Halebid Temple

The second temple of this day-trip from Mysore was the stunning Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebid, about 16km from Belur. The construction here began in 1121 and continued for more than 190 years. It was never completed; in fact, the temple was overrun by invaders  and many of the deities carved into the walls had their limbs chopped off to signify their impotence in the face of the victors. The exterior walls are richly sculpted with a variety of Hindu deities, sages, stylized animals and friezes depicting the life of Hoysala rulers. Here are a variety of photos from a walk around the fantastic Hoysaleswara Temple…

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Dancing Girls of Belur

One of the many outstanding details of the stone carvings at the Channakeshava Temple in Belur are the series of dancing girls. Here are a few of them…

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Kama Sutra at Belur

Unique to the Channakeshava Temple in Belur are the carvings on the front of the temple depicting erotic sections of the Kama Sutra. The back of the temple is reserved strictly for the gods, but the front portrays sex and dancing. Racy!

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Big Feet At Temples

One thing that is a frequent sight at many of the holy places that I have been to is a “big feet” carving. Usually it is said to be the actual footprints of Buddha, or Shiva, or Vishnu, etc.; I suppose it is similar to the “relics”, mostly various assorted body parts or bones, of Catholic saints. Here are the “big feet” at the Belur temple.

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Belur, Karnataka, India

One of the day trips my host Dr. Hari insisted upon was to drive out to the two ancient Hoysala temples of Belur and Halebid. About a three hour drive each way, it was a tough day trip and I complained that I was all “templed out” anyway. Hari insisted, and I am very thankful that he did. These temples are famed for their exquisite detail and artistry in stone-carving.

First is the Channakeshava Temple in Belur. It was commissioned in 1116 to commemorate the Hoysala Empire’s victory over the neighboring Cholas (remember my post on Mamallapuram?) and took a century to build. The temple is still in daily use for worship.

Here is the gopuram (entrance tower).

The temple exterior

The interior inner sanctum. The beautiful sculpted pillars are all unique in design to each other. The first one below actually rotated on its axis at one time.

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Art on Vindhyagiri Hill

Besides the impressive Gomateshvara statue, there was plenty of fascinating carvings on Vindhyagiri Hill. Here are some of my favorites:

Puja for Gomateshvara

While on top the hill admiring the Gomateshvara statue, I was lucky enough to be there during a puja ceremony for the deity. Puja is a Sanskrit word that means reverence, honor, homage, adoration, and worship. In this case, the ceremony involved a ritualistic purifying the feet of the saint.

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Sravanabelagola

Dr. Hari was kind enough to insist on hosting a couple of day trips from Mysore to beautiful mystic places that were not on my radar. The first of these destinations was Sravananbelagola – a pilgrimage town featuring the 17.5m high statue of the Jain deity Gomateshvara (Monk of the White Pond). The primary reason to visit this town is to view the statue up close – meaning a steep barefoot climb of 614 steps up Vindhyagiri Hill. Said to be the world’s tallest monolithic statue, it was carved out a single piece of granite in AD 981. Bahubali was the son of the emperor Vrishabhadeva. Embroiled in fierce competition with his brother Bharatha to succeed his father, Bahubali realized the futility of material gains and renounced his kingdom. As a recluse, he meditated in complete stillness in the forest until he attained enlightenment and adopted the spiritual name Gomateshvara. His lengthy meditative spell is denoted by vines curling around his body and an ant-hill at his feet.

Moving On From Goa to Mysore

My next destination after Goa on the 2017 South India tour was Mysore in Karnataka state. I flew to Bangalore and spent a quick night in the Saint Marks Circle area; lucky enough for a late-night rendezvous with the famous fish and chips at Koshy’s. The next morning I caught the southbound Shatabi Express for a pleasant 2-hour train ride to Mysore. Staying again at the charming Green Lotus House in the Gokulam neighborhood, I was hosted by my friends Drs. Hari and Ananya Prasad – the very best hosts ever. Mysore has such a nice vibe – it is home to a fantastic 600-year history and also over 100 yoga salas specializing in the Ashtanga discipline. There are some of the best vegetarian restaurants you will ever hope to experience.

The Mysore Palace lights up on Sunday nights for an hour or so and draws thousands of locals for the sight. Last time I missed it, but this time was able to catch a couple of nice photos.

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St Augustine’s Tower, Old Goa

Although in complete ruins, this former grand church is one of the most popular and visited of all the historical sites in Old Goa. It sits on top of a high hill (Monte Santo, or Holy Hill) overlooking the Mondavi River. The remaining tower is 46m high, one of four former towers anchoring the enormous Our Lady of Grace church and the adjoining Augustinian monastery. The church was abandoned in 1835 due to religious persecution at the time from the Portuguese government and collapsed within a few years afterward. Here are some photos of all that remains of what was once one of the largest and most spectacular buildings in all Goa.

Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa

This Jesuit church is India’s first basilica and is considered to be one of the great baroque architectural examples in the East. The mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier are on display here (photography forbidden).

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Old Goa

Old Goa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was the capital of Portuguese India beginning in 1510 and was the center of Christianisation in the East. At its height, Old Goa was referred to as the Rome of the East for its grand mansions, massive churches and convents. The population was 200,000 inhabitants by 1550. However, malaria and cholera epidemics ravaged the city in the 17th century and the city was largely abandoned. The capital was moved to Panjim, 20 minutes bus ride to the west. Here are few photos of the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, one of many of the beautiful remains of Old Goa.

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