The Hoysalas ruled around modern-day Karnataka from the 11th-13th century. They were great patronage of arts, literature, and religion. They are known for their excellent temple architecture. Belur, Halebidu, and Somnathpura are prominent places where Hoysala temples were built with exemplary excellence.
After visiting Chennakesava Temple in Belur, I was too excited to visit all other important temples constructed during the Hoysala reign. There are around 92 Hoysala temples spread across the state. The majority of them are located in Hassan, Mysore, and Mandya districts. We chose Hassan as our center point to visit them.
Hoysala Temples: Bengaluru Weekend Places To Visit
The major Hoysala temples that are noteworthy and lesser-known are:
- Laxmi Narasimha Temple in Nuggehalli
- Sadashiva Temple in Nuggehalli
- Ishwara Temple in Arasikere
- Veer Narayan Temple in Belavadi
- Brahmeshwar Temple in Kikkeri
- Panchlingeshwar Temple in Govindanhalli
- Lakshmi Devi Temple at Doddagoddavalli
- Lakshmi Narasimha Temple in Javagal
- Bhoga Narasimha in Shantigrama
- Chenna keshava Temple in Anekere
- Lakshmi Narayan Temple in Hosaholalu
Let’s visit them these lovely Hoysala temples.
1. Laxmi Narasimha Temple, Nuggehalli
Nugehalli is a small village located in Channarayapatna taluk of Hassan district in Karnataka. It has two of the important Hoysala Temples.
This temple was built by Bommanna Dandanayaka, a commander of Hoysala King Vira Someshwara in 1246 AD. It is a Trikuta temple with three Shikharas and constructed on a raised platform or Jagati, a characteristic feature of the Hoysala architecture. The three sanctums house the images of Chennakesava on the west, Venumadhav on the south and Laxmi Narasimha on the north. The three shrines open into a common Navrang mandapa. While the western shrine of Chennakesava has a Sukanasi, the other two opens directly into the Navrang mandapa. There is a circular raised platform in the middle of the mandapa supported by four pillars.
All the nine ceilings are carved beautifully. The Navrang mandapa is connected to a pillared Mukha mandapa with Vigrahas of Durga, Saraswati, and Harihara on the left side.
The entrance is through a Mahadwara. Mukha mandapa and the Mahadwara are later addition by the Vijaynagara kings. The outer wall of the temple is decorated with figures of Gods and Goddesses, stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavata. There are panels with images depicting the social fabric prevalent in the 11th and 12th centuries. The temple is made of locally available soapstone.
Rathotsava is an important festival celebrated during the month of April.
2. Sadashiva Temple, Nuggehalli
Sadashiva temple is another architectural masterpiece of the Hoysalas. The Mahadwara flanked by two Dwarapalas leads to a pillared hall. Steps leading to the raised Jagati has two beautifully sculpted elephants on either side. It is an Ekakuta temple with one Shikhara or Vimana. Garbhagriha has a big Shiva Linga connected to Sukanasi and Navranga mandapa with a raised circular platform is in the center called Darshana mandap. Nandi mandapa is a closed chamber with a lovely sculpture of Adishesha.
Mandapa has Vigrahas of Mahisasurmardini, Ganesha, Subramanya, and Suryanarayana. Toran on the doorway has Shiva Parvati sitting on Nandi. Pillars are circular lathe pillars in the Hoysala style. The hall has a life-size standing Murthy of Parvati. Mahadwar and the outer hall were later added by the Vijaynagar Empire.
The shikhara is beautifully carved with geometrical patterns and designs with a Kalash on the top. Beautifully carved Nandi figures adorn the four directions on the shikhara along with Hoysala emblem of Sala killing the tiger.
The temple was also built by Bommanna Dandanayaka. Nuggehalli was a flourishing Agrahara, a center of learning also called Vijaya Somnathpura.
Nuggehalli is situated 63 KMs from Hassan and 163 KMs from Bangalore.
3. Ishwara Temple, Arasikere
Arasikere is a small town in the Hassan district of Karnataka. It is famous for the Hoysala period Ishwara temple. Arasikere literally means “Queens Tank” in Kannada. Arasi means queen or princess and kere means lake.
Ishwara Temple dedicated to Shiva is an Ekakuta temple with one shikhara, two mandapas-one open and another closed. The interior structure has Garbagriha, Sukanasi, Darshana mandapa, and a Natya mandapa. The Natya mandapa is a circular closed structure supported by 21 lathe pillars and an irregular star-shaped dome. The ceiling is intricately carved in the shape of an inverted lotus. A raised platform is constructed for seating purposes supported by small elephant structures at the base.
The Natya mandapa is connected to the Darshana mandapa through a bay. Darshan mandapa has small shrines dedicated to Veerabhadra, Ganapati, Brahma, Vishnu, and Ashtadikpala. It is a square hall without any window, has six pillars and nine ceilings. The ceilings are intricately carved with flowers and filigree work. There is another hall on the right side of the temple with 24 pillars. The hall has three shrines dedicated to Veereshwar, Bakeshwar, and Chamundeshwar.
The outer wall of the shrine is decorated with figures of deities, stories from Puranas and epics. The temple has a unique irregular star-shaped structure. You see a Nandi bull on top of the Sukanasi instead of the regular Hoysala emblem.
This soapstone temple was built during the reign of King Veera Ballal.
Shivaratri and Kartik Amavasya are two major festivals of the temple.
Arasikere is 41 KMs from Hassan and 200 KMs from Bangalore.
4. Veer Narayan Temple, Belavadi
Belavadi is located close to Halebidu in Chickmagalur district of Karnataka. This place is referred to as Ekachakranagar in Mahabharat. It is said that here Pandava prince Bhima killed the demon Bakasura. The town is famous for another Hoysala Temple-Veer Narayan Swamy Temple.
It is a Trikuta temple and the central shrine belongs to Veer Narayan Swamy with Venugopal on the left and Yoganarasimha to the right. Two carved elephants flank the entrance. 8 ft tall Chaturbhuj Veernarayan Swamy carved on Saligrama in stone stands on an open lotus flanked by Shridevi and Bhudevi on his sides. Ten avatars of Vishnu are carved on the top.
Features of Hoysala temples
The features of Hoysala temples like Garbhagriha, Sukanasi, mandapa, circular lathe pillar with a mirror-like finish can all be seen.
Enchanting Vigraha of 8 ft tall Venugopal Krishna stands under a Kalpavriksha, holding a flute. He is surrounded by figures of Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatan, Sanat Kumars, Gopikas, Cows, Rukmini, and Satyabhama. It has been certified by ASI as the best Krishna Murti of India. Its beautiful carving makes you feel his divine presence.
The seven-foot-tall murti of Yoganarasimha in a sitting posture, holds the Shanka and Chakra, with Sridevi and Bhoodevi standing on either side. It is said that after killing Hiranyakashyipu, Narasimha was very angry. To mitigate that anger, he posed in the yoga mudra.
All three murtis are made from Ekashila Shaligram.
The outer walls are carved like typical Hoysala temples. A unique aspect of this temple is its Trikuta Vimana and stunningly beautiful Murtis. Emphasis is more on the inner beauty of the temple and Vigrahas.
An engineering marvel of this temple is that on equinox i.e March 23rd, the first ray of the sun crosses the seven doors of the temple and falls on the Murti of Veernarayan Swamy. A large number of people gather on that day as it is an important event. Festivals celebrated include Chaitra Purnima, Janamashtami, Rathasaptami, and Narasimha Jayanti. During Chaitra Purnima, the Utsav Murtis of Vishnu, Shridevi, and Bhudevi are taken out in a procession.
Photography inside the temple premises, particularly of the Garbhagriha and the Vigraha is not allowed.
Belavadi is 12 KMs from Halebidu on the Javagal Chickmaglur highway.
5. Brahmeshwar Temple, Kikkeri
The Brahmeshwar Temple is another masterpiece of Hoysala architecture located close to a scenic big lake. This Ekakuta temple dedicated to Shiva is in a dilapidated condition as it is not maintained by ASI, though we did witness some restoration work in progress. Regular puja takes place but since it is hardly visited, the temple doors remain closed most of the time. You can call the priest with the help of the nearby locals. He is a gentleman happy to guide you throughout the temple.
It is built at the ground level, not on a platform or Jagati like other Hoysala temples. Image of Brahma adorns the toran of the Garbhagriha. It is said that since we cannot worship Brahma directly, he is worshipped through Shiva. When we worship Shiva, Brahma is worshipped indirectly in this temple, hence the name Brahmeshwar. The outer wall of the temple is adorned with figurines of deities, stories from Puranas and epics. Most notable among them is the Varaha avatar of Vishnu and Vigneshwar.
Temple has a Garbhabriha, Sukanasi and a Navrang mandapa. An outer small enclosure that has a huge well decorated Nandi in sitting posture. Carvings on the Nandi will hold your eyes. Behind Nandi stands Suryanarayan facing the inner sanctum.
A circular raised platform supported by four lathe pillars have carvings depicting scenes from Ramayana. Each pillar had beautiful bracketed figures of four Madanikas. Most of them have been stolen from the temple and you see only a few. A small Bull in the Natya mandap faces the Vigraha. On each side of the inner sanctum are two small shrines dedicated to Mahisasurmardini and Ganesha.
On the north and south, there are shrines dedicated to Shiva as Ishwar and Vishnu as Keshava. Sapta Matrikas panel is near Vigraha of Ganesh and Kaalbhairava near Keshava. Kaalbhairava was found inside the tank near the temple. The ceiling has carvings of Ashtadigpalas and Navagrahas.
There are other small temple structure in the courtyard but mostly in dilapidated condition. Only one small temple dedicated to Parvatiamma has been restored and daily puja is offered.
Kikkeri is 11 KMs from K R Pete on the Srirangapatna-Chanaarayapatna highway.
6. Panchlingeshwar Temple, Govindanhalli
Panchlingeshwar is a Panchkuta temple with five Vimanas on the north-south axis, facing east that opens into a large common pillared hall. Each shrine has a Garbhagriha, Sukanasi in the same orientation that opens into the pillared hall. A well-sculpted Nandi is seated on the porch facing the shrines. Note small shrines of Ganesh and Chamundeshwari on the left and right sides of each of the five shrines respectively.
Notable structures present in the hall are of Subramanya, Adishesha and Sapta Mattrikas, Shiva and Parvati. The five Shivalingas are named as Ishaneshwar, Tatpurusheshwar, Aghoreshwar, Vamdeveshwar, and Sadjyoteshwar. Dwarapalas, Nandi, and Vrungi are outside the Garbhagriha of each shrine. The toran on all the Garbhagriha has an image of Gajalakshmi. The lathe pillars are richly polished, carved, and produce a metallic sound when tapped. The outer wall of the temple has ten avatars of Vishnu and other sculptures of different Gods and Goddesses carved in the Hoysala style.
The structure is constructed on the ground level, not on a platform or Jagati.
It was built around 1237-38 AD by the famous Hoysala sculptor Mallitamma, seen engraved in some of the sculptures carved on the outer wall. The temple is located 5 KMs from Kikkeri on the Srirangapatnam – Channarayapatna highway.
7. Lakshmi Devi Temple, Doddagaddavalli
A beautiful temple dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi is situated in Doddagaddavalli village, 2km from the Hassan-Halebidu highway. Quiet and serene, next to a lake, this Chatushkuta temple with four Shikaras in four directions. It is among the oldest surviving temples of the Hoysalas. The entrance is from the east with walls that have perforations or lattice-like structure for the passage of air and light. Temple has four shrines dedicated to Kali, Lakshmi, Shiva and Vishnu in the four directions.
A unique aspect of the temple is the shrine dedicated to Shantaswarupa Kali, flanked by Shakini and Dakini, in the north, unlike other Hoysala temples that mostly dedicated to either Vishnu or Shiva. There are sculptures of Nagakanya, Vishkanya, and Vetala, usually not found in Hoysala temples.
The toran has six Vetalas dancing along with Nagakanya and Vishkanya on the outer walls of the Garbhagriha, which opens directly to a mandapa. On each side are two big images of Kalika bodyguard. The presence of this structure shows the influence of the tantra cult in the construction of the temple.
On the west, Mahalakshmi shrine has a Garbhagriha, Sukanasi opening into the Navrang mandapa. This temple has a linga in the Garbhgriha, a Shiva shrine in front and Vishnu in the south. The original Vigraha of Vishnu was destroyed. ASI installed the one that now worshipped as Keshava.
The richly decorated ceilings show Shiva doing Rudra Tandav and playing Rudra Veena. Other images include Indra riding Airavat, Agni, Varuna, Nirutta and Yama riding their respective Vahana. The central ceiling had an image of Bhuvaneshwari but it is not clearly visible. Inscriptions on the stone in the old Kannada language can be seen in the courtyard.
Well maintained by ASI with manicured lawns and hedges. It was built by Sahaja Devi, wife of Kallahana Rahuta, who was a minister in the court of the Hoysalas during the reign of King Vishnuvardhan around the 11th century.
8. Lakshmi Narasimha Temple, Javagal
It is a Trikutachala temple that you enter through a Vijayanagara time Mahadwar with elephants on either side. The three shrines are connected by a small common Natya mandapa. It is reached by another mandapa that you enter after meeting two Dwarapalas Jaya and Vijaya after you have paid respects to the Garuda Stambha.
Vijayanagar kings also added Deepastambha, Laxmi temple, and a pillared hall here. A pillared hall on the extreme corner at the backside built by the Hoysalas is in a dilapidated condition. It is maintained by the State archaeological department.
Veer Narayan Swamy
The presiding deity of this temple is Veer Narayan Swamy as Sridhar. On the left is Venugopal and on the right Laxminarasimha with his consort Lakshmi. The deities have been placed in a similar manner as in the Belavadi temple. Here Venugopal is of Balya Avastha Krishna or baby Krishna and hence without the crown. In Belavadi, he is an adolescent Krishna. You can see images of Dasavatar, Gopikas, cows, Satyabhama and Rukmini in this temple too. Toran shows Krishna killing the serpent Kaliya better known as Kaliya Mardan or Kaliya Samhara.
All Murtis here are made of Shaligrama Shila.
There are two small shrines dedicated to Mahaganapati on the left and Chamundeshwari on the right. The ceiling of the Mahaganapati shrine has 108 images of Ganapati while the central ceiling is Ashta Digapalakas.
This temple was built in the 13th century by the Hoysala King Vir Someshwara.
Javagal town is located about 50 KMs from Hassan.
9. Bhoga Narasimha Temple, Shanthigrama
A simple but practicing temple popularly-known as Shri Lakshmi Sametha Varada Yoga Bhoga Narasimha temple. The entrance is through a huge colorful and ornately decorated gopuram. Inside the courtyard, there is a small Ekakuta shrine dedicated to Narasimha. Another pillared hall at the end of the temple and a Yagna Kunda seems to be a later addition.
The temple is painted in white, hence the pillar and outer walls do not look like a Hoysala temple. Narasimha is seen sitting with Lakshmi on his left and holding Shankh in the right hand and Chakra on the left. There is a divine aura as the ritualistic puja is being conducted since the last 1200 years.
The central ceiling has nine forms of Narasimha – Nava Narasimha in a circle. These none forms are Ugra, Krodha, Veera, Vilamba, Koapa, Yoga, Aghora, Sudarshana and Lakshmi Narasimha.
This temple was built by Queen Shanthala Devi, the wife of King Vishnuvardhan, in the 11th century.
Shanthigrama is located 13 KMs from Hassan on the Bangalore Hassan highway.
10. Chennakesava Temple, Anekere
Anekere is a small town in Chanarayapatna taluk on the Srirangapatna Chanarayapatna highway. Chennakesava temple is an Ekakuta temple with a huge Kalasha on the top.
The entrance is through a stepped doorway that leads to the courtyard with the temple in the middle. Pillared hall runs throughout the compound. There is an antique Tulasi pot. Inner shrine or Garbhagriha has a Murthy of Chennakesava with Bhudevi and Sridevi.
Toran has Gaja Lakshmi on it and Dwarpalas Jaya and Vijaya on the walls. Profusely carved ceilings remind you of this significant element of the Hoysala architecture.
Shikhara has geometrical patterns and designs. Inscriptions are there on the left of the temple wall in the old Kannada language. It is a small but beautiful temple worth visiting.
Utsav Murthy is taken out during Ugadi in the months of March-April.
11. Lakshminarayan Temple, Hosaholalu
Hosaholalu is a small town in the Mandya district, famous for this excellent masterpiece of Hoysala architecture built by King Vir Someshwar in the year 1250 AD.
Lakshminarayan temple is a Trikuta temple with a central principle shrine in the west devoted to Lakshminarayan, also called Nambinarayan. Two small shrines of Ganesh and Chamundi, flank the central shrine. The shrine on the north has Venugopal and on the south has Lakshminarasimha.
The central shrine has a Garbhagriha and Sukanasi that opens to the common Natya mandapa. There is an additional hall present after the Natya mandap. The other two shrines have Garbhagriha that joins with the common Natya mandapa. The interior of the temple is similar in structure as the other Hoysala temples with extensively carved ceilings and circular lathe pillar. The pillars produce metallic sound when tapped.
Built with chlorite or soapstone it stands on jagati or on a raised platform like most of the Hoysala temples. The outer walls are most exquisite with six panels showing animal figures like elephants, Makara or crocodile, swan, peacock, and beautiful floral motifs. Above these panels are the structures of Gods and Goddesses, stories from Puranas, Ramayana, and Mahabharata.
Since this temple was never invaded by any invaders, the sculptures are not destroyed. ASI maintains the beautiful manicured lawns and gardens around it.
Vaikuntha Ekadashi is the main festival celebrated in this temple.
Traveling Tips Hoyasala Temples Trail in Karnataka:
- Apart from Bengaluru, you may choose Hassan or Mysore as the central point of stay as they have good hotels and are closer by.
- The best time to visit is between October-March.
- Carry your own snacks and water. Most of these temples are located in villages, away from the highway.
- Locals are very helpful and courteous. Ask them directions as google map sometime behaves erratically.
- You may not find a proper guide everywhere. But wherever available, take their service. Many local people are willing to guide without any expectations. They feel it’s a matter of pride for them to showcase their heritage.
- Most of these Hoysala Temples are hardly crowded. You can spend time peacefully exploring these architectural marvels.
This is a post by Shruti Mishra under Inditales Internship Program.
Shruti Mishra is a professional banker who loves to travel and explore the rich heritage of different places and enjoy their local cuisine. She is a book lover too, who also likes to cook a warm meal for the family. She currently lives in Bangalore and dreams to extensively explore this beautiful country completely and write a book on the roads less traveled.