Blast from past!
Belur is 16 kms away from Halebid. As you approach the location, you can see an entrance gopuram painted yellow standing tall. This tower is relatively new and was built by the Vijaynagar kings and is in Dravidian style. The tower is like an anticlimax for what is awaiting you inside.
Here is an interesting fact I learnt on this trip. If the Dhwaja stambha (flag post) is not in front of heritage temple , it is considered a monument. Otherwise it is an operational temple. Practically the stambha was used to hoist flags. Spiritually it is supposed to be the connector between God and humans. Scientifically rationalized, Stambha generally being the highest point inside the temple complex and made of metal or stone covered with metal, acted as lighting arrestor and hence connected the energy of heaven with earth. If only we could rationalize all our Hindu customs and rituals this way, many more would embrace it. Let me know if you are aware of any such rational explanations to other customs and traditions!
The temple at Belur houses Chennakesava ( handsome Vishnu) and is dedicated to Queen Shantala who was a danseuse. Sculptures of sensuous dancers (Shilabalikas) are the prominent feature in this temple. The most unique feature of the sculptures here is its 3 dimensionality. This feature has to be seen and experienced in person rather than through text. Here is another titbit. The soapstone used for these temple was transported all the way from Tumkur.
This was my third trip to Belur and Halebid. And every time I have learnt or experienced something new. They are both "not to miss" places.
Location: Belur, Karnataka
Date of travel : November 2010