Views in Mysore. Bailoor Temple [Chennakeshava Temple, Belur]. Detail of carvings on north façade of tower
Photographer: Lyon, Edmund David
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph from an album of 40 albumen prints by Edmund David Lyon. Belur, a small town on the banks of the Yagachi in the Hassan district of Karnataka, was the capital of the Hoysalas in the 11th and 12th centuries, before they shifted to Halebid. The Chennakeshava temple at Belur is considered one of the finest examples of early Hoysala architecture. It was built in 1117 AD by King Vishnuvardhana to mark his independence from the powerful Chalukyas and his defeat of the Cholas at Talakad. Lyon's 'Notes to Accompany a Series of Photographs Prepared to Illustrate the Ancient Architecture of Southern India'
(Marion & Co., London, 1870), edited by James Fergusson, gives the following description of this photograph: 'It shows in detail the whole northern façade of the base of the tower, the third small pavilion, and the projecting angle of the great porch on the left hand. It shows also the lower part of the pyramid, but this has been so frequently and so coarsely whitewashed, that it is now sadly in disaccord with its base, as is also the rough stone porch seen below, which it need hardly be said is a modern addition. The subjects of all these sculptures are easily recognisable as the Avatars of Vishnu, or scenes from legends connected with his religion, but which have seldom been so beautifully represented as in this place. In fact, whether we look to its form and its completeness, or to the exquisite finish of its detail, this temple is, as a whole, perhaps the most perfect and beautiful example of its style. It is not so large as that at Hallabeed, which comes next in this series, nor is the material equal to that of the contemporary white marble temples at Mount Abu, but on a whole, it is a gem which, so far as are yet known, is unrivalled in India.'