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For the film, see Vishnuvardhana (film).
Chennakeshava Temple commissioned by Vishnuvardhana, Vesara architecture at Belur.

Vishnuvardhana (Kannada: ವಿಷ್ಣುವರ್ಧನ) (r.1108–1152 CE) was an emperor of the Hoysala Empire in present day Indian state of Karnataka. Originally a follower of Jainism and known as Bitti Deva, he came under the influence of the Hindu philosopher Ramanujacharya, converted to Hindu Vaishnavism and took the name Vishnuvardhana.[1] Vishnuvardhana took the first steps in creating an independent Hoysala Empire in South India through a series of battles against his overlord, the Western Chalukya King Vikramaditya VI. He also recovered Gangavadi province from the hegemony of the Chola empire. The Hoysala territory gained the dignity of a kingdom starting from his rule. The mathematician Rajaditya wrote several works on mathematics during his reign.[2][3]


Hoysala Kings (1026–1343)
Nripa Kama II (1026–1047)
Hoysala Vinayaditya (1047–1098)
Ereyanga (1098–1102)
Veera Ballala I (1102–1108)
Vishnuvardhana (1108–1152)
Narasimha I (1152–1173)
Veera Ballala II (1173–1220)
Vira Narasimha II (1220–1235)
Vira Someshwara (1235–1254)
Narasimha III (1254–1291)
Veera Ballala III (1292–1343)
Harihara Raya
(Vijayanagara Empire)

Vishnuvardhana worked closely with his elder brother Veera Ballala I in matters of administration and military campaigns. Vishnuvardhana's first major conquest was the Cholan territory of Gangavadi (parts of southern Karnataka) in 1115. Gangaraja,a Hoysala general, wrested the territory for his king. According to historian Kamath, Chola commanders like Adigaiman may have helped Vishnuvardhana in his conquest. Being Vaishnava Hindu by faith, the Chola commander may not have been treated well by Kulothunga Chola I.[4] One Hoysala epitaph notes that Vishnuvardhana burned the Gangavadi city of Talakad and polluted the waters of river Kaveri by throwing the corpses of his enemies into it.[5]

Vishnuvardhana now assumed the title Talakadugonda ("lord of Talakad) and Veera Ganga ("Brave Ganga"), minted coins with these legends. In celebration of his success against the Cholas, he built the Keerthinarayana temple at Talakad. After his military success against his overlord, Chalukya Vikramaditya VI, he initiated the construction of the famous Chennakesava Temple at Belur. During the battle of Talakad, the polluting of the Kaveri river is mentioned in multiple inscriptions found in the Hassan district in which he identifies his adversary as Rajendra Chola. He claims to have burnt the city of the Gangas and polluted the waters of the Kaveri by throwing the corpses of his enemies into it and thus drove Rajendra Chola to use the wells in the vicinity. He also claims to have captured Talakad and burnt the hearts of the Tulu kings.[6] This Rajendra Chola is none other than the Eastern Chalukya king Kulothunga Chola I who called himself Rajendra Chola.[7][8] Vishnuvardhana assumed other titles as well, such as Buja Bala Ganga, and Nolambavadigonda and minted coins with his title in 1117.[9]

The Hoysalas defeated Chalukya Vikramaditya VI at Kennagala in 1118, and at Hallur in 1120. Vishnuvardhana captured the fort of Hanagal and subdued the Kadambas of Banavasi. However He suffered reversals at the hands of Chalukya commander Achugi of Gulbarga and had to submit to the Chalukya overlordship. After the death of Vikramaditya VI in 1126, Vishnuvardhana recaptured Hanagal, Uchchangi, Bankapura and Banavasi-12000 provinces and marched up to Lakkundi in the Gadag district.

Toward the end of his life, Vishnuvardhana had wrested many territories that were hitherto under the control of other ruling dynasties. Though not fully able to overthrow the Westeren Chalukya empire, Vishnuvardhana was able to rise his territory to the dignity of a real kingdom and laid the foundations for the conquests that were to follow by his able successors Veera Ballala II and III.[10]

There is controversy regarding the year in which Vishnuvardhana died. Though some historians claim he lived up to 1152.[11] proof from Yalladahalli inscription shows that his younger son Narasimha I was already the king in 1145. The demise of Vishnuvardhana is fixed at 1141 by other scholars.

Art & Religion[edit]

Hoysaleshwara Temple commissioned by Vishnuvardhana at Halebidu

Scholars believe that Vishnuvardhana was originally a Jain known as Bittideva. Under the influence of the Hindu philosopher Ramanujacharya, Vishnuvardhana converted to Sri Vaishnavism,[12] a major sect of modern Hinduism. Numerous temples dedicated to the god Vishnu were built during his reign including those at Belur, Talakad and Melkote. However, Vishnuvardhana's chief queen, Shantala Devi remained a devout Jain setting a precedent of religious tolerance in the kingdom. Many of Vishnuvardhana's generals, including Gangaraja, were Jains. According to historian Alkandavilli Govindāchārya, during his early days as a ruler, Bitti Deva (later called Vishnuvardhana) and his queen Shantala Devi had a sick daughter. She was possessed by an evil spirit and saint Ramanuja is said to have cured her of this illness. After this episode Bitti Deva embraced Vaishnavism.[1] However from his inscriptions in the Hassan district, his daughter by queen Shantala Devi died during his reign.[13][14]

According to research scholar M. S. Mate of the Deccan College, the devotee Pundalik—who is assumed to be a historical figure—was instrumental in persuading Vishnuvardhana to build the Pandharpur temple dedicated to Vishnu. The deity was subsequently named as Vitthala, a derivative of Bittidev, by the builder-king.[15] Upon Vishnuvardhana's death in 1152, his son Narasimha I ascended to the Hoysala throne.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The life of Râmânujâchârya: the exponent of the Viśistâdvaita philosophy, page 180
  2. ^ Indian culture T. K. Venkataraman, University of Madras Amudha Nilayam, p.163
  3. ^ Karnataka through the ages: from prehistoric times to the day of the independence of India Mysore (India : State). Literary and Cultural Development Dept p.466
  4. ^ Suryanath U. Kamat, A Concise History of Karnataka, Bangalore, 2001.
  5. ^ In the opinion of Arthikaje, History of Karnataka.
  6. ^ Epigraphia Carnatica: Inscriptions in the Hassan District, page xii, 130
  7. ^ The Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi, page 37
  8. ^ The history of Andhra country, 1000 A.D.-1500 A.D, page 65
  9. ^ Volume 3 of International Numismata Orientalia, page 116
  10. ^ According to Prof William Coelho, (The Hoysala Vamsa, 1950), A Concise History of Karnataka, Dr. S.U. Kamath
  11. ^ Dr. P.B. Desai, Prof. K.A. Nilakanta Sastri and Prof. S.K. Aiyangar claim this in their research, A Concise History of Karnataka, Dr. S.U. Kamath
  12. ^ Rice (1895), p295
  13. ^ Epigraphia Carnatica: Inscriptions in the Hassan District, page xvi
  14. ^ The Hoysaḷa vaṁśa, page 112
  15. ^ Sand, Erick Reenberg (1990). "The Legend of Puṇḍarīka: The Founder of Pandharpur". In Bakker, Hans. The History of Sacred Places in India as Reflected in Traditional Literature. Leiden: E. J. Brill. p. 38. ISBN 90-04-09318-4. 


  • Dr. Suryanath U. Kamat, A Concise history of Karnataka from pre-historic times to the present, Jupiter books, MCC, Bangalore, 2001 (Reprinted 2002) OCLC: 7796041
  • K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, History of South India, From Prehistoric times to fall of Vijayanagar, 1955, OUP, New Delhi (Reprinted 2002), ISBN 0-19-560686-8
  • Rice, Benjamin Lewis. Mysore: A Gazetteer Compiled for Government. 1895, A. Constable.
  • The life of Râmânujâchârya: the exponent of the Viśistâdvaita philosophy By Alkandavilli Govindāchārya
  • Epigraphia Carnatica: Inscriptions in the Hassan District By Benjamin Lewis Rice, Mysore (India : State). Archaeological Dept, Mysore Archaeological Survey
  • The Hoysaḷa vaṁśa By William Coelho
  • Volume 3 of International Numismata Orientalia
  • The Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi By N. Ramesan
  • The history of Andhra country, 1000 A.D.-1500 A.D. By Yashoda Devi

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Veera Ballala I
Succeeded by
Narasimha I