Compared to the other three cave temples, Cave – 3 has a spacious and well-designed sabhamantapa (congregation hall) in front of the garbhagriha (inner sanctum). Check the ground plan to see its layout. The image shows is the left-side view of the sabhamantapa (congregation hall) and the two aisles separated by square-shaped pillars.
As you can see, an elegantly-carved staircase at the center leads to the garbhagriha, which is at a higher level than the subhamantapa. The figures carved on the wall on either side of staircase are the dwarapalas (a.k.a.dwarapalakas), Jaya and Vijaya, of Vishnu. Surrounding the door to the garbhagriha are multiple layers of exquisite artwork on stone.
Notice the ceiling. There is a 3 x 3 grid that neatly divides it into nine blocks. This design is called navaranga, which means nine sectors in Kannada. The Hoysala temple architects used the concept of navaranga to design the mantapa in front of the garbhagriha. Read more about navarang in the Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga page.
Carved on each of the nine blocks is a bas-relief, some of which are weathered. At the center is the relief of Brahma, one of the Trimurti and the creator, and around him are the Ashtadikpalas (guardians of the eight directions).
In Indian mythology, the space is made of eight directions, four cardinal and four inter-cardinal, each of which has a dikpala, i.e., the guardian of a direction, the god who oversees the direction. Check the AshtaDikpalas painting on the Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals for a list and explanation of all the dikpalas.
So, the navaraga truly represents the cosmic space as experienced by a human being. The builders of this temple tried to capture that concept.
– Badami, Cave – 1, Cave – 2, Cave – 3, Cave – 4
– Durga Temple at Aihole
– Somanathapura Keshava Temple – A Masterpiece of Hoysala Temple Art
– Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
– Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
– Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
– Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Kappe Chennigaraya Shrine
– Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals
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