The Legend Hoysala Empire:
The Hoysala empire was a prominent Kannadiga empire 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. Halebidu was called Dwara Samudra, hosts the famous Hoysaleswara Temple. And Belur is renowned for its Chennakeshava temple.
The legend of Hoysala starts with a young man, Sala, who saved his Jain guru, Sudatta by striking dead a tiger he encountered near the temple of the goddess Vasantika at Angadi, now called Sosevuru. The word “strike” literally translates to “hoy” in Old Kannada, hence the name “Hoy-sala”. We can see this iconography in many places in the Hoysala temples and its also the emblem of the Hoysala empire.
The Hoysalas achieved the status of a real kingdom for the first time, after Bitti deva wrested Gangavadi from the Cholas in 1116 and moved the capital from Belur to Halebidu . In this time period Sri Ramanuja moved from Chola Empire to Hoysala empire . Bitti deva, originally a follower of Jainism, came under the influence of the Hindu philosopher Ramanujacharya, converted to Hindu Vaishnavism and took the name “Vishnuvardhana” and built the famous Chennakesava temple in Belur.
Legend of Amarashilpi Jakkanna Acharya:
Chennakesava temple at Belur was built by the renowned sculptor Jakkanna Acharya(On whose life the famous Telugu and Kannada films Amarashilpi Jakkanna were made). The legend says Dankanacharya , who separated from his father Jakkanna finds a job as a sculptor and noticed a flaw in a figure sculpted by the great Jakkannacharya himself. Dankanacharya told Jakkannacharya that the stone which he was carving had a toad living inside which was a considered to be a flaw by the sculptors. Furious at this, Jakkannacharya challenged to cut off his right hand if the young sculptor was correct in his assessment of the sculpture. Dankanacharya chiselled the place where the flaw was present and a toad jumped out with a little water flowing from that spot. Upon testing the figure, the flaw was indeed revealed and Jakkannacharya kept his promise and cut off his right hand.Eventually, the two sculptors become aware of their relationship as father and son. Subsequently, Jakkannacharya received a vision to build the Chennakeshava temple in his native place Kridapura. After this was completed, legend has it that God restored his right hand. In celebration of this incident, Kridapura was henceforth called Kaidala. The term Kai in Kannada means “hand”
Trivia: The well known Telugu film director Rajamouli is famously called Jakkanna for the way he crafts the movie with perfection in every details .
We started the journey at 5 a.m on Day 1 towards the two capitals of Hoysala empire Halebidu and Belur from Bangalore, via NICE road ,continued on to NH75 . Had a break for break fast at Kamat Upachar Kunigal around 7:30 a.m. which is quite good for a quick breakfast. There were many good hotels between Kunigal and Bellur to have a quick breakfast.After the breakfast we continued till Hassan on the same road and took a right turn at Hassan towards Halebidu. The road from here is single road and not quite good in condition when we travelled. We reached Halebidu, Hoysaleswara Temple around 10:00 a.m.
We had the darshan of Hoysaleswara and spent some time there and started the travel to the early capital of Hoysala Empire Belur . It’s a 20-30mins drive from Halebidu. We reached Belur Chennakeshava temple around 12:30 , had darshan of Chennakeshava .
There was a saying that the Hoysaleswara Temple should be seen from outside and Chennakeshava temple should be seen from inside. I felt the saying was correct as beauty of the sculptures which are inside Chennakeshava temple and the sculptures on the outer walls of Hoysaleswara are equally magnificent.
One difference from other temples I visited to these temples is that there was no restriction in taking snaps with camera or phone, and after seeing the same in implementation we can see why that is a very bad idea in temples . Also maintenance of these temples are petty bad, allowing people to scratch / write names etc on sculptures without anyone to oversee.
Post lunch , we left the Hoysala Empire to Travelling Through Western Ghats from there.
Second part of the series: Journey Through Hoysala Empire – 2