Halebidu, a small town located in the Hassan District of Karnataka was the capital of the Hoysala Empire in the 12th century. This place is well known for the beautiful Hoesaleshwara and Kedareshwara temple complexes. After prospering for around 2 centuries, the city fell into ruins with the invasion of the Mughal king from the North, Malik Kafur. This is the reason the city is called as Halebidu which traslates to “City in Ruins”.


We spent a couple of days over a long weekend visiting Chickmagalur, which is a hill station in the southern state of Karnataka. Famous for its Coffee plantations, Chickmagalur is also very close to some of famous architectural wonders of the Hoysala dynasty. Our plan during the 3 day visit was to spend a day exploring the beautiful temples at Halebidu, which stand as the shining examples of the rich culture of Hoysala dynasty. We were staying at the Taj Gateway hotel – Chickmagalur which was an hours drive from Halebidu. The plan was to leave the resort after breakfast at around 9:30 AM and reach Hoysaleswara Temple by around 10:30 AM, spend couple of hours before heading back to the resort for lunch. Following is the route that we took. Though there were patches of bad roads, for the most part, roads were in decent condition.

Though the route is longer, the road conditions were much better.  Inputs from locals was that the other route is shorter by around 5 kilometers, but has patches of non-existent road


Details of the visit to Hoysaleswara Temple

After an hours drive, we reached the beautiful Hoysaleswara temple complex at Halebidu. The first thing that strikes you when you get out of your car is that the temple complex is pretty flat and is pretty big enclosure. The guide who walked us through the temple complex mentioned that initially the temple had superstructure towers, which unfortunately could not endure the test of repeated invasions and collapsed. Hence the temple in its current state looks pretty flat.

Photo 1
Entering the temple complex. If you have visited the temples in the Southern part of India, you will find the temple complex to have huge enclosures and towers. As you can see, this temple is pretty unique.


Photo 2
Pathway leading to the temple. The entire complex is very clean and has well maintained gardens.


Photo 3
As you walk down the pathway and closer to the temple, you quickly realize that the temple is much more bigger than what it looks from the distance.


Photo 4
One cannot help but notice the intricate carvings all around the temple. This temple stood the test of time – endured so many invasions from the kingdoms in the North, yet managed to retain its grandeur and beauty.


The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has 2 lingas – Hoysaleswara (The King) and Santaleswara (The Queen, Shantala Devi) Shiva, named after the masculine and feminine aspects. The twin temples are of the same size and have their sanctums facing towards east. There are 2 smaller shrines which seat 2 massive Nandi (the bulls).

Photo 7
The monolithic Nandi bulls. Nandi, the great bull which is Shiva’s vehicle, is an essential part of a Shaiva temple. The Nandi, is a vast monolith, and measures about twenty feet from the nose to the tail. It is about eleven feet from the hump to the pedestal.


Photo 8
Check out the level of intricate details that has been carved on the Bull. To imagine that they worked on a single rock and polished it to this level, simply amazing. The Nandi has been cordoned off for good reasons, to prevent miscreants from damaging the Nandi any further.


As you enter into the temple complex, you cannot help but notice the level of sophistication that the Hoysala architecture has to offer. It is hard to believe that the sculptures were able to achieve such level of sophistication and precision using bare minimum tools. Here are some of the breathtaking photos that we took inside the temple complex.

Photo 12
The sculptures that invite you into the shrine. Though damaged, they highlight the level of sophistication in Hoysala architecture. Wonder how they were able to carve out hollow hands in the first place. I would have expected the damaged hands to be carved out as a solid block.
Photo 9
To polish the granite floors to this level of shine – wonder how they managed it. Also notice the symmetry that they were able to achieve with the pillars.


Photo 10
The famous Lathe pillars. Many people are left awestruck as to how these pillars were carved out. Were there any machines like the modern day lathes which were used to crave these concentric rings ?? [Apologies that the photo is not to the desired level. It is pretty dark inside and I was clicking these photos with my mobile phone]
Photo 11
Carvings that you can find inside the Shrine. It is really unfortunate that these magnificent carvings were damaged by the invaders.


After spending a good time inside the shrine, we went around the temple complex. The guide explained us the mythological stories that have been carved out all around the temple.

Photo 13
The detailed carvings all around the temple walls. No wonder this temple took so many years to construct. Can see the amount of dedication each artist would have put into these carvings.


Photo 6
The multiple layers of carvings. Our guide explained that the band which has lions carved is pretty unique. If you examine them closely, none of the lions resemble the other. You will also find thousands of intricately carved sculptures depicting the Hindu mythological epics “Ramayana” and ” Mahabharata “


Photo 5
Another shot of the temple walls. It would always be a good idea to hire one of the certified guides who can walk you through the entire complex. They do add loads of value as they highlight the rich details that this temple hides.


We spent a good 3-4 hours exploring the temple in detail. Wish we could have spend a few more hours, but the little one was getting a bit cranky, did not want to be at the receiving end of a hungry toddler 🙂 . If you are anywhere around Chickmagalur or Hassan, do plan a trip to this wonderful temple complex.


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