History on the Wall, Hoysaleswar Temple, Halebidu

About 2 hours drive away from Bangalore, The Hoysaleswar Temple in Halebidu is nearly 900 years old and has survived many invasions and attempts of destruction and the ravages of time. The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is situated in a large garden complex. It had just drizzled for a while when we reached the gates after a sumptuous South Indian thali in nearby Belur. The green grass was in sharp contrast to the dark stone. Along with the adjoining Kedareswar Temple this temple was built over a period of 86 years and attributed to the famous king Vishnuvardhan and his wife Shantala by their son. The walls have beautiful sculptures in the form of panels each unique in its own way.

Halebidu Hoysaleswar Temple KarnatakaHalebidu Hoysaleswar Temple KarnatakaHalebidu Hoysaleswar Temple Karnataka

Halebidu Hoysaleswar Temple Karnataka

As we went around the temple, taking a closer look at the sculptures on the walls, it was poetry on stone. The life and times of the Hoysalas came alive with the be decked rows of elephants, lions, warriors on horses and chariots and scenes from the battlefield. These were interspersed with floral motifs, motifs of chains and necklaces which have inspired jewelry designers over generations and some familial scenes depicting normal life in the court beyond battles and warfare.  The heavily decked woman admiring herself in the mirror is famously known as (Darpanasundari). The top panels are occupied by the large sculptures of divine deities (Shiva, Parvati, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Krishna, Narsimha etc). The faces are pretty similar and seem to have been modeled on the Hoysala Royalty. of those times. With time, we have adopted modernity in some aspects of life but in others time has stood still ; we revere the same divine forms as we did several centuries ago and the art forms are perhaps lost for ever in want of patronage and encouragement.

Nandi Bull is always facing Shiva and this temple was no exception. There are large Nandi Bull statues sculpted from soap stone in the adjoining enclosure guarding the temples. They were a little too large and the ears beyond my reach. I had to let go of my customary whisper in Nandi’s ears of my secret wish to be conveyed to Lord Shiva. After visiting the temple, sit around in the garden facing the temple and allow yourself to travel back in time, to be with the Hoysalas in spirit and appreciate the intricate stone art that has been left behind for us !!

Travel Tip:

Day trip from Bangalore along with nearby Belur and Sravanabelagola. Hire a car or do it with KSTDC which will easily be a 12-14 hour long day.


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