Hoysala was a prominent South Indian empire which ruled most part of present day Karnataka from the 10th to 14th century. Belur and Halebidu were their capital during those years. Hoysalas played a huge role in temple architecture and are known for their numerous temples built around the towns of Hassan, Belur and Halebidu. The architecture is referred to as Hoyasala architecture and the major features include extensive sculptures and carvings of various mythological characters, ornate pillars, raised platform and star shaped towers. Hoysala emblem shows a soldier fighting a tiger and can be seen atop most of the temples. The major temples include Chennakeshava temple at Belur, Hoysaleshwara temple at Halebidu and Chennakeshava temple at Somnathpura.
Chennakeshava temple, Belur
Chennakeshava temple in Belur dedicated to Vishnu is the most celebrated of all Hoysala temples and a masterpiece in Indian architecture. Belur or Velapuri as it was earlier known was the first capital of Hoysala empire and the temple here was built in early 12th century by King Vishnuvardhana to commemorate his victory over the Cholas of Talakad. Built in typical Hoysala architecture, the star shaped temple sits on a raised platform, has innumerable carvings and sculptures, lathed pillars and a few other temples within the large courtyard apart from a pushkarni (pond) and a dance hall. Built of black soapstone, it has a flat roof and is devoid of gopurams (towers). The carvings, motifs and friezes are extensive, intricate and breathtakingly beautiful. The sculptures of various mythological characters, deities, figurines, dancing ladies, door keepers and animals adorn the exterior walls and the interiors of the temple. The entrance to the inner sanctum has beautiful carvings of incarnations of Vishnu chiseled above the door. The sanctum has numerous ornate pillars and the ceiling displays astounding art work. Mohini pillar, Narasimha pillar, sculptures of Darpanasundari (Lady with mirror) and Garuda are exquisite specimens of intricate stone work. Chennakeshava temple is undoubtedly one of the finest pieces of craftsmanship in India and holds a distinct name amongst the architectural creations in the country. The carvings and sculptures are so stunning that one could gaze at them for a long period in oblivion as the stories in stone slowly unfold. The other temples within the complex are Kappe Chennigaraya, Saumyanayaki, Veera Narayana and Ranganayaki of which Kappe Chennigaraya and Saumyanayaki have beautiful carvings and ornate pillars. The premise also has a wide display of unearthed sculptures lined up on one side.
Hoysaleshwara temple, Halebidu
Earlier known as Dwarasamudra, Halebidu was the second capital of the Hoysalas for more than 200 years. Hoysaleshwara temple here is undoubtedly the most popular temple built by Hoysalas and has the most elaborate carvings and sculptures across all Hoysala temples. One of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture, Hoysaleshwara temple is the labour of marvelous craftsmanship. The temple was built in the 12th century by Ketamala for the Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana and his wife, Queen Shantala. Apart from the mythological characters, deities, figurines and animals carved on its exterior walls, the temple also has numerous carvings, friezes and motifs in the form of stories and war like scenes at its base which are breathtakingly beautiful. One can also spot numerous designs and patterns all across the shrine which forms a part of the architecture. The temple rests on a star shaped platform and has two shrines inside, dedicated to Pataleshwara and Shantaleshwara, both forms of Shiva. The shrines are connected by a long passage. The insides of the shrines are adorned with numerous lathed pillars, intricate carving and sculptures on the ceiling. The inner sanctum too has extensive sculptures on its door. Outside, two large sculptures of Nandi (bull) inside mantapas (halls) face the shrines. As you walk around this large temple, the exquisite and extensive carvings with magnificent detailing unfold depicting numerous mythological stories carved in stone. The premise also has an archaeological museum which displays numerous sculptures.
Kedareshwara temple, Halebidu
A short distance away from Hoysaleshwara lies Kedareshwara temple built in early 13th century by King Veera Ballala II. It is built on similar lines as Hoysaleshwara and has numerous sculptures and carvings depicting various mythological characters, deities and animals on its exterior walls. The rich friezes, ornate pillars and carved ceiling are the other major attractions of this temple.
To the south of Hoysaleshwara temple lies Basadihalli, which houses three Jain temples, Parshwanatha, Shantinatha and Adinatha, all of which were built during the 12th century. Parshwanatha temple is the most attractive of all the three, with numerous ornate pillars, extensively carved ceiling and an 18 feet tall Parshwanatha idol. Santinatha temple has fewer carvings but has numerous pillars apart from the 18 feet tall Santinatha idol. Adinatha is a smaller shrine between the other two with a small idol and carved pillars.
Kalyani at Hulikere
Chennakeshava temple, Somnathpura
In the nondescript village of Somnathpura lies one of the magnificent Hoysala temples. Built in the 13th century by Somnath, one of the commanders of Hoysala kingdom, Chennakeshava temple is one of the best examples of Hoysala architecture. Built on a raised platform, there are three shrines dedicated to Keshava, Venugopala and Janardhana- all are forms of Vishnu. The outer walls are decorated with intricate carvings and detailed sculptures of various mythological charactyers, door keepers, dancers and scenes from mythology. The inner sanctum has lathed pillars and beautiful sculptures of deities.
Chennakeshava temple is 138 Kms from Hassan
Chennakeshava temple is 138 Kms from Hassan
Veeranarayana temple, Belavadi
Belavadi is believed to be where Bheema killed Bakasura in the epic, Mahabharata. Built in the 12th century by King Veera Ballala II, the gorgeous Veeranarayana temple in Belavadi is dedicated to Vishnu and is one of the most stunning of all the temples built by Hoysala empire. The entrance foyer is quite an impressive one and is almost as large as a few of the smaller Hoysala temples. Located amidst a beautiful garden, the spread out temple has three shrines and towers with exquisite carvings and sculptures all over. The elephant sculptures near the entrance are absolutely gorgeous stone works. The shrines are connected by halls and passages, and two of them face each other, which makes it unique. While the first passage is an enclosed one, the second is semi open and hence has more natural lighting. The stand out feature at Veeranarayana temple is its beautiful shining ornate pillars which are lined up across the halls and passages. There are numerous pillars here and the seating areas along the periphery are an ideal place to enjoy the serene setting. The door of the inner sanctums and the ceiling has nice carvings. Except for a raised platform, the temple exhibits all the major features of Hoysala architecture. Though the exterior walls, towers and roofs have extensive sculptures, some portions of the lower part of the shrines has been left blank, which hints that the construction was unfinished.
Twin temples of Mosale
The narrow winding road goes past open fields, coconut groves and a hamlet before it ends at the twin temples in Mosale. The Nagaeshwara and Chennakeshava temples dedicated to Shiva (left side) and Vishnu (right side) have lathed pillars along with carvings and sculptures on their exteriors, most of which have been either chipped or disfigured over a period of time. However, the sculptures on the gopurams (towers) look beautiful. Nageshwara temple is believed to be more than 850 years old. Both the shrines have a similar design and are built on a raised platform. Both Shiva and Vishnu in one complex is quite rare and that makes these twin Hoysala temples a unique one.
Brahmeshwara temple, Kikkeri
Located in a by lane, the beautiful Brahmeshwara temple in Kikkeri faces an expansive lake. Built in late 12th century by an effluent lady, Bommare Nyakiti, the temple has typical Hoyasala architecture with lovely sculptures all over its exterior. It has life size sculptures near entrance door and a huge nandi in the porch entrance facing the shrine. The temple functions only in the morning and evening, and remains shut during noon.
Brahmeshwara temple is 55 Kms from Hassan
Brahmeshwara temple is 55 Kms from Hassan
Lakshminarayana temple, Hosaholalu
Dedicated to Vishnu, the temple was built by King Veera Someshwara in mid 13th century. Surrounded by a line of colourful houses, the entrance structure is fairly a new one and can be deceptive if you are looking for Hoysala sculptures. However, as you circumambulate, the temple slowly opens up with its gorgeous carvings and sculptures. Built in typical Hoysala architecture, it has three shrines in its inner sanctum with only the central shrine having a tower. The external carvings are elaborate and depict many mythological stories.
Chennakeshava temple, Anekere
Located near Channarayapatna, Chennakeshava temple in Anekere was built in early 12th century. Carvings and sculptures are minimal and the exteriors are devoid of the chisel work, which is a prominent feature of most Hoysala temples. However, it has exquisite carvings on its ceiling and beautiful lathed pillars apart from a nice courtyard. The temple functions only in the morning, but keys to the temple remains with the priest who lives next door.
Temples of Nuggehalli
The serene Nuggehalli village is known for its Sadashiva temple and Lakshminarasimha temple built in mid 13th century by Bommanna Dandanayaka, a commander of the Hoysala empire. The entrance foyer of Sadashiva temple has numerous pillars which are devoid of carvings. The ceiling has beautiful carvings, but the exterior of the shrine doesn’t have any sculptures. A few blocks away, Lakshminarasimha temple too has numerous tall pillars in its entrance foyer. Though it can look beguiling from the entry portal, the shrine behind is built in typical Hoysala architecture. The shrine sits on a raised platform and has three towers with extensive and detailed carvings all over.
Buccesvara temple, Koravangala
Surrounded by a beautiful garden, Buccesvara temple in Koravangala has some of the best carvings amongst the lesser known Hoysala temples. It was built by Buchiraja in 12th century to celebrate the coronation of King Veera Ballala II. The temple has two shrines with beautiful sculptures of elephants and figurines near its entrance, intricate carvings on its roof and elaborate chisel work of mythological characters across its exterior. The two shrines dedicated to Shiva and Surya are connected by an inner hall which is adorned with beautiful lathed cylindrical pillars. The carving on the ceiling is the other interesting feature of this beautiful Hoysala temple.
Lakshmi Devi temple, Doddagaddavahalli
Located next to a lake and surrounded by coconut groves in the serene Doddagadavahalli village, Lakshmi Devi temple looks attractive even from a distance. Built in early 12th century by King Vishnuvardhana, this is one of the oldest Hoysala temples. The four gopurams (towers) atop the shrine is definitely the major architectural attraction here. It is devoid of a raised pedestal and carvings on the exterior wall, which are features of Hoysala architecture. Entrance to the inner shrine has wonderful sculptures of elephants and celestial door keepers. The entrance porch has numerous cylindrical pillars and gorgeous carvings on its ceiling.
Lakshmi devi temple is 20 Kms from Hassan
Lakshminarasimha temple, Javagal
With an impressive entrance foyer, Lakshminarasimha temple in Javagal is a popular temple in this small hamlet. Built in mid 13th century by Veera Someshwara, Lakshminarasimha temple has all the features of Hoysala architecture. With elaborate carvings all around the exterior walls, the temple is built on a raised platform and has three shrines which are connected by a closed mantapa (hall). The carvings and sculptures are extensive and are the major attractions of this temple.
Lakshminarayana temple, Adagur
Located in a by lane in Adagur, Lakshminarayana temple is devoid of carvings despite being built in Hoysala architecture. With overgrown shrubs, the temple can be easily missed and remains closed. However, one can enter the premises to have a view of the shrine from outside.
Lakshminarayana temple is 47 Kms from Hassan
Twin temples of Marle
Built in the 12th century, Keshava and Siddeshwara temple located in the tiny village of Marle do not have the charm of other Hoysala temples. While Sidheshwara temple has carvings and sculptures on its exterior wall, Keshava temple has lovely sculptures of elephants at its entrance. Both the temples are located in the same premises.
The other prominent Hoysala temples known for their gorgeous architecture are located at Haranahalli, Amruthapura and Arsikere. However, there are many more Hoysala temples in and around Hassan which are not very popular.
- It is ideal to make Hassan the base to explore the temples.
- Most temples are open only in the morning and evening.
- At Belur and Halebidu opt for the guides to understand the stories and meaning of various carvings better.
- Though Belur and Halebidu has small restaurants outside the temple complex, most of the other temples are devoid of shops and eateries
- Carry sufficient amount of water as the walks can be quite long.
Hassan is 183 Kms from Bangalore, 119 Kms from Mysore and 172 Kms from Mangalore. Located on the Bangalore- Mangalore highway, Hassan is well connected to all major towns in Karnataka and there are numerous buses plying between them. The closest railhead is in Hassan and the nearest major airport is at Bangalore.
Food and Accommodation:
There are numerous mid range and budget hotels to stay in Hassan town. I stayed at Hotel Abhiruchi, which is centrally located. There are numerous vegetarian and non- vegetarian restaurants within the town.