An incomplete guide to Hoysala temples ;-)

From the preface of the “Complete Guide to Hoysala temples” by Gerard Foekema: “For me, enjoying Later Calukya and Hoysala temples is one of the great pleasures of life. I love these temples because their plans are so logical and natural, because their architecture is so ingenious, and because their execution is so rich…"

An incomplete guide to Hoysala temples

We did this very interesting trip over the weekend of 28th, 29th & 30th March 09.

The route map:

* Map not to scale.

Total distance on the odo, from start to stop : 826kms.

Due to some commitments getting postponed, we suddenly had a 3 day weekend coming up (we had taken off on Monday 30th) and no plans on hand.

A Belur-Halebid trip was long overdue anyway and this seemed to be a good opportunity to do it. While researching into the history and significance of the Belur-Halebid temples, I came across quite a few interesting websites, including the superb travelogue by a TBHPian @akbaree

@akbaree had recommended a book titled ‘A complete guide to Hoysala Temples by Gerard Foekema’ which is a good and comprehensive source of information on Hoysala temple architecture. Unfortunately I could not buy the book since it was out of stock in the shops I checked with. However, significant portions of the book are available via Google-books. [The maps and some sections are not available online]

To quote from the book: “More than a hundred of Hoysala temples survive today, and I think more than 10 of them to be of interest to the average tourist. The most important message I have to convey is that the large temples in Belur and Halebid give a marvelous impression of Hoysala sculpture, but only a poor impression of Hoysala architecture, because they are seriously incomplete. Visiting a few other villages in the neighborhood of Belur and Halebid is very rewarding, because there smaller but complete temples can be found. Several of these small and modest temples perfectly show the logic and beauty of Hoysala architecture…

The thought of covering all the temples listed in the book was quite appealing. I looked up these places in the Eicher & TTK road maps and found that not all of them are marked. I filled in the gaps by looking up these places on G-maps, Mapmyindia and also by reading up directions to these places on different websites.

Slowly the route started to take shape. Of the places mentioned in the book, we dropped Amritapura & Basaralu since they would involve too much of a deviation from our route plan. [which is why my log is titled ‘an incomplete guide to…’]

13 out of the 15 places from the book were penciled in. Also, there are several other places, which also have beautiful Hoysala temples, but are not mentioned in the book… added in a couple of those as well, ending up with a list of 17 places to be covered.

The list of places we visited over the three days:

Day 1

  • Turuvekere
  • Aralaguppe
  • Arsikere
  • Haranhalli

(Overnight stay at Halebid.)

Day 2

  • Halebid
  • Hulikere
  • Belvadi
  • Javagallu
  • Belur
  • Dodda Gadduvalli
  • Koravangala

(Overnight stay at Hassan)

Day 3

  • Mosale
  • Nuggehalli
  • Govindanahalli
  • Kikkeri
  • Hosaholalu
  • Somanathapur

Belur temple gopuram, in 1895 – in 2009…

Somanathpur temple, in 1865 – in 2009…

Somanathpur temple, in 1865 – in 2009…

Somanathpur temple, in 1865 – in 2009…

Belur, in 1865 – in 2009…

Halebid temple, in 1856 – in 2009…

Halebid temple, in 1868 – in 2009…

Halebid temple, in 1865 – in 2009…

Halebid temple, in 1856 – in 2009…

* Old pics courtesy British Library – ASI.

The Belur Temple originally had a gopurum on top, which collapsed / was taken down sometime later. The small ‘add-on’ shrine (seen in the center of the old photo) + the steps (in front of the add-on shrine) which were attached to the temple by someone after the Hoysala period were also taken out during some renovation exercise…

Who were the Hoysalas?
In a chronological context, Karnataka was ruled over by the following kingdoms:

  • Pre-historic age.
  • Early years Satavahanas
  • 325 A.D.- 540 A.D. Kadambas of Banavasi
  • 325 A.D.- 999 A.D. Gangas of Talkad
  • 500 A.D. – 757 A.D. Chalukyas of Badami
  • 757 A.D. – 973 A.D. Rashrakootas
  • 973 A.D. – 1198 A.D. Chalukyas of Kalyan
  • 1198 A.D. – 1312 A.D. Yadavas of Devagiri
  • 1000 A.D. – 1346 A.D. Hoysalas
  • 1336 A.D. – 1565 A.D. Vijayanagara Kings
  • 1347 A.D. – 1527 A.D. Bahamani Kings
  • 1490 A.D. – 1686 A.D. Sultans of Bijapur
  • 1500 A.D. – 1763 A.D. Nayakas of Keladi
  • 1399 A.D. – 1761 A.D. Wodeyars of Mysore
  • 1761 A.D. – 1799 A.D. Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan
  • 1800 A.D. – 1831 A.D. Wodeyars of Mysore (Under British Empire)
  • 1831 A.D. – 1881 A.D. British Empire
  • 1881 A.D. – 1950 A.D. Wodeyars of Mysore
  • 1956 Present day Karnataka is formed.

To quote from the Wikipedia:

The Hoysala Empire was a prominent South Indian Kannadiga empire that ruled most of the modern day state of Karnataka 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 hill people of Malnad Karnataka, an elevated region in the Western Ghats range. In the 12th century, taking advantage of the internecine warfare between the then ruling Western Chalukyas and Kalachuri kingdoms, they annexed areas of present day Karnataka and the fertile areas north of the Kaveri River delta in present day Tamil Nadu. By the 13th century, they governed most of present-day Karnataka, parts of Tamil Nadu and parts of western Andhra Pradesh in Deccan India.

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 its temple architecture. Over a hundred surviving temples are scattered across Karnataka, including the well known Chennakesava Temple at Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura.

The Hoysala rulers also patronized the fine arts, encouraging literature to flourish in Kannada and Sanskrit.

Wikipedia also has a good write-up about Hoysala architecture:
Hoysala architecture
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

More than a 1000 temples were probably built during the Hoysala period. However only a few have survived relatively intact to this day. Some were just abandoned and disintegrated over the centuries; some were renovated and rebuilt to an extent that they no longer resemble their original design.

Of the temples that survived, around 20 temples are recommended as ‘must see’ for anyone interested in Hoysala architecture. Our trip was planned to cover most of these temples…

The planning:
[1] First we listed down the places to cover and the temples to see at each place.
[2] Charted out the places on a rough map to give us an idea of the order in which to cover these places.
[3] We decided that our first night-halt would be at Halebidu and the second night-halt would be at Hassan.

As you start seeing the pics, you might feel that many temples look quite similar… yes, they do. While the overall architecture might follow some standard patterns, what differentiate the temples are the carvings on the walls, the level of intricacy in the design etc. So each temple is different if you observe it from close quarters.

Most of these temples either have guides, caretakers or priests who can walk you through the temples and explain the significance of each.

The trip:
Day 1 We planned to make an early morning start, but both of us could wind-up only close to 11pm the previous evening and by the time packing is done and we fall asleep, it is around 2am. So, we wake up at 6.30am and finally start off at around 7.30am.

Saturday morning traffic was light and we reached Nelamangala without any trouble and took the right turn towards Kunigal. On our previous drive along this road we had seen that there are some good hotels after Kunigal where we could stop for breakfast.

I will not delve into the specifics of the route since the map should give you a good idea about the location of each place and we did a lot of ‘stop-and-ask’ throughout the trip to find our way around.

Spotted this scenic archway along the way…

The route to Turuvekere, our first place to see…



We enter Turuvekere!

In Turuvekere we covered three temples, the Chennakesava temple, the Moole Shankara temple and the Gangadhareeshwara temple.

Chennakesava temple…

Next we headed towards the Moole Shankara temple and found that it was locked. We asked around to see who had the key and were directed towards a nearby house. After enquiring about where we were from and our interest in the temple, they offered us some coffee and snacks and then just handed us the keys to the temple!

The Moole Shankara temple…

Hmmm… This is the first time we unlocked a temple!

We spent some time here, locked the temple again, handed over the keys and proceeded towards the Gangadhareeshwara temple…

The Nandi, which is around 7ft tall…

A unique ‘Stone bell’! You can actually strike it with a stick and it sounds like a normal bell!


After Turuvekere, we proceeded towards Aralaguppe, though we knew that it was somewhere around, we asked some locals to guide us and they mentioned the route options and suggested the best route that would be kind on the Xing…

One ‘unique’ experience I had at this temple was being stung on my hand by a wasp. Nothing serious though…

The Keshava temple at Aralaguppe…

It was close to 2.00pm by the time we ready to leave from Aralaguppe, we would be driving through Tiptur on the way to our next destination, so lunch stop was at Tiptur.




After a lunch break at Tiptur, we reached Arasikere at around 4.00pm and proceeded towards the ‘Shivalaya’. This is a live temple on the outskirts of the town.

After spending around 45 mins at the Shivalaya, we headed out towards our next stop; Haranahalli, which is around 8 kms from Arasikere.



We covered two temples here, the Lakshminarasimha temple and the Someshwara temple.

The Someshwara temple…

The Lakshminarasimha temple…

Another locked temple, found the priest’s house and got him back to open the temple for us…

It was quite late by the time we were ready to leave from Haranahalli, so we decided to drive to Halebidu, stay overnight there and track back towards Belavadi and Javagal the next day. [We drove through Javagal and passed the Belevadi diversion on our way to Halebidu.]

There are a few lodges in Halebidu and our first choice was the Mayura Santala guest-house which was recommended by @akbaree. Since this is right next to the Halebidu temple it would be really convenient. But this guest-house has just four rooms and may not be available easily. Luckily for us there was a four-bed family room available, which would cost us a little more, at Rs.400 for the night, it was still quite cheap and we took it. Ordered some simple food and shut down for the night…

The guest house campus…


12 comments to...
“An incomplete guide to Hoysala temples ;-)”


Thanks for posting this. I was looking for santhebennur pushkarani and found this. Visited few hoysala temples like belur, halebidu, Aralaguppe, Hosaholalu etc but not in one day. Thanks again for information. BTW you should also check Sravanabelagola, which we would have visited in school trip, but found it interesting on a recent visit.



This is fantastic! loved reading about the trip.. would love to do this sometime too!

Saurabh Saxena

Very good trip indeed that you covered so many temples. I have that book of Gerard if you want I can lend for few days.
I would be covering the Hoysala trail soon, after completing my Chalukyan temples and your map will be very useful for that. Thanks once again.
-Saurabh Saxena


Very useful information. Thanks for sharing us.



excellant narattion and geographywork. mouthwatering. have to follow your route someday.


Good trip you have done,I too am doing the hoysala trail,just wanted to know if you have visited arkere and lesser known mavathanahalli temple,hardly 10 to 15 kms from javagal.


Wonderful trip. I had been to Halebidu, Sravanbelagola and Belur temples. Loved the route that you took.

K K Swamy

Fantastic effort… We need to be proud of our real History not the one taught by the Government. All photos are excellent


So beautifully done and gave so much info.(last 35y living in US) i am proud and blessed to be an Indian.

Manju Swamy

I have recently visited Tipu’s summer palace near Bangalore old market. In the court yard of the palace there was a photographic exhibition of Hoysala temples from all around Hassan+. I thought of planning a visit of these temples similar to you. Nice journey I can imagine. I will do this trip when I am back in India next year.
One thing to mention here is that although we complain about the Government’s function, this Archeological department’s effort in reclaiming and preserving the surroundings is laudable. I hope this preservation will continue for the years to come.
Thanks to Archeology Department and who ever invovled in preserving these temples.

And again thanks for the direction and some basis for the plan I was trying to make.


Shyamal Chatterji

Dear friends,

I have 2 reasons to go through your posts on Hoysala temples – 1) I have decided to write my dissertation for the course on ‘Appreciation of Art’ I am going through @ RMIC,Calcutta during 2012-13 and 2 ) our visit to Belur/Halebid/Somnathpura planned during Nov.,12.

We have 3 days for these sites – have other plans too. We may or may not be able to cover some of the lesser visited temples. But, I must admit that I am indeed ‘floored’ by your travelogue – both text and photographs.

Pl keep up the good work. If you ever plan to cover terra cotta temples and Muslim architecture of West Bengal in future, pl do get in touch with me for any help you may need.
Best wishes.


very good information for us.


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