Imagine being transported to the 12th Century AD. Into a beautiful temple complex built on star-shaped elevated platforms, amidst spacious and well-maintained gardens. Sculptors busy at work, carving exceptional stories on single stones while their apprentices bring in finished filigree sculptures from studios. Trained artists, through their incredible work, bringing to life entire stories from mythology, from the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. The artists probably also drew inspiration from keen observation of people and objects, from travelers’ stories and from imagination.
Belur, the first capital of the Hoysalas and Halebidu which was later established as the capital, transport us back some eight centuries in time. When people came together in these grand temples in reverence but also in celebration of their culture, dance, music, and social occasions. All of these arts flourished with royal patronage.
Today, multi-lingual and knowledgable guides walk tourists around, shining a mirror to highlight figures, bringing them to life. These stories transported us to that ancient time. Stories about Rama giving his royal ring to Hanuman, Lord Narasimha destroying Hiranyakashapu, Vaali and Sugreeva’s battle, and Krishna lifting the Govardhana mountain are all depicted in minute detail.
Beautiful women, a central theme in the temple complex, are depicted everywhere. You can see them dancing, combing their hair, admiring themselves in mirrors, and donning fashion-forward hairstyles. Women clearly played an important part in society.
The stories also depict an advanced time in science, technology and fashion. Magistrates are depicted in long coats and wigs. Some men wear close-cropped French beards, while some women dress in high-heeled shoes holding hand fans. A man is shown peering through what appears to be a telescope.
A time and kingdom that was flourishing, until the invaders came.