Halebidu Temples

If Belur is the atypical ASI-maintained temple, then its sister-temple in Halebidu. just 17km away, is the typical counterpoise.  Tourists outpace devotees by a long mile.

Halebidu is the site of the win temple complex, housing Sri Hoysaleswara temple and Sri Santaleswara temple, built in the 12th centuty.  Shiva is worshipped here as Sri Hoysaleshwara adn as Sri Santaleshwara, in the Lingam form.  Hoysaleshwara is named after its builder,Vishnuvardhana Hoysala, while his queen, Santala, lends her name to Sri Santaleshwara.  The emperor and his queen had also built Sri Vijayanarayana?Chenna Kesava and Sri Veeranarayana shrines in Belur.  Not surprising, since the Hoysala rulers were Shaivaites before they took initiation from the great Vaishnava Sri Ramanuja.

Halebidu was the original capital of the Hoysalas.  It was known as Dwara Samudra (gateway the seas).  Perched on a star-shaped base, Sri Hoysaleshwara temple, in a garden setting, is a sculptural extravaganza. The walls are adorned with sculptures of deities in the Hindu pantheon, sages, scenes from the epics, animals and birds, and friezes of Hoysala kings, depicted in minute detail by skilled craftsmen.  It is said the temple was actually built by Ketamalla, a minister, under Emperor Vishnuvardhana.  The temple, it is further said, was never completed, for the Hoysalas abandoned the town, in the face of Malik Kafur's invasion in the early part of the 14th century.  The shrine was sacked by Kafur and his marauding armies, after which it fell into a state of neglect.  The temple was attacked twice and plundered of its sculptural wealth.  There are more mutilated sculptures here than in Belur, evidence of the attack and plunder.  Dwara Samaudra then became Halebidu (ruined city).  The Hoysalas perished during the Muslim invasions that came in waves in the first quarter of the 14th century.  The ASI has reconstructed the temple, and also maintains a museum here.

Construction of this magnificent temple complex began in 1121.  Built in soapstone, no two sculptures here are said to be the same. Sri Hoysaleswara and Sri Santaleswara temples areidentical shrines, joined together, and opening into a spacious columned mandapam and a screened porch, that effectively unites them into one great structure.  Scenes from the Ramayana and he Mahabharata, Lord Shiva as Nataraja, and Krishna balancing Govardhana Giri with his little finger dominate the walls.  The shine is said to be bigger than Sri Chenna Kesava temple, in Belur; so also are the sculptures here.

Sri Santaleswara's is the first sanctum from the main entrance.  The Lingam is well preserved, but barricaded by a makeshift bamboo fence.  The two dwarapalakas have their arms broken.  The arch over sanctum as well as the ceiling are intricately carved.  At the entrance of Sri Hoysaleswara's shrine are a series of layers of decorative motifs. Inside, the Lingam is pratly covered in gold, while a hooded gold-plated snake protects it.  There is a utsava moorthy here, as well as a priest in attendance.  A small nandi sits in between the threshold and Sri Hoysaleswara.  The ceiling is an extension of the one over Sri Santaleswara's.  It is a labyrinth of sculptures.  There are six squares, three on each side, while in the middle are three circles.  Animals gods and humans are surrounded by these circles squares.  Wall brackets feature dancing women, as in Belur, but here the arms are broken.  A far bigger nandi sits in a mandapam outside, facing the sanctum.

Vinayaka, on his mouse vehicle, on the outer walls, will take one's breathe away.  There are, on these walls, eleven layers or strips of carvings up to the plinth level.  At the bottom are the elephants, similar to the ones in Belur; then come the yazhis, coiled figures, war scenes, boars, swans, figurines in niches, nymphs, dancing girls and thoranams.  Then there are panels depicting lovers.  There are also panels showing the life is ordinary mortals.  The array of sculptures of the gods and goddesses are much bigger, almost life-size, and are best seen than described.  Narasimha, Nataraja and Vamana, the sculptor's perennial favourites, Vishnu, with Lakshmi on His lap, Durga, Narasimha, in another pose, dancing Ganesa, Trivikrama or Ulagalanda Perumal, Garuda aloft with Vishnu and Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu, in the reclining posture, and Bhairava.  Then comes the masterpiece: five-headed Brahma, holding with his many arms, over his head, layer after layer of his creation, so minutely etched, that you almost miss Vishnu and Lakshmi sitting on  top, the Lord holding out His abhaya hastham (hand of protection).  Then there are Shiva and Parvati, together, on the bull vehicle, while, alone, Shiva performs the thandava.

Outside, on a huge pedestal, sits a lone Vinayaka.  While in the wall panel, described in the previous paragraph, He almost seems to be doing a Jig, here He sits forlorn, His arms broken.

How to get there:

Halebidu is just 16km from Belur.  Buses ply from here is Hassan (27km) as well. Mysore is 149km away, and Bangalore, 213km.

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