Sunday, March 22, 2015

Relishing Hoysala glory at Belur and Halebeedu

Almost a year passed and finally I have compiled my experiences from visit based on scribbling made on my notepad. It took little time to ruminate the details and transform the highlights to properly knit statements.

01 March 2014,

It has been long time since I visited these places. The last I had been here was during childhood days. It was in one of my lists to visit these places again and regain those past moments and explore the edifices of Hoysala empire for one more time. Consequently, I geared myself after intense tussle this Saturday and it was long way to go.

Belur is around 210kms from Bangalore which is healthy 4hr journey from Bangalore assuming no traffic hiccups early morning. Initial plan was to park bike in Railway Station and catch up the 6:30AM KSRTC Mercedez benz bus destined to Chikmagalur. However sometimes plans don't wont work out. Alas! 5AM in morning, I realized, bike was punctured. This is third time rear wheel suffered puncture. Not sure why is that happening frequently. Nevertheless, such incidents can never deter my travel plans. Around 5:30AM, I rushed to HSR BDA bus stop and caught bus to Silkboard. From here I boarded a bus to Majestic comfortably. 6:20AM, I am in majestic and spotted the Mercedez benz bus. Being weekend, the bus was relatively crowded and had to content with last seat due to lack of prior reservation. After initial hurdles, the mighty 6 cylinder turbo charged & intercooled rear engine eventually cranked at 6:45AM and started rolling over bitumen surface.

A short interruption to interruprt service routine:

This was first time I was travelling in Mercedes Benz bus. The VOLVOs have revolutionized bus journeys in India. I am ardent fan of volvo buses even now and been following their segments namely B7R, B9R, 9400, B11R. I love the sound of engine progression with whistling turbo :D. Especially it is pleasant to hear gradating engine sound when the beast accelerates from 60kmph onwards! The other part of enjoyment is smashing turbo sound during 6-5 & 5-4 gear shifts. One has to experience the amazing short turning radius of bus manoeuvring short paths with ease. Many competitors were desperately trying to capture the market dominated by VOLVO! One of them were the Mercedes Benz guys. Others have fallen in vain and could not match up with VOLVO's charisma. The Mercedes Benz also armed with 6 cylinder turbo charged & inter-cooled engine (I don’t think any diesel engines nowadays manufactured without turbochargers). It has almost identical specifications as VOLVO B7Rs (6 speed, high power, high torque at lower rpm, hydraulic brakes etc..). My initial impression from internet sources were that Mercedes Benz buses do not match up with VOLVOs. The apparent trudging sound of rear engine had given me same thought. Once I travelled in the bus, my thoughts changed. The initial problem with B7Rs were last row seats heating up due to rear engine mount. However, I did not notice such a problem with Mercedes Benz. The one thing that impressed me was the sufficient leg room which VOLVOs lack even now. One more difference from Mercedez and VOLVO I noticed was the rear axle arrangement. The rear single wheel axle is at the front while double wheel axle is at the back for VOLVO buses. While it is reverse for Mercedez buses. Not sure which one sustains well. I believe the VOLVOs arrangement is better. The bus was coasting in medium grades. People were complaining about lack of pull as VOLVOs along steep grades (ex: ghat sections). I am not entitled to validate the statement since I have not travelled along ghat section in Mercedes buses. The thing disappointed me was the poor suspension. Even along tiny humps, I was high up in air. To some extent, I have faced this problem in B7Rs too! Sometimes I felt, private buses destined to Udupi had good suspension. Nevertheless, it is almost equivalent to VOLVOs from my current journey experience. Despite of this, VOLVOs still rule luxury bus segments due to their engine performance which gives them mighty edge over other manufacturers.

Back to business after completing ISR

Why a costly ride for mere 4hrs journey? There were two primary reasons
  1. The premium buses would halt at good restaurants so that I can have hefty breakfast
  2. I wanted to reach early so as to spend more time in designated places (which was primary intent and not bus journey). The ordinary buses pass through all the towns and sometimes even villages digressing from main highway. The main hiccup is Kunigal town which almost consumes 20mins more if not taken bypass route.

After a healthy 90mins of journey coupled with nap, the bus stopped at Swathi Delicacy near Yediyur town. The right spot to savour breakfast. Once done with sufficient food, the bus moved towards the culmination with normal speed (guess 80kmph or more?). Annoyingly, the bus entered Channarayapattana town. This added few minutes delay. Eventually 9:30AM, here we are in Hassan town. Not to forget, the toll booths of Devihalli-Hassan section of NH-75 have started collecting fees after long survey. Good news is that more or less it has same cost as Nelamangala-Devihalli stretch!

The bus left Hassan town after brief break of 15mins. It has been long time since I visited Hassan town. Nowadays we usually travel via bypass avoiding main land. This saves almost 30mins of journey time. Belur being situated north of Hassan, one has to cross interior of town to reach the place. Few minutes later, the bus entered the highway connecting Chikmagalur. Belur is around 40kms from Hassan. The initial stretch is full of humps and later on well paved state highway and one can have aeroplane drive B). I felt the bus was speeding quite more than it was along four lane highway or was it my illusion. An hour later which is 10:30AM, the bus dropped me to Belur bus stand and with the help of locals, I reached Chennakeshava temple which was a km walk.

Chennakeshawa Temple, Belur

The corridor. Whole_scene-People would have been great picture!
The circular layered architecture


This is a vertically composed horizontally knit panoramic shot of Chennakeshawa temple comprising of 10 images. It was lying in disk for in dormant state for almost a year and was thrilled when I actually aligned them. The stitch was done using Hugin while final editing with darktable. Hope you enjoy it too!
Panoramic View
The Chennakeshava temple in Belur was built during Hoysala regime. The details can be found in wikipedia which I am not repeating here. The temple with beautiful façade is covered in vast area and has a pinnacle at the entrance. The pinnacle was under renovation and hence we had to enter from a different direction. It is daunting task to renovate such delicate monuments without harming the antiquity of structure. At the outset, the temple welcomes with huge premise with wide veranda spread along its periphery. The pillar nearby the shrine gazes towards the sky. 2-3 temples surround the main shrine. The placards were obscure due to lack of maintenance. I went inside all the temples which were open and enjoyed the huge rock structural marvels. At some places the long streak of pillars were delightful to watch.

The major attraction is beautifully engineered intricate frieze of animals on the side-walls. It is fascinating to watch precision engineering crafted during ancient times. The structure has become delicate due to ageing and authorities have erected boards to keep away from walls or idols. The streak of closely carved elephants and daemons along the temple periphery are articulately sculptured. The construction of pillars were amazing sight to watch. One can feel the antiquity by watching them. The temple is surrounded by 2-3 tiny temples and have sufficient information about each one of them (unclear though). Pushkarini lies in north-east direction of temple. Once wandered along outskirts, I went inside the temple sanctum sanatorium where was deity was being adorned with ornaments, flowers and clothes. The main attraction inside the was the 7 layered circular architecture which has some significance narrated by people inside. I do not remember them exactly now, however internet sources should provide authentic details on this. Except deity, you can photograph anywhere inside the temple for nominal fee of Rs.20/-. Guides inside hold torch for the photographers to provide sufficient lighting. This was highly useful for me since my camera has faithful image reproduction only till ISO-800. One more point is that flash does not work well i.e. they tend to spoil the originality of the structure.

Once I finished wandering around the Belur temple, it was time to bid goodbye to magnifique architecture. I bought temple laddu to savour during the journey.  Alongside the sultry weather, my stomach was cursing with empty resource. Now its time replenish physical energy. As per suggestion from local people, I had tasty lunch at Shankar hotel nearby main bus stop. All the dishes were matching my taste with less spice and salt.

Once contented with lunch, I caught a local bus to vist Halebeedu. Halebeedu is around 16kms from Belur. Frequent bus services ply towards Halebeedu en-route. These buses are not destined to Halebeedu rather to larger towns. You need seek help of locals to find right buses since the direction on buses is unclear. Barely 30mins of journey, the bus dropped me in Halebeedu. The stop is right near the Halebeedu monument. Except for historical significance, both Belur and Halebeedu are under developed areas. The main source of income is agriculture and tourism. Unlike Belur, Halebeedu seemed to have large area (I may be wrong). Even if the temple is smaller, the vast area is covered with lawn. The deity here is Hoysaleshwara. The temple has almost similar carvings as Belur and no cost for photographing anywhere. There is a statue of Jain Theerthankara on the lawn apart from Ganesh idol. At both places, people will be amazed by the engineering skills invested to construct the temples. Especially, the closely knit carved on the walls of temple requires delicate and precision engineering. Over the years, the structure has loosened out due to various reasons prominently ageing and destruction by Mughal regime. Even if authorities try to restore few structures, it may be daunting task to maintain the archaicness.

Hoysaleshwara Temple, Halebeedu
Couchant Nandi facing Lord Hoysaleshwara

Temple Corridor. Same comment as Belur one
Lord Hoysaleshwara
Beautiful and intricate carvings

The side-look
After wandering here for more than an hour, it was time to rush towards Bangalore due to lack of time. I caught a bus to Hassan and later boarded a bus to Bangalore and thus ending my journey. I reached Bangalore around 10PM and it was raining in the capital city. I was fortunate to leave the bike at home (something happen for good) but it does not end complications. Had difficult time waiting for bus and reaching home. It was almost midnight as I reached home and time to end the day with lying on bed.

Personal vehicles are the best to reach these places. There is no dearth of buses however, own vehicles add comfort and provides sufficient time to explore the monuments. The worst part is loathing garbage. Wherever I travel, the rampant garbage is the mightiest plague. Be it our beautiful architecture, national parks, rainforests, amazing shorelines, waterfalls, people can't resist cramming the places with garbage despite the presence of trash bins. If you do not spot any garbage bins kindly hold onto the trash until you find suitable bins or carry with you. Its terrifying to see tourists littering  all around while same people praise foreign lands for being more cleaner. The rampant littering on an entirety blemishes wonders of our nation.

Tips for DSLR geeks: Carry a wide angle lens say 10-22mm and optional macro to captured detailed view of carvings on the structure. If your lens does not have image stabilizer, you will need to carry tripod since the luminosity is feeble inside the temple. Avoid weekends if possible; frames will be filled with human elements than actual subject!

A short note: I use Luminance HDR to blend bracketed shots. The LHDR is not yet matured with anti-ghost feature. Hence one can see ghosting in the final HDR image.

Related blogs:

A short timelapse from Belur-Halebeedu visit



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