Now popular ruins, these temples were once magnificent structures built by an emperor for his queen. They are one of the top places to visit near Mysore. It may not be as magnificent as the white marbled dome up north, which is wrongly perceived as one of the most romantic buildings in the world; this one was built by an emperor who had only one queen. Once you’ve been through all the places to visit in Mysore, a Mysore day trip to the ruins will be more than worth your while.
This story is set in the 12th century, in the prosperous kingdom of Hoysala, present day Karnataka. It was a time of unimaginable royal treasure, elaborate palaces with sprawling grounds, hundreds of servants and silk farms. King Vishnuvardhana ruled along with his beautiful Queen Shantala. She was one of those rare women who actively participated in the administration of the kingdom. She was a genius at mathematics and was a gifted dancer and musician. It’s no wonder then, he went to great lengths to build these temples dedicated to her.
Every pillar, in fact sculpted inch of the temples are unique. Like most Indian temples, you will find loads of mythological creates and gods & goddesses. But what you will also find, if you simply pay attention, are sculpted stories of the Queen and her dancers. You will her beautiful image carved in various poses all across the temples in varied poses.
The string of designs forming the base layers of the walls are also very interesting to see. On examining them closely, you will find three distinct layers of intricate carvings on pretty much all the walls. The bottom most layer is thousands of elephants, depicting the strength and might on which the kingdom stood. The second layer consists of a row of lions depicting the courage and bravery of people of the kingdom and the top most layer has horses depicting the speed, agility and growth of the kingdom.
Ironically, it was the Mughals who attacked these temples in the 14th century; this was the start of the downfall of the Hoysala kingdom. The temples were never renovated or restored and remain in a state of ruins that continue to deteriorate with every passing year. And therefore, they are never referred to as ‘the temples’, but rather as ‘the ruins’ of Belur and Halebid. The government doesn’t seem to care enough, the Mysore Tourism department stays away; the locals believe that it is their beloved queen who continues to protect these temples from complete decay.
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