Halebidu – Regal Capital of Hoysalas

After Doddagadavalli, Next stop was Halebidu also called as Dwarasamudra or Dorasamudra.

Hoysaleshwara & Shantaleshwara, Halebidu

Some basic information before the pleasant architectural spell hits you. Hoysalas are almost 1000 year old dynasty. The kings who shaped this dynasty are Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleshwara & Veera Bhallalla (Grandson). They separated from Chalukyas to build their own independent state. More than 1500 temples were built in 958 centres during their period, most famous of them are Belur, Halebidu & Somnathpur. Main connection to these places is Hassan, which is a 11th century town dedicated to Hassanamba, represented by an Ant Hill. Belur was originally called as Velapuri and was capital (later) of Hoyasalas, located on banks of River Yaguchi. First capital was Halebidu.

Some Temple Architecture Glossary:

Navaranga: Mandapa with Four pillars surrounding a central bay, 12 more on the periphery, enclosing eight more bays, making 9 bays in all.

Sukhanasi: Nose or an area before the Garbhagriha or central shine. Base called as Antarala

Dwarapalakhas of Dwarapalakhis or Dwarapalas: Door Keepers or Prathiharas or Prathiharis (Female)

Kalasa : Topmost part of the Shikhara

Kuta: Shikhara unit in Southern style

Shikhara: Topmost major part of the temple

Garbhagriha: Sanctum Sanctorum or Temple Cell. 

Mahamandapa: Pillared Hall immediately in front of Ardha-mandapa or antarala

Mukha Mandapa: First Mandapa of a series at the entrance

Gopura: Main Gateway – Storeyed structure over the entrance

Prabhavali: Frame

Friezes of Hoysaleshwara Temple, Halebidu

Being Sunday, crowd was expected to visit Halebidu, many people come from Bangalore as a one day trip. Halebidu took my interest in architecture & carvings to another level beyond Hampi, it is a MASTERPIECE of carvings. Halebidu was the first capital of Hoysalas, later shifted to Belur. Most famous ornate temples are Hoysaleshwara & Kedareshwara Temples.


These temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva. Around 500 mtrs away from Hoysaleshwara, there is one more beautiful Jain Basadi dedicated to Shantinatha & Parshavanatha built during 11th Century. Further to that is Kedareshwara. Both these are usually missed by regular tourist. The temples were built (completed) in 12th Century and ransacked and destroyed in 14th century by invaders, however the artwork remained intact, thankfully. These temples were built from Soapstone (metamorphic rock), hence easier to carve fine details.

Hoysaleshwara Temple is actually a Twin temple, built together, one as Hoysaleshwara & another as Shantaleshwara with respective huge Nandis opposite to shrines.

Thousands of such carvings across the facade of temple!

Name was derived from King Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleshwara, who built this temple and Shantaleshwara for Shantala Devi – his Queen. Hoysaleshwara is the most beautiful ornately decorated temple I have ever seen. There are four porches for entry and each entry has extensively adorned actually bejeweled Dwarpalakas. There are more than thousand figurines around the wall.

Two Nandis opposite each shrine

The temple is built on a star shaped Platform (regular feature of Hoysalas) and has numerous decked pillars in the hall area. The temple façade has layered Frieze, each layer starting from bottom with Elephants which symbolizes Strength, followed by Lions for Courage and Horses for Speed, thereafter the dance forms, mythological animal, followed by various designs and scenes from Mahabharata, Ramayana and other mythological epics.

Carvings on the facade of Hoysaleshwar Temple

This layer runs throughout the façade encircling the temple. One has to watch and study each picture in detail to understand the intricacies of the expression, jewelry and importance of figurines.

Halebid - Krishna lifting the Govardhan Hill
Krishna lifting the Govardhan Hill

I was simply stunned when I saw Krishna lifting Mount Govardhan (note the detailing here) and Ravana lifting the Mount Kailash (found in other hoyasala temples too). The detailing was so fine. Instantly, I fell in love with the art of Hoysaleshwara temple. I actually wanted to scream out, that I found something so beautiful, so unique that I wanted to share it with the whole world. (That day my selfies came so pretty 😀 happiness radiated from face).

There is a Garuda Stambha, a pillar which depicts the history of the bodyguards. It is said that the bodyguard would commit suicide if the master died before them. This pillar pays homage to bodyguard named Kuruva Lakshma who killed himself after his master died. The event is narrated on pillar.

After being dazed by the stunning beauty of Hoysaleshwar, I enquired about Kedareshwar. It was about 1 kms away.

Dwarpalakas at the entrance of Garbhagriha of both temples

On the way, stopped over for Jain Basadi . King Vishnuvardhana was follower of Jainism who later converted to Vaishnavism, although his wife continued Jainism and helped in construction of many Jain temples during that period.

Parshvanatha & Shantinatha Basadi, Halebidu
Parshvanatha & Shantinatha Basadi, Halebidu

The Jain Basadis have two temples in its complex. Parshvanatha Basadi and Shantinatha Basadi. the architecture of Parshvanatha Basadi is remarkable. Noted for its beautiful navaranga halls and exquisite carvings on the lathe turned pillars.

Ceiling designs inside the Hoysaleshwara & Shantaleshwara Temples
Ceiling designs inside the Hoysaleshwara & Shantaleshwara Temples

The temple has a Ardhamandapa and a Mahamandapa  with a monolithic of almost 18 feet Parshvanatha deity. In the mahamantapa, there are sculptures of Yaksha and Yakshi Padmavati.  Also, There is a cranny for idols of 24 tirthankaras in the temple.

Shantinatha Basadi consist of a garbhagriha, ardhamandapa, mahamandapa, large granite pillars with the inner sanctum consisting of a 18 feet Shantinatha deity.

Adinatha Basadi is a small austere temple consisting of garbhagriha, mandapa with the image of the deity Adinatha and the Hindu goddess Saraswati.

Kedareshwara Temple Halebid
Kedareshwara Temple

Further, 500 mtrs, there is a Kedareshwara temple, a Trikuta temple, dedicated to Shiva in the form of Kedareshwara. This temple was built during 1220 AD under the Hoysala rule. The temple entrance is locked and is under renovation.

There is a four Star shaped pillars on either side of entrance towards Navaranga, intricately carved Pillars, Navranga has four bell shaped pillars with a decorated ceiling. The main Garbhagriha has a Shiva Linga. The outer wall of the temple has eight railings or friezes, similar to Hoysaleshwara, starting from Elephants at the bottom, followed by soldiers on horses, beautiful designs in the form of creepers and flowers.

Ravana lifting the Mount Kailash – Regular feature in Hoysalas

Thereafter, the Hoysala emblem in some places and lions or vallis, then the creepers, followed by episodes of Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Bhagavatha and other Mythological series. There are many scenes like Samudra Manathan, Bhishma lying on bed of arrows, Ravan carrying Mount Kailash, episodes from Prahlad Chapter, Abhimanyu and Chakravyu. Top rows mostly consists of Makara (vallis or mythological creature and Hamsas or Swans. There are life-like images carved on the walls of Lord Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Varaha, Ganesha etc.

Just like Hampi, here the corner images display 3 Dimensions, wondering the precision and imaginations of the craftsmen during that era.

One of the Dwarpalas Halebid
One of the Dwarpalas

The figurines are very expressive in every form. Importance is given to the expressions in dance forms, holding weapons or the graceful postures while standing or sitting. I didn’t feel like leaving the place but then more places were on the itinerary.

I was hopeful, that again I will visit this place and dedicate a whole day to absorb the creativity of this place. Halfheartedly, I left Halebidu at 1.00 pm. Took half an hour to check out the Jain Basadi and Kedareshwar temples.

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