Thursday, September 10, 2009

In The City of Ruins

The ancient capital city of the Hoysala empire was once called 'Dwarasamudra' meaning entrance from the ocean, as its located on the banks of a large lake. Now its name fits it perfectly, Halebeedu - the ruined city. It was attacked by the plundering armies of Malik Kafur in the 14th century and later vandalised and defaced by many. The Archeological Survey of India is now taken over and is trying to put together the lost glory..........and what glory it is!!The main temple complex in Halebeedu is the Hoysaleeshwara Temple. Nearly every inch of this star shaped temple is covered in intricate carvings. All the carvings are done on soap stone - soap stone is soft and can be easily carved on and on exposure to air, it hardens over time. There are 2 shrines in the temple, one for King Vishuvardhan and the other for his beautiful queen Shantala Devi.
Though the construction work on the temple went on for 86 years, it was never completed. The unique feature of the Hoysala temples is that they are all built on raised platforms. And in the case of the Hoysaleeshwara Temple, there are 2 sanctum sanctoriums and 2 Nandi mantapas on the same platform.
The 2 Nandis here are the 6th and 7th biggest in India and possibly the best carved. They are polished to such a perfection that one can easily see their reflections on them.
The Halebid complex has miniature mantaps and gopurams in front of the main temple mantapas. These were supposed to hold smaller idols of gods but now stand empty. All the carvings in the front of the temple depict dancers, musicians and scenes from the Kamasutra and all the ones at the back are of Gods. The carvings all have stories to tell....from Ramayana and Mahabarata to daily rituals and events.
The frieze of the temple has eleven panels of cravings each depicting different things. The bottommost has eleplants, the next lions, the one after is a set of patterns followed by horsemen. After another panel of patterns is the story of Mahabarata carved. Then is the mythical creature Makara, the peacock and after that dancers and musicians. The 10th panel has gods carved on and the final one has scenes from the Kamasutra.

The inside of the temple had 2 halls connected by a well lit corridor. In front of both the idols were mantapas for dance and music performances. Queen Shantala Devi is supposed to have been one of the best dancers of that time.
All the pillars in the hall were once adorned by sculptures of dancers and only few remain. According to our guide, Nagaraj, most of them were broken by invaders and the rest are all in British museums.
The external sculptures at Halebid are some of the finest in India. The detailing and beauty of each of them is amazing!! One of my favorites is one of Lord Shiva inside an elephants body, teraing it is so detailed that even the finger nails of Lord Shiva are shown piercing through the hide of the elephant. The same sculpture is also there in Belur but i liked this one better.
Another favorite is of Makara.....the mythical being with a crocodile head, body of an elephant, paws of a bear and plumes of a peacock. This shot is taken in close up, the actual craving is very can just judge the amount of detail from this!!
The next one is very interesting....its one of Lord Shiva and Parvathi. The carving of course is superb...what i found most fascinating was the way the stone was tilting under Lord Shivas weight.....according to our guide, it was supposed to signify the power of Shiva over Parvathi.
This depicts the trinity in Indian Mythology....the Creator - Brahma, the Preserver - Vishnu and the Destroyer - Shiva.
This carving is of Ravana carrying the Mount is so detailed that scupture had depected different animals on the mountain, there are hunters, mountain climbers, snakes, bears and monkeys and on top of the mount Kailasa is Shiva and Parvathi.

These carvings depict the story of Lord Vishnu as Vamana.
All the different scupltures and carvings in Halebid tell amazing stories of its own. It took our guide more than 2 hours to explain all of it to us!
I've never been to Khajuraho....only have heard about the amazing carvings and sculptures there. But after seeing the temple complex of Halebid, i can only say that if there if anything better than this, it must be truly stunning!!

The Hoysala dynasty were big patrons of art and Queen Shantala Devi herself was a renowned dancer of the time. Both the sanctum sanctoriums have circular platforms in front for dance and musical performances.