Halebidu, meaning ‘Old camp’, the famous capital of the Hoysala line of kings between the 11th and 14th centuries, is very near Belur, and has developed into a famous tourist spot. It was founded in the 11th century before Belur came to prominence and was known as Dorasamudra, Dwarasamudra or Dwaravatipura. Its glory continued till 1310 A.D., when it was attacked by the Muslims and was ruined. Thousands of tourists visit this place from all over the world to see the famous Hoysaleshwara and
Kedareshwara temples, which are said to be the perfect specimens of Hoysala art and architecture.
The birth place of this indigenous family of Hoysala or Poysalas was Sosevur or Sosavur (the Sanskrit Sasakapura), now identified with Angadi in Mudigere taluk of Chickmagalur district. They were originally Jains and the progenitor of the family was Sala. Being warrior chieftains, Hoysalas rose to power around 1000 A.D. Nrupa Kema, son of Sala, known as a great governor of a province, extended his capital and repulsed the Cholas. His son Vinayaditya shifted the Hoysala capital from Sosevur to Belur during his reign from 1045-1098 A.D. A great builder and a patron of art and architecture, he built magnificent temples. Ereyanga son of Vinayaditya, was also a great warrior and he extended the province to a considerable extent. In addition to Belur, he built the second capital at Dwarasamudra, now called as Halebidu. Thus, both Belur and Halebidu served as twin capitals of the Hoysala empire for several decades.
Ballala, the elder son of Ereyanga then continued as a vassal of the Chalukyan king and yet bore the title ‘Hoysala Lord’ as ‘Tribhuvana Malla Poysala Deva’. Vishnuvardhana succeeded to the Lordship of Hoysala region in 1108 A.D., and ruled from Belur. He became so powerful that he declared himself independent of the control of the Chalukyas. He had a great passion for building temples and perfected the art of sculpture. However, his abiding celebrity is recognised on the magnificent temple of Vijaya Narayana at Belur. Halebidu was at that time, a city of wealth and commerce.
Shantala Devi, the crown queen of Vishnuvardhana was also a celebrated patron of arts and literature. This talented and accomplished queen shared her husband’s zeal for building beautiful temples. Although personally devoted to the Jaina faith, she promoted Vaishnavism in addition to the building of several Basadis for the Jains. It is said that this region had nearly seven hundred Jain Basadis; today, the ruins of only three of them can be seen.
Halebidu continued to be the Hoysala capital till it was attacked by the Muslim invaders of the north. Malik Kafur attacked in 1310 A.D. The city was looted and was shorn of its splendour. Again in 1326 A.D., there was a second attack by Mohammad Tughlaq and the city was completely destoryed. King Ballala II fled to Tondanur near Pandavapura, and that was the end of the Hoysala dynasty which ruled a great part of Karnataka for about four centuries.
The name ‘Halebidu’ probably came into vogue after Dwarasamudra was deserted by the Hoysala kings after its total destruction. Originally, the township was surrounded by a fort, even the ruins of which are hardly noticeable at present. It had twelve huge gateways (Dwaras) as the name indicated. It is said that there was an earlier temple to the south-east of the present temples.
The chief attraction of Halebidu is the Hoysaleshwara temple, which according to the insscriptions, was built by Kethamalla, an officer of Vishnuvardhana in 1121 A.D., in honour of the great king. However, as per inscriptions, the construction of the temple continued for a protracted period of 86 years, after which period, further construction had to be abandoned due to the attack of the place by the Muslims. As can be surmised from these facts, the ruins that we see today at Halebidu temples is more due to the neglect over centuries than to the Muslim vandals in the 14th century.
The Hoysaleshwara temple is star-shaped like typical Hoysala structure and is a combination of two temples. One shrine is dedicated to the tutelary deity of the ruling dynasty Hoysaleshwara, while the second shrine is dedicated to Shantaleshwara, after the great queen Shantala Devi. The temple, also called as Pandukeshwara, has four doorways, two in the east, one on the north, and one on the south with beautifully sculptured lintels, each lintel containing Nataraja or Tandaveshwara, flanked by the mystical ‘makaras’. The southern doorway is very impressive. It has a pair of splendid ‘Dwarapalas’. The intervening cell is small having a porch with a niche on either side. The entire structure stands on a platform about a metre high, with a perambulatory path about five metres wide all round the shrine.
All around the twin shrine are seven friezes. A band of caparisoned elephants runs at the bottom. Then there is a scroll work. Above it is a row of fine horses with riders. Separated by another scroll band are running panels showing in bas-relief scenes from Ramayana. The top-most frieze has sculpture of mythical animals and birds. The outer walls of the temple are more impressive than the decoration in the interior of the temples. There is a popular saying in this part of the country which says – ‘Look for the art inside Belur temple; but look for the art outside at Halebidu’. The walls of this type maybe called a museum of old Hindu sculpture. The niches are delicately carved and tastefully decorated. The incarnations of Vishnu as Vamana, Trivikrama, Narasimha, Hayagriva and different aspects of Shiva like Andhakasura Samhara, Gajasura Samhara, Uma Shankara, Bhairava and gods like Durga, Saraswati are the major attractions of the sculpture. Eleven aspects of Rudra, twelve variations of Aditya and the ‘Dikpalas’ in the eight directions can be seen here in the form of superb sculpture.
Two peculiar representations also are depicted here in an artistic manner. Mohini is shown as a nude lady covered with serpents as her ornaments. Dakshinamurthy in ‘Yoga mudra’ is wearing a long coat and hood. The sculptors have exhibited a free hand in portraying dancing damsels dressed in modern fashion, men wearing coats with buttons, soldiers viewing through a telescope, ascetics with long beards and moustaches and whiskers, and so on.
There are two ‘mandapas’ within the enclosure housing reclining stone Nandis. One of them is bigger than the other 111 size. There are said to be the best of their kind with regard lo majesty, grandeur and elegance. The Nandi ‘mandapas’ are fine structures, elegant and impressive, it is believed that I he master sculptor of Belur temple, Dasoja, assisted by his son Chavana executed these pavilions.
In the outskirts of Halebidu village on the fringe of Dwarasmudra tank is another temple known as Kedareshwara temple, which according to tradition, was built by Veera Ballala II and his talented queen Abhinava Kethala Devi, also called as Padmala Devi, about the year 1219 A.D. I’his temple was acclaimed as a marvel of beauty and sculptural skill. Apipal tree had sprouted in the central part of the shrine and unnoticed, it had ruined the entire structure I o a heap of ruins. For a long time it was nothing more than .i heap of ruins. The Archaeological Survey of India took up I he renovation work and it is now improved to a considerable extent. But while salvagingthe ruins, the assemblage of odd pieces has spoiled the elegance of the original shrine.
The shrine is within a small enclosure dedicated to kedareshwara, the tutelary deity of the queen of Ballala. (>i iginally conceived and built as a single cell structure, this temple has now three cells and as such it is called l i ikutachala’ characteristic of later Hoysala temples, it stands on a high plinth like the Hoysaleshwara temple, but it the corners, stone elephants are carved to make it appear as holding the structure aloft. The outer wall contains a large t ii i m her of sculptural images which indicated that this temple once had attained the supreme climax of architecture and sculpture in its most prodigal plastic manifestation .
Historians are of the opinion that in all probability, the shrine provided the model for the celebrated Keshava temple at Somanathapura in Mysore district which was built later in 1269 A.D., by Somanatha of the Hoysala Royal family.
Around Halebedu, there are a few Jain Basadis which are worth visiting. Three lovely Basadis are now existing in the village called Bastihalli, which are dedicated to the Jain Tirthankaras, Parshwanatha, Adinatha and Shantinatha. Nearby are the ruins of the king’s palace.
Forming a complex, these Jain monuments are plain and face the north. The Parshwanatha Basadi originally known as Drohaghatta Jinalaya, is the largest and oldest among them, built by General Boppa in 1133 A.D. In commemoration of the king’s victorious march, this shrine was acclaimed as Vijaya Parshwanatha Basadi. The ‘sanctum’ has a majestic and serene idol of Parshwanatha, about 4.5 metres in height in a standing posture. A snake with seven hoods shields the head of the saint. Yaksha Dharmendra and Yakshi Padmavati flank the idol. The central hall contains empty pedestals which probably were meant for installing the other Tirthankaras.
Another small Basadi is dedicated to Adinatha, the first Tirthankara. It is believed that a chieftain Heggade Mallimayya constructed this structure in 1138 A.D. About a metre in height, this seated image of Tirthankara is flanked by Yaksha Gomukha and Yakshi Chakreshwari. As this idol is mutilated, it is placed in the central hall. There is also an idol of Saraswati in this shrine.
The third Basadi, built in 1196 A.D., is dedicated to Shantinatha Tirthankara. Standing five metres high, this tall icon is equipped with built – in stairs at the back to reach the top to facilitate ‘Abhisheka’. The Jina is flanked by Yaksha Kimpurusha and Yakshi Mahamanasi.
There is a Brahma pillar, seven metres in height, in front of this Basadi which looks very ordinary. The front is sculptured with galloping horses. A small pavilion surmounting the pillar houses the ‘Kshetrapala’ (guardian deity).
A museum in a spacious building has been constructed at Halebidu near the Hoysaleshwara temple where several I >ieces of exceedingly beautiful sculptures collected from this region are exhibited. As each piece is labelled and dated, it is a very useful study for the serious minded student of art and history of Hoysala sculpture.
Halebidu is only 16 kms. from Belur and is connected by a good road. Regular buses operate to this place from Belur. Taxi or jeep facility is also available at Belur on share basis. Tourist taxis can be hired at Hassan. There is a Traveller’s Bungalow and a Tourist Lodge at Halebidu for overnight stay. Hassan would be the ideal base for visiting I lalcbidu and Belur. Authorised guides can be utilised for detailed explanation of the history and other details at the temple premises.