June 24, 2015
The Chennakesava Temple (ಶ್ರೀ ಚೆನ್ನಕೇಶವ ದೇವಸ್ಥಾನ) is a dead temple. People no longer visit this temple with the intention of worshipping, so instead it functions as a museum. The temple is dead because it has sustained damaged. Several carvings have been chipped and a variety of invaders (the British, vandals) have removed full sculptures from the site. The temple was carved from soapstone, and the earliest inscriptions date back to 1117 AD. According to our guide, soapstone takes 60 to 100 years to fully harden. The softness of young stone allows for intricate detailing while carving.
The temple itself is built on a star shaped platform and has three points, which mark the shrines locations within the temple. The temple honors the Hindu god Vishnu. Vishnu is the "preserver of the universe" according to Hindu belief. Vishnu is the second god of the trimurti. Our guide used the acronym G.O.D. to help us remember. The G for generator, or creator, is for the god Brahma. O stands for operator, which is Vishnu. And D for destroyer, Shiva. Each god has several incarnations, symbols and arms. The temple carvings depict these and many more gods along with their variety of forms. The temple also illustrates a narrative of India; in fact it was used as an educational resource. We were told that once a couple was married they would visit the temple to learn history and kama sutra, which is also carved on the outside walls.
Walking barefoot on the sun-warmed soapstone was bizarre. It was easy to get lost in the details of the carvings. Our guide was kind and clearly well educated. He frequently quizzed us as he led the tour and all of us together would try to remember which god carried the conch or which god had four heads. We marveled at this ancient structure for it's ability to withstand war, invasion and time.
A selfie in a shrine? And my fave god Ganesha, who would reappear on travels over and over again.
Read more about Vishnu and the temple.