Our roadtrip from Bangalore started at Belur and ended at the Hoysaleswara temple of Halebidu. It is about 16 kms from Belur and 210 kms from Bangalore. Belur and Halebidu temples of Karnataka are fine examples of South Indian grandeur. They call shrines at Belur, Halebidu and Shravanabelagola as the triangle eloquence in stone and are nominated to be UNESCO World Heritage Centers.
We highly recommend visiting Halebidu’s Hoysaleswara temple to include in your “one day trip near Bangalore” list for its architectural magnificence.
“Belur Ola Nodu, Halebidu Hora Nodu”
This Kannada saying when translated means beauty of Belur lies in inner sanctum and Halebidu outside. How true is this! As soon as we entered premises of Halebidu temple, we knew we were going to experience a miracle.
Hoysaleswara Temple of Halebidu
Halebidu’s literal translation is ‘old or ruined city‘. According to folklore, Halebidu gets its name because it was ravaged by the Muslim invaders. Before that, it was known as Dwarasamudra. Hoysala king Vinaditya made it the capital in the 12th century. He built a canal to channelize water from river Yagachi to the capital and hence it was called Dwarasamudra (door to the seas).
Our car stopped at the famous Hoysaleswara temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Built on a star shaped platform, it enshrines Hoyasaleswara and Santaleswara. Ketumalla, a minister of Vishnuvardhana the Hoysala ruler, built Hoyasaleswara temple during 1121 AD and attributed to his king Vishnuvardhana and Queen Shantala Devi. The construction of the temple took about 105 years to complete.
We entered the sprawling temple premises covered with manicured grass and swaying trees. We were greeted by few hawkers selling artefacts and local handicrafts. As we walked closer to the temple, we realized (again) that hiring a guide will be a good idea.
Temple Facade – A Carvings Extravaganza
Hoysaleswara temple is known for its exquisite architecture on the outside of its walls. At the very first impression, one cannot fail but get awed with its ornamented facade and the sheer variety of encompassed artworks. Starting with a dancing image of the god Ganesha on the left side of the south entrance, the carvings end with another image of Ganesha on the right hand side of the north entrance. In all there are two hundred and forty images. The entire superstructure is composed of dark-blue/black hued chloritic schist (soapstone) which is extremely easy to chisel into ornately detailed patterns in its original form. But it transforms to tremendously resilient stone once exposed to the elements for years.
There are representations of Goddess Kali and Goddess Durga, embodying feminine energy at one end contrasted with Goddess Saraswati, the patron of arts, music, learning and knowledge. Then there are various reincarnations of Lord Vishnu ; the most prominent being Lord Krishna lifting the mountain Govardhana on this finger and Lord Narasimha furiously tearing apart the body of the demon Hiranyakashyipu. There are multitude manifestations of Lord Shiva – the benevolent, omniscient aspect Shiva flanked by his wife Parvati contrasted with Lord Shiva furnishing his terrific trident and celestial drum and indulging in “Tandava”. Then, there are innumerable miniaturized carvings of animals – elephants, lions, scrolls, horses, scrolls, puranic scenes, mythical beasts (makara) and swans at the base of the walls.
I can go on and on about this but words fall short of my amazement. It is best experienced with your eyes!
Inner Sanctum, Museum
The interiors of the temple are quite plain except for the lathe turned pillars rows flanked by the north and south doorways. There are two pavillions outside temple which house Nandi.
Garuda Stambha (Pillar) is another attention-grabbing structure of Hoysaleswara Temple. Garudas were the selected bodyguards of the kings and queens. They used to live and move with the Royalty with the sole aim to defend their master. At the death of their master, they committed suicide. This particular pillar commemorates the valour of Kuruva Lakshma, serving Hoysala King Ballala. Kuruva Lakshma is said to have sacrificed not only his own life, but also that of his wife, family and associate officers
It doesn’t end yet. An archaeological museum within the temple complex houses hundred of Hoysala stone carvings. An entry fee is required, however, unless you fancy yourself a historian, the bulk of what is to see can be viewed simply by walking toward the lake.
Quick Tips for visiting Halebidu
- Halebidu Hoysaleswara Temple timings: 9 am to 6 pm. Time required for temple visit: 2 to 3 hrs
- Hire a guide to make your visit worth it and understand the nuances of the magnificent temple complex. The guides that you get at Belur and Halebidu may not be fully accurate but still worth hiring.
- Best season to visit Halebidu – October to March as weather then is cool; otherwise Belur can get pretty hot
- Make sure you take a camera along, these historic monuments and sculptures make interesting visual delights and are worth capturing
- As you exit the temple you may be approached by vendors stalking you to try and sell various books on history of Halebidu and nice bronze and stone souvenirs.
- Entrance fees to temple complex: Nil
- Entrance fees for the museum: Indians: Rs 5; Foreigners: Rs 100 (Free entry for children up to 15 years of age)
- Photography/Video charges: Nil
- Dharmasthala – Belur – Halebidu – Shravanabelagola complete a brief Heritage tour of southern Karnataka. They call Belur, Halebeedu and Shravanabelagola as the triangle eloquence in stone and are nominated to be UNESCO World Heritage Centers.