The Hoysala Empire was a Kannadiga power originating from the Indian subcontinent, that ruled most of what is now Karnataka, India, between the 10th and the 14th centuries. The capital of the Hoysalas was initially located at Belur but was later moved to Halebidu.
The Hoysala rulers were originally from Malenadu, an elevated region in the Western Ghats. In the 12th century, taking advantage of the internecine warfare between the Western Chalukya Empire and Kalachuris of Kalyani, they annexed areas of present-day Karnataka and the fertile areas north of the Kaveri delta in present-day Tamil Nadu. By the 13th century, they governed most of Karnataka, minor parts of Tamil Nadu and parts of western Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the Deccan Plateau.
The Hoysala era was an important period in the development of art, architecture, and religion in South India. The empire is remembered today primarily for Hoysala architecture. Over a hundred surviving temples are scattered across Karnataka.
Well known temples “which exhibit an amazing display of sculptural exuberance” include the Chennakeshava Temple, Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebidu, and the Chennakesava Temple, Somanathapura. The Hoysala rulers also patronised the fine arts, encouraging literature to flourish in Kannada and Sanskrit.
The Hoysalas usually dedicated their temples to Shiva or to Vishnu (two of the popular Hindu gods), but they occasionally built some temples dedicated to the Jain faith as well. Worshippers of Shiva are called Shaivas and worshippers of Vishnu are called Vaishnavas.While King Vishnuvardhana and his descendants were Vaishnava by faith, records show that the Hoysalas maintained religious harmony by building as many temples dedicated to Shiva as they did to Vishnu.
In a Hoysala temple , a cuboid cell, the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) houses a centrally placed murti (enshrined icon) on a pitha (pedestal). The shikhara (superstructure), rises over the garbha griha 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 garbha griha 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 can be found.
The vimanas are either stellate, semi–stellate or orthogonal in plan. The intricately carved banded plinths, a distinguishing characteristic of the Hoysala temples, comprise a series of horizontal courses that run as rectangular strips with narrow recesses between them. Also, the temples themselves are sometimes built on a raised platform or jagati which is used for the purpose of a pradakshinapatha (circumambulation).
An abundance of figure sculptures covers almost all the Hoysala temples. These sculptures , shows stories from mythology and also act as a window into the culture at that time !
There is an interesting story associated with how the Hoysala dynasty was named. It is said that a young boy named Sala and his teacher were in a temple in Angadi when a tiger approached them menacingly. The teacher handed Sala an iron rod and said “Poy Sala” which translates to ‘strike Sala’. Sala took the rod and kill the Tiger with a single blow. Sala went on to set up a vast kingdom and took his teacher’s cry as his family name.
The figure representing Sala attacking the tiger became the emblem of this royal family and can be seen in almost every temple built by the Hoysalas. However, the story has a number of discrepancies and is considered folklore by many historians.
Another interpretation of this emblem is that it represents the victory of King Vishnuvardhana over the Cholas as the tiger was the emblem of the Chola dynasty. Here is a sneak peek into the rich history of Hoysalas.
Poetry In stone, some images
” My Wish , is to capture these Hoysala Gems and present it as a Coffee Table Book this year”
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