Hoysala temples, renowned for their exquisite wall sculptures, epitomize artistry that seamlessly translates the techniques of ivory workers and goldsmiths onto stone.
The inclusion of three 12th and 13th-century Hoysala temples – Chennakeshava temple in Belur, Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebidu, and Keshava Temple in Somanathapura – in UNESCO’s World Heritage List not only celebrates the craftsmanship but also unveils the political narratives shaping these structures.
- Soapstone Craftsmanship: Hoysala architecture is distinguished by the use of soapstone, a pliable material facilitating intricate carvings on temple walls.
- Diverse Sculptures: The sculptures on these temples encompass a wide array, featuring animals, daily life scenes, and depictions from epics and Puranas.
- Confluence of Styles: Hoysala architecture uniquely blends three distinctive styles – mainstream Dravidian, Vesara (Chalukya and Rashtrakuta influence), and North Indian Nagara style. This amalgamation is attributed to the Hoysalas’ military expeditions bringing in skilled artisans from varied regions.
- Stellate Platforms: Typically, Hoysala temples rest on star-shaped platforms, housing multiple structures within the complex.
- Narrative Sculptures: Walls and pillars adorned with sculptures possess rich narrative and descriptive dimensions, showcasing a remarkable storytelling aspect.
- Artistic Signatures: Uniquely, Hoysala temples bear the ‘signature’ of their sculptors and masons, with names and occasional additional details etched onto the structures.
- Religious Shift: Constructed during a period of prevalent Jainism, these Shaivya and Vaishnava shrines indicate a transition towards Hinduism.
While numerous Hoysala-era temples endure, the three UNESCO-listed temples stand out as prime examples of Hoysala artistry.
UNESCO’s announcement on September 18 during the 45th session in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, marked a recognition of India’s nomination dossier submitted in January 2022. These temples, with their rare beauty, stand as testaments to the exceptional architectural and artistic legacy of the Hoysala dynasty.