The Land of Karnataka has always mesmerized us with its serene and exotic locations. Be it the Skanda Giri hills or Bandaje waterfalls  Karnataka has always mesmerized me. There are many exotic and unknown destinations in this beautiful state that people generally don’t know about.

Hoysaleswara temple in Halebidu is one such extremely beautiful temple which questions the modern architecture. Hoysaleswara temple is one of the largest shrines in Karnataka and also one of the biggest temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.  The exquisite architecture of the Hoysaleswara temple is what attracts thousands of visitors here.  The temple is located in Halebidu which is a small town in Karnataka. Halebidu is around 200 km from Banglore and around 30 km from Hassan where we visited the submerged church.

A Bit of History

The marvelous Hoysaleswara temple in Halebidu was built around the 12th century. The temple till date remains one of the most exquisite architectural sites. The Hoysaleswara was built by the then ruler King Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala empire. King Vishnuvardhana was a very famous king of the Hoysala dynasty. It is believed the temple named is derived from the name of the king only. 

 While the temple was glorious during initial centuries as soon enough in 14th-century foreign  Muslim invaders looted this temple heavily. While in inscriptions you can clearly see there were other Hindu and Jain temples in the area that were built around the temple. While those temples are now just ruined sites for many.

Twin Temple: It’s not One temple

Well, actually the Hoysaleswara Temple is a twin temple. The meaning of the twin temple is that it has two shrines one is dedicated to Hoysaleswara and another one is dedicated to  Shantaleswara. Shantaleswara was the name of Shantala Devi who was the queen of King Vishnuvardhana).   These both the shrines are located to each other and. And are connected with each other.   Each of these temples has Shiva linga which is the universal symbol of Lord Shiva.  The temples are standing on a raised platform.

The temple is made of Soapstone also commonly known as post stone. While the campus of the temple is built in such a way that the entrance to the shrine happens from the north side.  These shiv lingas are named after the masculine and feminine aspects and were both equal and joined at their transept. While the king used to worship the masculine form the queen worshipped the feminine version of Shiva linga.

hoysaleswara temple
hoysaleswara temple

Besides these 2 shrines, there is one shrine that is dedicated to Lord Surya. Lord Surya is the Sun god. Here a tall 7 ft image has been depicted. Outside the twin temple, the famous Nandi is there.  To visit the Nandi shrine one has to climb down from the main temple and then climb back the stairs of the Nandi shrine if he wishes to visit it.

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The interesting fact is that these all are connected to each other. The Hoysaleswara temple remains a solid proof of how great our ancestors were. From architecture to craftsmanship everything looks so good.  Many historians and architects believe this as the epitome of craftsmanship in the bygone era.

Features of Hoysaleswara Temple Halebidu


While the Hoysaleswara Temple is one of the most revered and pious place in Karnataka but many come here to see the intricate design and features of this ancient temple.

This spectacular temple’s structure has been credited as one of the finest architecture of  Hindu style. The interiors of the temple are simple and sober whereas the outside structure is complex and intricate. The outer structure in contrast to the inner structure has many projections and carvings. Even the exterior walls of the temple have some of the finest and well-crafted stone sculptures. Further down we look more deeply into the features and structures of Hoysaleswara temple.  

Hoysaleswara Temple interiors

 We will first talk about the interiors of the temple. To enter the temple there are 4 entrances for the temple. While for the doors there were doorkeepers statutes on the two sides. The most fascinating and beautiful is the lathe-turned pillars that dash in rows at the south and north doorways.  As the temple is ancient and also it was looted many times so many statues are broken or completely lost here inside the temple.

Hoysaleswara temple
Some High tech Stuff

At the forefront of each of the shrine here in the Hoysaleswara temple, there are four pillars. The four pillars have carvings on top of them. These pillars have Madanika sculptures in their brackets.   The main dominant and attractive thing about the interiors is the pillars. Pillars run across the north and the south entrance.  These pillars run parallel to each other.

Hoysaleswara Temple exteriors

While the interiors of the temple are pretty fascinating and beautiful but the real king is what these exteriors are. The exteriors of the temple tales us the tale. The intrinsic carvings of this temple will leave you to spell bounded. From Gods to animals everyone has been depicted very nicely.  The carvings on the outer walls of the Hoysaleswara temple are into different layers. Every layer has a story to tell. These stories are on different subjects or sometimes are random drawings.

The lowest layer is dedicated to animals. The animal figures have been well crafted here. The animal figures which are depicted here range from Lions, horses to even elephants. Their many animals figure here in the lowest layer. After the animal figures then is followed by another layer of dancers, texts, and other depictions. You can see the legends of Hindu text here narrated very well. The miniature carvings are extremely intricate and are done very nicely.

hoysaleswara temple
Ravana trying to run off with Mt Kailash. Shiva caught him red handed and apparently Ravana was stuck for a 1000 years beneath it. The bulging eyes and the buckling legs and the entire stone platform bent to show the weight!

The daily life of how people use to live in that era has depicted very well on the outer walls of the Hoysaleswara temple. Different mythical creatures, people, celebrations, festivals are shown here. The outer wall was the canvas for the sculptor and he has done a great job. Then another layer comes in which tells us about the main points of a person’s life.
The points which are taught in our Vedas about Artha, Kama, Dharma, and Moksha. The temple also shows some eroticism not like what we saw in Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh but it is still evidently there.

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Clearly one day or one week is not enough for one to read and understand what outer wall of the temple conveys. The viewer has to sit see the depictions and has to relate with them. The carvings are such that you get lost easily.  The epic stories of the outer walls are just not limited to humans or animals. The outer walls of the Hoysaleswara Temple also depict the God structures and their stories.

Hoysaleswara Temple

The famous God Rama with brother going to exile has been depicted here. Goddess Durga killing demons can also be seen here.  The famous scene of Mahabharata where Arjun seeks advice from Lord Krishna is also shown here.  While the inner structure was good but the outer walls of Hoysaleswara Temple are one some other level. The artery is mesmerizing that you tend to stay here more around the temple.

Garuda Pillar 

 One of the main attention-grabbers of the Hoysaleswara temple is the Garuda Stambha (Pillar). The top portion of this sthamba is gone and damaged. This stambha contains the inscriptions which are breaks offs. According to people here, the Garudas were the selected personnel; bodyguards of Kings and Queens. They were their personal guards so they were highly respected in society. Their sole aim was to defend the king and the queen.

They worked for the master and none other. So when the king died they also commit suicide. So the southern side of the pillar demonstrates these heroes only. IT shows them cutting their own heads with their knives. So according to the inscription which can be read, it is stated here that the general Lakshmana along with his wife and his followers sacrificed their lives after the death of King Veer Ballala II.

 The overall Architecture

The overall architecture of the temple is breathtaking. The construction of the temple is so detailed and intricate that you will be amazed. When you enter the temple there is an image of Lord Ganesha dancing on the left side of the south entrance. Then you can see on the north side also a figure of Lord Ganesha. This is a collection running from the South to the north. In this collection, there are over 240 images. 

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Well, I must admit one day is not enough for this temple. There are many tales that are told by these depictions and drawings. While I was thinking that these temple stories are still accessible to us what about those which are destroyed by the foreign Muslim invaders. What glorious resources they must have looted and destroyed. The  Hoysaleswara temple is a true depiction of what craft our ancestors made. The vision of a king was created into such a massive and wonderful temple. The artist behind this art or all workers behind this temple must be great craftsmen.

Hoysaleswara temple
The centre piece is a sculpture of Lord Krishna lifting Mt. Govardhan. One of the most detailed of the sculptures showing eight layers Animals and Plants

 How to reach Hoysaleswara temple

 Hoysaleswara temple is in the Hassan district of Karnataka. The transport system is robust in the town. Below are the ways in which you can reach the town.

How to reach  by Air

The nearest domestic Airport from Halebidu is Mysore Airport, The Mysore airport is roughly around a three-hour drive from Halebidu town. Mysore airport is very well connected to many major cities in the country. While if you are looking for an International airport the nearest International Airport is Bengaluru International Airport. Bangalore, The International airport is roughly around a four-hour drive from Halebidu.   You can taxis and buses from outside of both of these temples to reach the town and then Temple.

How to reach  by Rail

The nearest railway station from the town is Hassan then  Mangalore, and then Mysore. The Hassan railway station is a junction so reaching Mangalore or Mysore will be best if you are traveling from outside the state. While  Thalassery and Kannur in the neighboring state of Kerala.  There are many trains that run such as the Smet Mysore Express, Kannur Express, and Dwr Mysore Express are the major trains for all stations of the Hassan district area.

How to reach  by Road

 The town of Halebid is around  32 Kms from the Hassan district. While it is  67 Kms from Channarayapattana and   183 km from Mangalore. While Banglore is around, 211 Kms from here. For the nearby states Halebid is 274 Kms from Ooty, and  347 km from Coimbatore. The Hassan district is well connected through Private and Karnataka state Road transport KSRTC Buses. The buses run from around and outside the Karnataka for Hassan.

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