Three Hoysala Temples of Karnataka inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- September 20, 2023
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
Three Hoysala Temples of Karnataka inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Section: Art and Culture
- The Hoysala temples at Belur, Halebidu and Somanathapur in Karnataka were officially inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites during the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
- The Hoysala Temples, will be India’s 42nd UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Chennakeshava temple at Belur and Hoysaleshwara temple at Halebidu — both in Hassan district have been on UNESCO’s tentative list since 2014.
- All the three were officially nominated by the Centre as India’s entry for 2022-23 in February in 2022.
- All three temples are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the nominations were entered as ‘The Sacred Ensembles of Hoysalas’.
Features of Hoysala Temple Architecture
- The Hoysala dynasty ruled over much of South India for close to 200 years and during this time they built spectacular temples; both Hindu as well as Jain.
- The Hoysala temples are known for evolving a distinct style that is ornate with temple architecture following a stellate plan built on a raised platform.
- The material used in temple construction is chloritic schist which is also known as soapstone that is soft and amiable to carving.
- An abundance of figure sculpture covers almost all the Hoysala temples.
- The garbhagriha (sanctum-sanctorum) houses a centrally placed murti (enshrined icon) on a pitha (pedestal).
- The shikhara (superstructure), rises over the garbhagriha and together with the sanctum they form the vimana (or mulaprasada) of a temple.
- A ribbed stone, amalaka, is placed atop the shikhara with a kalash at its finial.
- An intermediate antarala (vestibule) joins the garbhagriha to an expansive pillared mandapa (porch) in front, chiefly facing east (or north).
- The temple may be approached via entrances with gigantic gopurams (ornate entrance towers) towering over each doorway.
- In the prakaram (temple courtyard) several minor shrines and outbuildings often abound.
Chennakeshava Temple Belur
- The temple was consecrated by the famous Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana to mark his victories in 1116 AD against the Cholas and called the Vijaya Narayana.
- Chennakesava (“handsome Kesava”) is a form of the HindugodVishnu.
- The construction of the Chennakeshava temple at Belur in commenced during the period of king Vishnuvardhana in 1117 CE and took 103 years to complete
- Enclosed by a Prakara with a Gopura built in the Vijayanagar style, the temple stands on a platform or Jagati and looks like a huge casket.
- The Chennakesava temple is a fine example of fine quality work of art in stone. There are more than 80 Madanika sculptures in the temple, dancing, hunting, standing under canopies of trees and so on.
- The 4 Madanika figures (striking elegant dancing poses) on the wonderfully engraved columns of Navaranga are unique creations of Hoysala workmanship.
- The Garbhagriha is stellar in shape and its zigzag walls make the figures of 24 forms of Vishnu look different at different times of the day due to light.
- The temple artwork depicts scenes of secular life in the 12th century, dancers and musicians, as well as a pictorial narration of Hindu texts such as the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the Puranas through numerous friezes.
- It is a Vaishnava temple that reverentially includes many themes from Shaivism and Shaktism, as well as images of a Jina from Jainism and the Buddha from Buddhism.
- The temple was built by master craftsmen – Dasoja and Chavana, a father and son duo, hailing from Balliganve, a centre of Kalyana Chalukya art in Shimoga district.
- It is said that Shantaladevi, the accomplished queen of King Vishnuvardhana is the model for one of the sculptures in the Navaranga – Darpana Sundari.
- The temples of Kappe Chennigaraya, Soumyanayaki, Andal and other Vaishnava manifestations surround this main temple.
- Belur, situated on the banks of river Yagachi, 38 km from Hassan, is a world famous tourist destination.
- Belur also has a samadhi believed to be of Raghavanka, the celebrated Kannada poet of the 13th century.
- Belur was the erstwhile capital of the Hoysalas and referred to as Velapur, Velur and Belahur at different points in history.
Hoysaleshwara Temple, Halebidu
- Hoysaleswara Temple is situated on the banks of Dwarasamudra tank in Halebidu, a town which has many protected and unprotected temples, archaeological ruins and mounds.
- It was financed by Ketamalla and Kesarasetti, rich merchants who dedicated it to King Vishnuvardhana and his queen Shantaladevi.
- Hoysaleswara temple, also referred simply as the Halebidu temple, is a 12th-century Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is the largest monument in Halebidu, in Karnataka and the former capital of the Hoysala Empire.
- The Hoysaleshwara temple was commissioned in 1121 CE.
- The Hoysaleswara Temple poised on a star-shaped base on the lawn is an architectural marvel.
- This twin-shrined temple is perhaps the largest Shiva temple built by the Hoysalas.
- The twin shrines are dedicated to Hoysaleswara and Santaleswara Shiva lingas, named after the masculine and feminine aspects, both equal and joined at their transept.
- Its base consists of 8 rows of friezes carved with elephants, lions, horses and floral scrolls.
- Its walls are adorned with intricately carved Hindu deities, sages, stylised animals, birds and friezes depicting the life of Hoysala kings.
- Imagery from epics like the Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Bhagavad Gita adorn the outer walls with highly ornate temple doorways.
- It is believed that no other temple in the country captures the Indian epics as elegantly as Hoysaleswara Temple.
- The Nandi Mantapa is positioned right in front of the temple wherein there is a huge Nandi richly decorated with stone ornaments.
- Behind this is a shrine dedicated to Surya with a 2 m tall image.
- There are exquisite carvings in the interiors of the temple as well. The most striking item is the highly polished lathe-turned pillars.
Halebidu / Halebeedu / Dwarasamudra
- Halebeedu (formerly known as Dwarasamudra) was the ancient capital of the Hoysalas just 17 km away from Belur.
- In 1311, the army of Alauddin Khilji, led by Malik Kafur defeated the Hoysalas and raided their empire.
- The Hoysala capital Halebidu was besieged and sacked for the second time, in 1327, by an army sent by Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
- It is recorded that enormous wealth and riches were looted. The city never recovered and fell into neglect. In fact, Halebeedu means “old house/ old ruins“.
- Apart from Hoysaleshwara Temple, Halebeedu is also known for Kedareshwara Temple and multiple Jain temples.
Keshava Temple at Somanathapura
- Keshava temple at Somanathapura in Mysuru district was commissioned by Somanatha Dandanayakaduring the regime of Narasimha III in 1268 CE.
- It is situated on the left bank of River Kaveri.
- The 13th century Keshava temple, described as “poetry in stone”, is dedicated to Vishnu.
- Like many other Hoysala temples, it is also built on a raised star-shaped platform called Jagati.
- It is Trikuta, a temple with three shrines and three vimanas, dedicated to Keshava, Janardhana and Venugopala. All three are a form of Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu.
- Built in 16 point star shape, the three shrines in the temple have been built in symmetry.
- The temple has a square shaped navaranga (congregation hall) which served as a dance floor to the devadasis. The navaranga is a 3×3 grid of nine rectangular sections. The middle section of the navaranga is known as sabhamantapa (the community hall).
- The temple at Somanathapura took 58 years to build with 500 sculptors ceaselessly working on it.
- The Keshava temple at Somanathapura faces east and is enclosed in a walled courtyard with a major gate (mahadvara). The courtyard wall frames a rectangular veranda and an array of small shrines.
- The temple is carved from soapstone, a green-grey chloritic schist material that is soft in quarry but hardens when exposed to air. This is not locally available and must have been imported from another part of South India. It enabled the artists to shape and carve out intricate details for the artwork.
- The walls are covered in beautiful friezes of scenes from the epics, figures of elephants and battle scenes depicting cavalry.
- The stellar plan creates several corners and niches that provide different canvases for the sculptor and each row carries a different pattern.
- The ceilings also carry beautiful decorations.
- The temple is surrounded by galleries on South, West and North Attached to the galleries are 64 mini shrines.