Hoysaleswara Temple

Hoysaleswara temple is a temple dedicated to Hindu God Shiva. It was built in Halebidu during the Hoysala Empire rule in the 12th century by King Vishnuvardhana. The construction was completed in 1121 CE. During the early 14th century, Halebidu was the 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.


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.cite web|title=Hoysala Heritage|url=http://www.flonnet.com/fl2008/stories/20030425000206700.htm |author=Professor S. Settar|publisher=Frontline, From the publishers of the Hindu|work=Frontline, Volume 20 - Issue 08, April 12 - 25, 2003|accessdate=2006-11-22] 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.cite web|title=Hoysala Tours and Travels|url=http://www.hoysalatourism.com/halebeedu.htm |author=|publisher=© 2005 Hoysala Tours & Travels|work=|accessdate=2006-11-22] The tank preceded the temple by nearly seventy five years. It is one of the largest temples dedicated to God Shiva in South India.

Temple plan

The temple is a simple "dvikuta" "vimana" (two shrined), one for "Hoysaleswara" and the other for "Shantaleswara" (after Shantala Devi, queen of king Vishnuvardhana) and is built with chloritic chist (Soapstone, also known as potstone).The Hoysala style is an offshoot of the Western Chalukya style (Kamath 2001, pp. 134–36)] The Western Chalukya carvings were done on green schist (Soapstone). This technique was adopted by the Hoysalas.cite web|title=Architecture of the Indian subcontinent, 20 September 1996|url=http://www.indoarch.org/|author=Takeo Kamiya |publisher=Gerard da Cunha-Architecture Autonomous, Bardez, Goa, India|work=|accessdate=2006-11-22] The temple complex as a whole is elevated on a "jagati" (platform), a feature that became popular in contemporary Hoysala designs.The "jagati" acts as a "pradakshinapatha" (path for circumambulation) as the shrine does not provide any such feature (Kamath 2001, p. 135)] This style is unique to the Hoysalas.cite web|title=Religion, Literature, Art and Architecture in Hoysala Empire|url=http://www.ourkarnataka.com/history.htm|author=Arthikaje, Mangalore|publisher=© 1998-00 OurKarnataka.Com, Inc|work=|accessdate=2006-11-22] 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 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.Foekema (1996), p. 61] The superstructure of the vestibule (which connects the shrine to the "mantapa"), called "sukanasi",Since this tower is a few tiers lower then the main tower and is connected to it, it looks like the nose of the main tower. The Hoysala emblem is mounted on the "nose" (Foekema 1996, p. 22)] and the row of decorated miniature roofs above the eaves of the hall are all missing.An eave is a projecting roof overhanging a wall (Foekema, 1996, p. 93)] The temple was built at a height that provided the architects sufficient horizontal and vertical space to depict large and small sculptures. 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".According to art critic James Fergusson cite web|title=Halebidu, Temple of the month|url=http://www.templenet.com/Karnataka/halebidu.html|author=K. Kannikeswaran |publisher=TempleNet|work=|accessdate=2006-11-22] The outer walls of these temples contain an intricate array of stone sculptures. The temple of Halebidu, has been described as an "outstanding example of Hindu architecture" and as the "supreme climax of Indian architecture".According to Art critic James Ferguson, cite web|title=History of Karnataka-Architecture of Hoysala Empire|url=http://www.ourkarnataka.com/history.htm|author=Arthikaje, Mangalore|publisher=© 1998-00 OurKarnataka.Com, Inc|work=|accessdate=2006-11-22] Percy Brown in Kamath 2001, p. 135] The temple has four porches for entry and the one normally used by visitors as main entry today 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 convert|7|ft|m|abbr=on 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.Foekema (1996), p. 61] The window screens are devoid of any art work.These pierced window screens are very commonly found in earlier Western Chalukya temples also (Kamath 2001, p116)] The interior of the temple is quite plain except for the lathe turned pillars that run in rows between the north and south entrances.The lathe turned pillars is a common feature of Western Chalukya-Hoysala temples(Kamath 2001, p. 117)] The four pillars in front of each shrine are the most ornate and the only ones that have "madanika" sculptures in their pillar brackets."Madanika" also called "Salabhanjika" or "Shilabalika" are quite common forms of Hoysala sculpture and are an old Indian tradition going back to Buddhist sculpture. Sala is the Sala tree and bhanjika the chaste maiden. In the Hoysala idiom, "madanika" figures are decorative objects, put at an angle in the temples so worshipers who circumambulate the temple could view them. They served the purpose of bracket figures to pillars also. cite web|title=Hoysala Heritage|url=http://www.flonnet.com/fl2008/stories/20030425000206700.htm |author=Professor S. Settar|publisher=Frontline, From the publishers of the Hindu|work=Frontline, Volume 20 - Issue 08, April 12 - 25, 2003|accessdate=2006-11-22] There are no other "madanikas" in the temple.


The Hoysaleswara temple is most well-known for its wall sculptures that run all along the outer wall, starting with an image of dancing Ganesha on the left hand 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 240 such images. Perhaps no other Hoysala temple is as sculpturally articulate as this is and these sculptures are "second to none in all of India".Foekema (1996), p. 61] 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.

Horizontal treatment

In this temple, the Hoysala architects have broken from the tradition of using five friezes as the base of the temple, below the large wall sculptures and the window screens.A frieze is a rectangular band decorated with sculptures (Foekema 1996, p. 93)] The outer walls have two eaves that run around the temple. The top eaves is at the roof of the temple and the second eaves about a meter below. In between there are decorated miniature towers (aedicule). Below the lower eaves are the wall sculptures and eight friezes. This type of relief work is called horizontal treatment.Kamath (2001), p. 134] 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 symbolise strength and stability, above which, in order, are friezes with lions which symbolise courage, floral scrolls as decoration, horses for speed, another band of floral scrolls, depiction of Hindu epics, "makara" (beasts) and finally a frieze with "hansas" (swans). 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.Foekema (1996), p. 62] After the construction of this temple, Hoysala architects used this new kind of horizontal treatment only 50 years later, making it a standard style, but with six friezes.In the new style of Hoysala construction, there are two eaves, one meter apart, that run around the temple. One eaves is located at the roof of the temple where the tower meets the wall. The other eaves is a meter below. Between the two eaves are decorated miniature towers. Below the lower eaves are the ornate sculptures from Hindu mythology below which are six friezes of equal width. Going from the top frieze there are "hansas" (birds), "makaras" (aquatic monsters), Hindu epics, floral scrolls, horses and finally elephants in the bottom frieze (Foekema, 1996 p. 29)]

Garuda pillar

Another interesting object in the temple complex is the rare "Garuda Sthamba" (Garuda pillar). These are different from "virgals" (hero stones). 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.cite web|title=Hoysala Heritage|url=http://www.flonnet.com/fl2008/stories/20030425000206700.htm |author=Professor S. Settar|publisher=Frontline, From the publishers of the Hindu|work=Frontline, Volume 20 - Issue 08, April 12 - 25, 2003|accessdate=2006-11-22] 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. An convert|8|ft|m|abbr=on tall sculpture of Ganesha including the platform rests at the South entrance.



* Gerard Foekema, A Complete Guide To Hoysala Temples, 1996, Abhinav, ISBN 81-7017-345-0
* Dr. Suryanath U. Kamath, A Concise History of Karnataka from pre-historic times to the present, Jupiter books, 2001, MCC, Bangalore (Reprinted 2002), OCLC|7796041.
* Nilakanta Sastri, K.A. (1955). A History of South India, From Prehistoric times to fall of Vijayanagar, OUP, New Delhi (Reprinted 2002), ISBN 0-19-560686-8.

External links

* [http://www.templenet.com/Karnataka/hoyshale.html Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu near Hassan(Karnataka)]
* [http://www.saigan.com/heritage/states/karnataka/halebid.html Karnataka Halebid]

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