Halebeedu, Karnataka

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The Hoysala dynasty in Karnataka is renowned for its celebrated temples, so exquisitely carved of soft soapstone that they are veritable jewel-boxes. Among the best preserved of these is the Chennakeshava Temple at Belur in Hassan district of Karnataka. Not far from here is the Hoysaleshwara Temple at Halebeedu, the erstwhile capital of the Hoysala dynasty that once answered to the name of Dwarasamudra. The Hoysalas ruled over most of modern-day Karnataka between the 10th and 14th centuries.

This 12th century temple is an architectural wonder. It rests on a star-shaped plinth and is covered with a multitude of exquisite carvings, no two of which are alike. Miniature elephants, birds, horses and mythical creatures called Yalis appear to come to life. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and celebrates his pantheon of divine consorts and attendants. The main shrine is named after the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleshwara who is known to have commissioned the temple. An adjacent shrine is dedicated to his queen, Shantala Devi.

The temple was at the peak of its grandeur during the 12th century. In the late 14th century, it was sacked by the Muslim invader Malik Kafur after which it never regained its glory. Despite being in ruins, it is a symbol of the grandeur of the Hoysala dynasty.

Halebeedu can be reached by a four-hour road journey from Bangalore via Hassan or Mysore en route to Chikmagalur.

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