A 12th century Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Hoysaleswara Temple is in the Halebid town in Karnataka towards the west of Dwarasamudra Lake and is one of the most significant monuments of Lord Shiva in South India. The majestic temple is one of the three most landmark structures of Hoysala Empire and attracts an influx of tourists and devotees year-round for its magnificent architecture and statues of the Hoysala period. The temple was designed and decorated by the popular Shilpkar (architecture) Kedoraja and the exquisite walls of the temple conceitedly wear the stories of various Gods and brave soldiers of the Hoysala in the form of stunning sculptures inscribed on its walls.
The temple has been given the name Hoysaleswara because of the preceding ruler of Hoysala dynasty who sponsored its construction, King VishnuvardhanaHoysaleswara. The temple got incepted in 1121 CE and the construction got completed in 1160CE. The temple is a simple Dvikuta Vimala, which means that it boards two main shrinesdevoted to Hoysaleswara and to Shantaleswara (named after Shantala Devi, wife and queen of King Vishnuvardhan). There is a 7-feet tall sculpture of Sun God, Lord Surya, and a gigantic sculpture of Nandi (Shiva’s ride) as well.
Presently, the outer façade of the Hoysaleswara temple and its architecture are ruined because of the many attacks by Muslim armies in the late 14th century, but the temple itself is almost intact and is considered as one of the seven wonders of India. It has also been listed and has been given the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city where the Hoysaleswara Temple was constructed was earlier known as Dwarasamudra (the gateway to the ocean). The city got attacked many times and was plundered by Muslim armies of the Delhi Sultanate and was left in ruins. After that, it was renamed to Halebidu which means the ‘city of ruins.’ Despite of the fact that it was attacked so many times, not even the extreme plundering of the Muslim army could destroy the magnificence and the beauty of the ancient temple of Halebidu.
Thought the construction and the credits to the commission of the temple was given to the erstwhile King of the dynasty, King VishnuvardhanaHoysaleswara, it is also understood that one of the ministers of the king, Ketamala, was also a significant contributor in the construction of the temple. This confusion regarding who chiefly commissioned the temple is mostly because, unlike other monuments of Hoysala, this temple does not have those deep inscriptions and dedication in its design. It was constructed to compete with the Chennakesava temple which was at that time under construction and was built as a Vaishnava temple. The construction of this shrine got finished in 1121 CE.
The temple is a manifestation of classic Hindu architecture and some nuances of Hoysala architecture. It consists ofintricate carvings and numerous divine figures on its walls, all built in soapstone.The temple has four porches for entry and 2 shrines inside it (one for the king and one for the queen). The main shrine faces on the east.
The Hoysaleswara Temple is itself built from Chloritic Schist (Soapstone) and stands on a raised platform which provided the architect enough space both horizontally and vertically to showcase small and large sculptures that are the real gems of the temple. The exterior walls are adorned with thousands of carvings and inscriptions depicting Mahabharat and Ramayana and some other forms of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Inside it are various sculptures (around 240 – the highest in any temple in the country) and paintings, and there is also an image of a dancing Lord Ganesha (the elephant God, and son of Lord Shiva) at the entrance of the temple.
The main highlight of the temple is that no two sculptures are same. The sculptures depict different designs such as childhood images of Lord Krishna and all his activities such as him lifting Govardhan mountain, Bhishma Pitamah dying on the bed of arrows, Lord Ram killing the deer, and many more different sculptures. The lake Dwarasamudra near the temple also provides a scenic backdrop to the temple and offers a terrific spot for photography, prayer, and music.
Hoysaleswara Temple is open to visitors between 6.30 AM and 9 PM every day, on all days of the week. There is no entry fee applicable.
Halebidu, where the temple is located, is close to various major cities in Karnataka which are in turn well connected to cities across India as well as other parts of the world. The city can be reached by air, rail, or road.
An architectural brilliance and a historically significant structure, Hoysaleswara Temple in Karnataka is a fine specimen of Hoysala style of architecture and leaves you in awe with its stunning stone façade and intricately carved sculptures, which enhances the aura of the richly religious Shiva temple.