part 5), The Old Town: Halebidu (Part 6), The Drive to Mosale (Part 7), Mosale banthu Mosale (Part 8), Lakshmi Devi Temple, Doddagaddavalli (Part 9), Wall Art at Doddagaddavalli (Part 10)