If you are in Bangalore, consider taking an excursion to the 12th century sites of Belur and Halebeedu (Halebid) located in the Hassan district in the southern state of Karnataka. The two sites are usually mentioned as one entity even though 16 km separate them. Keep in mind that the roads leading to and from Bangalore are cluttered with oxen carts, cows, and slow moving trucks so the approximate 230 km trip takes longer than a similar drive in the United States. If I had been traveling with others, I would have spent a night in nearby Hassan instead of rushing to see everything in just a few hours. I would have also included a visit to the Jaina temples at Shravanabelagola.
The Belur temple is set upon a star shaped platform. The intricate carvings are made out of soapstone, a material that is considered fairly easy to sculpt. After exposure to the environment, the material ends up with an iron-like firmness. In the courtyard, my guide drew attention to a forty-two foot tall stone pillar that is positioned on its center of gravity.
The bottom course of the temple includes 650 elephants in different poses. Above this band is a line of lions, a band of horses and then Hindu mythological scenes. In certain parts of the structure only the bottom course of elephants can be seen. Thirty-eight figures are located between the upper walls and the overhanging eaves. Each of these voluptuous looking women depicts a particular story and/or dance pose.
My guide used a simple flashlight to illuminate the dark interior of the temple. It was a respite from the blazing sun. The inside sculptured pillars were designed to rotate. The bracelets on the arms of one of the figures move up and down while the headdress of another sculpture has a tiny moveable ring.
A short drive away is Halebid or Halebeedu, the ancient capital of the Hoysalas from 1108 to 1343. This site is considered to be the largest and best of the Hoysala temples and is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The Halebeedu shrine is located in a garden setting that includes a lake and an archaeological museum. The architecture and art work are amazing and similar to the Belur temple. Thousands of mythological scenes decorate the temple walls. This is the entryway to the Hoysaleshwara Temple in Halebeedu.
More pictures of this ancient site are posted on my photo gallery.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, and the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards.