Crossing the Realm of the Living into the Living dead or the Undead – Vethalams of Dodagadavalli

“Don’t miss Dodagadavalli” was the advise from Mrs. Lakshmi Sharath, popular blogger and column writer, when we planned out tour of Hoysala sites in June this year.

“As you drive down from Hassan towards Belur, about 20 kms from Hassan, after you pass the Hoysala Village Resort, you watch for a sign on your left – Dodagadavalli” She said.

The name had a certain ring to it and my son found it pretty amusing to pronounce. We did not miss the slightly nondescript sign board and turned into a small road. A further 3 kms along winding road passing bemused villagers and school children, we began to doubt if we had missed the site.

The location was exotic and as we strained our eyes, we spotted a dark greyish spot in the horizon, amidst lush green surroundings and a sublime water body.

Reinforced we proceeded on our route and entered the village and drove past the houses. The road ended but there was no sign of the temple and we continued on a mud path. There nestled inbetween village houses was this splendid monument standing for the past 898 years ! Yes, had a quick brush up from the

Mysore Archeological Series –


Honorary Correspondent of the Government of India, Archaeological Department,

Printed under the authority of the Government of his Highness, the Maharaja of Mysore, in 1919.

We were entertained by a charming lad whose English and by that not his exact vocabulary but his choice of a particular word endeared him to us.

Just a short introduction of the temple, before we proceed. Quote

“The Lakshmidevi temple at Dodda Gaddavalli is a typical example of the Hoysala style of architecture. It is quadruple, ie,, has four cells, and appears to be the only Hoysaja building of this kind in the State. From an inscription in the temple,we learn that during the rule of the Hoysalaking Vishnu the great merchant (maha vaddavyavahari) Kullahana Rahuta and his wife Sahajadevi founded the village Abhinava-Kollapura and caused to be erected in it the temple of the goddess Mahalakshmi in A, D 1113. It is thus one of the earliest temples of the Hoysala style, built four years before the Kesava temple at Belur which was founded by king Vishnu in 1117.”

So much for historical background, but what about the scary title of this post? Crossing the Realm of the Living into the Living dead or the Undead – Vethalams of Dodagadavalli, We entered the temple and even through the Sun was up, it was pretty dark inside. I turned to my right and walked a bit back to take a long shot of the first shrine. The Shrine of Kali

The lad kept up a steady chatter of explanations but one thing kept ringing back – Vethalas. The shrine is pretty unique in the sense that Kali faces the Vishnu shrine and the other two have Shiva as Bhutanatha and infront of him is Lakshmi.

The lad told us that Vishnu was to cool Kali and Lakshmi to cool Shiva ! Maybe we should look at it differently, that it shows Shiva and Kali side by side and Vishnu and Laksmi as a set. Anyway, the lad also commented that the Vishnu cell once had a beautiful image of Kesava and that it had been ” Kid napped” – loved the usage, that he didn’t think it was a case of some inanimate idol being stolen or smuggled but a case of Kidnapping !

We asked him if photography was allowed and he said it was not a problem and we started clicking. Kali first, could not get much, since she was all dressed up.

But the book paints a rather gastly image of her.

Kaji is a terrific eight-armed figure, about 3 feet high, seated on a demon, the attributes in the right hand being a trident, a sword, an arrow and an axe, and those in the left a drum, a noose, a bow and a cup

Just as the flash lit up the darker aisles, we were in for a shock. Memories of childhood nightmares seemed to literally flash in front of our eyes.


There on each side, neatly tucked away in the sides, were two Vethalams, both well over 6 feet, hunching over, eyes wide open, tongues protruding looking over us.

As we regained our composure, we saw that one had a oversized sabre with which it had ` recently’ decapitated someone and the other one had 4 mini goblins for company.

Not to be outdone, the shrines lintel had its own share of a tusked head, a row of pretas ( heads) and another assortment of Goblins – the ones of the two extremes playing the flute !!

I always thought that Vethals were troubled souls who were caught in the border between life and afterlife, and would hang upside down on trees and catch unwary passerby. Never expected them inside a temple. But then when your Lord is labelled the destroyer, is said to reside among other places at the cemetery, wears on his body ashes and has a wife like Kali !!!!

We will see the original Boothnath and others from here in the coming days.

Art Inspired by sculpture Series – Belur Elephant – Prasad’s Sketch

its been sometime since we ventured into our art inspired by sculpture series. Our good friend Prasad has come up with a splendid sketch to take us to Belur today.
you can see all his works at his site here
Prasad’s Sketches blogsite

Prasad is uniquely gifted to be able to sketch in such a splendid fashion by just looking at just the picture from a photograph. Inorder for us to understand the task – view the photo and the sketch side by side.


One interesting point to note, ( actually it was the reason for this post to happen) – is this picture. Is it the same elephant ? Got us confused for a sec.

My initial exposure to reading magazine especially tamil ones was the feature where you got to spot the 6 differences. Can you spot such…between these two sets.
Lovely work Prasad, and keep them coming. The sculptor would be mighty pleased.

A unique depiction of Vishnu Fish incarnation

Today we are to see a very unique depiction of Vishnu in his fish incarnation. Matsya (Fish in Sanskrit) was the first Avatar of Vishnu in Hindu mythology. Matsya Avatar or the Fish Incarnation is the first of the ten Divine Incarnations or Dasavatars of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu is the Preserver of the Universe in the Holy Trinity or Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in Hinduism.

A Kalpa, meaning one cycle of existence, with a span of 4320 million years, in Hindu Mythology, is equal to one day of Brahma, the Creator of the Universe. On the verge of completion of each Kalpa, and one day of Brahma, Brahma falls asleep. When he does so all of Creation, dissolves into his sleep, signifying the end of Creation. Except, the Vedas are immutable and beyond destruction. Their habitat is inside Brahma. They contain the instructions for Creation, and are hence indispensable to resume the Divine Creational Process. Bhagvat Purana, reports, that once Brahma yawned and the precious Vedas, flowed out of his lips.

Matsya Avatar Meanwhile, Hayagriva, the Asura or demon, scheming to gain the desired immortality, a prerogative of the Devas or gods, was wandering nearby. He instantly stole the Vedas and devoured them. Such insidious intent of the Asura, precipitated a crisis. Vishnu, who feigned Nidra or Sleep, witnessed the entire offence. He was speculating on how to retrieve the treasured Vedas, when he located the pious King Satyavrata, offering prayers to Vishnu, with his waist deep down in water. Satyavrata is also called King Manu.

Vishnu immediately assumed the shape of a tiny fish and swam into Satyavrata`s hands. Vishnu, in the disguise of a fish, entreated Manu, who is virtue personified, to save him from being engulfed by the big fish. The kind Manu put the small creature inside a vessel, full of water. Overnight, the fish outgrew on a surprising scale. Manu had to shift him from the vessel into a bigger tank. But the fish continued growing abnormally. It requested Manu for larger space to live, and Manu accordingly kept it in a pond. Manu, exhorted by the enlarging fish, then dropped it in the greater expanse of a large lake. However, the growth rate did not stop escalating. Finally, the bewildered Manu, impelled by the fervent appeal of the mammoth fish for enormous space, placed him in the ocean. But the fish urged Manu, not to leave him in the ocean. Otherwise, the gigantic ocean-beings would swallow him. It was then that the devout Satyavrata, already amazed by the extraordinary growth-speed of the magical fish, pledged it to disclose its actual identity.

Lord Vishnu made his Celestial Revelation before the awed Manu. Satyavrata, instantly bowed down before him and wished to know the reason behind the Lord`s appearance in the frame of a fish. The omniscient Lord, informed him about the forthcoming Pralaya or Destructive Forces that would vanquishing the Earth, with Great Deluge- “I have manifested for the protection of this universe and for the destruction of the wicked. Just a week from now, the ocean will rise and inundate the entire Universe. At that time you will see a spacious boat approaching you. Do collect all the seeds , plants and animals required for the next spell of creation and get into the boat and wait for me. Take Vasuki, the King of Snakes. The Sapta Rishi or the Seven Sages will also be with you.”

Matsya Avatar left to accomplish its mission. He tore apart the Asura Hayagriva, and collected the lost Vedas.

As had been predicted by the Divine Fish, an all-annihilating flood occurred. Meanwhile, a boat appeared where Satyavrata was waiting with the seeds, plants and animals, and the Sapta Rishi, to take refuge in the boat amidst death`s clutches. When everybody had boarded the huge boat, the boat was fastened to the Fish`s horn, with Vasuki serving as the rope ( as i remember reading in Amar Chitra Katha). They sailed in the turbulent water, all through the night of Brahma`s single day. Vishnu thus, rescued life from ceasing. He also by giving shelter to all the creatures, maintained the flow of life that will perpetuate in the next Created Cosmos.

The Matsya Avatar of Vishnu focuses the perpetual love and concern of the benevolent Vishnu,

Ok, but generally vishnu is depicted with a human form waist up and a fish form – ( as is evident from this pillar from srirangam)

But today we see a unique depiction with the forms reversed. Fish upper body and a human lower body – this is from Belur. A very unique and cute sculpture.

chandra and others had doubts if this was depiction of Varaha ( boar avatar). appending the relevant sculptures from the same location