Splendours of the Hoysala Empire- Haleibidu

I wrote about the Chennakesava temple in Belur yesterday. The information was presented in a lecture by Dr Chitra Madhavan, renowned historian and expert on temple architecture in Chennai.

Today, I will be writing about the Hoysaleswara Temple in Haleibidu. This temple was also built in the reign of King Vishnu Vardhana and is about 15 kms away from the town of Belur. The building of the temple was taken up in the same time as that of the temple at Belur. The town of Haleibidu was originally called Dwarasamudra because of a lake that stood there.

Although there are similarities between the temples at Belur and Haleibidu there are quite a few differences as well. The first thing that strikes you- especially if you visit both temples on the same day is how much more ornate the temple at Haleibidu tends to be. Where the sculptors at Belur squeezed every square inch of space into sculptures, the ones at Haleibidu squeezed every square millimetre of space to depict something of interest. Once again this temple was built out of chloritic schist and hence the architects made the temple pleat on itself like a star rather than having a four walled structure. In fact there is so much indentation that it sometimes becomes difficult to keep track of what you’re viewing. This photograph will give you a better idea of what I’m trying to describe.

Indentations that give more room for sculptures
Indentations that give more room for sculptures

As you would see once again there are elephants at the bottom of the platform- these elephants are also unique from one another and there are more than 1200 of them in the temple.

The temple, dedicated to Shiva (once again differing from Belur which was dedicated to Vishnu) has a dvi kuta style of architecture (which means that the temple has two principal shrines inside- one for Hoysaleswara (for the King) and one for Shantaleswara (representing the Queen Shantala)). It was also the royal temple and unfortunately this meant that it was often the first point of attack for enemies.

There are numerous impressive panels and friezes with sculptures. Here are some of them

Dwarapalaka standing guard
Dwarapalaka standing guard

A number of scenes from Dashavatara and Mahabaratha have been included in the panels

Vamana Avatar
Vamana Avatar

Denoted above for example is the fascinating tale of Vamana – the fifth avatar of Vishnu. In this tale, Vishnu in the guise of Vamana- a short Brahmin- approaches the kind Mahabali (a good but slightly vain ruler) and asks him for 3 paces worth of land. As soon as the king consents (shown above by the pouring of ritual water), Vishnu takes up gigantic proportions. With one step he covers the entire earth and with the other the Heavens. Mahabali having learnt his lesson offers his head as the third step and is then rewarded with immortality. In the panel above you see Vishnu taking his foot up to the heavens.

Ravana lifting Mt Kailasa
Ravana lifting Mt Kailasa

Here’s another panel of a ten headed Ravana lifting Mt Kailasa- an oft recurrent motive in temples (including in Cambodia). Here we see that Ravana has exerted himself to lift that massive mountain which is the residence of Shiva. Also notice how his foot is arched and how his knees are buckling under the weight of the mountain.

Panel of Airavata with Indira, Garuda with Vishnu
Panel of Airavata with Indira, Garuda with Vishnu
This is how packed with sculpture the walls are
This is how packed with sculpture the walls are

All in all the temples at Belur and Haleibidu are such interesting and magnificent pieces of art, architecture and history. If you haven’t already been there you should definitely visit and even if you’ve been there- visit again and explore the region- I’ve been told there are many more smaller but equally interesting temples.

I hope you liked the two posts. Let me know what you think in the comments.

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23 Comments Add yours

  1. Boeta says:

    Just incredible.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you so much. I hope these monuments get inscribed on the UNESCO list soon

      1. Boeta says:

        Question should be why they have not been already. ..

      2. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

        I think much depends on the local government. I believe they are on a nominated list so hopefully will get there soon!

  2. Lav says:

    The sculptures are exquisite! Your photos show how incredible they are!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you!

    2. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thanks Lav! Some of my photos were washed out but I guess they bring out some of the beauty of the temple

  3. Thanks for the post. It was great a great read. Re-blogging it.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thanks so very much. I’m glad you liked it!

  4. Reblogged this on Amaruvi's Aphorisms and commented:
    Some Hoysala treasures here. Fellow blogger Sukanya Ramanujam’s well crafted piece of this piece of our treasure. Worth a visit folks.

  5. Nirmala says:

    It felt like a treasure hunt looking at the sculptures and getting the stories behind each.Nice write up!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      It really felt like a game trying to unravel the meaning behind each. Thank you!

  6. Alex Hurst says:

    Wow…. all of that detail! The people who carved these installments must have been really dedicated.

    Thank you for the wonderful photos and history!

    http://tarasparlingwrites.com/2015/02/28/marketing-your-indie-book-a-rough-nautical-map-in-a-sea-of-advertising-options/

    1. Alex Hurst says:

      Whoops…. wrong link. A-Z link was what it was supposed to be. šŸ˜› Oh well.

      1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

        Oh well indeed! Looking forward to the A-Z

    2. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      My pleasure and thank you for visiting!

  7. Apar says:

    Reblogged this on Random Ruminations and commented:
    The “part two” šŸ™‚

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thanks Apar!

  8. Awesome coverage of the temple… reminds me of my school days when I first learned about the temple architecture and how different and exquisite they are from other South Indian temples.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thanks Jyothin! I don’t remember having ever learnt about temple architecture in school . Maybe that might have made my education more interesting.

  9. The panel of ten headed Ravana lifting Mt Kailasa has such impressive detailing to it!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Doesn’t it? I just love the creativity and the ability of those artists. I don’t think we’d ever be able to do something like this today.

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