Hoysalas, the true masters of Architecture are known for their magnificent and intricate carvings. They have always managed to include an unique feature in their temple architecture. A quite intriguing and striking feature seen at one of their temples is the "Garuda Lenka" pillar. Three in number and rising up to about 15 feet, these pillars were erected during the reign of the Hoysala Kings, Ballala-I and Narashima-III during the 11th century AD. This was done in memory of the heroes who voluntarily sacrificed their lives for the well being of the kings and prosperity and fortune of the Hoysala kingdom.
|The Magnificent Garuda-Lenka Pillars|
Garuda, a large mythical bird resembling an eagle ( and Lord Vishnu's vahana or vehicle ) also represents an ardent devotee or a servant who was ever ready to sacrifice his life in order to defend the king. Lenka is a word synonymous to Garuda while Lenkiti is the female counterpart. (further reading )
|Significant Sculptures at the Pillar Top|
|Garuda, the King, Queen, Lenka and Lenkiti's - I|
|Garuda, the King and the Queen|
|Garuda, the King, Queen, Lenka and Lenkiti's - II|
|The Splendid Three!|
The pillars seem to depict the king and queen traveling along with their devotees (lenka -lenkiti) on an elephant. The garuda is shown to be kneeling on the elephant's head and facing the king while his hand is clasped firmly with the king's, a gesture that probably denotes the respect commanded by the king and the king's desire of achieving the supreme quality of Garuda while the tightly gripped hands could be a token of appreciation by the king for the willingness to sacrifice their lives. Our guess is that the central pillar depicts the king and queen along with the Garuda while the others include the Lenka and Lenkiti's, though we are unsure of the order of men seated so.
The name of the temple is deliberately not mentioned in this post since we have a continuation to this and till then, the game of guessing is on :-)