Sunday, May 8, 2016

Hoysala Sojourn.. Part 2- Halebidu, Shravanabelagola

Halebidu - Hoysaleswara Temple complex

Welcome back to the land of Hoysala’s in part II of the travelogue which will meander through Halebidu and Shravanabelagola.

Having decided to stick to no frills travel, had to find out local means of transport and the tough part was my balancing act with limited Kannada knowledge to arm self with required information.  Kannadigas are in general a friendly lot and I could witness some good souls all along.  The elderly man who after knowing my itinerary and long travel offered to drop me at my Hotel at Hassan.  

And then comes a curious Government school teacher who along with his family make it a point to visit Hoysala temples over weekends.  Starting from TN politics to Renault Kwid, he spoke at length and made me compare KA and TN on scales of Education, cleanliness, climate etc.  The humble student in me, answered all his questions in detail.  And “teachers are the way they are”, no offense meant.

After spending first half of the day at Belur, I start my journey towards Halebidu, frequent KaSRTC buses ply on this section and take about 40 mins to an hour to cover the distance.  Halebidu monument is 250m from the bus station.

Guides have a union here and are allotted in turns.  Days collection is split between the members.  It is better to hire a guide in a place like Halebidu where the magic of sculptures gets unlocked when someone points to those minutest of details built into them by master sculptors.

I did hire one and below are my jottings of the place and other information that i could gather going back to my pics and joining the dots.

Brief of Halebidu – the ruined city

Halebidu which now refers to its ruined state was known by the name Dwarasamudra / Dorasamdura and was the regal capital of Hoysala’s in the 12th century.  What currently remains of the mighty royal complex are the Hoysaleswara, Kedareswara temples and three Jaina basadis.  These temples were earlier part of a huge palace complex surrounded by fortification of roughly of 2.5kms dia.  At the peak of the Hoysala Empire, the capital was shifted from Belur to Halebidu.  The city served as the capital for nearly three centuries.  . During 1311 A.D MalliKafur looted this city and carried away all the wealth. After some time, Mohammed Bin-Tugaluk invaded and looted the entire wealth of this city in1326 A.D. The main temple at the center, various other smaller temples and shrines and palace buildings were all destroyed making it the ‘ruined city’.  Pathetic to note is the current name which portrays its sorry state.

Layout of the walled city of Dwarasamudra (Halebidu)
Hoysaleswara Temple

Hoysaleswara temple dedicated to lord Siva was built by Shaivite ministers of the King Vishunuvardhana Ketamalla and Kesarasetti.  Construction took 105 years and was completed by 1121CE, further additions were made during the reigns of kings Narasimha I and Ballala II. The sculptors who created this beautiful temple were Kalidasa, Damoja, Ketana, Ballana, Revoja, Harisha, and others.  Though the temple complex is said to be complete, there are still portions left partially done in the temple complex.  The temple was built as kind of competition to the Belur Chennakeswara temple which was a Vaishnavite shrine.

Temple Plan

The dwikuta temple houses the shrines of "Hoysaleswara" named after the King and "Shantaleswara" named after the Queen.  There are two Nandi statues which are on the side of the Hoysaleshwara temple and are monolithic.  Similar to the Belur and other temples of Hoysala regime, the temple is built of Chloritic Schist colloquially called Soap stone.  The temple complex is built on an elevated star shaped platform called the jagati.

The temple of Belur is known for internal beauty and Halebidu for external beauty.  The outer walls of Halebidu temple contain an intricate array of stone sculptures and has been described as a “supreme climax of Indian architecture”.

Walls of the temple comprise of friezes that comprise of (from bottom to top) Elephants, Lions, Horses, floral scrolls, Puranic scenes, Mythical beasts (makara) followed by miniature sculptures of music and dance and others, which cover the entire base of the temple walls.  Also are the walls coverd with large images of gods and goddesses and Madanikas.There are 240 such exquisitely carved images that run along the periphery of the sanctum.

Lets take a whirlwind tour of the awe inspiring sculptures..


There are totally 4 doorways for the temple out of which the south door is of most importance. One of the most beautiful sculpture in Hoysaleshwara temple are the sculptures of Dwarapalakas at the south door of the temple.  It has the most elaborately carved ornaments  on both these sculptures.  The faces of the dwarapalakas look so real indeed.

The Dwarapalakas at the south entrance
Ganesha, notice the legs of the carrier,  th mouse unable to withstand the weight has dug its feet into the soil.

Vishnu takes a giant step to reclaim the universe, as Garuda worships to his right.
 Brahma (with three heads) appears beside Vishnu's right foot,
 indicating that in this step Vishnu has covered the heavens.


G-O-D Generator - Operator - Destroyer (Bhrama - Vishnu - Siva)

Siva and Parvathi

Arjuna aiming the fishes eye 

Krishna Lifting the Govardhan hill

Gajasurasamharamurti - The Slayer of the elephant demon.The fierce aspect of the Hindu god Shiva as the Destroyer of the elephant demon, Gajasura.

Narasimha pulling out the intestines of Hiryanakasibu.  Notice the demons whose face skin is peeled off.

Durga Mahishasuramardini

Prahlad being crushed by two elephants

Battle scene from Mahabharata

Dancing Ganesha

Madanika dancing under foliage

Panel of Airavata with Indira, Garuda with Vishnu

Scenes from Ramayana

Hanuman and the monkey army bowing to Lord Rama and Sita

Rama giving Ring to Hanuman

Rama shoots the arrow through seven trees (from behind) to kill Vaali

Scenes from Mahabharata - Chakravyuh on the right.

Kali slaying the demon

Ravana lifting Mount Kailasha

Brahma, Siva and family

They look like explorers or visitors from other planets ?

Series of sculpturs on on the outer walls leaving no open space

Star shaped temple platform

Nandi Mandapa

Temple Interiors

The interiors of Hoysala temple are not as rich as the ones of Belur Chennakesawa temple.  It consists of two Garbhagrihas with Dwarapalakas on either side of both the shrines. Each of these Dwarapakas have a female attendants. All the four dwarapalakas and their four female attendants are life size and are sculptured from black granite, dominated by beautiful ornaments.  This is a working temple and regular poojas are carried out to the presiding deity. 

Madanika on inner wall
Dwarapalaka on the LHS of the shrine

Dwarapalaka on the RHS of the shrine

This is my second visit to the this monument and i could make out more things than my earlier visit.  I am sure on full day is required to explore the monument in detail and capture its complete essence.  Having just allotted half a day and light being a factor, i quickly wound up devoting more time to the exterior periphery and quickly covering the inner portion of the temple complex.  During my initital background study before the visit, i had found an interesting information of the Trikuta Siva temple and Jaina Basadis being present very close to this monument and made sure to cover them this time.

Most visitors to the Hoysaleswara temple are not aware of the other monuments just behind the temple complex.  Kedareswara temple and the Jaina Basadis are located at distance of 500 m from the Hoysaleswara temple complex.  Took a lonely road meandearing throuh a patchy village.  First came the Basadis and then came a dead end leading to typical ASI landsaped monument and board annonced "Kedareswara temple".

A lone ASI guard and a kid were the only souls present.  The star shaped base strucure and sculptors bore the typical trademark Hoysala style and looked a shade lessser in terms of intricacy of sculptures.

A quick brief and photoset follows.. 

Kedareswara Temple

The temple complex was built by Hoysala king Ballala II and his queen Abhinava Ketaladevi in 1219 A.D.  Built with soapstone, it was originally a trikuta temple (i.e. with three shrines) of which the garbhagrahas stand empty now.  As a feature of Hoysala architecture the base of the temple wall has horizontal friezes with the scenes depicting stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas.  Above these friezes are the sculptures of Gods and Goddesses.

Kedareswara temple with the typical star shaped platform

Partial restoration can be seen done by ASI

Interior of temple with lathe turned pillars and empty sanctum

With time running out, quickly hopped on to the next stopover of Jaina Basadis

Hoysala’s empire had a shift of religious following during the reign of Vishnuvardhana who under the influence of Sri Ramanujacharya became a Vishnavite.  Queen Shantala devi who patronized Jainism lead to the Kingdom promoting all three practices of Saivism, Vaishnavism and Jainism.  

There are three Jaina Basadis:

  • Parsvanatha
  • Adinatha
  • Shantinatha

Parshvanatha Basadi

The first temple of the complex is the Parsvanatha Basadi. This temple was built by Boppana, the son of Gangaraja who was a minister under Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana. This temple was built in the year 1133 A.D.

This Basadi is built of soapstone and consists of a garbhagriha, a sukhanasi, a navaranga and a detached mukhamandapa. The pillars of the of the mantapa are not very ornate but this Jain temple complex is fusion of Hoysala temple architecture applied on to a Jain shrine.

Parshvanatha Basadi complex

Sculpture at the entrace with Hale (Old) Kannada inscription

Lathe turned pillars in the interior

18 ft. tall Parsvanatha Tirtankara statue
The temple interiors are way too dark with neither natural lighting able to penetrate or any electrical lamp set up.  There is every fear of safety or stepping over some reptile inside the structure.

Shantinatha Basadi

Shantinatha Basadi was built around 1192 A.D during the reign of Ballala II. Its temple plan is similar to that of the Parsvanatha temple.  The garbhagriha has a fine image of Shantinatha tirtankara which is also about 18 ft. in height. In between these two basadis, is another smaller one, the Adinatha Basadi, built in 1138 A.D., by minister Mallayya during the reign of king Vishnuvardhana.

20ft tall Manastambha

Shantinatha Basadi

18 feet tall statue of Shantinatha

Athinatha Basadi

Few quick facts concerning Halebidu:
  • Halebidu is located about 32 kilometers/ roughly one hour away by bus from Hassan.
  • Frequent KaSRTC buses ply between Hassan - Halebidu and Halebidu - Belur.
  •  Hassan is 200 Kms from Bangalore and is connected by Bus and Train.  Bus would take about 4 hours to cover this section and have high frequency.  Trains are very few.
  • Hassan has good options for stay and food.
  • Halebidu does not offer good hotels/ restos. Better to take some food packets.
  • Location: 200 meters from Halebidu Bus Station
  • Temple Timings: Open every day from 7 am – 6 pm
  • Entrance fees: Nil
  • Photography/Video charges: Nil
  • Time required to cover: Roughly 3 hrs
  • Kedareswara and Jaina Basadis lie behind the Hoysaleswara temple complex.  (500m)

With the sun light fading, quickly wrapped up the camera gear and headed to the Halebidu bus station.  Halebidu to Hassan is journey of close to an hour meandering its way through the rustic and at times green lands of the Malanadu.  Also of interest to wach enroute was the ISRO Master control facility with those monster communication infrastructure which controls the satellites in orbit.

Day II being a pretty hectic and Day III being even more demanding, hit the bed early.  Plan for Day III was to start early from Hassan, reach Shravanabelagola via Chennarayapatna as climbing the hill with sun going up will be a task in itself.

Started the day with Sun showing up from Hassan, hopped on to a bus to Bangalore to get down at Chennarayapatna.  Buses ply every 10 mins from Channarayapatna to Sharavanabelgola.  The name of this place itself being bit tricky to pronounce for a kid was a fascination for me from childhood and was on the bucket list.  

Reaching the busstation and glancing through a good informative map in the bus station, i could gather location of the two hills to be climbed and their starting points.


Shravanabelagola is a small town consisting of a two hills namely Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri wtih a pond in between them called the Sharavabelagola.

Decided to take up Vindhyagiri first as the steps are very steep.  It took an hour to reach the top and on the way are multipl shrines of Tirthankaras and stupas.  Also to be seen are glass encosures on the rock surfaces put by ASI to protect the writings of Jain monks.


Vindhyagiri is the larger hill & looks like one huge single piece of rock rising 470 feet above the ground. On summit of this hill is 57 feet tall statue of Bahubali carved out of a single rock and is considered to be tallest monolith stone statue in the world. There are two sets of 660 steps carved in the rock to climb up & down the hill.  The steps would pose a challenge to the elderly and dolly is avaialble to their rescue.  The magnificant statue of Bahubali was consecrated by Chavundaraya, the Commander in chief of Talakkad Ganga Kingdom in 981 AD.  Jain community people could be seen performing pujas and reciting from their sacred scriptures.

Steep steps of Vindhyagiri hill

View of Chandragiri hill and Shravanabelagola pond

Statue of Bahubali

Chandragiri Hill

Chandragiri hill is bit easier to climb with flat steps taking you to the top.  Historically, the structures in this hill date very much back to the period of Chandragupta maurya.

The hillock has 14 Jain basadis which were constructed along a wide time line. Chandragupta Basadi was constructed by Emperor Ashoka in 3rd century BCE, and was dedicated to his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya. It is said that Chandragupta Maurya traveled down to Shravanabelagola after abdicating the throne along with his spiritual guru Bhadrabahu. Both the guru and the disciple performed penance on top of Chandragiri and ended their days.

Another basadi ‘Savatigandhavarana basadi‘ was constructed by Queen Shantala, wife of Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. 

Statue of Bharata - Brother of Bahubali

Jain temple in Dravidian style

Few quick facts concerning Shravanabelagola:
  • Shravanabelagola is located about 50 kms from Hassan and 140 Kms from Bengaluru.
  • Chennarayapatna is the nearest town falling on the Hassan - Bengaluru highway is about 12 Km way and buses ply every 10 mins between C Patna and Shravanabelagola.
  • It is better to cover both hills starting before 8 AM as climbing up and down in hot sun will be very tiring.

Climbing two hills at a time took some toll on the joints.  Taking some rest and food, winded up the three day tightly packed sorjourn to the land of Hoysalas.  A very much satisfying journey indeed and topping up some histoy shots to the soul.  Lookng forward to the next trip of the year and more importantly a trip report for sure!