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The Hoysaleswara temple, or the Halebidu temple, is one of the largest temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is located in Halebidu, a town in the Hassan district of Karnataka. The temple was constructed in the 12th century by King Vishnuvardhana.
The construction of this temple started in 1121 CE and was completed by 1160 CE. Known for its exquisitely intricate carvings, the Hoysaleswara temple is believed to have derived its name from Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleswara, the ruler of the Hoysala empire at the time. The temple, though a monument dedicated to Shaivism, includes various themes such as Jainism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism. The Hoysaleswara temple is dedicated to Santaleswara and Hoysaleswara Shiva lingas, which represent the masculine as well as feminine aspects. This beautiful structure is surrounded by ponds and lakes.King Vishnuvardhana converted from Jainism to Shaivism and built the temple as a tribute to Lord Shiva.
The Hoysaleswara temple is located in Halebidu, in the Hassan district of Karnataka. The temple is at a distance of about 16 km from Belur, 30 km from Hassan, and around 150 km from Mysuru. Bengaluru is around 210 km from the temple.Other magnificent temples such as the Kedareshwara temple, and various Jain temples, can also be found in Halebidu. This town also has a museum that showcases more than 1,500 sculptures from the Hoysala era.
The Hoysala period lasted from around 1000 CE to 1346 CE. During this period, around 1,500 temples were built. Halebidu, earlier known as Dorasamudra, was the capital of the Hoysala Empire for nearly 300 years. The Hoysala empire, along with its capital Dorasamudra, was attacked, invaded, and destroyed in the early 14th century by Muslim invaders like Alauddin Khilji and Muhammad Tughlak, leaving many temples in ruins.
Constructed on a star-shaped base, the temple can be considered an architectural marvel. This temple, according to many, captures Indian epics magnificently. The Hoysaleswara temple includes two shrines, that have been dedicated to Hoysaleswara and Santaleswara. Both the shrines are of equal size, square-shaped, and with a darsanadvara, or viewing entryway on the east. Each doorway is flanked by a dvarapala. Intricate carving between these dvarapalas show Shiva, Parvati, and other devas and devis. These carvings also have makaras, or sea creatures, with Varuna and Varuni riding on them.
The temple stands on a raised platform and is made of soapstone. Both shrines are built in tandem and face east, though the monument is visited from north. It has two Nandi shrines, with each Nandi facing a Shiva linga. The temple also has one shrine that has been dedicated to Lord Surya, the Hindu Sun God. It is revered for its sculptures, detailed decoration, intricate carvings, and history.
The temple has figures that showcase scenes from Hindu texts like the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the Bhagvata Purana. Artworks portray narrative episodes from these epics. Though damaged, the artwork is decently intact. With the main shrine facing the east, the temple has four porches to enter. Generally, one porch, towards the north is left open. Though the interiors of the temple are simple, there are four elaborate pillars, with ‘madanika’ sculptures in their brackets, adding to its beauty.
The Hoysaleswara temple has wall sculptures right from the beginning of the outer wall. The series of images begins with a dancing Ganesha at the entrance and ends with another image of Ganesha with no less than 240 images in between. Some displays include Shiva, Shakti, Vishnu, Harihara, Kartikeya, Brahma, Saraswati, and various other Vedic deities. Extremely intricate sculptures can be seen over the entryways and beams. ‘Sunakasi’, or the superstructure on the shrines, was a row of ornamented roofs, has gone astray, with towers also missing.
The Garuda Pillar, or Stambha, is another noteworthy structure of the Hoysaleswara temple. Garudas were the selected bodyguards of queens and kings. These bodyguards would live with royalty with the aim to protect and defend. Upon death of their master, these bodyguards would commit suicide. The pillar towards the southern side depicts the act, demonstrating these brave souls flanking knives and beheading themselves. One such pillar, which is partly legible, has an inscription describing a general, Kuruva Lakshma, who, along with his wife and followers, committed suicide after the death of Veera Ballala ll.
Several artwork panels are also adorned with statements or signatures of the artists they belonged to. Inscriptions belonging to artists such as Mabala, Bochana, Ballana, Ketana, Manibalaki, Balaki, Revoja, are most frequently seen.
How to reach
The Hoysaleswara temple is easy to reach. The nearest airports are Mysuru and Bengaluru, from where the temple can be reached by road. The drive from Mysuru airport to the temple is around three hours and four hours from Bengaluru.
The closest railway stations to reach the temple are Mysuru, Mangalore, and Hassan. These stations are connected to major cities and offer taxis directly to Halebidu.
The town is well connected to major towns and cities by road as well. There are state and private buses from Bengaluru and the time taken is around 6-7 hours. Hassan also has regular buses up to Halebidu. You can also opt for a private taxi or car, which takes lesser time and is convenient. Once in Halebidu, local taxis and autorickshaws are easily available and the most convenient mode of transport.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Halebidu is October to February. However, if you wish to attend the Hoysala Mahotsava, or Mahashivratri, you can also visit during the month of March. The city also has accommodation facilities for various budgets, which makes visiting comfortable.
The Hoysaleswara temple is open from 6:30 AM to 9:00 PM and does not have an entry fee.
The Hoysaleswara temple is one of the largest temples dedicated to Lord Shiva in the Southern part of India. This temple is known for its intricate artwork, carvings, and sheer beauty and elegance. It is one of the finest examples of architecture of the Hoysala empire.