As we drove from Mysore towards Halebidu we were still going by our travel brochure and referring to the place as Halebid.Sounds very anglicized,doesn’t it? The guide later told us that the local name Haalu beedu actually means -the destroyed city.

The drive was through lush green countryside and to a Gulf resident all that green was bounty enough.When the taxi came to a halt I wondered if we had reached.There was the usual clutter and run down chaos of a small Indian town.Trinket and picture postcard sellers swarmed momentarily but gave up quickly.Quite unlike the persistent (and annoying) hordes at tourist places in the North.
Where was the famed temple I wondered. I caught a glimpse of it from the side and it seemed like a stack of blackened stone.I felt a small sense of disappointemnt.Then the guide came along and took us inside the temple complex.The photo below captures what I saw then and was floored.That ‘stack’ of stone turned out to be an epic poem in stone. Have a look.


The most impressive, in the beginning, were the two Nandi Bulls that guard the two adjoining temples.I was stumped.So much evocative beauty in these two gentle giants.The carving itself is so fluid,so life like, down to the minutest detail of how a bull sort of slumps to a side when sitting in this posture. Unfortunately I was not able to click it from that side as it started raining.The carving of the bells,ropes and tassles around the Nandi’s neck are flawless and have escaped the damage inflicted on the rest of the temple.

This is a view of the main vestibule of the temple and it is awesome.I got goose bumps just standing there. I felt I could literally reach back in time and be one with all those who must have frequented it during its hey days and subsequently through the ages. Right in the middle, where a samll nandi is visible, is a circular dance floor that w as used for temple dances and it is like a mirror due to its age worn sheen.All around are the viewing stands for the audiences( lower right corner of the picture) that had steps of stone to climb on to.The edges have cavities carved out in the stone.These are the oil lamps that were lit at the time of the dance performances. What an awesome sight that must have been.I hope they organise some dance festivals there in future.The pillars of the entire temple are of varied designs…….all beautiful.There is something about age worn stone………..that warm sheen that enchants me everytime I am anywhere near it.

India’s ancient history,mythology,festivals…all are carved here with spellbinding effect.
Ganesha can be found in various moods here including the rare one of him in angry mood.According to the guide the trunk in that case is to the right side!

Almost all important dieties can be found in that part of the temple that is devoted to the spiritual part.The other half is devoted to worldly things like dancers,animals,trees etc.
 Brahma ji Ved japey,tere dwaarey amba………….could not help but sing the lines from Delhi 6 Bhajan.
The ‘trimoorti’- Brahma,Vishnu,Mahesh



The eternal lovers
 Shiva – Parvati

Krishna holds up Mount Govardhana
Lord Vishnu’s third avatar,Varaha, who appeared in the Satya Yuga 
The scenes of war from Mahabharta and Ramayana.This one is the ‘chakravyuh’ that Abhimanyu did not know how to exit.

Lord Ram slays Vaali. Vali had a boon that he would acquire half the powers of who ever confronted him in order to kill him. It was because of this Ram stood behind trees to kill Vaali.Look at the beautiful detail of the arrow piercing the trees…..800+ years and the picture is still so clear.

This picture is a bit out of focus but is the scene of Holika,the sister of the evil king,Hiranyakashipu, burning in the fire.Elsewhere,there are  beautiful scenes of people filling their ‘pichkaris'(water guns) from tubs of water to play the north Indian festival of Holi

Bhima slays elephants with his mace in the battle to capture Drupad,the King of Panchala.Their guru, Drona, had asked for the capture of Drupad as his tuition fees.Pandavas and Kauravas went together to this battle.

There are endless images in my collection. I went berserk with my camera but nothing can capture the feelings of awe and wonderment that one experiences when one stands in ancient places like this temple.The temple took many centuries to build and infact was never completed as the Hoysala kings were forced to move their kingdom due to the raids by armies of Malik Kafur.There are many portions of the temple that have incomplete carvings.It as though the workers had to move away from their labour of love and could never return again.

The temple was ransacked (for its wealth) by Kafur’s army sometime in early 14th century and thereafter fell into a state of neglect.
Since Hindus used to discontinue ‘pooja’ in temples once desecrated this temple fell prey not only to the initial muslim invaders but also to local vandals and the British (this is anecdotal but given the history of the stuff the British carried away,this could be entirely true) too are thought to have spirited away many of the sculptures that could be carted away. Below is my documentation of the plunder by various vandals.
The first place honor( in the hall of shame) goes to the Muslim armies who destroyed what they could, easily, at the lower levels.The free standing, delicate carvings at lower levels are all gone….smashed wilfully but the solid stone carvings are all there.These perhaps took too much effort to destroy.I can’t help but think that India must have been the Muslim invader’s ultimate nightmare. They were instructed by their Book/Prophet to hate idol worshipping and destroy idols.They then marched to India, to capture this bounteous land, only to encounter a veritable hot house of temples,idols and more idols. Ha!
The sculptures that have taken the most hit are actually the scene of “samudra manthan’. You can still see the ‘rope’ in the hands of the destroyed figures.

The next come the local bounty seekers,perhaps, egged on by the western world’s appetite for Indian antiques. The British could have been complicit in this trade.All around the temple are empty niches like this from which stupendously beautiful idols have been taken away.Mercifully, the nearby temple of Belur has all its idols intact and one can get an idea from there of what Halebid has lost.

Finally the modern day vandals who engrave their names on anything of antiquity that they visit. On the snout of Nandi which is like a polished mirror the name of one Khan. On the rump of the magnificient beast two lovers have added their graffiti.Thankfully, according to our guide,this ‘modern’ graffiti is some decades old and now the temple is more protected.I hope this is true.

This is already an epic post so I shall call a halt to image uploading and let you get on with sharing my wonderful journey through a small part of India’s glorious heritage

For eight centuries now this lovingly created masterpiece has stood here on the edge of a water body.Rulers have come and gone and everything around the temple has changed but it stands still in a quiet serenity.It would be cliched but entirely true to say that it has been a silent witness to the human drama going on around it for centuries.

Generations have stood in and around it now and looked up in awe and admiration (except the vandals I chronicled in my earlier post).Every little bit of the temple is encrusted with exquiste sculptures. I am making an effort to bring some of the best to all of you in this post.I do not know the stories behind some of these and am hoping all of you will chip in with the details and then I can add them on to the post(with credit given to source).

1) A dynamic relief carving of Siva’s jubilant dance of triumph after killing the elephant demon Gajasura. Having flayed the elephant, Shiva held its skin in his outstretched hands and danced a tempestuous dance. The exaggerated twist of his body dramatically conveys his frenzied movement.

(Source: C.Sri Vidya Rajgopalan’s explanation . From the internet)

There a quite a few sculptures of this ‘roop'( Gajasamhara) of Lord Shiva but this particular one is the least damaged,If you look at the top right side of the sculpture you can notice the astonishingly delicate detail in the way the thumbnail of Shiva is shown protruding through the elephant’s skin.!! Absolutely unbeliveble that this small artistic detail has come down to us from 800+ years. Wonder what the artist was thinking when he was executing this….did he ever imagine it would be so admired and commented upon centuries later?


This next sculpture sculpture depicts Vishnu in his incarnation as the Vamana the dwarf, also known as Trivikrama. Bali, the king of the demons, promised Vamana all the land that Vamana could cover in three strides. Vamana or Vishnu Trivikrama’s first step covered the entire earth.

The Halebid sculpture shows Vishnu Trivikrama taking his second step, which covered the entire heavens. Bali squats at the left lower corner of the sculpture. Trivikrama’s third step came down on top of Bali’s head. Vishnu Trivikrama then rewarded Bali by giving him the celestial kingdom of Sutala.(Courtesy: Gregory Fegel)

3) Ravan tries to shake out  Mount Kailasa to dislodge Shiva-Parvati from their abode. Another story goes that he ws trying to move the entire mountain as it stood in the way of his ‘aircraft’ (remember, the one in which he whisked away Sita after kidnapping her from her forest dwelling?) .Please feel fre to add on these explanations.

4) The ‘naked’ roop of Shiva ( Lord  Bhairav).This exquisite work stands in one of the niches.It is very graceful,almost feminie in the fluidity of its curves.

5) This scene from the outer walls of the Hoysaleswara temple never fail to evoke a chuckle from the visitors,thanks to the explanation given by the ASI trained tourist guides.He calls those arrows the Patriot missiles of yore!!