Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebidu – The Outside

The Royal entrance of the Hoysaleswara Temple (shown in the picture below) faces South with stone pathway in front of it. In The entrance is guarded by Nandi and Bhrungi and each stand 9 feet in height. The Indian Tourism Department acclaim the DSC00929Hoysaleswara Temple as the Jewellery Box of South India. Each statue is so extensively carved with beautiful jewellery designs with 300 individual pieces on each statue. Hindu rituals and customs, Lord Ganesha is worshipped before all others. Even here you will find a beautifully carved sculpture on one side of the stone pathway. The Royal emblem of the Hoysalas stand on the other side facing the Ganesha idol.

Near the Ganesha statue, there is one interesting object. This is the rare Garuda Sthamba (Garuda pillar). These are different from hero stones. Garudas were elite bodyguards of the kings and queens. They moved and lived with the royal family and their oDSC00924nly purpose was to protect their master. Upon the death of their master, they committed suicide. The rare pillar on the south side depicts heroes brandishing knives and cutting their own heads. The inscription honors Kuruva Lakshma, a bodyguard of Veera Ballala II. A devoted officer, he took his life and that of his wife and other bodyguards after the death of his master. This event is narrated in an old Kannada inscription on the pillar.

Before we talk about various sculptures, lets see the temple as a whole. In this temple, the Hoysala architects have broken from the tradition of using five friezes as the base of the temple, below the large wall sculptures and the window screens. The outer walls have two eaves that run around the temple. The top eaves is at the roof of the temple and the second about a meter below. In between there are decorated miniature pillars. Below the lower eaves are the wall sculptures and eight friezes. This type of relief work is called horizontal treatment. Each of the eight friezes carries an array of decoration.

Going from the bottom where the temple wall meets the platform, the lowest frieze depicts charging elephants which symbolize strength and stability, above which, inDSC00899 order, are friezes with lions which symbolize courage, floral scrolls as decoration, horses for speed, another band of floral scrolls, depiction of Hindu epics, makara (imaginary animal) and finally a frieze with hansas (swans). No two animals are alike in a total frieze span of over 200 m. It is interesting to know that there are 1248 statues of elephants in the lower frieze and not two are alike. In the epic frieze, the epics are not continuous as they are mixed with other depictions. Above the swans there are miniature sculptures in various dance forms. Above it, is a continuous frieze of the Kshetra Palaka (Guardians of the Temple). The final is a row of amorous couples depicting the various aspects of the Kamasutra. After the construction of this temple, Hoysala architects used this new kind of horizontal treatment only 50 years later, making it a standard style, but with six friezes.

We also need to talk about the Nandi sculptures here as we move on. NandiDSC00843, as we know is the carrier of Lord Siva and always positioned in front of any Siva Shrine. Here is no exception. These two monolithic Nandi statues are recognized as among the 7 largest in India. The others in order of their size are Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh, Brihadishwara Temple in Tanjore, on The Chamundi Hill in Mysore, Basavannagudi (Bull Temple) in Bangalore and in Rameshwaram where the one at Lepakshi is the largest. The statues here are very life like and exceptionally carved with decorative items. In fact, when you consider the decorative carvings, these two statues occupy the first position.

BelievDSC00881e it or not, this temple has over 20,000 sculptures, small or big. Now we will talk about some interesting sculptures. There is the Lord Ganesha in a dancing posture (Natya Ganesha) on his carrier, the Rat. The artist’s imagination has no bounds here. Unable to bear the weight of Ganesha on it, the rat’s mouth is option with exhaustion.

One interesting and a nice artist imagination is the sculpture of the story Gajasura Mardhana (Siva slaying the demon king Gajasura). Here Lord Siva is shown dancing within the elephant’s stomach. The artist depicted the legs of the elephant on the top and the head in the bottom and Lord Siva between. Even though this is in line with mythological accounts, this imaginative carving is very rare and unique to the Hoysala architecture. DSC00882

There is one detailed sculpture showing Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhana mountain and the villagers and a cow herd taking shelter under it. If you observe carefully, there is a banana tree to the top right with a bunch of bananas. There is another tree to the right where a monkey is shown climbing. There are peacocks, lizards and snakes shown among the trees on the mountain. There is one piece of sculpture which is out of place on this. On the left, you will find three people sharing 4 legs. The artist has sculpted the men so symmetrically that even when you observe carefully, one cannot find any faults and the positions of the men are in perfect alignment of the legs.

The stories of the various incarnations of Vishnu are depicted in detail like Vishnu in the Varaha form killing the demon Hiranyaksha or the Narasimha form killing the demon Hiranyakasipa. It will take at least 3 days to fully look at each sculpture and relate them to Hindu mythology to admire the beauty. I anyway did not have the time to see all of them. However, we will see some more with detailed accounts in the next post.

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