Halebidu: Visiting the former capital of the Hoysala Empire

If you were traveling north from Bangalore to see Halebidu, the 13th century capital of the Hoysala empire, you’d either have to drive or take a bus till Hassan . Now, you could take a train from Mid March 2017 till Hassan.

You may ask why?

Halebidu inhabits one of the largest temples in India, which is dedicated to Lord Siva.It was built by King Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala Empire. During his reign, Vishnuvardhana defeated the Nidugal Cholas and the Kongalavas. He also made successful conquests into the Kongu country and Nilgiris.

Kannada folklore makes the mention of such a victory through the tale of Sala, a young man who saved Sudatta, his Jain guru, by killing a tiger he came across near the Sosevuru (Goddess Vasantika at Angadi). The Hoysala emblem depicts the fight between Sala and the tiger (emblem of the Cholas).

Hoysala Emblem Source: Priyadarshi Chaudhuri

There are many sculptures that adorn the wall of the Hoysaleswara temple in Halebidu. A dancing image of lord Ganesha, an idol of Siva and Parvathi, a Garuda pillar among others.

Ganpati Sculpture at the Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebidu Source: Cedric SC

Another temple,dedicated to Shiva, is the Kedareshwara temple, located near the Jaina basadi complex with a temple pond adjacent to it.

According to UNESCO.org, the most remarkable architectural achievement of the Hoysala is the numerous intricately carved stone temples in star shaped plans. Below are some of the architectural observations made by the governing body:

  • The architecture of the Hoysalas is a hybrid of the nagara style of temple architecture of north India and the dravidian style from the South
  • The temples were built on platforms and had a star shaped plan
  • A navaranga was usually included as a place for people to gather and participate in cultural programs such as music and dance performances, story-telling from mythology, and religious discourses
  • Visual elements such as a gently curving bell shaped chajja, and lathe turned stone pillars with circular rings carved on them are typical stylistic elements of Hoysala architecture
  • Rich sculptural decoration is a mark of the highest artistic achievement of the Hoysalas

“At Halebid the physical form and design are very well preserved for several of the most important elements of the ensembles, however, following the destruction of the city in the 14th century, some of the aspects of the layout of the city and the interconnections between the elements are not as visible,” notes UNESCO on the website.

Belur Showpiece Source: Ashok Prabhakaran | Flickr

But the trip to Halebid is incomplete without a 30-minute drive to Belur in Karnataka.

Belur was the first capital of the Hoysala Empire. It hosts the Chennakeshava temple which took over 103 years to complete. According to UNESCO.org, “a total of 118 stone inscriptions have been recovered from the temple complex.”
Both the temple towns a.k.a Halebidu and Belur, are known for their architectural heritage and grandeur.

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Shubhra Rishi

Writer. Editor. Traveler.

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