Belur was the early capital of the Hoysala Empire. With Halebidu which is only 16 km away, this is one of the major tourist destinations in Karnataka, India. Belur is located in Hassan district. According to inscriptions discovered here, it was also referred to as Velapuri.
The main attraction in Belur is the Chennakesava temple complex which contains the ChennakesavaTemple (dedicated to Chennakeshava , meaning handsome Vishnu) as the centre piece, surrounded by the Kappe Chennigraya temple built by Shantaladevi, queen of king Vishnuvardhana.
There are two more shrines here that are still in use by devotees and there is a Pushkarni or stepped well to the right side of the main entrance. The Dravida style rayagopuram at the entrance was a later addition by the Vijayanagar kings, who considered this deity as one of their Kuladevata or family god.
The temple is the good eitxamples of Hoysala architecture. It was built by king Vishnuvardhana in commemoration of his victory over the Cholas at Talakad in 1117 CE. The temple was completed by Veera ballala II who is grandson of Vishnuvardhana. It took 103 years to complete the temple. Each and every portion of temple facade is filled with intricate sculptures and friezes. The wall of temple includes intricate elephants, lions, horses, episodes from the Indian mythological epics, and sensuous dancers (Shilabalikas). Inside the temple are a number of ornate pillars. Darpana Sundari (Lady with the mirror ) carved on walls of Belur Temple is one of the major attractions in the complex.
The credit of carving most of the sculptures goes to Jakanachari. A legend says that Dankanachari(son of Jakanachari) found that the main statue of Lord Vishnu was faulty and had frog inside it. Jakana, shocked to believe this,he cut his own right hand because punishment took himself for his fault job. He began to build the other temple and completes the task. Later, the old temple (which had faulty statue) came to be known as Kappe Chennigaraaya’s temple (Kappe=frog)
This temple along with Hoysaleswara temple in Halebidu and the Jaina monuments at Shravanabelagola are being proposed as UNESCO world heritage sites.