I had made the plans for going to Halebidu and Belur temples 3-4 times over last so many years but I could not make it due to one reason or the other. This time I was determined to make the trip as I know that if it does not happen now then it will never happen in the near future as I was moving back to Delhi in two weeks time. We planned for a family trip over the weekend.
We hired a cab and planned a 2 day family trip to Chikamagalur. We started on Saturday morning and it was a perfect setting with no forecast of rains over the weekend. After halting at Shravanbelagola, we headed straight to Halebidu which is about 80 kms away. The running distance is about 2 hours. On the way, we had to cross through city of Hassan which slowed us down for a while.
We reached Halebidu around 3.00 pm. Once inside the Hoysaleswara temple complex, we decided to hire a guide which charged us three hundred rupees. Now when I look back, I do not regret spending the money as he told & showed us so many intricate things about the temple as well as history surrounding the temple which otherwise I would not have got to know. I would suggest that if you are visiting the temple, do hire a guide.
Hoysaleswara temple is a temple dedicated Lord Shiva and was built during the rule of King Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala Empire in the 12th century. Hoysala Empire ruled most of the modern day Karnataka for close to 400 years from year 950 CE to 1343 CE. The capital of Hoysala Empire was initially located at Belur but was later shifted to Halebidu and remained. During their reign, Hoysalas built about 1500 temples of which now just about 100 temples survive while rest of the temples have been destroyed by the invaders over a period of time. These remaining temples do include few of the finest temples that were built during the era.
The exterior walls of the most of the temples were decorated with intricate stone sculptures and carving. These sculptures are rich with religious and cultural iconography depicting gods and goddesses, dance and music forms, dresses, jewelry, and daily life of people and scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and other religious scriptures. This intricate architecture is also referred to being as Hoysala architecture.
The construction of the temple was started around 1117 CE and took about 103 years to complete though many say that the temple was never completed. It is said that during the early 14th century, Halebidu was sacked and looted by invaders from northern India twice post which the temple fell into a state of ruin and neglect. Incidentally, the city gets its name as Halebidu which means something destroyed twice.
The best part of Hoysaleswara temple as well as Belur temple is its intricate sculpturing which sets them apart from rest of the temples In India. They are amongst few of the finest temples built by Hoysalas. I will write about Belur temple in my next blog. Though I have not seen all the temples or majority of the temples in India but I have seen reasonable number of temples across big area to have an opinion now. I can say that these two temples apart from few others belonging to Hoysala Empire era stand out on the architectural quotient around the intricacy of artisanship. The statues have been carved out from a single stone along with body wearables like necklaces, bangles and other ornaments which indicate the finesse with which they would have been made. One can see and feel the wearables by touching them as if they have been separately carved out.
As you enter the complex, the temple looks innocuous and like any other temple. However, as you get closer, you start noticing the difference. The wall of the temple has carved out statues and not even an inch has been left out without a statute. Interestingly, no two statues are alike. The temple also has important events from Ramayana and Mahabharata depicted on the walls through the medium of statues carved on the walls. May be I would have failed to notice some of these if I had not hired the guide who patiently brought our attention to all those things. If I say that one needs to spend more time outside of the temple than inside to enjoy the beauty of the temple, I will not be wrong.
It is so sad to know that invaders did not even think once before pounding on to these temples leading to destruction. It left me wondering that if the temple is so beautiful despite being destroyed on two different occasions, how it would have been had it been still intact in the way it was originally constructed. The only consolation one gets is that by virtue of being a UNESCO protected monument, this temple will be well maintained for our coming generations and they will be able to see this symbol of era gone by.