DAILY PHOTO: Temple in the Sun

Taken in November of 2013 in Belur

Taken in November of 2013 in Belur

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The temples at Belur and Halebidu are among India’s most impressive–but least known–historical sites. Both cities were a capitals during the days of the Hoysala Empire, but are well off the major tourist path. If you’re spending some time in South India, these temples should be on your itinerary.

DAILY PHOTO: Ancient Temple, Modern Workers

Taken November 23 at Hoysaleshwara Temple in Halebidu

Taken November 23 at Hoysaleshwara Temple in Halebidu

For almost 900 years poor schlubs have had to scrub their way around this temple, washing its ornate carvings.

I wonder how similar or different the workers of past generations looked? Obviously, they didn’t have molded plastic water jugs, but the pottery version might have looked similar (not the day-glo lime green one, but certainly the brick-colored one.) No dress shirts or ball caps  back then, but the turbans and sarongs are probably not so out-of-place.

Of course, the scaffolding, rough-cut wood lashed together, gives it an ancient feel.

Probably, the most striking difference is the female job foreman.

DAILY PHOTO: Shiva Dancing in an Elephantine Demon

Taken November 23, 2013 at Halebidu.

Taken November 23, 2013 at Halebidu.

This frieze is located at Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebidu. Hoysaleshwara is dedicated to Shiva, and was finished in 1121AD–though many believe it was not actually finished. It’s one of the largest temples to Shiva in southern India and is actually a double temple–the inside being split between the king’s temple and the queen’s temple.

This is a depiction of Shiva dancing inside a vanquished elephant. It may seem mean to kill an elephant and dance inside it, but this particular elephant was a demon or possessed by a demon. Of course, the question remains as to why one would dance inside a slain enemy. I guess it’s a little like dancing on your enemy’s grave, but a lot stinkier and messier. It’s just weird no matter how you slice it. 

DAILY PHOTO: Chennakeshava Temple at Belur

Taken November 23, 2013 at Belur.

Taken November 23, 2013 at Belur.

Chennakeshava temple at Belur is a Hoysala era temple to Vishnu–the deity of the Hindu trilogy responsible for processes of sustenance and evolution (as opposed to creation or destruction, which are the bailiwicks of Brahma and Shiva, respectively.)

This temple and its sister temple at Halebidu, Hoysaleshwara temple, are probably the most ornate structures I’ve seen anywhere in the world. They are covered with soapstone carvings arranged in several tiers. For example, the bottom layer is a series of elephants, each one unique. There is a layer that tells tales from the Mahabharata in pictures.

Soapstone is soft and easily worked when quarried, but it becomes hard enough to survive everything but looters as it’s exposed to the elements. You’ll note the “windows” carved in the rock to allow in light and breezes.

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