The origin of the Hoysalas is a matter of much interesting speculation and controversy. Like their distinguished contemporaries, the Seunas, the Hoysalas too claim their descent from Yadu (Lunar Dynasty) and call themselves the Yadavas. The conventional titles like, "Yadavanarayana", "Yadavakutambrad-yumani" and "Dvaravatipura-varadhisvara" are common to both the Seunas and the Hoysalas. These details are compiled from internet and by various sources by the Blogger over the years.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kesava Temple (1268 A.D), Somanathapura, Tirumakudlu-Narasipura Taluk, Mysore District.

A typical tourist spot visited by locals and international tourists alike, Somanathapura is a small village, situated about 40 kms from Mysore on the banks of Cauvery. It’s a symbol of our glorious past. In fact, the Department of Tourism welcomes you to Somanathapura with a note to enjoy the glory of Hoysala architecture and beauty of the frescoes. This is rather intriguing as the belief goes that there are no paintings done in the fresco technique in India, making us wonder whether they could be murals. However, there is no scope to get more insights about it here, as the State library, which usually throws light on such matters, remains closed during most part of the day!

One cannot help but be amazed at the grandeur on seeing the magnificent Kesava temple here. It is a magnificent structure that has survived the onslaught of medieval and modern vandalism ever since it was built in 1268 AD by Somadandanayaka, a general during the reign of Nara-simha III. Known for its prosperity during the heydays, the town was named after the same general. Somanathapura is the last of the ornate agrahara settlements of the Hoysalas.

Like all Hoysala temples, the Kesava temple is also a treat to the eye, which the artisans of subsequent dynasties could not, probably, better any further. The Hoysala art is a translation of the artist’s expression of gay abandonment, enhanced by the ingenuity of the Hoysala Chalukyan artists. It is said that even the great Cholas could not get their artists to produce works with the same effervescence.

The affluence of the age is testified by the people and activities portrayed in the sculptures. Members of the royal family riding in richly-decorated chariots, soldiers and commoners commuting in horse, elephant, and camel-drawn vehicles, gods and goddesses entertained by dancers and musicians, hunters armed with bows and arrows heading towards the forest along with dogs are all portrayed through the sculptures.

Also seen on this lithic canvas are palaces of kings and houses of noblemen protected by armed guards, besides jewellery (intricately-carved necklaces, pendants, waistbands, and rings) and hairstyles sported by dancers during olden days. The paintings depict the epics of Ramayana, Bhagavata, and Mahabharata.

The legends appear on the outer walls of the triple-shrined temple. It is built on a stellate jagathi, typical of Hoysala architecture. The jagathi also serves as a path for the devotees to take a pradakshina of the deities installed in the sanctum. At the entrance guarding the sanctum are the dwarapalakas. Though the original image of Kesava is missing in the main shrine, it is compensated by two other charming deities - Janardhana and Venugopala - in the sub shrines, but unfortunately with broken limbs. Judging by the workmanship, it can be assumed that the Kesava image must have been a marvel. Fortunately, the Kesava deity can be seen on the inscription stone at the entrance porch along with two other sub-deities.

The sub shrines are connected to one another by navaranga, a pillared hall. Each pillar is a specimen of outstanding workmanship and artistry.

Equally interesting are the ceilings supported by these pillars, each with a distinctiveness of its own representing multi-petalled lotus, banana bud motifs based on stepped ponds, and ananta knots symbolising eternity.

One need not go too far to find out the artists of these great works as they have documented their works of art by inscribing their names, the guilds they belonged, the place from where they hailed and above all the titles they bore.

Carving in Ceiling

A careful look at the details reveals the diverse background of these artists. Apart from the sculptors, there were silversmiths, goldsmiths, ivory-carvers, cooks, carpenters, wood carvers, soldiers and others who also contributed their bit to the temple. This also speaks about the demand for artists to work on massive temple projects in the past. Many of these artists could even hardly spell their names correctly, which is evident from the conspicuous errors. The inscriptions are helpful in tracing these artists to various geographical regions. Pallavachari, Chola-vachari, and other names ending with ‘Chari’ are believed to have migrated from the Tamil country, while Mallithamma, Masanith-amma, Chameya, Rameya, Chau-deya, Nanjeya and others are said to have been localites.

As per the Mysore Archaeological Reports, Mallithama’s name appears in 40 places and mostly to do with the ornamentation of the temple. It appears he had no rivals in the art. He scribbled his name to the shortened variant of Malli or a simple Ma. It is reported that he participated in most of the major Hoysala projects of the 13th century.

Being well versed in the iconography of Vaishnavite structures, he is believed to have been a favourite amongst the wealthy Vaishnavite patrons. Hence he was given a call by Somadandanayaka to build a magnificent temple at Somanathapura. He used to select some portions to himself and allocate the rest to his associates. In Somanathapura, his work can be distinctly found on the northern tower.

It is quite unfortunate that the place is used for shooting films and other purposes, with scant regard for the safety and sanctity of the structure.

Keerthi-Narayana Temple (1117 A.D), Talakad, Tirumakudlu-Narasipura Taluk, Mysore District.

The saga of temples in Talakad is supported by the rich history of the land. Of the ancient dynasties of south India, the Gangas (350-1050 AD) were one of the most illustrious who ruled over a greater part of Mysore, then known by the name Gangavadi. Along with the Kadambas, the Gangas rose to power and ruled over the southern part of Karnataka. They continued to rule over Gangavadi till the close of the 10th century. When the Cholas overpowered the Gangas during the 11th century, Talakadu was renamed as Rajapura. In 1117, Vishnuvardhana, one of the greatest rulers of the Hoysala dynasty seized Talakad from the Cholas and assumed the title of Talakadugonda. In commemoration of this achievement, he built the Keerthinarayana temple at Talakad.

Today, most of the magnificent temples of this ancient town are submerged in sand. All the stone pillars (square at the base and fitted into a wheel below the abacus) lie scattered throughout the town. Among the temples of Talakad, the Pathaleshwara, Maruleshwara, Arkeshwara, Vaidyanathee-shwara and Mallikarjuna temples form the pancha lingas. In honour of these five Shiva temples, a fair is held once in 12 years called Pancha Linga Darshana, which was last held in 1993. The Pancha Linga Darshana is held on a new moon day during the auspicious month of Karthika when there is a conjugate of the Khuha Yoga and the Vishaka star.

Besides the pancha lingas, there are many other magnificent temples in Talakad. The Kapileshwara temple is one such structure that has a navaranga with pillars, pierced stone windows and ornamented creepers with dancing figures. Another magnificent structure is the Keerthinarayana temple, which is the only temple in Talakad to have been constructed in the Hoysala style of architecture. A greater part of this temple is buried in sand. Other than the sanctum sanctorum, there is a sukanasi and a navaranga in this temple. Inside the sanctum sanctorum stands an eight-foot-tall statue of Keerthinarayana. Recent excavations in the temple complex have brought to light remains of earlier centuries. Among the findings are an intricately carved mantapa (with carvings of Ugranarasimha) made of stone, which is about 12 foot tall. A thulasikatte, remnants of a Garuda kamba, two stone inscriptions and walls of an unknown structure were also found here.

The efforts of the archaeological department are laudable in this regard. Each piece of stone has been numbered, and the mantapas are being rebuilt bit by bit. Work is still on at the site of excavation. The painstaking efforts of the archaeologists is bound to bring to light some more astounding facts about the structures that once stood in the precincts of the Keerthi-narayana temple. Currently, the repair work is on in the temple complex, for which the southern entrance has been sealed. It could probably bring to light some more facts that could enlighten us about the history of the temple. Although half-buried in sand, the Keerthinarayana temple still looks majestic.

The presence of a large mass of sand in Talakad amid lush green vegetation is something that is worth pondering. While geologists say that Talakad is filed with sand carried by the wind from the dry bed of river Cauvery, the locals still prefer to go by the age-old tale of Alamelamma and her curse.

Localite Rama Nayaka narrates the story rather dramatically. About 400 years ago, Srirangapatana is supposed to have been under the control of the mighty Vijayanagar Empire. Alamelamma was the wife of the king’s representative named Srirangaraya. Every Tuesday and Friday, Sri Ranganaya-kamma borrowed Alame-lamma’s jewels and returned it after the pooja. Meanwhile, Srirangaraya developed a tumour on his back, resembling the hood of a cobra (the disease is called Bennu Phani Roga or Raja Roga in Kannada). Srirangaraya, along with his wife, came to Talakad to worship Vaidyanatheshwara with the hope of being cured of his ailment. Srirangaraya, however, did not survive for long, and his wife settled down in a small village called Malangi. During this period, the Wodeyars took over Srirangapatna, and started demanding the jewels. When Alamelamma could not bear it no more, she sent a nose ring to Srirangapatana and jumped into a pond in Malangi with the remaining jewels. Before she ended her life, Alamelamma is supposed to have uttered three curses, of which one is “Talakadu Marulagi.” When translated to English, it means, “Let Talakadu be covered with sand.” The locals still believe that Alamelamma’s curse is the cause for the large mass of sand in Talakad.

Veera-Narayana Temple (1200 A.D), Belavadi, Chikkamagalur Taluk, Chikmagalur District.

Belavadi is a small village situated 29 kilometres south east of Chikmagalur on Chikmagalur — Javagal Highway and 10 kilometres North West of Halebid. This temple, declared as a protected monument, is one of the largest Hoysala temples.

It is a Trikootachala structure with three cells dedicated to Veeranarayana, Venugopala and Yoga- Narasimha. The temple is a fine example of Hoysala architecture. The west side of the temple consists of a square garbhagriha, a sukanasi, navaranga and square mukhamantapa. The whole structure has been constructed on a raised platform. The Veeranarayana cell has a tower over the sanctum and a large stone kalasa on the shikara.

The navaranga has large bell shaped pillars. The ceiling of the sukhanasi is a dome with an octagonal gallery and circles above. Inside the garbhagriha an 8-foot Veeranarayana is placed on the Garuda pedestal. The image is elegantly carved and elaborately ornamented where the deity is standing in stanaka pose with four hands. The idol is said to be one of the best specimens of Hoysala art. 22 pillars, 20 of which are round bell-shaped ones, support the Mukhamantapa of the Veeranarayana shrine and the other two are star-shaped. An important feature of the temple is the stone bench which runs all round the edge of the mukhamantapa. It is ornamented with rosettes and plasters.

To the east of the temple is a sabhamantapa with sukanasi and a pair of garbhagrihas facing each other, containing the images of Venugopala and Yoganarasimha. The image of Venugopala is about 8ft in height inclusive of the Garuda pedestal and prabhavali. Venugopala stands cross-legged and his fingers are lifted as if playing the flute. The image of Yoganarasimha is about 7ft high with prabhavali where Narasimha, seated in yogic posture, has a band carved around it to help keep the legs in position. The image has a fine kreeta and protruding eyes. The towers of Venugopala and Yoganarasimha shrines are similar to the Veeranarayana shrine and have turrets, ornamented keerthimukhas and varied sculptures.

All the ceiling panels of the temple, except those of the veranda, are well carved. Some of these ceilings are flat while a majority of them are dome-like containing intricate geometrical patterns of various designs. The flat ceilings have the images of Krishna playing on the flute, Kalingamardhana and Kamsavadha in different postures. To the east of this Trikootachala temple is a large inverted cone-like structure on a high ground with a square hall and a spacious porch. This is the mahadwara or the main gateway of the temple. A pair of impressively carved elephants flanks both entrances of this structure.

Vasanthika Temple, Angadi, Mudigere Taluk - the birthplace of the Hoysalas

“Hoy Sala " ( Strike Sala ! ) said the guru Sudatta Muni to his student , Sala who was in an armed combat with a tiger . The beast had just attached the duo who were immersed in rituals at a Durga or Vasantha Parameshwari temple in a village called Sasakapura or Sosevur. The student struck the animal in one blow, immortalizing himself and his victim . The guru was so pleased that he asked Sala to establish a kingdom and the Hoysala dynasty was established with Sosevur as the capital .

The story is believed to have happenned more than 1000 years ago. at Sasakapura or Sosevur which is today identified as Angadi, a small hamlet in Chikmagalur district in Karnataka The temple of the Goddess , along with the ruins of more temples and basadis is the only proof of this myth .The folklore however became so popular that every temple of the Hoysalas has this story carved in stone and it became the royal emblem of the dynasty.

The origin of Hoysalas

The Hoysalas were not born kings but they ruled for 300 years . They were natives of Malnad, Karnataka and were tribal chiefs who were subordinates of the Western Chalukyas. Some inscriptions show them as lords of the Male (hills) while some indicate that they were descendants of the Yadava clan. Historically though the first Hoysala family record is dated 950 and names Arekalla as the chieftain, followed by Maruga and Nripa Kama I (976).

But the kings who shaped the dynasties were Vishnuvardhan and Veera Bhallalla who became independent from the Chalukyas .Vishnuvardhan established his supremacy by defeating the Cholas in Talakadu . Historians claim that the story behind the Hoysala crest is a symbolic interpretation of this victory as the tiger , a symbol of the Cholas is shown subdued by a soldier.

But today the Hoysalas are remembered for their patronage to arts along with their exploits on the battlefield – a baffling 1500 temples built in 958 centres, of which the two famous ones are Belur and Halebid which were the capital cities of the dynasty. However, hardly a 100 survive today. Our trail had taken us down to 25 villages including Angadi , the original capital of the empire, where it all began.

Kesava Temple (1130 A.D), Marle, Chikkamagalur Taluk, Chikmagalur District.


Marle belongs to Chikkamagalur district. A road connects Marle to Hiremagalur. During the region of Vishnuvardhana Raya, two temples have been built here - one a Kesava temple, and the other, a Siddeswara temple. On the outer surfaces of each of these temples several wall carvings are found. Two attractive elephants holding lotuses in their tusks capture the attention of every visitor near the portico of the Kesava Temple.

In between the two temples there stands a 12 feet high stone slab on which are inscribed the details regarding the history of their construction. It represents the treasure of inscriptions and sculpture abounding in our Karnataka state. In the Navarangas of both the temples round pillars, ceiling decorations in the form of Bhuvanaeswari, along with the retinue of the eight deities guarding the quarters (Ashtadikpalakas) do exist. Despite all these facts of exquisite figures and features, the place has remained unknown to many lovers of sculptural art, just for want of adequate advertisement by responsible people.

Narasimha Temple, Nijagallu, Tumkuru Taluk, Tumkur District.

The Narasimha temple in Nijagallu Betta is one of those forgotten monuments. So much so that its name was not part of the list of ancient monuments. Situated close to Dobbaspet on the Bangalore-Tumkur road (NH 4), the hill is also called Siddhara Betta, as the 'Siddhas' were once believed to have meditated on its slopes.

The Narasimha Temple stands between the base and summit of the hill. One can get there by taking a left from the over bridge near Dobbspet bus stand. The visitor will have to take the small steps carved on the rock.

The ancient fort on the hill may have been built by Mysore king Chikkadevaraja Wodeyar in 1690-1694 AD, but now only the outer wall remains. And after crossing the small Darga the temple will be visible. There is a small fresh water pond called akka tangi in front of the darga, which is named after Syed Badshah Shah Kareem, a Sufi saint.

There is no precise history of the shrine, but carvings on the outer wall are similar to the Hoysala architecture and the temple itself resembles the Thirunarayana Shrine in Melkote. Localities believe it to be a Hoysala structure. It's shocking to notice the frontal being covered by thick overgrowth; entering the temple is therefore possible only from the left side.

However, the interiors of the temple are intact and in a good condition. There is a mantapa with fine carvings of Jaya and Vijaya, the two dwarapalakas of Vaikuntha, near the entrance. One enters the empty garbhagruha through a passage, which may have been built for the worshippers. The idol of Narasimha was shifted to a temple in nearby village.

Another fortification on the hill starts from the temple and goes on to the summit, where more monuments are located.

The hill contains another Darga (on the back of the temple). There's also a Shiva temple with statues of Ganesha, Subramanya and Veerabhadra on the outer wall. Inscriptions near the temple dating back to 1698 attribute the hill-fort to Chikkadeva. From here the scenes of the other hills are spectacular.

There is a cave temple dedicated to Lord Shiva with carvings of dikpalakas and Nataraja.

In 1771 AD Marathas led by young Peshwa Madhav Rao attacked this region. Hyder Ali was the army chief of Mysore and his forces were defeated. The battle took place in Nijagallu.

Lakshmi-Narasimha Temple (1286 A.D), Vigna-Sante, Tiptur Taluk, Tumkur District.

The Lakshmi-Narasimha temple was built in 1286 A.D by three brothers who were generals of the Hoysala King Narasimha III : Appaya, Gopala and Madhava. It is three celled structure raised on a stellate parapet, with the western cell having a stone superstructure and a vestibule. The hall has four pillars.