Tag Archives: Hassan

Belur & Halebid – For the Love of Hoysala Architecture

These have been places that were on my itinerary from the time I’d been researching on Ancient Indian Technology, for my BarCampMumbai talk. Certainly fascinating, this & Hampi… Hampi was last on the agenda, but this place equally fascinating, for it’s wonderful and truly magnificient architecture that it shares with us from the ancient times of the 11th Century… Remarkable in it’s own stature, this has to be a place that is not so pompous and done to death by a lot of tourists, at the same time the places have a significant relevance in Karnataka tourism. Many tourism buses take tours and get people from all over the world to visit this fascinating place of art, history and significant culture. Why has it been so fascinating? Well, this relatively long but enchanting blog post that I’d like to write now, will probably tell you all about it.


Beautiful Belur, the quaint little town set elegantly on the banks of river Yagachi, amidst lush surroundings was earlier known as Velapuri. It was chosen as the capital of the Hoysalas, after the ascking and destruction of their capital at Dwarasamudra (Halebeedu) by delhi Sultans. The Hoysalas ruled the reigon between 44th and 13th Centuries. They were great patrons of art and architecture and built a number of magnificient shrines during their 300 years reign. The temples and monuments at Belur are amazing with their sculptures and architecture. Belur was revered for its magnificent shrines and came to be known as Modern Vaikuntha. Heaven on earth.

The Hoysala temples are characterised by Typical star shaped ground plan and are usually set on a platform. They are compact structures. Ornately careved shrines indicate the musica and dance were highly regarded by the Hoysalas and used to express religious fervor. The temples of Belur are carved out of soap stone.

Hoysala dynasty is believed to be named after the words ‘hoy Sala’ meaning ‘Strike Sala’, which were called out to Sala, the legendary head of this dynasty. When he was combating a tiger single handedly. Sala killed the tiger and this act of bravery was immortalised in the royal emblem of the dynasty. The Hoysalas ruled the Deccan and parts of Tamil Nadu between the 11th and 13th centuries. They had their origins in the hill tribes of the Western Ghats converted to Jainism in 10th century.

How To Reach:

By Rail: Hassan around 37 kms. And then take a local bus.

By Bus : It’s easy to take a bus to Hassan from Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore. From there take a local bus.

Chenna Keshava Temple:

The magnificent shrine dedicated to Lord Vijayanarayana, one of the twenty four incarnations of Vishnu was built to commemorate the Victory of Hoysalas over Cholas in the great battle of Talakkad. Some believe that it was constructed when Vishnyvardhana adopted Vaishnavism under the influence of the great guru Sri Ramanujacharya.

The construction of the temple commenced in 1116 A.D. at the instance of King Vishnuvardhana, his son and later on his grandson actually completed the construction of the temple. As per historical records, around 103 years to complete this beautifully sculpted temple complex. It is definitely the masterpiece in Hoysala Architecture.

Saumyanayaki Temple

This is another important shrine in the temple complex, it is towards the south west of Keshava temple and is adorned with an elegant Viman a, said to be resembling the vimana atop the Keshava temple, which was dismantled in 1879

Godess Andal Shrine

The sacred shrine in the temple complex is associated with poet saint Alwar. Its outer walls are also decoreated with rows of large image. Other smaller shrines  in the complex are of Ramanujacharya, Krishna, Narsimha, Anjaneya, Ramchandra.

Gravity Pillar

This unique 42 feet high pillar carved out of a single rock and stands on its own weight. The paved compound of the temple complex has a pavilion near the bathing tank. Sculptures of Vishnuvardhan and Krishnaraja Wodeyar can be seen here. Other statues of note are Garudagambha and Garuda, the celestial vehicle of Lord Vishnu.


Halebid, the ancient acpital of Hoysala’s was founded in the early 11th century and was known as Dwarasamudra, after a huge artificial lake of the same name, dating back to the 19th century. The flourishing capital city had a small fortress with a magnificent palace. It was fortified with the lake of Enormous boulders and a moat that was connected with the lake. Halebid attained glorious height during the reign of Ballala – II. the grandson of Vishnuvardhan. The Hoysala Empire extended from river Kaveri in the west to Krishna in the east and was enriched by the fertile deltas of the rivers.  It’s prosperity attracted the forces of Delhi Sultanate, who invaded and annexed the town in 1311. Malik Kafur, is said to have taken away camel-loads of jewellery, gold and silver from here. In 1326, it was again attacked by Mohammad bin Tughlak.

After repeated attacks and the killing of king Ballala II, in the battle against the Sultan of Madura in 1342, the Hoysala were forced to relinquish their beautiful capital. The town was then nostalgically referred to as ‘Halebeid’ or old capital. It was never reoccupied again and the Hoysalas shifted capital to Belur. The Hoysala built over 150 exquisite temples in southern Karnataka, but the temples here are considered to be the most outstanding. The most important temple is Hoysalesvara and Kedareshvara, which are considered to be masterpieces of traditional Indian art forms. The figure carving at these temples are larger than any other temples nearby.


Gomateshwara – Jain Wonder of Shravanbelagola

Karnataka and it’s beauty… always is amazing. I love every bit of it. This was another huge sculpture / statue that I had in mind and wanted to visit this for a long time… From Bangalore, I took a bus to Hassan. There are direct buses to Charannayapatna from Majestic bus stop in Bangalore, but very few and the one at 8:00 AM had already left. From Charannayapatna, there are local buses which take 15 bucks to Shravanbelagola. Nonetheless, I decided to go to Hassan. It takes about 4 hours to reach Hassan and from there you get a lot of buses to Charannayapatna, Haleibedu, & Belur as well.

Once I reached Shravanbelagola, I decided to check in to a local restaurant at the foothills of the Gomateshwara statue… Really dirt cheap room for Rs. 200 bucks a night. Awesome!!! I had enough time to climb the top of the hill and hang out till sunset to experience the beauty of Shravanbelagola & Gomateshwara!

Then began my exploration of Sravanabelegola & the beautiful statues and here’s what it had to say:

Shravanbelagola is a well known place of pilgrimage which gets tourists from all the world. People from allover the country visit this place. The world famous image of Gommateshwara is here. ZVery ancient and beautiful Jaina temples are here. This is a sacred place especially for Jains. Also very famoys is the occasion of  “Mahamastakabhisheka” (great head ablution ceremony), it’s every twelve years.

The first thing which meets our eyes as we enter Shravanbelagola is a big lake. Beautiful steps have been constructed around it. A fort and also “Kala Mantapas” surround it. This lake is called ‘Sveta Sarovara’ or white lake. It’s Kannada equivalent is ‘Biliya Kola’ or Belagola’. the place connected with Shravana or Jain ascetics. Hence the name Shravana – Belagola.

The Lake - Kalyani

The Lake – Kalyani

We see the beautiful and artistic statue of Sri Gommateshwara Swamy on the summit of Indragiri. Gommateshwara is also called Bahubali.

According to Jainism theology,  there was a period in the world when happiness and peace reign supreme. Truth and dharma flourished during that period. It was called Utsarpini. There was another time when justice, truth and goodness decline everywhere. This period is termed Avasarpini. During this time of deterioration, twenty four Thirthankaras (realized souls) incarnate this world and guide people in the right path, by teaching them canons of truth and dharma.

Among the twenty four Thirthankaras, the first one is Purudeva. He is also known as Vrishabhadeva or Adinatha. Vrishabhadeva had two wives. The elder queen was Yashaswathi who gave birth to Bharatha and other hundered suns and a daughter by name Bramha. The younger queen

Sunanda gave birth to a son by name Bahubali and a daughter by name Saundari.

Vrishabha ruled over his Kingdom with pomp and pleasures for many years. After a while he renounced the world. While he did so, he made his elder son Bharata the King. Bahubali was crowned as the Yuvaraja (Heir apparent). Bharata conquered the whole world and in his conquest of the world he also waged war against his brother as he was told by the priests that there were enemies within the city and they were not submissive to Bharata. They were none other than his brothers. All of his brothers were disgusted by Bharatha, and renounced their kingdom to join their father, except Bahubali. He came to fight Bharatha.

Battke was about to take place between the armies of Bharatha and Bahubali. At that moment the ministers fearing that both armies would suffer heavy losses in the battle suggested that only the two Bharatha and Bahubali – might fight other. The winner would be the emperor.

The last battle was to be fought by hitting heads with fists. Bharat had the first shot, because he was older than Bahubali, which knocked Bahubali nearly to the ground. Then, it was Bahubali’s turn. Bahubali’s name means ‘Bahu’ – Arm, and ‘Bali’ – Strength, he was known for the immense strength of his arm. Everybody knew and worried, that if Bahubali’s blows struck Bharat, Bharat would probably die. This contest could have been easily won by Bahubali striking Bharat. But as Bahubali raised his arm to land a blow, he paused, realizing that fighting his elder brother for land, wealth, and power was neither sane nor righteous. Indeed, it would have been a grievous moral failure for a son of a Tirthankara.
As a rule for a Kshatriya, once he has taken action, it is not possible for him to withdraw or retreat. So, instead of landing a blow on his older brother with his raised arm, he simply changed direction, pulling out his own hair with the same hand, thus avoiding striking Bharat. With this, he put aside all of his possessions, and became a solitary renunciant. Learning from this example, Bharat came to understand the folly of his greed for land, money, and power forgiving his younger brother. Bharat continued to ruled for some time, until eventually joining Lord Rishabdev as a solitary renunciant.

Gommateshwara - Bahubali

Gommateshwara – Bahubali

The fight with his brother troubled Bahubali, so after much contemplation, he decided to give up his kingdom and take up the ascetic life. He took to meditation with a thirst for truth, but – it was for ego that he took to meditation on his own.

So before you entere the place there is an amazing architectural fascination called Tyagada Khamba…

Tyagada Khamba

Tyagada Khamba

Tyaga Kamba at the entrance of Gomateshwara. Erected by the minister Chavundarya in the 10th century. Its believed that this is the place he distributed gifts to the needy. Some theories also believe he choose this place to renounce all material things including his life. It’s a pillar that seemingly is hanging from the center. A handkerchief can easily be passed from one side to the other under this hanging pillar. This spot was being used by the people for giving away things as gifts. Hence it’s called by the name Pillar of Sacrifice or Tyagadha Khamba. (Tyaga – Sacrifice)



Overall this is a place where you will feel totally amazed, amazed by the serenity and peace that it has to offer. The magnificence and silence at which the Bahubali statue stands… You’ll feel really amazed by the amazing carved black stone statues of 24th Thirthankaras inside. After visiting the temple I decided to explore the cliff at the back of the temple… The sun was about to set and what better place than to sit at the edge of the cliff and ponder into the horizon, reflect upon life thoughts and beauty of everything around me… Just don’t need anything else in the world… than this beautiful memory.

So I leave you guys with this amazing snap of the entire town that could be seen. A view from the edge of the cliff… The view of the city and the sound of the town in the backdrop. Cattle making noise, birds chirping, kids playing, autos. Still very Peaceful… Serenity at it’s best…

Sunset across the horizon behind the temple

Sunset across the horizon behind the temple