This ancient capital of Hoysala’s was founded in the early 11th century and named Dwarasamudra, after a huge artificial lake dating back to 9th century. The flourishing capital city had a small fortress with a magnificent palace. It was fortified with a wall of enormous boulders and a moat that was connected with the lake. Halebid attained glorious heights during the reign of Ballala II, the grandson of Vishnuvardhana. The prosperity of Halebid attracted the forces of Delhi Sultanate, who invaded and annexed the town in 1311. In 1326, it was again attacked and ravaged by the forces of Mahammad bin Tughlak. Repeated invasions and the killing of king Ballala III, in the battle against the Sultan of Madura in 1342, forced the Hoysalas to relinquish their beautiful capital, which was then referred as ‘Halebid’ or the ‘Old Capital’. The Hoysalas built over 15o exquisite temples in southern Karnataka, but the temples at Halebid, Belur and Somnathpur are considered to be outstanding.
Halebidu is about 30km from Hassan this ancient Hoysala capital founded in early 11 century as Dwarasamudra, after the lake beside which the city was established In the 14-century it was destroyed by invading armies of Alauddin Khilji and Muhammad Thghlak, the Sultans of Delhi and subsequently deserted. Later it was renamed Halebidu (meaning an Old City). They built numerous temple and some as the supreme climax of Indian architecture describe Halibidu's opulent temples.
Once known as Dwara Samudra, “the gateway to the sea,” Halebid usurped Belur’s position as the Hoysalan capital in the 12th century. Unfortunately, when the Muslim invaders arrived, Halebid failed to escape their wrath. Appropriately, its current name means “old city,” as it consists of only a dusty road and some well-crafted temples amid a lush landscape with the Western Ghats as a distant backdrop. Exquisitely sculpted Hoysalesvara Temple (sunrise–sunset; free admission; shoe-) is the largest of the Hoysala temples. Hoysalesvara actually consists of two distinct temples resting upon a star-shaped platform, both dedicated to Shiva. It has more complex and detailed carvings than those at Belur. You can discover the 20,000- odd sculptures in and around the temple on your own, or enlist the services of a guide. You can visit the on-site Archaeological Museum (Sat–Thurs 10am–5pm; ) to see more stone statues of Hindu gods, gathered from Halebid and its immediate environs. If you want more of the same, without the touristy vibe, head for Kedareshvara Temple, 300m (960 ft.) away and marked by its serene location. Also in Halebid are several Jain Bastis that allude to the religious tolerance of the Hoysala kings, who extended patronage to other faiths. Although lacking the immense carved decoration of the Hindu monuments, Parswanathasamy Temple (daily sunrise– sunset; free admission) enjoys a lovely lakeside location.
The twin shrine Hoysaleswara Temple is the largest Shiva temple built by Hoysalas. The highlight of this temple is its intricate carvings depicting Hindu deities, sages, stylized animals and friezes depicting the life of the Hoysala rulers, timing sunrise to sunset.
Its construction was started in 1121, by “Ketumalla”, one of the officials of Vishnuvardhana and could be completed only by 1207. The shrine is very similar to the Chenna Keshava temple at Belur, but its figures are more profusely carved. Even after working diligently for about a century, there are still some unfinished portions in this amazing edifice. The sculptural extravaganza has been lavishly praised by the experts, critics and common visitors. The complex, complex consists of two identical temples, each with its own array of navranga and sukhanasi and Nandi mandapas. Both the sanctums have a characterstic star shaped ground plan and are set on a stone platform as seen in other Hoysala shrines. The temple on the northern side is named Shantaleshwara, after Shantala Devi, the beloved queen of Vishnuvardhana, while the southern side shrine is the Hoysaleswara temple. The two temple halls are joined by a common verandah creating a spacious columned interior. Thousands of intricately carved sculptures depicting scenes from the mythological epics Ramayana, Mahabharta, puranic legends, beasts and beauties etc adorn the temple walls. There are about thirty five thousand sculpted pieces in the shrine, note for their breathtaking beauty, but the south doorway unrivalled for its filigree work is considered to be a masterpiece of delicate carving. The central figure portrays Lord Shiva with demon Andhakasur under his feet, while on the either side of the lintel are Hoysala motif depicting a man single-handedly fighting a tiger.
Halebidu is the ancient of the Hoysala kingdom that patronized culture and art. Though the temples built by them were relatively small structures but superbly conceived and unsurpassed n detail and artistry quite comparable to ornate carvings in the temples of Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh) and Konark (Orissa). Actually it comprises two temple joined by a single platform, Hoysaleshwara dedicated to Lord Shiva and the second to Shanteleshwara. The deities named after the ruler Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleshwara and two merchants, Ketamalla and Kesarasetti in 1120AD, commissioned his queen, Shantala.
Unlike the tall vimanas and gopurams of the other southern temples, this temple is star shaped like other Hoysala architecture standing on an elevated platform. Although incomplete despite over more than 80 years of labour, the temple is still a sculptural extravaganza. The image of Nandi is profusely decorated with stone ornaments.
The eight rows of its base are richly carved with sturdy elephants followed by lordly lions and horsemen. Amazingly, no two animals in the 200m long frieze are alike. Above on the walls are rows of elegant swans, mythical makaras, floral motifs, and richly carved scenes from the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata among them Rama defeating the demon Ravana, Krishna lifting mountain Govardhana etc.
Above the basement friezes is a panorama depicting the entire Hindu pantheon and various legends associated with it. The most outstand among these are incarnations of Vishnu, cosmic dance of Nataraja, dancing Ganesha, and Shiva vanquishing a demon elephant. Particularly delicate carvings can be seen in the lintels over the southern doorway.
Within the temple complex is a rare Garuda stambha, erected in memory of Kuvara Lakshma, a devoted officer of Vira Ballala II. The event of his ending life after the death of the king is narrated on the pillar, both in words and n relief work. The temple is also the venue of the popular cultural festival, Hoysala Mahotsava.
Both the sanctums enshrine a east facing lingam, preceded by a Nandi mandapa with a huge statue of Nandi bull, the celestial vehicle of Lord Shiva. There is an Archaeological Museum in front of the Hoysaleswara temple. Other attractions of Halebid are Kedareswara Temple, Basadi Halli (Jain Shrines), and Sri Ranganatha Temple.
Kedareswara Temple is built by Ketaladevi, the queen of Ballala II, the Kedareswara Temple built in 1219AD was the gem of architecture until a tree took root in the tower and destroyed its parts more than 70 year ago. Its 160 images set under floral toranas in the upper part of the walls are its chief attraction.
Other attractions of Halebid are Basadi Halli (Jain Shrines), and Sri Ranganatha Temple.
Of the many Jain basadis of Halebidu; of the three surviving, the Parsvanath is the most interesting. It has 4.5m high statue of the tirthankar and the pillared hall of this temple has some exceptional pillars decorated with beadwork.
The Sri Renganatha Temple with a 2m high image of Lord sleeping on the coiled serpent, Ananta is worth a visit.
The 11 century Dwarasamudra Lake excavated and restored recently offers boating facilities. Adjacent to the Hoysaleswara Temple there is Archaeological Museum housing more than 1500 sculptures and inscriptions found in and around Halebidu. Of particular interest is the 6m tirthankar image excavated from a ruined tank in a Jain basadi here.
The 3km from Halebidu on the hillock of Pushpagiri are perched the temples of Mallikarjuna, Vishnu, and Parvathi. Basthihalli has another trikuta temple dating back to 1220 AD, about 3km away from Halebidu.
Just 10km northwest of Halibedu is the ancient village belavadi dotted with temples and shrines, the most outstanding of these is the Veeranarayan Temple in the Hoysala style.