Belur and Halebidu are the best known temples of the Hoysala dynasty. The Belur and Halebid temples give a glimpse of Hindu temple art at its glorious best of the 16th century.
They are famous for their carvings and splendid architecture. The Hoysalas improved on the Calukyan style of architecture by building extremely ornate temples in many parts of Karnataka noted for the sculptures in the walls, ceilings, curved pillars and many more. They followed Dravidian style, vesara style of architecture.
The founder of this dynasty, prince "Sala" fought with a tiger single handed. Legend has it that the prince's teacher shouted out "Hoy Sala" meaning "strike Sala", this later became the emblem of Hoysala dynasty. The first capital of the Hoysala dynasty was Halebidu. It was later shifted to Belur. You can reach Belur by road on the Bangalore Mangalore highway. Belur is around 25 kms from Chickmaglur. Halebidu is around 16 kms from Belur.
The wall-images of the Chennakesava-temple are one of the large sculptural attractions of the monument, among them are Shiva dancing on a demon, Incarnation of Vishnu as Vamana and Varaha, Kali, Ganesh, Mahisasuramardini. In ornate Hoysala temples the depiction of numerous gods and attendants in a horizontal row of large images is common.
The temples in Belur are dedicated to Vishnu. Scenes from the epics, elephants in battle and sensuous dancers come alive in stone. There are 42 celestial dancers and the sculpture is simply outstanding. The other two Hoysala temples are Kappe Chennigaraya and Viranarayana.
Halebidu (Hale'beedu) literally means "the ruined city". It was then known as Dwarasamudra (gateway to the seas). It was the capital of Hoysalas before they shifted the capital to Belur.
The height of Hoysalan art and architecture survives in the form of Hoysaleshvara Temple at Halebidu. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It has two shrines each shrine has the lingam of Hoysaleshwara and Shanthaleshwara, Ketumalla. Opposite to Shiva there is a big statue of Nandi.
The temple is richly ornamented with most intricately carvings. The wall inscriptions include endless display of gods, human, animals and images of war, hunting, music, and dance. Other temples to visit here are Kedareswara Temple, trikuta temple, Jain temples etc.