A Chaste Maiden at Chennakesava Temple

Last fall, we took a semester-long class at our local community college on studio lighting, so we didn’t have much to post in a travel blog. We corrected this is February by taking a month-long trip to South India.  One of our excursions was to Belur, a small town in the Indian state of Karnataka.  Our guide was a Hindu priest of a Vishnu temple who guides tourists while not performing priestly duties. The write-up from our travel agency gave the following description of the temple complex:

“The temples in typical Dravidian style are excellent examples of traditional Hindu architecture. These temples are the cream of what remain the most artistically exuberant periods of Hindu cultural development. The wealth of sculptural details on the temples makes them easily the most outstanding example of art and architecture. Every inch of the outside wall and much of the interiors are covered with an endless variety of Hindu deities, sages, scenes from wars, hunting, agriculture, music and dance and some very sensual sculptures explicitly portraying the amorous lifestyles of the dancing girls. The life outside the temples is extremely busy and colorful. Pilgrims, bare feet with horizontal or vertical sandalwood paste smearing on their foreheads and wearing traditionally colored saffron or black pilgrim’s costumes move in and out of the temple complex with flowers and other offerings in their hands. The pavement flower shops, shops selling religious artifacts, the fruit and tea stalls with pilgrims flocking around, add color and character to the place.”

That description was pretty much on the mark.

Belur is famous for Chennakesava Temple, built during the Hoysala dynasty in the 12th Century AD.  On the walls of this temple (inside and out) are many fine carvings: especially famous are the figures known as chaste maidens with the sala tree (also called madanakai, madanikas  or salabhanjikas).   The photo below is a detail of the intricate carving of one of the 42 maidens.  Notice the carved lizard on the latticework, preparing to catch the fly sitting on the jackfruit.

This photo was taken on February 11, 2019. Specs are:

Canon 100D, ISO 6400, f/7.1, 1/500 sec, 250 mm.