Vishnuvardhana (viSNuvardhana) (ವಿಷ್ಣುವರ್ಧನ) also known as biTTidEva is one of the most illustrious kings of Karnataka. He ruled over the Hoysala kingdom between 1108 A.D. and 1142 A.D. He is distinguished both for his military enterprises as well as his patronage for art, religion and culture.
Vishnuvardhana belonged to the Hoysala dynasty and he ascended the throne in 1108 A.D. after his father Ereyanga and his brother VeeraballALa. However he had vast experience in warfare even before that. He was the officer in command of the beLagoLa region of the kingdom. (SrIrangapaTTaNa talluk, Mandy district) He had two main ambitions. The first was to release the regions of gangavADi and noLambavADi from the rule of cOLa kings. The second ambition was to put an end to the sub ordination of the Hoysala kings to the Kalyani Chalukyas. He strove hard to realize these goals and his efforts are documented in the Belur inscription of 1117 A.D.
Initially Vishnuvardhana tightened the administration and strengthened the army. Gangaraaja was the made the commander of the army. He adopted an indirect mode of attack against his adversaries. He annexed small provinces owing their allegiance to the cOLa and cALukya emperors, Pandyas of Uccangi, kings of hAngal and banavAsi, kongALvas and cengALvas of tuLunADu were included in these minor conquests. Vishnuvardhana married Chandaladevi, a daughter of the KongALva king.
A decisive battle took place in 1116 A.D. between the
Hoysala army lead by Vishnuvardhana and the Cholas. The later were defeated and
chased by the victorious army right up to
Another prolonged battle took place between the Hoysalas and the Chalukyas lead by Acugi of sindha household. Gangarasa was in command of the Hoysala army. An important battle took place at kaNNEgAla in Hassan district. Once again the Hoysalas emerged victorious and small provinces such as beLvola, gadagu and aNNigEri were acquired by the conqueror.
There was a brief lull in warfare till the death of Vikramaditya in 1127 A.D. Vishnuvardhana tried to expand his kingdom during 1128-1931 A.D. 8-1931 A.D. BankApura, hAnagal and lakkunDi were won by the HoysaLas during this campaign. Bankapura became his second capital and the last days of the king were spent in this place.
Personal life of Vishnuvardhana was beset with tragedies. Shantala and Lakshmi were his queens. Bommala, candala and rAjala were his paramours. Shanthaladevi was a brilliant dancer and she was well known for her patronage to arts and religion. Many inscriptions bear testimony for her philanthropic activities. Kumara VeeraBallALa, only son of Shantala died in 1129 and the queen too passed away in grief after a couple of years. Gangaraja, the army commander breathed his last in 1133, Vishnuvardhana passed away in 1142 at Bankapura and he was cremated at Dwaarasamudra. Narasimha-1 succeeded him to the throne.
Vishnuvardhana was the name given to Bittideva after he relinquished Jainism and embraced Sri Vaishnava religion under the influence of Ramanujacharya, the founder of that sect. He got a number of temples built both during the Jaina phase and the Sri Vaishnava phase. Hoysala regime is one of the watersheds in the history of architecture and sculpture in Karnataka. Chennakeshva temple at Belur, Hoysaleshvara temple at Halebid and the Narayana and Keerthinaarayana temples at toNNUr and talakADu respectively are remarkable for their intricate carvings. Hoysala architecture reached its zenith during the regime of Vishnuvardhana. Nagachandra and Kanti were important among his court poets. He was very catholic and his reign is known for the encouragement he gave to all religions.