Ceiling Decoration in Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebidu

Ceiling Decoration in Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebidu

Kedareshwara Temple, Halebidu

Kedareshwara Temple (also spelt "Kedaresvara" or "Kedareshvara") is a Hoysala era construction in the historically important town of Halebidu, in the Hassan district of Karnataka state, India. It is located a short distance away from the famous Hoysaleswara Temple. The temple was constructed by Hoysala King Veera Ballala II (r. 1173–1220 A.D.) and his Queen Ketaladevi, and the main deity is Ishwara (another name for the Hindu god Shiva). The temple is protected as a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India. [1] [2]


  • Location
  • History
  • Description
  • Outer walls
  • Doorways and mantapa
  • Pillars and ceilings
  • Sanctum
  • Other monuments
  • Artists
  • Reception
  • Gallery
  • See also
  • References
  • Bibliography
  • External links

The Hoysaleswara temple is a Shaivism tradition monument, yet reverentially includes many themes from Vaishnavism and Shaktism tradition of Hinduism, as well as images from Jainism. [9] The Hoysaleswara temple is a twin-temple dedicated to Hoysaleswara and Santaleswara Shiva lingas, named after the masculine and feminine aspects, both equal and joined at their transept. It has two Nandi shrines outside, where each seated Nandi face the respective Shiva linga inside. [10] The temple includes a smaller sanctum for the Hindu Sun god Surya. It once had superstructure towers, but no longer and the temple looks flat. [11] The temple faces east, though the monument is presently visited from the north side. Both the main temples and the Nandi shrines are based on a square plan. [12] The temple was carved from soapstone. It is notable for its sculptures, intricate reliefs, detailed friezes as well its history, iconography, inscriptions in North Indian and South Indian scripts. The temple artwork provides a pictorial window into the life and culture in the 12th century South India. About 340 large reliefs depict the Hindu theology and associated legends. [9] Numerous smaller friezes narrate Hindu texts such as the Ramayana , the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata Purana . Some friezes below large reliefs portray its narrative episodes. [1] [13] [10]

The artwork in Hoysaleswara temple is damaged but largely intact. Within a few kilometers of the temple are numerous ruins of Hoysala architecture. The temple, along with the nearby Jain Temples and the Kedareshwara temple,as well as the Kesava temple in Belur, have been proposed to be listed under UNESCO World Heritage Sites. [1] [14]

The Forgotten Temples of the Hoysalas

The towns of Belur and Halebidu in Karnataka are popular tourist destinations, attracting thousands of visitors to the remarkable and ornate temples built by the Hoysala dynasty in the 12th century. Ruling most of what is modern-day Karnataka and parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the Hoysalas were patrons of literature, the arts and architecture. Naturally, their temples exhibit extreme skill and finesse.

The seat of the empire was initially Belur and then Halebidu, which is why these two towns corner the spotlight for their temple architecture. But beyond these towns, in villages across south Karanataka, are more than a hundred Hoysala temples. Off the beaten track but not difficult to find, they piece together the story of this mighty Kannadiga empire and are a visual delight.

Rise of the Hoysalas

The 11th century was a period of great prosperity in South India. At the time, the two major powers in the Deccan peninsula were the 25-year-old Chalukya Kingdom headquartered in Kalyani (present-day Basavakalyan in Karnataka), and the 150-year-old Chola Kingdom with its capital in Thanjavur (Tanjore) in present-day Tamil Nadu.

It was during this period that the Hoysalas first emerged, as feudatory chiefs of the Chalukya Empire in the mountains on the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In 1116 CE, the first great Hoysala chief, Bittiga, defeated the Chola governor of Talakad and annexed large parts of the Chola Empire. To celebrate his victory, Bittiga, a follower of the great Vaishnava reformer Ramanuja, had the huge Chennakeshava Temple of Belur built and consecrated in 1117 CE. He was less lucky against the Chalukyas, and by 1123 CE, in spite of his initial successes, he was back at square one, acknowledging the overlordship of the Chalukya ruler.

But the Hoysalas were no longer a small power. They were now a feared military force and to make a political statement, they built another massive temple in a city then called Dwarasamudra (Halebidu), between 1121 and 1160 CE.

These two temples – the Chennakeshava Temple of Belur and the Hoysaleswara Temple of Halebidu – are known today as the finest examples of Hoysala architecture and art. But beyond these two biggest tourist attractions, there are around 100 Hoysala-era temples tucked away in the villages of Karnataka.

Before we embark on a journey to uncover these beauties, a word about the layout of Hoysala temples. The ornately decorated shrines usually follow a simple floor plan. Consisting of multiple parts connected to each other, the simplest temples contain just two parts – a garbhagriha, a sanctum that contains the idol and is usually accessed only by the priest and a large hall outside the shrine, where devotees gather.

Above the shrine is a large tower or vimana or Shikhara. A smaller tower on top of the hall, in front of the vimana, is called a sukanasi or ‘nose’.

Temples are usually built on a raised plinth known as a jagati, which provides a path to devotees for circumambulation of the temple.

More complex floor plans may consist of a closed hall, an open hall and a covered porch. The interior of the garbhagriha generally contains one, two or three shrines or mantapa, and there may be further minor shrines in each corner. A temple with a single shrine is called ekakuta, one with two shrines is called dwikuta, and so on.

The floor plan may be a square, a staggered square, a star or a combination of all these. This gives the exterior of the temple a large number of recesses which are richly decorated with carvings of deities and scenes from Hindu epics and mythology.

Kedareshwara Temple – Halebidu

As the name suggests, this is a Shaiva temple, a stunning gem located barely a kilometre from the high-profile Hoysaleshwara temple. It follows the usual pattern of Hoysala temples – it has three shrines connected to a central hall via a vestibule and is built on a raised platform or jagati, which provides a pradakshinpatha for devotees.

The temple is larger than usual and the exterior boasts exquisite carvings, second only to its more famous neighbour. But the temple’s superstructure was lost in a restoration attempt more than a century ago. Those who admire figure sculpture can spend hours here, writes Dutch author Gerard Foekema, who has documented Hoysala architecture. Just 1.4 km south of the temple is the religious pond of Hulikere, another marvellous example of Hoysala architecture.

Digambar Jain Temples – Halebidu

The Jain temples of the Hoysala period are considerably plainer than their Hindu counterparts. The Jain temple complex of Halebidu consists of three temples, dedicated to Parshvanatha, Shantinatha, and Adinatha. The two larger temples, of Parshvanatha and Shantinatha, consist of an ardhamandapa or ‘half-hall’ and a mahamandapa or ‘large hall’. The smaller Adinatha temple has a garbhagriha and a hall.

While each temple is rather plain from the outside, they contain beautiful, lathe-turned pillars inside that bear delicate carvings. The roofs too sport beautiful carvings, and the floor of the Shantinatha temple has a mirror-like sheen, which can be quite incredible to look at.

Inside each temple is a large statue of a Jain Tirthankara or spiritual leader. The Parshvanatha and Shantinatha statues are 18 feet tall, while the Adinatha image is smaller. Curiously, there is also an image of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning, inside the Adinatha temple.

In front of the Shantinatha temple is a large stone pillar, with what looks like a box on top. This is called a manastambha or ‘column of honour’. On top of the manastambha, there is usually an image of a guardian yaksha. Even in the tremendous heat of Karnataka, these temples remain very cool. These temples are called basadi, a corruption of the word basti, which means ‘settlement’.

Bhairava Temple – Pushpagiri

Pushpagiri is a small, hill town surrounded by farmlands and forests on all sides. The Bhairava Temple is located within a small courtyard. Entry into the courtyard is through a stone gateway which contains carved stone pillars. Unfortunately, there is not much of the historic character of the temple is left as it is an extremely active temple.

The exterior of the Bhairava Temple has been thoroughly modernized, iron railings have been added and the exterior has been painted. Thankfully, the interiors have been left largely untouched. Inside, the temple is small and contains a single pillared hall and a single shrine. The delicate and intricate Hoysala carvings can still be seen on the pillars, in particular around the doorway to the shrine and the ceiling. Bhairava is a fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva, so this is a Shaiva temple.

Veera Narayana Temple – Belavadi

The Veera Narayana Temple of Belavadi is impressive, thanks more to its unusual architecture than its sculptures. Commissioned around 1200 CE by Hoysala king Veera Ballala II, the temple features three shrines, two of which are attached to the lateral sides of a large hall. Thus when one enters, one sees a large hall with two shrines facing each other. Behind this large hall is a smaller hall and behind that is the third shrine.

One of the unique features of the Veera Narayana Temple is that the northern shrine, to the right as one enters, is star-shaped, while the southern one is square-shaped, but their external ornamentation hides this difference. This is one of the only Hoysala temples where access to the roof is possible, through a set of stone steps at the southern end of the hall that connects the northern and southern shrines. From the roof, one gets a closer look at the fine carvings on the shikharas (towers) of the shrines as well as the sukanasi.

Lakshmi Narasimha Temple – Javagal

For most cricket-obsessed Indians, the first thing that comes to mind when one hears the name Javagal is former Indian fast bowler Javagal Srinath. Indeed, this is the village from where his family originally hails, and while Srinath was raised in Mysore, his uncle’s house still exists in the village and villagers will happily point it out.

The Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, as the name suggests, is a Vaishnava temple and the principal deity is Narasimha, the half-man, half-lion incarnation of Vishnu, who is associated in mythology with the destruction of the demon king Hiranyakashyap. Narasimha here is accompanied by his consort, Goddess Lakshmi. The other two shrines of this trikut temple are occupied by two other incarnations of Vishnu, Venugopal (playing the flute) and Sridhara. But only the shrine containing Narasimha has a tower above it.

The Lakshmi Narasimha Temple of Javagal was commissioned around 1250 CE, and as such is an example of the newer kind of Hoysala temples. The external decoration is profuse but of a more relaxed character, when compared to Halebidu. Like all Vaishnava temples, there is no depiction of Shiva anywhere on the shrine but the sculptures do depict scenes from the Ramayana.

Chennakeshava Temple – Arakere

Much plainer compared to most other Hoysala temples, this small shrine is nonetheless beautiful. This is a trikut type Vishnu temple built in the 13th century. The three shrines inside house Vishnu as Chennakeshava in the west, Venugopal in the south and Lakshmi-Narasimha in the north.

There is a single shikhara above the western shrine, which has a sukanasi in front of it. The outside walls have crude representations of various aspects of Vishnu in addition to secular sculptures interspersed with slender, tall pilasters and single-pilaster turrets. To the left of the entrance is a large stone tablet with writing in ancient Kannada containing details of the temple’s construction.

Ishvara Temple – Arasikere

The Ishvara Temple of Arasikere, constructed around 1220 CE, has only ordinary sculptural decorations but when it comes to the floor plan, it is perhaps the most complex and unique of all Hoysala temples. This is a Shaiva temple and has a single shrine containing the lingam representing Lord Shiva, which is topped by a shikhara or tower. The shrine is shaped like a star, but not a star with identical points but three different kinds of star-points.

But what sets the temple apart is the open hall. It looks like a 16-pointed star and one look at it and you immediately know that this is not like any other Hoysala temple you have ever seen. The roof of the open hall is shaped like a dome. Inside are beautiful lathe-turned pillars and all along the edges are stone benches, making it a good place to rest.

Lakshmi Devi Temple – Doddagadduvalli

The Lakshmi Devi Temple of Doddagadduvalli was built in 1113 and is architecturally unique. The temple is located within a walled compound, which has four small shrines, one in each corner. The temple itself has four shrines – three are in a cluster to the south and share a common small hall, while an oblong extension to the hall connects it to the fourth shrine. Each shrine has a shikhara and a sukanasi.

Within the compound, just a few metres to the north-east of the main temple, there is another free-standing shrine. Thus one compound presents a total of nine shrines! Visitors enter the compound through an ornate stone gateway in the eastern wall.

Inside the temple, the largest shrine is dedicated to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth.

Another shrine contains a lingam. But of special interest is the shrine immediately to the left of the entrance. On both sides of the door to this shrine are two frightening looking stone dwarpalas or gatekeepers, with various scary characters peeking out from behind them. Inside the shrine is a black, stone female figure, which is an unusual form of Kali. The free-standing shrine is dedicated to Bhairava, the fierce manifestation of Shiva. Although this is a Shaiva shrine, the nomenclature doesn’t follow the standard system.

Allalanatha Temple – Kondajji

Nothing remains of the Allalanatha Temple of Kondajji, save its remarkable Allalanatha, ie, Vishnu image. This single-shrine temple contains an extremely large and beautiful idol carved out of black stone. The temple had been in ruins for a very long time, with only the sanctum sanctorum intact. In 2017, the whole temple was rebuilt with modern brick and concrete. The idol is about 18 feet tall and made of black stone, bearing a conch, a chakra and a mace.

What is unique is that there is a loft that one can climb to perform the abhisheka from the top.

Lakshmi Narasimha Temple – Haranahalli

Haranahalli has two Hoysala temples – one Shaiva and one Vaishnava – both built around 1235 CE. The Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, as the name suggests, is Vaishnava. The plan of the shrine is fairly straightforward – a raised plinth or jagati with a trikuta or temple with three shrines on top. The principal shrine has a tower and a sukanasi on top and all three shrines are connected to one central hall.

When it comes to external ornamentation, the temple has six frieze panels but large parts of the exterior have been left blank. There are a couple of friezes with horses and elephants that are beautiful, but overall, there is very little ornamentation.

Someshvara Temple – Haranahalli

The Someshvara Temple contains only one shrine on a raised plinth, topped by a shikhara and a sukanasi. While the external decoration here is of finer quality compared to the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, there is a lot of inconsistency. But, compared to the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, which is in regular use and looks well-maintained, the Someshvara Temple looks almost abandoned.

The garden around it is unkempt and the temple looked like it hasn’t been cleaned in years. The tower is richly decorated and if you look very closely, you will find elements worth photographing. The interior of the temple, if you manage to gain entrance, is richly decorated.

Lakshminarayana Temple – Hosaholalu

Somewhat similar in appearance to the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple of Javagal, the Lakshminarayana Temple of Hosaholalu is both incredibly well-preserved and amazingly complete. However, the exterior decoration, though of fine quality, is of a monotonous and repetitive nature, and thanks to a new entrance that was added recently, the original entrance with its flight of steps is lost.

The temple is built on the usual raised plinth and contains three shrines. The central shrine is topped by a shikhara and a sukanasi.

This is a Vaishnava temple and almost all the 120 images on the walls are Vaishnava.

Among them are 24 depicting Vishnu in 24 different positions.

The Ramayana may be found in friezes in the western corner of the southern shrine and the Mahabharata in the northern niche of the central shrine. Inside, the three shrines contain images of Venugopala, Narayana and Lakshminarasimha.

Visiting the Temples

While it is helpful to have someone who speaks Kannada with you when visiting these temples, language is not an insurmountable barrier in Karnataka, and even in remote villages people speak Hindi or English, often both. The majority of these temples are active, and while most of them are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, some are maintained by affluent individuals. If you find a temple shut when you are there, it is usually possible to request a villager to fetch the priest, who will open up the temple for you. To locate the temples, use the following coordinates:

Bhairava Temple, Pushpagiri – 13°11󈧕.5″N 75°59󈧣.6″E
Veera Narayana Temple, Belavadi – 13°16󈧻.1″N 75°59󈧰.4″E
Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, Javagal – 13°18󈧇.5″N 76°03󈧧.7″E
Chennakeshava Temple, Arakere – 13°22󈧡.6″N 76°07󈧱.9″E
Ishvara Temple, Arasikere – 13°19󈧊.0″N 76°15󈧨.0″E
Kedareshwara Temple, Halebidu – 13°12󈧣.9″N 75°59󈧺.7″E
Jain Temples, Halebidu – 13°12󈧣.3″N 75°59󈧮.3″E
Lakshmi Devi Temple, Doddagadduvalli – 13°05󈧱.6″N 76°00󈧑.8″E
Allalanatha Temple, Kondajji – 13°07󈧌.0″N 76°03󈧽.7″E
Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, Haranahalli – 13°14󈧴.7″N 76°13󈧝.5″E
Someshwara Temple, Haranahalli – 13°14󈧶.9″N 76°13󈧧.3″E
Lakshminarayana Temple, Hosaholalu – 12°38󈧤.8″N 76°28󈧯.3″E

Deepanjan Ghosh is a broadcast professional from Kolkata, India. He is also a history buff, a landscape and architecture photographer and a blogger.

Hoysaleshwara Temple, Halebidu

Hoysaleshwar Temple

An “outstanding example of Hindu architecture” and the “supreme climax of Indian architecture.”

…… facets of the Indian temple are the same every convolution of every scroll is different. No two canopies in the whole building are alike, and every part exhibits a joyous exuberance of fancy scorning every mechanical restraint. All that is wild in human faith or warm in human feeling is found portrayed in these walls……..

Continuing the description of my visit to the Hoysala temples in my initial blog , this is a follow-up post on the Hoysaleshwara Temple.

Hoysaleshwara Temple is a 12th-century Shaivite temple, the largest monument in Halebidu, the former capital of the Hoysala Empire. It is unique for the richness of the carved friezes that adorn its exterior walls, of great finesse and beauty. There is no other equivalent of such an artistic achievement across the country.

Hoysaleshwar Temple, Halebidu, set in well manicured surroundings

The temple was built on the banks of a large man-made lake and sponsored by King Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala Empire. Halebidu was originally called Dvarasamudra (or Dorasamudra), a name derived from two Sanskrit words “Dvara” (gateway, door) and Samudra (ocean, sea, large water body).

Side view of the Hoysaleshwar Temple

Our visit to this hallowed site was one of the most amazing trips I have made anywhere! The grandeur of the temple and profusion of such unmatched sculptures was beyond imagination, totally overwhelming everyone in our group. As are the masterpieces beyond words to express, so are they beyond photographs to be captured. Only a physical experience can absorb the breathtaking beauty of the place. And then one realises that for the master craftsmen who made the sculptures, it was not just another assignment but the result of their divine offering from the very depths of their being.

Our Swarajya group with the renowned Professor Raghavendra Rao H Kulkarni, at the entrance

The temple’s construction started around 1121 CE and was completed in 1160 CE. It was principally constructed under the patronage of wealthy local Shaiva merchants and aristocrats.

Ganesha blesses all who cross the steps

The breathtaking architectural style and grandeur of the temple add to its mystique and classifies it as one of the most unique stone-carved monuments in the world.

The Dwarapalas at the Mantapa entrance

The lintels of the entrance gates feature the most beautiful carved frescoes of the temple. Of such intricate beauty that takes one’s breath away!

Beautifully carved frescoes above the lintel, with dancing Shiva at the centre

Though a Shaivite monument, it reverentially includes many themes from Vaishnavism and Shaktism tradition of Hinduism, as well as images from Jainism. A reminder of the openness of religious beliefs in those days. In this dvikuta (temple with two shrines) Shaiva temple, the two garbha grihas (sanctum sanctorum) are found connected by a mandapa (porch) forming a large open hall.

The temple has an extensive iconographic representation of episodes from the epics. It must be remembered that in temple architecture these do not merely serve a decorative purpose, but are essential to the integrity and composition of the structure.

A close-up of the Dwarapala showing the intricate details of the carvings

The temple is dedicated to Hoysaleswara and Santaleswara Shiva lingas, named after the masculine and feminine aspects, both equal and joined at their transept.

It has two Nandi shrines outside, where each seated Nandi faces the respective Shiva linga inside. The temple includes a smaller sanctum for Surya Bhagwan. This temple has a 7-foot tall statue of the Surya.

The missing towers of the temple Representational Photo – How the temple would look with its Shikhara (tower)

The temple once had superstructure towers, but they were destroyed and no longer exist, giving the temple a flat look. During the early 14th century, Halebidu was sacked and plundered by the Muslim armies of the Delhi Sultanate under Alauddin Khilji. In 1326 CE another Delhi Sultanate army of Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlaq plundered the temples of Belur and Halibedu and it became a near-ruin for many years thereafter. The capital was abandoned and the site became known as “Halebidu” (literally, “old camp or capital”).

Complex design and intricate carvings are the hallmark of the temple Every nook and cranny is covered with detailed carvings

More sculpturally and artistically sophisticated than any other Hoysala temple, it is notable for its sculptures, intricate reliefs, detailed friezes as well its history, iconography, and inscriptions in North Indian and South Indian scripts.

Intricate reliefs and detailed friezes make the temple stand apart from any other

The temple outer walls are intricately carved. The carved banded plinths, a distinguishing characteristic of all Hoysala temples, comprise a series of horizontal courses that run as rectangular strips all around the temple with narrow recesses between them.

External wall carvings are divided into bands

Its lowest layers consist of bands with friezes that consist of (from bottom to top) elephants, lions, scrolls with nature and miniature dancers, horses, scrolls, scenes from Hindu texts, scriptural animals (makara – crocodile) and swans.

Details of carvings in the bands

According to Shadakshari Settar, the artwork shows “no two lions are alike in the entire span that covers more than a furlong (200 metres).”

Behind the facade

The uppermost band has been artfully tilted forward so that the carvings can be viewed easily from below.

Uppermost band is tilted forward for easier viewing from below

The Hoysaleshwara temple is most renowned for the more than 340 large reliefs depicting Hindu theology that run all along the outer walls.

Numerous smaller friezes narrate incidents from Hindu texts such as the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata Purana.

Ravananugraha An exquisite sculpture of Ravana trying to shake Mount Kailash, with Shiva and Parvati seated at the top

Some friezes in the bands below the large reliefs portray its narrative episodes.

Abhimanyu fighting inside the Chakravyuh a rare diagram of the fighting formation

One of the exceptional incidents portrayed is of Abhimanyu fighting inside the Chakravyuh, along with a rare diagram of this complex fighting formation.

Rama killing King Bali by shooting an arrow through seven trees

These reliefs preserve one of the finest achievements of Hoysala craftsmen and constitute an exhaustive lesson of Hindu art.

Rama drawing his bow in battle, while Hanuman can be seen guarding the chariot Ganesha dances in a procession

The temple structure of the Hoysaleswara temple is considered to be very complex due to the presence of projections and recesses.

The carvings on the innumerable corners and recesses along the external wall

This temple has been described by Percy Brown as an “outstanding example of Hindu architecture” and as the “supreme climax of Indian architecture“.

It is believed that the Chennakesava Temple was built during this time and was a Vaishnava temple. The Hoysaleswara temple was constructed by the Shaivas to compete with the Chennakesava Temple.

Gajasurasamhara – Shiva kills the rakshas Nila disguised as the an elephant

Shiva dances inside the elephant Gajasura after slaying it, which was actually the rakshas (demon) Nila in disguise. The sculptor has captured the details perfectly, the open belly of the elephant can be seen with the eyes of the elephant turned upward watching Shiva, and it is at peace having attained moksha. The multiple arms are uncommon in Shiva’s iconography and are exclusively used in his combative forms.

Carvings merge on the edges of the corners perfectly

Another marvel of the Hoysaleswara temple is the set of sculptures of Ganesha. While the right part of the external wall of the temple starts with an image of a dancing Ganesha, there are almost 240 images of Ganesha in different poses.

A beautiful Ganesha sculpture with a detailed hollow canopy one of the 240 Ganesha images in the temple A huge Ganesha sculpture at the western entrance, with some members of our group

Where there is Shiva, Nandi will always be nearby. Being a twin-shrine temple, there are two Nandi’s one facing each shrine. Outside on the east side of the main temples are two smaller shrines for the seated Nandis.

One of the Nandi’s seated in its shrine, facing Shiva

The Nandis are huge, monolithic sculptures, each beautifully adorned with garlands of flowers and small bells.

The beautifully adorned Nandi sits for perpetuity

The Nandi shrines are also exquisitely decorated with intricate carvings and lathe-polished columns. The roofs have their own detailed artwork engraved in stone.

The symbolism of the seated Nandi facing towards the sanctum in Shiva temples represents an individual jiva (soul) and the message that the jiva should always be focused on the Parameshwara. For eternity. From the yogic perspective, Nandi is the mind dedicated to Shiva, the absolute.

A devotee poses the size of the Nandi is now apparent! Our group in front of the Nandi

While the exteriors of the temple are adorned with fine sculptures, the interiors of the temple are comparatively simple except for the exquisite polished lathe-turned pillars that dash in rows flanked by the north and south doorways.

Each of the four pillars in the central navaranga of each shrine has four standing madanakai figures. These are beautifully carved damsels, looking down on the devotees below.

A beautifully carved Madanika on one of the pillars in the sanctum in its brackets

Apsara-Devangana, popularly known as Madanika, are the damsels depicted in sculptural forms in temples.

The shrines have a Shivalinga, which is worshipped even today.

The Shivalinga

The garbh griha entrance is flanked by Dwarapalas, as is usual in all temples. These are also as intricately carved as the Dwarapalas at the entrance of the temple.

The Dwarapala at the entrance to the garbh griha

The ceilings of the garbh griha are beautifully carved, with each bay having a different design. Which is a normal feature of all the temples we visited.

A intricate roof bay depicting scenes from the epics Roof bays with varied designs

The temple premises include a museum managed by the ASI. It contains pieces of ruins and temple artwork recovered from the site and surrounding areas.

The temple premise also has the Garuda Sthambh (pillar) to the south but it is damaged. This Pillar is an important part of the temple. Garudas refer to the bodyguards of the monarchs and their queens. These inseparable guards used to commit suicide (siditale-godu) with the death of their master. This complete story is depicted on the Garuda Pillar, where the guards are seen cutting their heads with knives.

Garuda Sthambh

There is also an inscription engraved over the pillar which commemorates the death of one such guard, Kuruva Lakshma, the bodyguard of King Veera Ballala II.

A striking panel of life-sized sculptures

The temple is a masterpiece of construction and reflects the glorious history of ancient India. It has been listed as a heritage site by UNESCO.

Halebidu, along with Belur, were once the crown jewels of the Hoysala Empire. Today they attract well-deserved attention from tourists, scholars, and devotees alike from different parts of the country and the world at large.

Despite the irreparable losses suffered at the hands of time and mercenary invaders, the grandeur of these structures and the piety that went into their construction continues to inspire reverence from the silent beholder to this day.

How to Reach

Located at Halebidu, Hoysaleshwara Temple can be easily reached from Belur (16 kms), Hassan (31 kms) and Mysore (149 kms) in Karnataka. Apart from these cities, Halebidu is accessible from almost every city and town of Karnataka by regular buses and hired taxis.

The magnificent life-sized reliefs overawe the viewer

Note for Visitors

The visit to the temple complex requires taking off one’s footwear. The complex requires extensive walking on stone surfaces and so visits should be avoided during peak summer when the stone becomes too hot to walk upon. And otherwise also always preferable to plan a visit in the early mornings. Visitor timings are from 6:30 am to 9:00 pm.

Carvings around each shrine

Nearby Temples

Close to the Hoysalewara Temple is the Jain Basadi complex, which is definitely worth a visit. Just one kilometre from Hoysaleshwar is another Shaiva temple, the Kedareswara temple. This too has magnificent sculptures and the temple is a must-see.


The photographs in this blog bring out the design and the richness of the sculptures.

My blogs of the other Hoysala temples I visited can be seen at:

Note: All photographs displayed above are my exclusive property and copyright their use is prohibited without explicit consent, in writing.


From records it is known that the temple derives its name from the Hoysala ruler at that time, King Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleswara, though interestingly, the construction of the temple was initiated and financed by wealthy Shaiva citizens of the city, prominent among whom were Ketamalla and Kesarasetti. [ 1 ] The temple building activity was taken up in competition to the construction of the Chennakesava Temple at Belur, a Vaishnava temple. The temple faces a large tank which was built in the middle of the 11th century and received water through channels from an ancient anecut (dam) built over the Yagachi river. [ 2 ] The tank preceded the temple by nearly seventy five years. It is one of the largest temples dedicated to God Shiva in South India.


Shravanabelagola is famous for the world’s largest (58 feet) monolithic statue of Bahubali. Bahubali is the 24th and last tirthankara. Hence it is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations for Jains. The nude statue of Bahubali dating back to 981 AD is carved carefully with much perfection.

Ascetic White Pond (Shravanabelagola):

Shravana in the name Shravanabelagola means ‘ascetic’ in Sanskrit. And Bela-gola means ‘white pond’ in Kannada. There is a large tank which is visible from the top. Perhaps due to which the city gets its name.

Ascend up the Vindhyagiri Hill:

The Gomateswara temple is built on top of Vindhyagiri hill. It is located at an altitude of 3347 feet. Altogether there are 620 steps from the bottom to reach the temple. The steps get quite steep when you get closer to the top. Hence one can take a break to catch some breath before continuing further.

I would recommend to start the ascend early in the morning. Thus returning before the sun comes beating down. In the event that one is not able to climb up, dolis are available. The dolis in other words are vehicles which are human powered for transport.

Mahamastakabhisheka and Inscriptions:

Shravanabelagola celebrates the ‘Mahamastakabhisheka’ festival every 12 years. This festival henceforth attracts thousands of devotees and tourists from all over India. Inscriptions close to the feet of Bahubali date back to 981 AD.

It is believed that the great King Chandragupta Maurya meditated in Shravanabelagola. The Chandragupta Basadi is dedicated to Chandragupta Maurya. There are several inscriptions as one ascends the Vindhyagiri hill. All in all there are over 800 inscriptions in the Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri hills.

The inscriptions date back to the period from 600 AD to 1830 AD. Some of the inscriptions mention the rise and growth of the dynasties that ruled over the period of time. The dynasties being Ganga, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara and Wodeyars.

In conclusion, a visit to Shravanabelagola is certainly a recommend. Moreover Belur and Halebidu are not far away and can be combined as a part of the trip.

India - Karnataka - Halebid - Hoysaleswara Temple - Shiva & Pavarti - 130

Hoysaleswara temple (Kannada: ಹೊಯ್ಸಳೇಶ್ವರ ದೇವಸ್ಥಾನ) (also spelt "Hoysaleshwara" or Hoysaleshvara") is a temple dedicated to Hindu god Shiva. It was built in Halebidu (in modern Karnataka state, India) during the rule of King Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala Empire in the 12th century. The construction was started around 1120 CE and completed in 1150 CE. During the early 14th century, Halebidu was sacked and looted by Muslim invaders from northern India and the temple fell into a state of ruin and neglect. Previously known as Dorasamudra or Dwarasamudra, Halebidu is 16 km from Belur, 31 km from Hassan and 149 km from Mysore, in the state of Karnataka, India.

According to art critic and historian S. Settar, from contemporary inscriptions it is known that the temple derives its name from the Hoysala ruler at that time, King Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleswara, though interestingly, the construction of the temple was initiated and financed by wealthy Shaiva (a Hindu sect) citizens of the city, prominent among who were Ketamala and Kesarasetti. The temple building activity was taken up in competition to the construction of the Chennakesava Temple at Belur, a Vaishnava (a Hindu sect) temple. Surrounded by numerous tanks, ponds and mantapas, the temple is built in the vicinity of the large Dorasamudhra lake. The tank preceded the temple by nearly 75 years. It is one of the largest temples dedicated to the god Shiva in South India.

The temple is a simple dvikuta vimana (plan with two shrines and two superstructures), one for "Hoysaleswara" (the king) and the other for "Shantaleswara" (named after Shantala Devi, queen of King Vishnuvardhana) and is built with chloritic chist (more commonly known as Soapstone or potstone). The temple complex as a whole is elevated on a jagati (platform), which according to historian Kamath, is a feature that became popular in contemporary Hoysala constructions. According to art historian Foekema, the two shrines which are adjoining, face east and each have a mantapa (hall) in front. The two mantapas are connected giving a large and imposing view of the hall. Individually, each shrine is smaller than the one at the Chennakesava Temple at Belur and contains a simple linga, the universal symbol of the god Shiva. The plan of the inside of the temple is simple but the exterior looks different because of the introduction of many projections and recesses in the walls. The towers of the shrines that are missing must have followed the star shape of the shrine, just as in many existing well-preserved towers in other Hoysala temples. The superstructure over the vestibule which connects the shrine to the mantapa, called sukanasi (a low tower that looks like an extension of the main tower), and the row of decorated miniature roofs above the eaves of the hall are all missing. The temple was built at a height that provided the architects sufficient horizontal and vertical space to depict large and small sculptures. According to the art critic James Fergusson, the overall effect of the vertical and horizontal lines, the play of the outline, the effect of light and shade and the plan of the projections and recesses all amounts to a "marvellous exhibition of human labor to be found even in the patient east and surpasses anything in Gothic art". The outer walls of these temples contain an intricate array of stone sculptures. The temple of Halebidu, has been described by art critics James Fergusson and Percy Brown as an "outstanding example of Hindu architecture" and as the "supreme climax of Indian architecture".

The temple has four porches for entry and the one normally used by visitors as main entry is actually a lateral entrance (north). There is one entry on the south side and two on the east side, facing two large detached open pavilions whose ceiling is supported by lathe turned pillars. All entry porches have miniature shrines as flanking. In addition there is a sanctuary for the Sun god Surya, whose image stands 2.1 m tall. The pavilions enshrine large images of Nandi, the bull, an attendant of Shiva. The pavilions share the same jagati as the main temple. As in the Chennakesava temple, this temple originally had an open mantapa to which outer walls with pierced window screens made with the same material were erected, making the mantapa a closed one. The window screens are devoid of any art work. The interior of the temple is quite plain except for the lathe turned pillars that run in rows between the north and south entrances. According to Settar, the four pillars in front of each shrine are the most ornate and the only ones that have the madanika (chaste maidens) sculptures in their pillar brackets. There are no other madanikas in the temple.

The Hoysaleswara temple is most well known for its sculptures that run all along the outer wall, starting with an dancing image of the god Ganesha on the left side of the south entrance and ending with another image of Ganesha on the right hand side of the north entrance. In all there are two hundred and forty such images. According to the art critic Gerard Foekema, perhaps no other Hoysala temple is as articulate in sculpture as this is and these sculptures are "second to none in all of India". The most intricate of all sculptures are found in the lintels over two of the doorways, one on the south side doorway and the other on one of the eastern doorways.

In this temple the Hoysala architects have broken from the tradition of using five moldings with friezes (which is the "old stlye") at the base of the temple, below the large wall sculptures and the window screens. The outer walls have two eaves that run around the temple. The top eaves is at the roof of the temple where the superstructure meets the wall, and the second eaves is about a meter below. In between there are decorated miniature towers (aedicule). Below the lower eaves are the wall sculptures and below them, the eight moldings. Historian Kamath calls this type of relief work "horizontal treatment". Each of the eight friezes carries an array of decoration. Going from the bottom where the temple wall meets the platform, the lowest frieze depicts charging elephants which symbolize strength and stability, above which, in order, are friezes with lions which symbolize courage, floral scrolls as decoration, horses symbolizing speed, another band of floral scrolls, depictions from the Hindu epics, mythical beasts called makara and finally a frieze with hansas (swans). According to Foekema, no two animals are alike in a total frieze span of over 200 m. In the epic frieze, the epics are not continuous as they are mixed with other depictions. After the construction of this temple, Hoysala architects used this new kind of horizontal treatment only fifty years later, making it a standard style, though they reduced it to six molding friezes.

Another interesting object in the temple complex is the rare Garuda Sthamba (Garuda pillar). According to Settar, these are different from virgals (Hero stone). Garudas were elite bodyguards of the kings and queens. They moved and lived with the royal family and their only purpose was to protect their master. Upon the death of their master, they committed suicide. The rare pillar on the south side depicts heroes brandishing knives and cutting their own heads. The inscription honors Kuruva Lakshma, a bodyguard of Veera Ballala II. A devoted officer, he took his life and that of his wife and other bodyguards after the death of his master. This event is narrated in an old Kannada inscription on the pillar. A 2.4 m tall sculpture of Ganesha including the platform rests at the South entrance

Ceiling Decoration in Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebidu - History

Hoysala architecture is the building style developed under the rule of the Hoysala Empire between the 11th and 14th centuries, in the region known today as Karnataka, a state of India. Hoysala influence was at its peak in the 13th century, when it dominated the Southern Deccan Plateau region. Large and small temples built during this era remain as examples of the Hoysala architectural style, including the Chennakesava Temple at Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura. Other examples of Hoysala craftsmanship are the temples at Belavadi, Amruthapura, Hosaholalu, Mosale, Arasikere, Basaralu, Kikkeri and Nuggehalli. Study of the Hoysala architectural style has revealed a negligible Indo-Aryan influence while the impact of Southern Indian style is more distinct.

Temples built prior to Hoysala independence in the mid-12th century reflect significant Western Chalukya influences, while later temples retain some features salient to Western Chalukya architecture but have additional inventive decoration and ornamentation, features unique to Hoysala artisans. Some three hundred temples are known to survive in present-day Karnataka state and many more are mentioned in inscriptions, though only about seventy have been documented. The greatest concentration of these are in the Malnad (hill) districts, the native home of the Hoysala kings.

Hoysala architecture is classified by the influential scholar Adam Hardy as part of the Karnata Dravida tradition, a trend within Dravidian architecture in the Deccan that is distinct from the Tamil style of further south. Other terms for the tradition are Vesara, and Chalukya architecture, divided into early Badami Chalukya architecture and the Western Chalukya architecture which immediately preceded the Hoysalas. The whole tradition covers a period of about seven centuries began in the 7th century under the patronage of the Chalukya dynasty of Badami, developed further under the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta during the 9th and 10th centuries and the Western Chalukyas (or Later Chalukyas) of Basavakalyan in the 11th and 12th centuries. Its final development stage and transformation into an independent style was during the rule of the Hoysalas in the 12th and 13th centuries. Medieval inscriptions displayed prominently at temple locations give information about donations made toward the maintenance of the temple, details of consecration and on occasion, even architectural details.

Temple deities
Hinduism is a combination of secular and sacred beliefs, rituals, daily practices and traditions that has evolved over the course of over two thousand years and embodies complex symbolism combining the natural world with philosophy. Hindu temples began as simple shrines housing a deity and by the time of the Hoysalas had evolved into well articulated edifices in which worshippers sought transcendence of the daily world. Hoysala temples were not limited to any specific organised tradition of Hinduism and encouraged pilgrims of different Hindu devotional movements. The Hoysalas usually dedicated their temples to Shiva or to Vishnu (two of the popular Hindu gods), but they occasionally built some temples dedicated to the Jain faith as well. Worshippers of Shiva are called Shaivas and worshippers of Vishnu are called Vaishnavas. While King Vishnuvardhana and his descendants were Vaishnava by faith, records show that the Hoysalas maintained religious harmony by building as many temples dedicated to Shiva as they did to Vishnu.

Most of these temples have secular features with broad themes depicted in their sculptures. This can be seen in the famous Chennakesava Temple at Belur dedicated to Vishnu and in the Hoysaleswara temple at Halebidu dedicated to Shiva. The Kesava temple at Somanathapura is different in that its ornamentation is strictly Vaishnavan. Generally Vaishnava temples are dedicated to Keshava (or to Chennakeshava, meaning “Beautiful Vishnu”) while a small number are dedicated to Lakshminarayana and Lakshminarasimha (Narayana and Narasimha both being Avatars, or physical manifestations, of Vishnu) with Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu, seated at his feet. Temples dedicated to Vishnu are always named after the deity.

The Shaiva temples have a Shiva linga, symbol of fertility and the universal symbol of Shiva, in the shrine. The names of Shiva temples can end with the suffix eshwara meaning “Lord of”. The name “Hoysaleswara”, for instance, means “Lord of Hoysala”. The temple can also be named after the devotee who commissioned the construction of the temple, an example being the Bucesvara temple at Koravangala, named after the devotee Buci. The most striking sculptural decorations are the horizontal rows of mouldings with detailed relief, and intricately carved images of gods, goddesses and their attendants on the outer temple wall panels.

The Doddagaddavalli Lakshmi Devi (“Goddess of Wealth”) Temple is an exception as it is dedicated to neither Vishnu nor Shiva. The defeat of the Jain Western Ganga Dynasty (of present-day south Karnataka) by the Cholas in the early 11th century and the rising numbers of followers of Vaishnava Hinduism and Virashaivism in the 12th century was mirrored by a decreased interest in Jainism. However, two notable locations of Jain worship in the Hoysala territory were Shravanabelagola and Kambadahalli. The Hoysalas built Jain temples to satisfy the needs of its Jain population, a few of which have survived in Halebidu containing icons of Jain tirthankaras. They constructed stepped wells called Pushkarni or Kalyani, the ornate tank at Hulikere being an example. The tank has twelve minor shrines containing Hindu deities.

The two main deities found in Hoysala temple sculpture are Shiva and Vishnu in their various forms and avatars (incarnations). Shiva is usually shown with four arms holding a trident and a small drum among other emblems that symbolise objects worshiped independently of the divine image with which they are associated. Any male icon portrayed in this way is Shiva although a female icon may sometimes be portrayed with these attributes as Shiva’s consort, Parvati. Various depictions of Lord Shiva exist: showing him naked (fully or partially), in action such as slaying a demon (Andhaka) or dancing on the head of a slain elephant (Gajasura) and holding its skin up behind his back. He is often accompanied by his consort Parvati or shown with Nandi the bull. He may be represented as Bhairava, another of Shiva’s many manifestations.

A male figure depicted holding certain objects such as a conch (symbol of eternal, heavenly space) and a wheel (eternal time and destructive power) is Vishnu. If a female figure is depicted holding these objects, she is seen as his consort, Lakshmi. In all the depictions Vishnu is holding four objects: a conch, a wheel, a lotus and a Kaumodaki (mace). These can be held in any of the icon’s hands, making possible twenty-four different forms of Vishnu, each with a unique name. Apart from these, Vishnu is depicted in any of his ten avataras, which include Vishnu sitting on Anantha (the celestial snake and keeper of life energy also known as Shesha), Vishnu with Lakshmi seated on his lap (Lakshminarayana), with the head of a lion disembowelling a demon on his lap (Lakshminarasimha), with head of a boar walking over a demon (Varaha), in the Krishna avatar (as Venugopala or the cow herder playing the Venu (flute), dancing on the head of the snake Kaliya, lifting a hill such as Govardhana), with his feet over head of a small figure (Vamana), along with Indra riding an elephant, with Lakshmi seated on Garuda, and the eagle (stealing the parijata tree).

Temple complex
The focus of a temple is the centre or sanctum sanctorum (garbhagriha) where the image of the deity resides, so temple architecture is designed to move the devotee from outside to the garbhagriha through ambulatory passageways for circumambulation and halls or chambers (mantapas) that become increasingly sacred as the deity is approached. Hoysala temples have distinct parts that are merged to form a unified organic whole, in contrast to the temples of Tamil country where different parts of a temple stand independently. Although superficially unique, Hoysala temples resemble each other structurally. They are characterised by a complex profusion of sculpture decorating all the temple parts chiselled of soft soapstone (chloritic schist), a good material for intricate carving, executed mostly by local craftsmen, and exhibit architectural features that distinguish them from other temple architectures of South India.

Most Hoysala temples have a plain covered entrance porch supported by lathe turned (circular or bell-shaped) pillars which were sometimes further carved with deep fluting and moulded with decorative motifs. The temples may be built upon a platform raised by about a metre called a “jagati”. The jagati, apart from giving a raised look to the temple, serves as a pradakshinapatha or “circumambulation path” for circumambulation around the temple, as the garbagriha (inner sanctum) provides no such feature. Such temples will have an additional set of steps leading to an open mantapa (open hall) with parapet walls. A good example of this style is the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura. The jagati which is in unity with the rest of the temple follows a star-shaped design and the walls of the temple follow a zig-zag pattern, a Hoysala innovation.

Devotees can first complete a ritual circumambulation on the jagati starting from the main entrance by walking in a clockwise direction (towards the left) before entering the mantapa, following the sculptural clockwise-sequenced reliefs on the outer temple walls depicting a sequence of epic scenes from the Hindu epics. Temples that are not built on a jagati can have steps flanked by elephant balustrades (parapets) that lead to the mantapa from ground level. An example of a temple that does not exhibit the raised platform is the Bucesvara temple in Korvangla, Hassan District. In temples with two shrines (dvikuta), the vimanas (the shrines or cellae) may be placed either next to each other or on opposite sides. The Lakshmidevi temple at Doddagaddavalli is unique to Hoysala architecture as it has four shrines around a common centre and a fifth shrine within the same complex for the deity Bhairava (a form of Shiva). In addition, four minor shrines exist at each corner of the courtyard (prakaram).

The mantapa is the hall where groups of people gather during prayers. The entrance to the mantapa normally has a highly ornate overhead lintel called a makaratorana (makara is an imaginary beast and torana is an overhead decoration). The open mantapa which serves the purpose of an outer hall (outer mantapa) is a regular feature in larger Hoysala temples leading to an inner small closed mantapa and the shrine(s). The open mantapas which are often spacious have seating areas (asana) made of stone with the mantapa’s parapet wall acting as a back rest. The seats may follow the same staggered square shape of the parapet wall. The ceiling here is supported by numerous pillars that create many bays. The shape of the open mantapa is best described as staggered-square and is the style used in most Hoysala temples. Even the smallest open mantapa has 13 bays. The walls have parapets that have half pillars supporting the outer ends of the roof which allow plenty of light making all the sculptural details visible. The mantapa ceiling is generally ornate with sculptures, both mythological and floral. The ceiling consists of deep and domical surfaces and contains sculptural depictions of banana bud motifs and other such decorations.

If the temple is small it will consist of only a closed mantapa (enclosed with walls extending all the way to the ceiling) and the shrine. The closed mantapa, well decorated inside and out, is larger than the vestibule connecting the shrine and the mantapa and has four lathe-turned pillars to support the ceiling, which may be deeply domed. The four pillars divide the hall into nine bays. The nine bays result in nine decorated ceilings. Pierced stone screens (Jali or Latticework) that serve as windows in the navaranga (hall) and Sabhamantapa (congregation hall) is a characteristic Hoysala stylistic element.

A porch adorns the entrance to a closed mantapa, consisting of an awning supported by two half-pillars (engaged columns) and two parapets, all richly decorated. The closed mantapa is connected to the shrine(s) by a vestibule, a square area that also connects the shrines. Its outer walls are decorated, but as the size the vestibule is not large, this may not be a conspicuous part of the temple. The vestibule also has a short tower called the sukanasi or “nose” upon which is mounted the Hoysala emblem. In Belur and Halebidu, these sculptures are quite large and are placed at all doorways.

The outer and inner mantapa (open and closed) have circular lathe-turned pillars having four brackets at the top. Over each bracket stands sculptured figure(s) called salabhanjika or madanika. The pillars may also exhibit ornamental carvings on the surface and no two pillars are alike. This is how Hoysala art differs from the work of their early overlords, the Western Chalukyas, who added sculptural details to the circular pillar base and left the top plain. The lathe-turned pillars are 16, 32, or 64-pointed some are bell-shaped and have properties that reflect light. The Parsvanatha Basadi at Halebidu is a good example. According to Brown, the pillars with four monolithic brackets above them carry images of salabhanjikas and madanikas (sculpture of a woman, displaying stylised feminine features). This is a common feature of Chalukya-Hoysala temples. According to Sastri, the shape of the pillar and its capital, the base of which is square and whose shaft is a monolith that is lathe turned to render different shapes, is a “remarkable feature” of Hoysala art.

The vimana, also called the cella, contains the most sacred shrine wherein resides the image of the presiding deity. The vimana is often topped by a tower which is quite different on the outside than on the inside. Inside, the vimana is plain and square, whereas outside it is profusely decorated and can be either stellate (“star-shaped”) or shaped as a staggered square, or feature a combination of these designs, giving it many projections and recesses that seem to multiply as the light falls on it. Each projection and recess has a complete decorative articulation that is rhythmic and repetitive and composed of blocks and mouldings, obscuring the tower profile. Depending on the number of shrines (and hence on the number of towers), the temples are classified as ekakuta (one), dvikuta (two), trikuta (three), chatushkuta (four) and panchakuta (five). Most Hoysala temples are ekakuta, dvikuta or trikuta, the Vaishnava ones mostly being trikuta. There are cases where a temple is trikuta but has only one tower over the main shrine (in the middle). So the terminology trikuta may not be literally accurate. In temples with multiple disconnected shrines, such as the twin temples at Mosale, all essential parts are duplicated for symmetry and balance.

The highest point of the temple (kalasa) has the shape of a water pot and stands on top of the tower. This portion of the vimana is often lost due to age and has been replaced with a metallic pinnacle. Below the kalasa is a large, highly- sculptured structure resembling a dome which is made from large stones and looks like a helmet. It may be 2 m by 2 m in size and follows the shape of the shrine. Below this structure are domed roofs in a square plan, all of them much smaller and crowned with small kalasas. They are mixed with other small roofs of different shapes and are ornately decorated. The tower of the shrine usually has three or four tiers of rows of decorative roofs while the tower on top of the sukanasi has one less tier, making the tower look like an extension of the main tower (Foekema calls it the “nose”). One decorated roof tier runs on top of the wall of a closed mantapa above the heavy eaves of an open mantapa and above the porches.

Below the superstructure of the vimana are temple “eaves” projecting half a meter from the wall. Below the eaves two different decorative schemes may be found, depending on whether a temple was built in the early or the later period of the empire. In the early temples built prior to the 13th century, there is one eave and below this are decorative miniature towers. A panel of Hindu deities and their attendants are below these towers, followed by a set of five different mouldings forming the base of the wall. In the later temples there is a second eave running about a metre below the upper eaves with decorative miniature towers placed between them. The wall images of gods are below the lower eaves, followed by six different mouldings of equal size. This is broadly termed “horizontal treatment”. The six mouldings at the base are divided in two sections. Going from the very base of the wall, the first horizontal layer contains a procession of elephants, above which are horsemen and then a band of foliage. The second horizontal section has depictions of the Hindu epics and Puranic scenes executed with detail. Above this are two friezes of yallis or makaras (imaginary beasts) and hamsas (swans). The vimana (tower) is divided into three horizontal sections and is even more ornate than the walls.

In Hoysala art Hardy identifies two conspicuous departures from the more austere Western (Later) Chalukya art:ornamental elaboration and a profusion of iconography with figure sculptures, both of which are found in abundance even on the superstructure over the shrine. Their medium, the soft chlorite schist (Soapstone) enabled a virtuoso carving style. Hoysala artists are noted for their attention to sculptural detail be it in the depiction of themes from the Hindu epics and deities or in their use of motifs such as yalli, kirtimukha (gargoyles), aedicula (miniature decorative towers) on pilaster, makara (aquatic monster), birds (hamsa), spiral foliage, animals such as lions, elephants and horses, and even general aspects of daily life such as hair styles in vogue.

Salabhanjika, a common form of Hoysala sculpture, is an old Indian tradition going back to Buddhist sculpture. Sala is the sala tree and bhanjika is the chaste maiden. In the Hoysala idiom, madanika figures are decorative objects put at an angle on the outer walls of the temple near the roof so that worshipers circumambulating the temple can view them.

The sthamba buttalikas are pillar images that show traces of Chola art in the Chalukyan touches. Some of the artists working for the Hoysalas may have been from Chola country, a result of the expansion of the empire into Tamil-speaking regions of Southern India. The image of mohini on one of the pillars in the mantapa (closed hall) of the Chennakeshava temple is an example of Chola art.

General life themes are portrayed on wall panels such as the way horses were reined, the type of stirrup used, the depiction of dancers, musicians, instrumentalists, and rows of animals such as lions and elephants (where no two animals are identical). Perhaps no other temple in the country depicts the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics more effectively than the Hoysaleshwara temple at Halebidu.

Erotica was a subject the Hoysala artist handled with discretion. There is no exhibitionism in this, and erotic themes were carved into recesses and niches, generally miniature in form, making them inconspicuous. These erotic representations are associated with the Shakta practice.

Apart from these sculptures, entire sequences from the Hindu epics (commonly the Ramayana and the Mahabharata) have been sculpted in a clockwise direction starting at the main entrance. The right to left sequence is the same direction taken by the devotees in their ritual circumambulation as they wind inward toward the inner sanctum. Depictions from mythology such as the epic hero Arjuna shooting fish, the elephant-headed god Ganesha, the Sun god Surya, the weather and war god Indra, and Brahma with Sarasvati are common. Also frequently seen in these temples is Durga, with several arms holding weapons given to her by other gods, in the act of killing a buffalo (a demon in a buffalo’s form) and Harihara (a fusion of Shiva and Vishnu) holding a conch, wheel and trident. Many of these friezes were signed by the artisans, the first known instance of signed artwork in India.

According to Settar, surveys in modern times have indicated that 1000–1500 structures were built by the Hoysalas, of which about a hundred temples have survived to date. The Hoysala style is an offshoot of the Western Chalukya style, which was popular in the 10th and 11th centuries. It is distinctively Dravidian, and according to Brown, owing to its features, Hoysala architecture qualifies as an independent style. While the Hoysalas introduced innovative features into their architecture, they also borrowed features from earlier builders of Karnata like the Kadambas, Western Chalukyas. These features included the use of chloritic schist or soapstone as a basic building material.

Other features were the stepped style of vimana tower called the Kadamba shikhara, which was inherited from the Kadambas. Hoysala sculptors made use of the effect of light and shade on carved walls, which poses a challenge for photography of the temples. The artistry of the Hoysalas in stone has been compared to the finesse of an ivory worker or a goldsmith. The abundance of jewellery worn by the sculpted figures and the variety of hairstyles and headdresses depicted give a fair idea of the lifestyles of the Hoysala times.

Notable craftsmen
While medieval Indian artisans preferred to remain anonymous, Hoysala artisans signed their works, which has given researchers details about their lives, families, guilds, etc. Apart from the architects and sculptors, people of other guilds such as goldsmiths, ivory carvers, carpenters, and silversmiths also contributed to the completion of temples. The artisans were from diverse geographical backgrounds and included famous locals. Prolific architects included Amarashilpi Jakanachari, a native of Kaidala in Tumkur district, who also built temples for the Western Chalukyas. Ruvari Malithamma built the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura and worked on forty other monuments, including the Amruteshwara temple at Amruthapura. Malithamma specialised in ornamentation, and his works span six decades. His sculptures were typically signed in shorthand as Malli or simply Ma.

Dasoja and his son Chavana from Balligavi were the architects of Chennakesava Temple at Belur Kedaroja was the chief architect of the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu. Their influence is seen in other temples built by the Hoysalas as well. Names of other locals found in inscriptions are Maridamma, Baicoja, Caudaya, Nanjaya and Bama, Malloja, Nadoja, Siddoja, Masanithamma, Chameya and Rameya. Artists from Tamil country included Pallavachari and Cholavachari.

List of notable temples from the Hoysala era
Name Location Period King Deity
Lakshmidevi Doddagaddavalli 1113 Vishnuvardhana Lakshmi
Chennakesava Belur 1117 Vishnuvardhana Vishnu
Hoysaleswara Halebidu 1120 Vishnuvardhana Shiva
Basadi complex Halebidu 1133, 1196 Vishnuvardhana, Veera Ballala II Parshvanatha, Shantinatha, Adinatha
Rameshvara Koodli 12th c. Vishnuvardhana Shiva
Brahmeshwara Kikkeri 1171 Narasimha I Shiva
Bucheshvara Koravangala 1173 Veera Ballala II Shiva
Akkana Basadi Shravanabelagola 1181 Veera Ballala II Parshvanatha
Amruteshwara Amruthapura 1196 Veera Ballala II Shiva
Shantinatha Basadi Jinanathapura 1200 Veera Ballala II Shantinatha
Nageshvara-Chennakeshava Mosale 1200 Veera Ballala II Shiva,Vishnu
Veeranarayana Belavadi 1200 Veera Ballala II Vishnu
Kedareshwara Halebidu 1200 Veera Ballala II Shiva
Ishvara (Shiva) Arsikere 1220 Veera Ballala II Shiva
Harihareshwara Harihar 1224 Vira Narasimha II Shiva,Vishnu
Mallikarjuna Basaralu 1234 Vira Narasimha II Shiva
Someshvara Haranhalli 1235 Vira Someshwara Shiva
Lakshminarasimha Haranhalli 1235 Vira Someshwara Vishnu
Panchalingeshwara Govindanhalli 1238 Vira Someshwara Shiva
Lakshminarasimha Nuggehalli 1246 Vira Someshwara Vishnu
Sadashiva Nuggehalli 1249 Vira Someshwara Shiva
Lakshminarayana Hosaholalu 1250 Vira Someshwara Vishnu
Lakshminarasimha Javagallu 1250 Vira Someshwara Vishnu
Chennakesava Aralaguppe 1250 Vira Someshwara Vishnu
Kesava Somanathapura 1268 Narasimha III Vishnu

Hoysaleswara Temple

Hoysaleswara temple, also referred simply as the Halebidu temple, is a 12th-century Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. It is the largest monument in Halebidu, a town in the state of Karnataka, India and the former capital of the Hoysala Empire. The temple was built on the banks of a large man-made lake, and sponsored by King Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala Empire. [1] Its construction started around 1121 CE and was complete in 1160 CE. [2] [3] During the early 14th century, Halebidu was twice sacked and plundered by the Muslim armies of the Delhi Sultanate from northern India, [4] [5] [6] and the temple and the capital fell into a state of ruin and neglect. [7] It is 30 kilometres (19 mi) from Hassan city and about 210 kilometres (130 mi) from Bengaluru. [8]

The Hoysaleswara temple is a Shaivism tradition monument, yet reverentially includes many themes from Vaishnavism and Shaktism tradition of Hinduism, as well as images from Jainism. [9] The Hoysaleswara temple is a twin-temple dedicated to Hoysaleswara and Santaleswara Shiva lingas, named after the masculine and feminine aspects, both equal and joined at their transept. It has two Nandi shrines outside, where each seated Nandi face the respective Shiva linga inside. [10] The temple includes a smaller sanctum for the Hindu Sun god Surya. It once had superstructure towers, but no longer and the temple looks flat. [11] The temple faces east, though the monument is presently visited from the north side. Both the main temples and the Nandi shrines are based on a square plan. [12] The temple was carved from soapstone. It is notable for its sculptures, intricate reliefs, detailed friezes as well its history, iconography, inscriptions in North Indian and South Indian scripts. The temple artwork provides a pictorial window into the life and culture in the 12th century South India. About 340 large reliefs depict the Hindu theology and associated legends. [9] Numerous smaller friezes narrate Hindu texts such as the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata Purana. Some friezes below large reliefs portray its narrative episodes. [1] [13] [10]

The artwork in Hoysaleswara temple is damaged but largely intact. Within a few kilometers of the temple are numerous ruins of Hoysala architecture. The temple, along with the nearby Jain Temples and the Kedareshwara temple,as well as the Kesava temple in Belur, have been proposed to be listed under UNESCO World Heritage Sites. [1] [14]