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Mesmerizing sculptures of Halebidu

During the second leg of our road trip, we had the opportunity to visit the Hoysaleswara Hindu temple, a magnificent structure dedicated to Lord Shiva. 

Constructed in the first half of the 12th century, this temple is located in Halebidu. 

Given the large number of pictures, I will continue to share the remaining images in subsequent posts. Stay tuned for more glimpses into the mesmerizing sculptures of Halebidu.

As the sun stretched its golden rays across the ancient land, I embarked on a journey to the realm of timeless grandeur, a realm known as Halebidu.


As I approached this mesmerizing enclave, a symphony of awe played in my heart, echoing through the corridors of history.

As I ventured further into the heart of this architectural opus, the air grew heavy with an ethereal presence.

The temples, like sentinels of antiquity, stood tall, as if reaching for the heavens themselves. 

Every inch of their surfaces bore the intricate tapestry of legends and mythology, each sculpture narrating tales of gods and goddesses with such intricate detail that they seemed to come alive.

During the early 14th century, Halebidu and several other temple sites in the region fell victim to invasions by Muslim forces, including the Khilji dynasty and Tughlaq dynasty. 

These invasions resulted in the sacking and looting of the temples, leading to significant damage to the artwork and sculptures.

The invaders specifically targeted the sculptures, often mutilating them by damaging the noses, faces, limbs, and even the sexual organs of the depicted figures. 

This destruction was aimed at defacing the idols and symbols of the Hindu religion, as it was a way for the invaders to assert their dominance and religious ideologies.

The mutilation of the sculptures at Halebidu and other temple sites during this period represents a tragic loss of cultural heritage and artistic masterpieces.

Despite the loss and damage, the remaining sculptures at Halebidu continue to showcase the remarkable artistry and craftsmanship of the era, providing a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of India.

Above the door leading to the sanctum sanctorum of the Hoysaleshwara temple, an array of exquisitely carved stone artwork captured my attention.


The sculptures of Dwarapalas hold significant prominence in the temples of Halebidu. Dwarapalas, meaning "door guardians" or "gatekeepers," are imposing figures placed on either side of temple entrances, serving as protectors and wardens of the sacred space.

These sculptures are often depicted as fierce warriors or divine beings, exuding an aura of strength and authority.

They are adorned with ornate jewelry, crowns, and regal attire, symbolizing their elevated status.

The sculptures of  Shanmukha (Kartikeya) and Ganesha at Halebidu are stunning representations of the Hindu deities. 

They are sons of Hindu god Shiva. 

Shanmukha stands tall, with his multiple arms holding various weapons such as the spear, showcasing his prowess as the commander of celestial armies, while Ganesha is portrayed with an elephant head and a joyful, compassionate demeanor. 

These sculptures embody the divine qualities of courage, wisdom, and the ability to remove obstacles. 

The holy trinity of the Hindu pantheon, consisting of Brahma, Maheshwara (Shiva), and Vishnu. Followed by Uma-Maheshwara(Shiva and Parvati) at the end.

The sculpture of Brahma, the creator, portrays him with multiple heads and arms, symbolizing his all-encompassing knowledge and creative abilities.

Maheshwara (Shiva), the destroyer and transformer.

Vishnu, the preserver and sustainer, is represented with divine grace and majestic presence.

The Natya Saraswati is a captivating depiction of the Hindu goddess Saraswati in her aspect as the patron deity of music, dance, and the performing arts. 

This sculpture showcases the grace and elegance associated with Saraswati, who is revered as the source of creative inspiration and knowledge.

The flutist and the percussionist.

The Bhairava sculpture at Halebidu is a striking depiction of the fierce and formidable aspect of Lord Shiva, known as Bhairava. 

This sculpture showcases the intense and transformative energy associated with Bhairava, represented through unique and symbolic elements.

In this sculpture, Bhairava is depicted with multiple arms and a menacing expression, exuding a sense of raw power and divine ferocity.

One of the distinctive features of this sculpture is the presence of a dog that is seen licking the blood from the decapitated head held in Bhairava's hand. 

This represents Bhairava's association with cremation grounds and his role as the destroyer of ego and ignorance. The presence of the dog symbolizes the shedding of attachments and impurities.

Additionally, the sculpture features the goddess Kali dancing on the side of Bhairava.

Kali is a fearsome form of the divine feminine, representing the power of time, death, and destruction. Her dance symbolizes the cosmic dance of creation, preservation, and dissolution.


The Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebidu boasts a wealth of ornate wall panel reliefs and molding friezes that adorn its exterior walls. 

The wall panel reliefs depict a wide array of subjects, including mythological scenes, gods and goddesses, celestial beings, animals, and everyday life. 

Each panel is meticulously carved with exquisite detail, capturing the expressions, gestures, and intricate ornaments of the depicted figures. 

These reliefs serve as visual narratives, telling stories from Hindu mythology and providing insights into the cultural and religious practices of the time.

The molding friezes, on the other hand, are decorative bands that encircle the temple walls, showcasing an intricate interplay of floral and geometric patterns. 

The meticulous craftsmanship in these friezes adds a touch of elegance and grandeur to the temple's exterior.


In this sculpture, Saraswati is shown seated elegantly with her veena, a stringed musical instrument, delicately resting on her lap. Her fingers gently touch the strings, creating a divine melody that resonates with the cosmic rhythm.

Saraswati's other hands hold symbolic objects such as a book or scroll, representing knowledge, a lotus symbolizing purity, and sometimes a mala (rosary) symbolizing spiritual discipline.


In this sculpture Darpana Sundari, an Apsara (a celestial nymph from Hindu mythology) is portrayed in a graceful pose, holding a mirror in her hand.

A scene where a servant or attendant is presented with a towel to offer to the Apsara. 


My wife unintentionally strikes a pose reminiscent of the Darpana Sundari while taking a selfie.


In this sculpture, Krishna is shown in his iconic standing posture, with his flute held to his lips. 

His enchanting music resonates through the air, drawing the attention of various living beings around him. 

These beings, including animals, birds, and mythical creatures, gather around Krishna, captivated by the spellbinding music.


The sculpture depicts Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan Hill to protect the people from a catastrophic deluge.

Upon closer examination of the sculpture, one can observe a plethora of intricate details that bring the scene to life. 

Here are some notable examples:

1. A monkey climbing a tree, positioned next to a banana tree laden with fruit, with the monkey eyeing the bananas.

2. A lion devouring its prey, with a portion of the animal already inside its mouth.

3. A man climbing, demonstrating the human presence and their interaction with the environment.

4. Reptiles crawling upward.

5. A bear observing a bird, which in turn appears to be swallowing a snake.

6. An animal entering a cave, with only its body, tail, and hind legs visible.

7. A hunter depicted with an arrow aimed at a boar.

8. Two birds feeding alongside a lizard, showcasing the coexistence of different species in their natural habitat.

9. Various trees and creepers, adding lushness and depth to the sculpture's environment.

10. People from different professions, distinguished by their turbans (headgear) and the tools of their respective trades, highlighting the diversity of human occupations.

11. Three musician-dancers facing different directions, with their perfectly positioned legs, allowing for a harmonious composition within the sculpture.

12. Carved cows and bulls with hollow portions, creating a three-dimensional effect and adding depth to the sculpture.

13. Intricate depictions of anklets, toes, toe-nails, toe-rings, jewels, ornaments, flower garlands, and crowns, showcasing the meticulous attention to detail in portraying adornments.

14. The perfection in depicting the hand holding the mountain, including the nails and rings, reflecting the skillful craftsmanship of the artist.

The sculpture of Gajasurasamhara Shiva at Halebidu depicts a significant legend from Hindu mythology. 

In this scene, Shiva is portrayed as the destroyer of the demon Gajasura, who had taken the form of a massive elephant. 

The artwork captures the culmination of the legend, where Shiva, while continuing his cosmic dance, triumphantly slays the elephant demon.

In the sculpture, Shiva is shown in his iconic Nataraja form, with multiple arms and dynamic postures, dancing atop the head of the slain elephant. 

The elephant's body is depicted collapsed and lifeless. Additionally, the four legs of the elephant are represented in the four corners of the panel.

The sculpture of Varaha and Bhudevi at Halebidu depicts a significant episode from the ancient scriptures. 

Bhudevi, representing Mother Earth, is portrayed as the consort of Varaha, an anthropomorphic form of Lord Vishnu.

The sculpture narrates the tale from the Satya Yuga (the first age of the world) in which the demon Hiranyaksha kidnaps Bhudevi and submerges her in the primordial waters.

To rescue Bhudevi and restore balance to the universe, Lord Vishnu incarnates as Varaha, a boar-like creature. 

Varaha dives into the cosmic ocean, engages in a fierce battle with Hiranyaksha, and ultimately defeats the demon, liberating Bhudevi from his clutches. 

With great strength and determination, Varaha lifts the Earth from the depths of the ocean, balancing it on his mighty tusks. See how he steadies Bhudevi by holding her feet.

These were the initial batch of pictures. I plan to analyze and share the upcoming set of pictures in a new post shortly. Feel free to leave your comments below!

Please find below the links to all three parts for your convenience:

Part 1: Mesmerizing sculptures of Halebidu

Part 2: Unraveling the Stories Behind Hoysaleswara Sculptures

Part 3: A Tapestry of Wonder


  1. You are an excellent tour guide through these imaginative and fascinating sculptures. "Echoing through the corridors of history" … is not only poetic prose but exact as this is what happens when we explore all the different layers of time that make up our existence.

  2. All the carvings are incredible to look at. Thanks for sharing these images

  3. The detail to these carved sculptures and friezes is quite mind boggling. Have thoroughly enjoyed the photographs and narratives.

  4. Wow, an incredible temple. You did a great job photographing it and its decorations and I am impressed with the details of what is going on.

  5. Such a nice place. Love those photos of sky in the begining!

  6. What a beautiful temple, the carvings are phenomenally beautiful.
    I enjoyed your photos.
    Greetings Irma

  7. I had no idea that such intricate sculptures existed. So much beauty. So much meaning. Thank you.

  8. Thoroughly enjoyable tour. Your interpretation of the details of the sculptures was very engaging.

  9. Those must have been great craftsmen to pretend stone is wood and literally carve such details out of it. Beautiful to see and also a pity that history has been so careless with it. Nice trip.

  10. The carved stone boggles the mind! How incredibly difficult, and how many years it must have taken. Thanks for sharing these photos!

  11. Hello,
    What a beautiful temple. Your descriptions are perfect and the details of the sculptures are just amazing. Great tour and awesome photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a great weekend. PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

  12. Beautiful temple, Amazing photos.

  13. Stunning! Thanks for sharing. All the best, Regula

  14. Stunning is the perfect word! There's so much detail in every one. I hate to see the damage and feel bad to know people have purposely destroyed so many works of art. I'm glad you took photos of all of these and love seeing your family. Enjoy your weekend! And thanks for taking the time to give us so much information.

  15. Stunning architecture and awesome sculpting work. Thanks for sharing.

  16. ...Shiju, the stone craving are amazing! Thanks for taking me along on the tour.

  17. Beautifully captured in pictures and words.

  18. Amazing to see the stone carvings, the details are incredible. Thanks for sharing.

  19. What a wonderful collection of photos. The temple really is something! It looks amazing, how fantastic to be able to visit.

  20. Stunning photos of carved images of the temple.

  21. The artwork and architecture are incredible, and you have given us a fascinating history/mythology lesson as well. Thank you for sharing your photos.

  22. What stunning artistry and I would not have understood any of it without a guide. In my United States, we have little this old and that makes this even more amazing.

  23. Those sunsets with the big firey ball are amazing. Great shots!! #NaturesNotes

  24. sculptures look artistic and wonderful....

  25. I thoroughly enjoyed these stunning thanks for sharing :-)
    Have an artistictastic week πŸ‘

  26. never visited Hindu Temples... wish to come one day...
    Thank you for sharing photos and details

  27. Such beautiful and detailed carving! Thank you for taking us along on the tour of this magnificent place!

  28. The intricacy is amazing. Thank you for sharing the photos.

  29. Absolutely amazing! I've visited a few temples on my travels but never one like this.

  30. Dear Shiju,
    your post today catapulted me back to my own two trips to India πŸ˜‰:
    When we were traveling in Rajasthan (and the surrounding area) in 2010, we visited the temple ruins of Nagda, among other things. At that time I wrote: "Again, we were speechless with respect about the aesthetic design of the installation and the filigree and intricate sculptural works." and "Unfortunately the faces and extremities of many figures were destroyed by Islamic conquerors of the Mughal dynasty who invaded the country in 16th Century." That is really very sad - but this damage is also part of history... If you are interested, here is my travel report from 2010:
    And in my 2013 report I told HERE https://rostrose.blogspot.com/2014/01/sudindien-4-kapitel-mysore-teil-2.html from our visit to the Keshava Temple - a masterpiece of 13th century Hoysala culture. Certainly it is even more fascinating to see all the figure groups if you know well the mythological stories behind them. For me, the sculptures were primarily a visual pleasure. And I have to say, your wife does the graceful of the Darpana Sundari really well!
    All the best 🌱🌿🌱
    PS: Thanks for visiting mit new Costa-Rica-report and your nice words!

  31. Fascinating! Such intricate detail. Thanks for sharing, and for the narratives along the way, as well.

  32. Such interesting history and fascinating tales these intricate and beautiful sculptures tell. I can imagine gazing at them for hours in admiration -- but I know I'd need someone knowledgeable as a guide to explain all the meanings. Is there any information available about the incredibly talented artisan(s) who did this amazing work or are their names lost in history?

    1. The temple artwork panels feature signatures or statements by the artists or their guilds. There are recurring names of artists such as Manibalaki, Mabala, Ballana, Bochana, Ketana, Bama, Balaki, and Revoja. These artists, who were nearly forgotten by history, remain unknown unless one pays meticulous attention to the pedestals.

  33. Oh wow; what incredible detail on all of these sculptures. I bet the longer you look at them the more you see.

  34. Hello Shiju :=)
    I have seen many temples but I must say this one is by far the most interesting. All the carvings are little and not so little master pieces. Thank you for sharing the history, and for all the wonderful photos you took.
    All the best.

  35. Hello my lovely, thank you 100X & more for taking me with on your vacation! Oh how I wish I could be there with you. I love looking at historic things and touching wondering what it was like in the day!!!! "sigh"! You have a good eye for a great picture my lovely I must say!!! https://xmasdollyisback.com/2023/05/24/wordless-wednesday-8/ Okay, more tomorrow! HUGS, MARIE

  36. Wow! The detail in the architecture is stunning and you've captured it brilliantly. I don't think I've ever seen buildings quite as intricate as this.

  37. "A Symphony of Awe Played In My Heart" what magical words to describe what you saw and felt. Wow. So good to see your post this week for Wednesday’s Words and Pics Link Up on Denyse Whelan Blogs. I look forward to you joining us next week too! Denyse.

  38. Such stunning images, what an amazing temple! Thanks for linking up and sharing your snaps with #MySundaySnapshot.

  39. Amazing place, fantastic architecture and sculpture, wonderful photos! Thank you for taking part in the "My Sunday Best" meme.

  40. What beautiful artwork carvings. I'm always amazed at how long it must take. Thanks for sharing.

  41. I enjoy to see your photos and read descriptions...

    Have a wonderful day


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