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Profile of a Hoysala temple at Somanathapura

Hoysala architecture is the distinctive building style developed under the rule of the Hoysala Empire in the region known today as Karnataka, India, between the 11th and the 14th centuries. Hoysala influence was at its peak in the 13th century, when it dominated the Southern Deccan Plateau region. Large and small temples built during this era remain as examples of the Hoysala architectural style, including the Chennakesava Temple at Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura. Other examples of fine Hoysala craftmanship are the temples at Belavadi, Amrithapura, Hosaholalu and Nuggehalli. Study of the Hoysala architectural style has revealed a negligible Indo-Aryan influence while the impact of Southern Indian style is more distinct.[1]

The vigorous temple building activity of the Hoysala Empire was due to the social, cultural and political events of the period. The stylistic transformation of the Karnata temple building tradition reflected religious trends popularized by the Vaishnava and Virashaiva philosophers as well as the growing military prowess of the Hoysala kings who desired to surpass their Western Chalukya overlords in artistic achievement. Temples built prior to Hoysala independence in the mid-12th century reflect significant Western Chalukya influences, while later temples retain some features salient to Chalukyan art but have additional inventive decoration and ornamentation, features unique to Hoysala artisans. About one hundred temples have survived in present-day Karnataka state, mostly in the Malnad (hill) districts, the native home of the Hoysala kings.

As popular tourist destinations in Karnataka, Hoysala temples offer an excellent opportunity for pilgrims and students of architecture to examine medieval Hindu architecture in the Karnata Dravida tradition. This tradition began in the 7th century under the patronage of the Chalukya dynasty of Badami, developed further under the Western Chalukyas of Basavakalyan in the 11th century and finally transformed into an independent style by the 12th century during the reign of the Hoysalas. Medieval Kannada language inscriptions displayed prominently at temple locations give details of the temples and offer valuable information about the history of the Hoysala dynasty.

  1. ^ Percy Brown in Kamath (2001), p134