Belur has been on the tentative list of World Heritage sites for many years now, and the Union Government nominated it for the tag, among other centres of Hoysala architecture, earlier this week.
While the Hoysala-period architecture attracts people from across the globe, residents of Belur town are worried about some portions of the famed temple complex being encroached upon over the decades.
Belur was the capital of the Hoysala dynasty before the rulers shifted the capital to Halebidu in 1117 AD. During their rule, a fort was built in the town followed by the famed Chennakeshava temple. However, over the years, parts of the fort and the ditch along the fort have been encroached upon to accommodate government and private structures.
Srivatsa Vati, a historian and an expert in Hoysala architecture, told The Hindu , “It is disappointing that there has been no effort to restore the ditch, which is a waterway normally seen around forts. The rulers of the past constructed canals to protect forts from enemies. Now, except for a few portions here and there, a majority of the ditch has been encroached upon. Shockingly, some government structures have also up on the ditch,” he said.
Besides the ditch, there is a pond called Damayanti Honda. Mr. Vati said given the design of the pond, one could conclude that it belonged to the period of the Vijayanagar Empire. “A few people had attempted to cover the pond by dumping debris. Somehow, it has been stopped. But, the pond has to be restored,” he said.
When this reporter visited the place, it was difficult to locate the pond as the entire area was covered by plants.
Senior citizens residing in Belur remember that the ditch was intact when they were children.
C. Sowbhagya, 65, vice president of Hassan district unit of Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, said that in her schooldays, the ditch and Damayanti Honda were intact. “Now one has to go in search of them as the entire area is covered by plants. We, as residents of the town, are ready to work as volunteers to restore the water bodies of the town,” she said.
B.N. Sudheendra. 62, a government-recognised senior tourist guide at Belur, said the area around the historic temple had been encroached upon, and government agencies have hardly taken measures to stop the encroachment.
“It is believed that Kanakadasa, a prominent saint-poet of the 16th century, spent time on the bank of Damayanti Honda and wrote his keertanas. But today, one cannot reach the place,” he said.
The residents are hopeful that the Archaeological Survey of India, Tourism Department and the Revenue Department take up the work of conserving the monuments for future generations.
Ulivala Mohan Kumar, Belur tahsildar, told The Hindu that he had spoken to Mr. Vati seeking a proposal to restore the ditch and Damayanti Honda. “We will take up the work after consulting all agencies concerned. I am planning a meeting with representatives of the Town Municipal Council, Tourism and other departments to conserve the neglected structures of historical importance,” he said.