Hoysaleswara temple is a temple dedicated to Hindu god Shiva. It was built in Halebidu (in modern Karnataka state, India) during the rule of King Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala Empire in the 12th century. The construction was completed in 1121 CE. During the early 14th century, Halebidu was sacked and looted by Muslim invaders from northern India and the temple fell into a state of ruin and neglect. Previously known as Dorasamudra or Dwarasamudra, Halebidu is 16 km from Belur, 31 km from Hassan and 149 km from Mysore, in the state of Karnataka, India.
According to art critic and historian S. Settar, from contemporary inscriptions it is known that the temple derives its name from the Hoysala ruler at that time, King Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleswara, though interestingly, the construction of the temple was initiated and financed by wealthy Shaiva (a Hindu sect) citizens of the city, prominent among who were Ketamalla and Kesarasetti. The temple building activity was taken up in competition to the construction of the Chennakesava Temple at Belur, a Vaishnava temple. The temple faces a large tank which was built in the middle of the 11th century and received water through channels from an ancient anecut (dam) built over the Yagachi river. The tank preceded the temple by nearly seventy five years. It is one of the largest temples dedicated to th god Shiva in South India.
The temple is a simple dvikuta vimana, one for "Hoysaleswara" (the king) and the other for "Shantaleswara" and is built with chloritic chist. The temple complex as a whole is elevated on a jagati (platform), which according to historian Kamath, is a feature that became popular in contemporary Hoysala constructions. According to art critic Foekema, the two shrines which are adjoining, face east and each have a mantapa (hall) in front. The two mantapas are connected giving a large and imposing view of the hall. Individually, each shrine is smaller than the one at the Chennakesava Temple at Belur and contains a simple linga, the universal symbol of the god Shiva. The plan of the inside of the temple is simple but the exterior looks different because of the introduction of many projections and recesses in the walls.
The towers of the shrines that are missing must have followed the star shape of the shrine, just as in many existing well-preserved towers in other Hoysala temples. The superstructure over the vestibule which connects the shrine to the mantapa, called sukanasi, and the row of decorated miniature roofs above the eaves of the hall are all missing. The temple was built at a height that provided the architects sufficient horizontal and vertical space to depict large and small sculptures. According to the art critic James Fergusson, the overall effect of the vertical and horizontal lines, the play of the outline, the effect of light and shade and the plan of the projections and recesses all amounts to a "marvellous exhibition of human labor to be found even in the patient east and surpasses anything in Gothic art".
The outer walls of these temples contain an intricate array of stone sculptures. The temple of Halebidu, has been described by art critics James Fergusson and Percy Brown as an "outstanding example of Hindu architecture" and as the "supreme climax of Indian architecture". The temple has four porches for entry and the one normally used by visitors as main entry is actually a lateral entrance. There is one entry on the south side and two on the east side, facing two large detached open pavilions whose ceiling is supported by lathe turned pillars. All entry porches have miniature shrines as flanking. In addition there is a sanctuary for the Sun god Surya, whose image stands 7 ft (2.1 m) tall. The pavilions enshrine large images of Nandi, the bull, an attendant of Shiva.
The Hoysaleswara temple is most well known for its sculptures that run all along the outer wall, starting with an dancing image of the god Ganesha on the left side of the south entrance and ending with another image of Ganesha on the right hand side of the north entrance. In all there are two hundred and forty such images. According to the art critic Gerard Foekema, perhaps no other Hoysala temple is as articulate in sculpture as this is and these sculptures are "second to none in all of India". The most intricate of all sculptures are found in the lintels over two of the doorways, one on the south side doorway and the other on one of the eastern doorways.
Another interesting object in the temple complex is the rare Garuda Sthamba (Garuda pillar). According to Settar, these are different from virgals (Hero stone). Garudas were elite bodyguards of the kings and queens. They moved and lived with the royal family and their only purpose was to protect their master. Upon the death of their master, they committed suicide. The rare pillar on the south side depicts heroes brandishing knives and cutting their own heads. The inscription honors Kuruva Lakshma, a bodyguard of Veera Ballala II. A devoted officer, he took his life and that of his wife and other bodyguards after the death of his master. This event is narrated in an old Kannada inscription on the pillar. A 8 ft (2.4 m) tall sculpture of Ganesha including the platform rests at the South entrance.