There are about 50 artistically decorated pillars inside the Chennakesava Temple of Belur. They are all unique and outstanding specimens of Hoysala architecture. A couple of the pillars are however outstanding - the Narasimha Temple and the Mohini pillar.
Capital of the Narasimha Pillar in stellate shape. The former is peculiar for the consolidated representation of the features in the temple’s architectural elements. The Mohini Pillar is notable for the single lifesize image of a sensual nymph.
The Narasimha Pillar is also called the Index Pillar of the Belur temple. Each and every features and sculptures of the temple are carved on this pillar in a miniature form. Equate this pillar with the index page of a big book. Narasimha Pillar, because the image of the Narasimha on the pillar.
The Narasimha pillar is made with soapstone using the typical lathe process, mastered by the Hoysalas. The details are then carved on the lathe finished pillar.
The base of the pillar is cubical in shape with a gracefully flowing floral decoration. The capital is shaped in a stellate form, the typical base plan of Hoysala temples.
Narasimha Pillar (Index pillar) of Belur , a closeup Between the geometrically definite base and capital, the pillar is packed with a series of carvings. Though it may look like a circular pillar, a close look reveals that it is in fact polygonal with carvings positioned on each faces.
It is believed that this pillar inside the Belur’s temple was once capable of rotating on its axis. May be as a ritual it was rotated during the special prayer times in the evenings. Unfortunately this doesn’t work any more.
Another interesting feature of the pillar is small portion uncared on this otherwise jewel like carved pillar. You can easily spot this by going around the pillar. You can find this rectangular polished surface almost your palm’s size at your eye level.
The reason why such a portion is left on a prime section of the pillar is anyone’s guess. On a philosophical or iconographical ground, it may mean to convey the scope of further perfection. Perfection can not be achieved even by such master craftsmen, that the best of the work is yet expected.
Another reason could be that this left as a challenge for the artists. The space is left for any one who can excel the carvings on the Belur Temple.
This could be an appealing reason, as the carvings on the temples were made by various craftsmen.
You can easily find this pillar inside the Belur temple as there would be large number of visitor flock around this particular pillar. If that is not obvious, the giant donation box of the temple is placed next to the Narasimha Pillar. That’s another way to locate this pillar in the dimly lit interior of the Chennakesava Temple of Belur.
Narasimha Pillar (Index pillar) of Belur
See Also : Narasimha Pillar of Belur
The beauty of the Hoysala templs , particularly its intricate carvings owes a lot to one material - Soapstone. Unlike granite, sandstone and marble used in the construction of most of India's ancient monuments, soapstone is softer with some peculiar properties that set it apar from the former materials. To give you an idea , the softer version of the soapstone can be carved even with your finger nail.