As we drove from Mysore towards Halebidu we were still going by our travel brochure and referring to the place as Halebid.Sounds very anglicized,doesn’t it? The guide later told us that the local name Haalu beedu actually means -the destroyed city.
The drive was through lush green countryside and to a Gulf resident all that green was bounty enough.When the taxi came to a halt I wondered if we had reached.There was the usual clutter and run down chaos of a small Indian town.Trinket and picture postcard sellers swarmed momentarily but gave up quickly.Quite unlike the persistent (and annoying) hordes at tourist places in the North.
Where was the famed temple I wondered. I caught a glimpse of it from the side and it seemed like a stack of blackened stone.I felt a small sense of disappointemnt.Then the guide came along and took us inside the temple complex.The photo below captures what I saw then and was floored.That ‘stack’ of stone turned out to be an epic poem in stone. Have a look.
The most impressive, in the beginning, were the two Nandi Bulls that guard the two adjoining temples.I was stumped.So much evocative beauty in these two gentle giants.The carving itself is so fluid,so life like, down to the minutest detail of how a bull sort of slumps to a side when sitting in this posture. Unfortunately I was not able to click it from that side as it started raining.The carving of the bells,ropes and tassles around the Nandi’s neck are flawless and have escaped the damage inflicted on the rest of the temple.
This is a view of the main vestibule of the temple and it is awesome.I got goose bumps just standing there. I felt I could literally reach back in time and be one with all those who must have frequented it during its hey days and subsequently through the ages. Right in the middle, where a samll nandi is visible, is a circular dance floor that w as used for temple dances and it is like a mirror due to its age worn sheen.All around are the viewing stands for the audiences( lower right corner of the picture) that had steps of stone to climb on to.The edges have cavities carved out in the stone.These are the oil lamps that were lit at the time of the dance performances. What an awesome sight that must have been.I hope they organise some dance festivals there in future.The pillars of the entire temple are of varied designs…….all beautiful.There is something about age worn stone………..that warm sheen that enchants me everytime I am anywhere near it.
India’s ancient history,mythology,festivals…all are carved here with spellbinding effect.
Ganesha can be found in various moods here including the rare one of him in angry mood.According to the guide the trunk in that case is to the right side!
Almost all important dieties can be found in that part of the temple that is devoted to the spiritual part.The other half is devoted to worldly things like dancers,animals,trees etc.
The ‘trimoorti’- Brahma,Vishnu,Mahesh
The eternal lovers
Shiva – Parvati
Krishna holds up Mount Govardhana
Lord Vishnu’s third avatar,Varaha, who appeared in the Satya Yuga
The scenes of war from Mahabharta and Ramayana.This one shows the ‘chakravyuh’ that Abhimanyu did not know how to exit.
Lord Ram slays King Bali.Bali had a boon that he would acquire half the powers of who ever confronted him in order to kill him. It was because of this Ram stood behind trees to kill Bali.Look at the beautiful detail of the arrow piercing the trees…..800+ years and the picture is still so clear.
This picture is a bit out of focus but is the scene of Holika,the sister of the evil king,Hiranyakashipu, burning in the fire.Elsewhere,there are beautiful scenes of people filling their ‘pichkaris'(water guns) from tubs of water to play the north Indian festival of Holi
Bhima slays elephants with his mace in the battle to capture Drupad,the King of Panchala.Their guru, Drona, had asked for the capture of Drupad as his tuition fees.Pandavas and Kauravas went together to this battle.
There are endless images in my collection. I went berserk with my camera but nothing can capture the feelings of awe and wonderment that one experiences when one stands in ancient places like this temple.The temple took many centuries to build and infact was never completed as the Hoysala kings were forced to move their kingdom due to the raids by armies of Malik Kafur.There are many portions of the temple that have incomplete carvings.It as though the workers had to move away from their labour of love and could never return again.
The temple was ransacked (for its wealth) by Kafur’s army sometime in early 14th century and thereafter fell into a state of neglect.
Since Hindus used to discontinue ‘pooja’ in temples once desecrated this temple fell prey not only to the initial muslim invaders but also to local vandals and the British (this is anecdotal but given the history of the stuff the British carried away,this could be entirely true) too are thought to have spirited away many of the sculptures that could be carted away. Below is my documentation of the plunder by various vandals.
The first place honor( in the hall of shame) goes to the Muslim armies who destroyed what they could, easily, at the lower levels.The free standing, delicate carvings at lower levels are all gone….smashed wilfully but the solid stone carvings are all there.These perhaps took too much effort to destroy.I can’t help but think that India must have been the Muslim invader’s ultimate nightmare. They were instructed by their Book/Prophet to hate idol worshipping and destroy idols.They then marched to India, to capture this bounteous land, only to encounter a veritable hot house of temples,idols and more idols. Ha!
The sculptures that have taken the most hit are actually the scene of “samudra manthan’. You can still see the ‘rope’ in the hands of the destroyed figures.
The next come the local bounty seekers,perhaps, egged on by the western world’s appetite for Indian antiques. The British could have been complicit in this trade.All around the temple are empty niches like this from which stupendously beautiful idols have been taken away.Mercifully, the nearby temple of Belur has all its idols intact and one can get an idea from there of what Halebid has lost.
Finally the modern day vandals who engrave their names on anything of antiquity that they visit. On the snout of Nandi which is like a polished mirror the name of one Khan. On the rump of the magnificient beast two lovers have added their graffiti.Thankfully, according to our guide,this ‘modern’ graffiti is some decades old and now the temple is more protected.I hope this is true.
This is already an epic post so I shall call a halt to image uploading and let you get on with sharing my wonderful journey through a small part of India’s glorious heritage