Halebeedu (haLEbIDu) (ಹಳೇಬೀಡು) is one of the most renowned sites of Indian architecture and culture in the country. It is situated in Hassan district of Karnataka at a distance of 149 kilometers from Mysore and just about 16 kilometers from Belur, another important architectural site. It was once known as dOrasamudra and was the capital city of Hoysala dynasty. Now it is a small village that basks in its past glory vouched by a few great temples and the scattered ruins of many more. Dorasamudra was built in the 10th century by a king named dOra who was a feudatory of his brother- in- law, ganga bUtuga. Inscriptional evidence supports the claim that Jaina sages lived in this place during that period. Halebeedu became the capital city of the expanding Hoysala kingdom then ruled by Vinayaaditya in the 11th century. This continued to be the capital till the early decades of the 14th century when it was invaded by Mallikafar. After that invasion the capital was shifted and the name Halebeedu came in to vogue. (The word literally means ‘old abode’.     

There was a strong fort which protected the city of Dorasamudra. It was surrounded by a moat which was almost 50 feet deep at places. The huge palace of the Hoysalas was located at the center of the town. It is now totally extinct and any descriptive details are purely conjectural. A number of villages in the neighborhood of Halebeedu must have been extensions of the capital during its halcyon days.

Many Jaina basadis and Hindu temples were gradually eroded in the succeeding centuries. However what remains is more than sufficient to re invent the past glory.

To begin with, a cursory account of the Jaina temples is given. Three basadis are situated at a distance of ˝ a kilometer from the Hoysaleshvara temple. They have Parshvanatha, Shanthinatha and Mallinatha as their presiding Teerthankaras.

Parshvanatha temple built in 1133 A.D. by Boppana is also known as Vijaya Parshvanatha Basadi. It contains a navaranga, suknasi and a mukhamantapa in addition to the sanctum sanctorum. The main icon made of black granite is 4˝ meters tall and is exquisitely sculpted. The carving of Dharaneendra Yaksha on the ceiling of the Navaranga is very beautiful. The twelve pillars that hold the dome appear to be thoroughly polished and have been shaped attractively. The Shanthinatha Temple built around 1192 A.D. during the regime of BallALa-2 is much less imposing. Carvings and miniature work are conspicuous by their absence. Some additions are made to this temple during the rein of Vijayanagara kings. The Mallinatha temple also known as Adinatha basadi is relatively small and stands between the other two.

The Hindu temples of Halebeedu can be divided in to two categories. The first group contains the Hoyslaeshvara, Kedareshvara and Veerabhadra temples which are relatively well preserved and can be studied in detail. In the second group we may include Nagareshvara, Panchalinga and Ranganathaswamy temples which are currently in ruins. The archaeological museum located here contains many a relic collected from these ruins.

It is not possible to do justice to these great temples within the span of this short note. It has to be complemented by supplementary material. 

Hoysaleshvara temple is the most famous monument in Halebeedu. It was built by Ketumalla an official working for the king Vishnuvardhana in the second decade of the twelfth century. Additions were made to this edifice during the regime of Narasimha-1 and Ballaala-2. kEdArOja and dEmOja are some of he sculptors associated with this temple. The temple measures approximately 160 feet from North to South and 100 feet from East to West and it occupies a plinth area of about 40,000 square feet. (Excluding the Nandi Mantaps) This is a twin temple (dvikUTa) with both the shrines containing a Shivalinga. The Gods are called Hoysaleshvara and Shantaleshvara (To honour the queen Shantalaa known as an eminent dancer.). The temple built in soap stone stands on a raised platform. Both the sancta sanctorum are star shaped and there is room to surmise that the towers that are now eroded must have had similar shapes. Each of the temples has a set of garbhagriha, navaranga and sukanasi but they have a huge inter connected mantap (hall) in common. The pillars and the ceilings of the navarnga and mantapa are well sculpted.

Hoysaleshvara temple is known more for its sculptural grandeur than its architectural uniqueness. The exterior of the temple looks different because of the introduction of many projections and recesses in the walls. The temple was built at a height that provided the architects sufficient horizontal and vertical space to depict large and small sculptures. The overall effect of the vertical and horizontal lines, the play of the outline, the effect of light and shade and the plan of the projections and recesses all amounts to a "marvellous exhibition of human labor to be found even in the patient east and surpasses anything in Gothic art". (James Furguson)

The outer walls have a series of exquisitely carved sculptures in eaves circulating around the temple. There are eight such rows starting at the bottom right up to the top. “Going from the bottom where the temple wall meets the platform, the lowest frieze depicts charging elephants which symbolise strength and stability, above which, in order, are friezes with lions which symbolise courage, floral scrolls as decoration, horses for speed, another band of floral scrolls, depiction of Hindu epics, makara (beasts) and finally a frieze with hansas (swans). No two animals/icons are alike in a total frieze span of over 200 m.” For instance, one of the rows starts with an image of dancing Ganesha on the left hand side of the south entrance and ending with another image of Ganesha on the right hand side of the north entrance. Each of these rows is 710 feet in length. In all there are 240 such images. The back wall of the temple also contains a number of carvings. Some of them are individual Gods and Goddesses. Others depict scenes taken from mythology.  

The Nandi mantaps and the Garuda pillar are the other attractions of this temple. The Nandi measures 13 feet in length, 61 feet in breadth and 81 feet in height.

Kedareshvara temple was built by the king Ballala-2 and his wife Shantalaa in 1219 A.D. This temple contains three rooms and there are no icons in the Garbhagudi. It has a beautiful star shaped tower which is now dilapidated. It is similar in its structure to the Hoysaleshvara temple. Here again the epic narratives and the carvings of swans and makaras are enchanting. There are about 180 carved icons on the outer walls of the temple.

Veerabhadra temple is the third temple which is extant. This is relatively small and has a square shaped sanctorum, navaranga and suknAsi. A tower built in the Kadamba style and a Hoysala logo which depicts the slaying of a tiger by saLa the founder of the dynasty are its unique features. Another temple which now hosts a beautiful statue of Ranganatha was once known as bUcEshvara temple.

The beauty and splendor of the Nagareshvara and Panchalinga temples which are totally destroyed can be construed on the basis of the material available in the Archaeological museum established in Halebeedu.

It is no exaggeration to declare that Halebeedu presents on of the best illustrations of the glory of Indian architecture and more particularly Indian sculpture.

1.      flickr.com/photos/14431615@NOO/16273641  (Jaina Basadi)

2.      Halebidu - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Article and photographs)

3.      www.indiaexploring.com/india-packages/india-t... (Hoysaleshvara temple)

4.      www.shunya.net/.../South2003/BHS/Halebid.htm  (Many god photographs)

5.      commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Belur-Halebid... (Detail from a frieze)

6.      Hoysala Vastushilpa by S. Srikantha Shastry

7.      Somanthapura by S. Settar, 2008, Abhinava, Bangalore.

8.      Masterpieces of Hoysala Art: Belur, Halebid and Somanthapura by S.K. Maity, 1978, Taraporewala, Bombay.

9.      Epic Narratives in the Hoysala Temples, by Kristi Evans, published by BRILL, 1997.



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