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Thursday 14 January 2021

Belur Chennakeshava Temple

The Carvings Amidst The Carvings

What can I tell you about the Chennakeshava temple in Belur, that has already not been told? The undisputable source of inspiration to so many and the undeniable jaw-dropping excellence and beauty has been written about almost everywhere.  So forgive me if I cannot shine any new light on these wonders.  But I did try with great difficulty to look beyond the beautiful Mandanikas to get a closer look at the tinier treats that acted as fillers to the main carvings.  I was not disappointed. 

The lady with a parrot
One of the Mandanikas-
The lady with a parrot
Image Credit - Ramani Shankar

Of course, it was a bit tricky to get past all the selfie mania to stare at the itsy bitsy carvings. The longer I stalled, the more impatient the other selfie lovers got behind me and my microscopic inspection of the carvings was not doing them any favours.
I hope what I've got for you here is worth photo bombing a few dozen images. Tucked in above the rows of elephants, lions and horses, carved in floral circles were these tiny figurines, each telling their own story. 

Two men carrying a deer
The men with the hunt

Two men carrying a hunted deer tied to a stick and walking through the forest were cozily accommodated in this floral circle that was barely 3 inches in diameter.

The wrestling men
The wrestling man

In another very interesting circular panel were three people,  in what I am assuming as a wrestling pose. The man in the centre, clad in a loincloth, appeared obviously superior and is seen effortlessly subduing the other two smaller men. 

The chubby guy
The smiling man

A chubby guy with a goofy smile stands in a comical pose nearby. It is incredible to note that even with so many damages, in that tiny space, the expressions still stand out magnificently. 

Meditating men
Possible Mongolian influence
Possible Mongolian influence
The meditating men

Possible Mongolian influence
The man with the scroll

Some meditating men appeared to me as if they had some Mongolian influence in their features. The headdress, the eyes and nose all seemed to indicate that. Trading, travelling and an influx of visitors from the ports could have inspired this. One particular man holding a stick-like instrument or a scroll seems to be a fine example of this influence. 

Musicians and dancers
The musicians and dancers

Of course, no temple would be complete without the musicians and dancers. So filling in between, in these floral circles are these graceful performers with their percussion instruments and dance poses.

Let's move a little higher, again looking at the considerably smaller carvings, tucked in at about 7 feet height. I did try to stretch myself as much as possible to view them but do excuse any lopsided angles in these images. I am glad the craftsmen of that era are not around to hear this excuse of mine.

The miniature carvings
The hidden minature carvings

These were a little bigger than the carvings below, about 6-8 inches in height, again with exquisite details. Because of the height and placement of these carvings, they are a little tricky to observe in detail, here is an attempt though. 

The lady with the child
The lady with the child

The first one is a lady with a child. As she is lovingly holding the kid, her hair is flowing and loose behind her. Her face shows large eyes and lips, with a flatter nose and a wide forehead. These features are distinctively different from the sharp features seen in other carvings. In fact, most carvings at this level seem to have this kind of characterization. 

The lady drying her hair
The lady drying her hair
Notice all their facial features

Another one is drying her hair, wearing simple jewellery but large earrings. I've always been intrigued by these earrings, so I'll be sharing more images of them later. Her face is similar to the lady with the child. A large face with large lips and eyes. Even in such small carvings, they have managed to carve out the most shapely eyebrows, even on the side of the face that is not fully visible from the outside.  If this is not perfection, then what is?

Lady playing with her earring
Lady playing with her earring

In a similar panel, another lady is playing with her earrings.  I've made this observation in my earlier blogs as well about the rather large mechanical looking earrings. Have a look at this image below, where almost the entire face has been wiped off the carving, except for the earrings. Does it not look like a mechanical gear? 

Gear like earring
Gear like earring

I'll leave you with a few more images of my earring musings in this part. Join me in the next part to explore some more of these hidden intriguing beauties. My absolute admiration and respect to those ears that could manage to hold up these earrings.  

The large gear like earring
The large gear like earring

The large earrings
Notice the large earrings here too

Interested in seeing dome domestic scenes from Belur and Halebidu? Join me in Part II

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