25 Less Popular Architectural Marvels of Hoysalas in Karnataka
The Hoysalas dynasty ruled around modern-day Karnataka from the 10th - 13th century. They were great patronage of arts, literature, and culture. The most remarkable accomplishment of this era lies, undoubtedly, in the field of architecture. The nucleus of this activity lay in the present day Hassan district of Karnataka, India. Belur, Halebidu, and Somnathpura are prominent places where Hoysala temples were built with exemplary excellence.
Hoysalas and A bit of History
The Hoysala rulers Initially began as local chieftains in the hills of Western Ghats. With time, their fortune began to prosper and within a few decades they became powerful under Western Chalukyan Emperors. Early in the history of Hoysala dynasty, the capital was shifted from the hills of Western Ghats to Belur. The conquests of King Vishnuvardhan (1108 CE – 1152 CE) against the neighbouring Chola rulers. A new age now began with Vishnuvardhan as he built the Chennakesava temple (1117 CE) in Belur to celebrate the victory; furthermore, the capital was shifted to Halebidu, which is 20 kms to the east of Belur.
The Hoysalas gained their political freedom in 1192 during the reign of Veera Ballala II (1173 CE – 1220 CE). They soon became a leading power in Southern India and superpowers with economic well-being over the next century. At its height, the empire consisted of present day Karnataka.
In contrast, the Hoysala rulers were influenced by the Western Chalukyan architecture and employed their craftsmen as well for constructing temples across Karnataka. Initially natural stone was used for building temples and later years Soapstone was used as the raw material for construction and Carving because of its unique properties.
Hoysala dynasty and Insignia
The Hoysala dynasty ruled across Karnataka and hence the state is blessed with their splendours in art and architecture. Their Insignia can be found in almost all temples even today, the emblem of the Hoysala empire talks about history. The emblem depicts desciple Sala slaying a rampant tiger. An interesting story revolves across it. Hoy means to kill and since Sala kills the Tiger it is said to have got the name Hoysala after that. He is also said to be the founder of the Hoysala Empire.
The other theory states that in and around Hassan was ruled by the Cholas. And it was King Vishnuvardhana who defeated Cholas from the region and the Hoysala Empire flourished from then on. Tiger was the emblem of Cholas. And hence the emblem is also believed to represent king Vishnuvardhan’s victory over Cholas. Whatever it might be, records do state that these Hoysala temples were built inspired by the grand Chola temples and artisans who worked on the Chola temples were deployed to work on Hoysala temples.
Most of the temples have a common architecture and adhere to the Vaastu construction of Hindu temple architecture. The temple is constructed on a raised platform or a Peeta and the platform usually forms a start shape .Platform or jagati which is used for the purpose of a pradakshinapatha (circumambulation). The temple has single or multiple shrines with shikara on top will emblem. The outer walls are filled with horizontal mouldings or bands with carvings on them. And top of them are little bigger sculptures. The older Hoysala temples do not have this type of construction. Mostly because older ones are made of natural stone or granite which is difficult to make intricate carvings on. The later additions are of soapstone which carry richer workmanship, used for intricate carvings inside the temple. Another difference found in newer temples will have a back and forth running additional insertion of a column along the temple walls. It will give a 3Dimentional effect to the temple, as though there are two walls running around. Highlight here is absence of insertion as upgradation in the older ones. All temple main entrances will be facing east or North The temple may be approached via entrances with gigantic gopurams (ornate entrance towers) towering over each doorway. In the prakaara (temple courtyard) several minor shrines and buildings often can be found.
Some of the commonly used Terminologies of Hindu temples to help you identify the structures.
- Garba griha– Inner sanctum sanctorum which houses the main deity/Centrally placed icon
- Mandapam / Mantap– Pillared hall in front of the sanctum. Back then it was also used as dancing halls or for musical concerts.
- Shikara / Vimana– The raised super structure above the sanctum sanctorum
- Moolavar– Primary deity
- Kalasha– The golden conical structures on top of the Vimana as final
- Gopuram– The towering structure above the temple entrance
- Prakaara / praharam– The courtyard around the temple within the entrance.
- Jagathi – The raised platform on which the temple resides
- Ekakuta, Dvikuta, Trikutaetc – One shrine, Two shrines, Three shrines – You can identify using the number of shikaras.
- Makaratorana– the elaborate lintel done found connecting to pillars or on doorways. The main lintel placed on entrance of the shrine will usually be done super elaborate and intricately carved.
- Sukanasi– Also known as antarala or a vestibule that connects the pillared hall with the shrine. Mostly meant for air circulation.
- Garuda Kamba – High stone Pillar opposite to main shrine, which depicts that shrine with deity suitable for worship
However at some prominent mounuments, the guides from ASI will expain about it in detail.
After Visiting few Popular Temples of Hoysalas in Somanathapura Belur and Halebeedu. I was interested to know and visit all other Less known temples constructed during the Hoysala reign. There are around 122 Hoysala temples spread across the state. Discussed below few of the less known and visited temples across karnataka. The majority of them are located in Hassan, Tumkur, and Mandya districts. All the places are well connected by road.