Amazing sculptures of Hoyasaleshwara temple...
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Amazing Architecture near Bangalore

There are several amazing one day tour options near Bangalore. This article will take your through one such experience. And that is the Shravanbelagola, Belur, Halebidu tour by KSTDC. It is a bus tour and neatly covers these three tourist places, located in the Hassan district of Karnataka, in one day.

The tour

If you are an admirer of art, architecture and history, this tour will ensure a perfect experience for you. The conducted tour saves you from the hassle of planning the route, timing etc. and covers all three places in one day, with ease.

It starts from the KSTDC head office at Yeshwantpur, early in the morning. The bus picks you up and starts towards Sharavanbelagola at 6.30 am. On the way the bus stops for breakfast. You are free to carry your own food and can opt to eat where the bus stops as well.

Once done, the journey towards the Jain pilgrimage of Gomateshwara at Shravanbelagola, resumes. The bus stops at a convenient distance, from where the tourists are supposed to walk towards the shrine. A steep ascent (through stairs), awaits the visitors. On the way up, you pass by/meet many people/families chatting around, taking pauses and gradually climbing up. After finishing the climb, as the visitors reach the top, finally they witness the majestic presence of Lord Bahubali.

A little bit about the place. Shravanbelagola’s charm lies in the huge monolithic statue of Lord Bahubali. Apart from that, the gravity of the pilgrimage multiplies, owing to the belief that emperor Chandragupta Maurya had spent his last days at Shravanbelagola (after converting to Jainism). And the other attraction here is, every twelve years, thousands of devotees congregate here to perform the Mahamastakabhishek (the grand sanctification) of Lord Bahubali.

Coming back to the tour, once the tourists are back from witnessing lord Gomateshwara, the bus moves on. In some time it stops for lunch, before proceeding on to the next half of the journey. The lunch will be a traditional thali (platter with rice, curry, lentil soup etc.) which you need to purchase. So if you feel you are not comfortable with that, you are free to carry your own food.

Belur

Post lunch, the drive towards Belur begins.

Belur was the early capital of the great Hoysala Empire. It was the capital of the empire in 11th-century. The main attraction of Belur is the marvellous Chennakeshava temple, built by the Hoysala kings.

One of the intricately carved edifices of the temple represents the entrance of Vaikunth (the abode of lord Vishnu). However, the beauty of the Chennakeshava temple (dedicated to lord Vishnu) at Belur, lies inside the temple building. You are lead into its sanctum sanctorum, through a pillared hall. The real magic lies in these delicately carved pillars. It is unbelievable how stone has been cut with such finesse and dexterity.

The intricately carved pillars of the Chennakeshava temple, Belur
The intricately carved pillars of the Chennakeshava temple, Belur

To really appreciate the beauty of the temple, you must remember at all times, that these artisans were working on a single piece of rock, a single piece for the whole pillar. One mistake and the whole effort goes waste, which naturally is not acceptable and the outcome should be exactly as planned. Also, above everything else, all these artisans had was a simple chisel and a hammer.

For me, it was simply beyond my imagination, how could such precision be achieved by human hands. Imagine the patience and expertise needed to carve perfectly shaped circular pillars out of stone, without using any type of machines (as can be seen in the exterior of the Chennakeshava temple below).

The deftly cut pillars, as partly seen on the exterior of the Chennakeshava temple
The deftly cut pillars, as partly seen on the exterior of the Chennakeshava temple

Halebidu

While you are still admiring the brilliance of the Chennakeshava temple, the bus drives down to Halebidu.

At Halebidu, you are joined by a guide, who takes you through the detailed histories and stories behind the artistic work of Hoyasaleshwara (dedicated to lord Shiva) temple. The guide sure is a plus, as he highlights some interesting details, which may be not be easily available through online sources. Tipping the guide is mandatory and when i was traveling, the minimum amount that he was expecting was, INR 50 per person. But you are free to tip any amount over and above that, if his stories impress you that much.

Just 16 km away from Belur, lies Halebidu which was the capital of the Hoysala Empire in the 12th century. The city, got its name “Halebidu”, from Hale + Bid (Destroyed + City) because of its damaged state, owing to merciless destruction and looting, by Delhi Sultanate in the 14th-century. Nevertheless, the town, houses one of the finest jewels of Hoysala architecture, the Hoyasaleshwara temple.

If the Chennakeshava temple at Belur is beautiful from the inside, the Hoyasaleshwara temple is ornate, on the outside. The uniqueness of the two temples give you a complete flavour of the architecture from that era.

Below, I am sharing some snapshots from the magnificent carvings on the outer walls of the Hoyasaleshwara temple:

Lord Krishna raising the Govardhan parvat on his little finger and shielding the people and cattle from the rains
Lord Krishna raising the Govardhan parvat on his little finger and shielding the people and cattle of Gokul, from the rains

A scene of celebration from the 12th century Hoyasala empire. Notice the details captured by the artisan by showing the hand of the drummer (center) pass through the threads of the drum
A scene of celebration from the 12th century Hoyasala empire. Notice the details captured by the artisan by showing the hand of the drummer (center) pass through the threads of the drum

Abhimanyu breaking the Chakravyuh, a scene from the Indian epic Mahabharata
Abhimanyu breaking the Chakravyuh, a scene from the Indian epic Mahabharata

Each of the sculptures have unique stories to tell about Indian mythology, the royal family of Hoysala, or the life of the common people in those times. Every single piece radiates the creativity, expertise and limitless patience of the artisans.

I feel that such profound creations can only come alive, when each individual contributes with no ulterior motive, but only with absolute dedication. And once it come into existence, its presence is felt universally.

Till date the temples of Belur and Halebidu are unmatched and unparelleled in the world. I invite you all to come witness and experience these incredulous monuments….

The tour concludes

After ticking Halebidu off the list, the bus journeys back to the city, post a dinner break and drops you to the pick-up location close to 11-12 in the night. And that brings you to an end to the one day tour of Shravanbelagola, Belur and Halebidu.

Visit with your friends and family and let me know your experiences in the comments section.

Where to book the tickets

Following is the link of the KSTDC one day tour to Shravanbelagola, Belur and Halebidu :

Book your tickets here

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