Narasimha pillar and fluted Mohini pillar of Hoysala temple, Karnataka - a brief note

Chennakesava temple Narasimha pillar, KA

Hoysala Architecture was evolved during the 10th to 14 th Century in the Hoysala kingdom that includes part of present day Karnataka state, South India and 13th century CE was the heyday of this  Dynasty and the rulers were considered as great builders of temples mostly dedicated to Vishnu, followed by god Shiva.. 

Chennakesava temple fluted  pillar, KA

Hoysala rulers (feudatories of the Chaukyas of Kalyana) introduced a new nomenclature in Hindu temple architecture with the harmonious fusion of different styles including western Chalukyas of Kalyana (of Badami, KA), Dravidian and north Indian, The temple plan mostly followed is that of Vesara - a blend of Nagara of northern style and Dravidian of southern style. What is interesting is the unique blending so innovative and catchy falling within the confines of naive design style that deviated from the conventional norms.

The Hoysala temples don't  have either tall towers or pyramidal gopura. Nor are they massive and built within an enclosure as in the Dravidian style. Invariably, they are small to medium size and this limitation could have been due to non availability of hard rocks in that region. Soap stone rocks of metamorphic origin were available in plenty locally, but being soft  with low Mohs scale of hardness less than 3, they are unfit to build huge structures with multiple tiers on the structure.  

Chennakesava temple with masonry tower, Belur.

Above image:  At Chennakesava temple, Belur, KA  the gopuram  (East side) with many tiers built in Dravidian style is masonry work (brick and lime mortar) resting on entrance structure and foundation made of  hard rock  The main  entrance entrance damaged by the Delhi Sultanate was later rebuilt by the Vijayanagara dynasty   Photo by Angelo Fernandes. .................

 Being ingenious as they were, instead of building massive and attractive  tall structure, the Hoysala kings, taking into account the properties of  soap stone  schists,  had paid more attention to artistic embellishments of the temples. The temple architects came up with richly ornamental pillars, beams, lentils and intricately carved sculptures, etc., on the exterior of the  small tower including the base - Jagati. This resulted in overwhelming  deep stone  carvings with a myriad of design, styles  and patterns that baffle our imagination. You may call it a sermon on the stone -  vast profusions of artistic carvings, intricate sculptures. and bas-relief works in the interior and exterior of the temples. 

Navaranga mandapa, Chennakesava

Above image: Both Narasimha and Mohini pillars are locate in this richly ornamented mandapa including the ceiling in the bays. note the lattice windows on the walls and the richly stone carved Jagati (raised platform)  below it,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.

ornamental Narasimha pillar, Belur, KA.

capital Narasimha pillar. Belur  /

Narasimha temple, Hoysala style, KA

About the Narasimha pillar, clear definition is not available in the books or articles available.  My understanding is the Narasimha pillar or Mohini pillar refers to the  richly ornate  circular pillar right from the base  to the capital and the beam above them. They are mainly located in the central hall of the Chennakesava temple. Every inch of the Narasimha pillar is deeply carved  all around with various images, patterns or some design work right up to the  cornice at top. Each ornate bears four brackets at the top with sculpted figure The carved images are as tiny as Bengal gram as in the case of a small carved bull or basava/kadali.  The Narasimha pillar is said to have rotating mechanism  on an axis long ago supported by ball-bearing system. Later it stopped working.  Mohini pillar close to Narasimha pillar, is also  ornate and  cut vertically on a sixteen pointed star plan with narrow band of filigree work. It has a large figure of Vishnu in the form of Mohini. It has eight vertical bands with fine scroll work and here one can see small images of Hindu Demi-gods representing the eight directions .

 Chenna Kesava temple,

The Chennakesava Temple of Belur. and the temples of Belavadi, Karnataka stand as good examples  and the pillars are replete with fascinating ornamentation on the soap stone pillars. There are about 50 richly decorated pillars inside the Chennakesava Temple

The Narasimha and Kalyani pillars do  not include richly polished, lathe turned plain pillars with good shining. Also called the Index Pillars they may be short or tall, depending on the location. But Narasimha and Mohini pillars  are in the inner part of the hall.

At the capital the pillar widens and has one or two thick  raised circular  horizontal bands. In the space between them  there are many meticulously carved miniature stone images. On can see a large number of miniature carvings on the pillars and  may include  many deities in miniature forms from the Hindu pantheon. The ornamental  capital of the Narasimha Pillar in stellate shape and the cornice stop  in the Chennakesava temple gets the attention of the visitors.  

stone carved image. Narasimha, 

Above image: Belur temple KA India  - An avatar of god Vishnu Narasimha killing demon king Hiranyakashapu..................