Sunday, 11 November 2012

Halebeedu, Belur... the Hoysala Marvels

After visiting Shravanabelagola, the second phase of our photography workshop-plus-travel took us to Halebeedu followed by Belur. These two cities were the capitals of the Hoysalas during the Hoysala dynasty around thousand years back. Even now the works of art they showcase are some of the very best that can be found anywhere in the world.

  The Hoysalas ruled during the 11th and 14th century over some parts of Karnataka and Tamilnadu. Music and art were highly regarded by the Hoysala kings. The name Hoysala is derived from "Hoy Sala", which translates to "Strike Sala". Sala was the legendary head of this dynasty who defeated a tiger single handed and this act got immortalized by the name Hoysala.

  Halebeedu was the old capital city of the Hoysalas. During this period, it was called Dwarasamudra, after a huge artificial lake of the same name. The main shrile in this city is dedicated to lord Shiva. It was built during 11th to 12th century and took around a full century to complete. The temple depicts several Hindu mythological tales from Mahabharata, Ramayana and Puran. However, after the repeated invasion of Malik Kafur, Mohammad bin Gughlak and Sultan of Madura, the city was heavily damaged and many parts were destroyed. It was then the capital was shifted to Belur and Dwarasamudra was renamed Halebeedu or "The old capital".

  Belur, which is around 20 kilometer from Halebeedu, hosts several other shrines which has loads of art work. The main shrine is dedicated to lord Vishnu and was built by the king Vishnuvardhana, his grandson and his great grandson, and took around a century to complete. All the temples of Hoysalas are usually built on a platform. They are pretty near to human proportions unlike many other huge and behemoth monuments in India. The main temple depicts different Avatars or incarnations of lord Vishnu. The stone pillar at the center of the ground is carved from a single stone and stands on its own weight. The ground in front of the main temple also has one statue of Garuda, the celestial vehicle of lord Vishnu. They are all facing the main temple. 

  When we left Belur, it was almost sundown. It was a day filled with sights of work of art that astonished us beyond imagination. No doubt these places were once called the "Heaven on earth". Although both the temple at Halebeedu and Belur are superb in portraying art, the figures at lord Shiva shrine at Halebeedu were carved more profusely. 

  Some suggestions that might help: It is a good idea to hire a guide at Halebeedu who can explain the stories behind some of the important figures. You can also go for a temple guide booklet which comes at round Rs.40/- and is full of information. You need to leave your shoes at a stall to enter both the temples; so if you are travelling in a car, its better to leave your shoes in the car. There is no entry fee for either temple. However, in Belur, there is a fee if you want to take shots inside the temple.

  So after a very enjoyable and very very tiring day full of travel, talk, fun and photography, we bid adeu to the 15 people who joined for the workshop and headed for a hotel in Chikmagalur. Chikmagalur is around 40 Kilometers from Belur. Our next morning plan was to visit Bhadra wildlife sanctuary and go for a jungle safari. 

  Here are some of the photographs from the Belur-Halebeedu trip. Hope you will enjoy.

  You can find all these pictures and more in the Picassa Web Album here.

The Pillar at Halebeedu.

Statue of Sala and the temple. Halebeedu.

The temple as seen from the garden. Halebeedu.

Broken parts of the temple. Halebeedu.

The garden at Halebeedu.

Broken parts of the temple in the garden. Halebeedu.

The main temple. Halebeedu.

Back of the main temple. Halebeedu.

Wall art inside the main temple. Halebeedu.

Inside the main temple. Halebeedu.

Pillars inside the main temple. Halebeedu.

Nandi and lord Shive inside the main temple. Halebeedu.

Wall art. Halebeedu.

Depiction of Mahabharata. Halebeedu.

Wall art. Halebeedu.

One Nandi temple from the other. Halebeedu.

Nandi. Halebeedu.

Stone carving on the pavilion of the temple. Halebeedu.

Feet of the lady. Halebeedu.

Depiction from the Mahabharata where Arjuna targets the fish with his bow and arrow. Halebeedu.

Lord Vishnu. Halebeedu.

Depiction of the Ramayana. Halebeedu.

Depiction of war from the Mahabharata. Halebeedu.

Pillars at Belur.

Belur Vishnu temple, during dusk.

Depiction of Sala defeating a tiger single handedly. Belur.

Sculpture of Garuda praying. Belur.

Intricately carved sculpture of a dancer. Belur.

Garuda praying towards the Vishnu temple. Belur.


  1. Class photos. Great work with patience behind the lens

    1. Thank you for your wonderful comment.We are glad that you liked the pictures

  2. Nice pictures. Looks like Hampi


    1. Thanks Jahid for your nice comment.Yes,although Hampi and Belur belonged to different dynasties,their architectures have subtle similarities

  3. Absolutely gorgeous!Amazing pictures.Tell you what,I've been planning our summer vacation to India. however, no one ever suggested these places... don't know why. but now i think i have to visit this place. the work of art is fantastic. breathtaking.
    thank you for documenting this amazing place.i've been searching, but cudnt find any decent place with pictorial descriptions.

    i've been involved in photography for decades(don't read outdated :) ).and i must say that your pictures are fantastic and the perspectives are marvelous.

    1. Hi Stanley, it is such a great pleasure for us to have your wonderful comment. Just like Hampi,Belur and Halebeedu are places of architectural marvel,but yes its very true that these places are not very well documented in most travel guides.

      Surely keep at least Halebeedu in your travel plans.I am sure that you will be delighted. :)

      Thank you again..take care

  4. I am very enjoyed for this site. Its a nice topic. It help me very much to solve some problems.

  5. Seen these pictures so often-but the way you have captured it is awesome.Captures your love for the arts too

    1. Thank you very much for such wonderful words Usha. We are really glad that you liked the photographs.
      As you seem to like photography, we would suggest you to have a look at our facebook page at .
      It is dedicated to photography.

  6. Replies
    1. Thank you Ranjani...hope you enjoyed the blog!

  7. Nice blog with awesome photography. Keep it up :-)

    1. Thank you do much and we are glad that you loved our photos.