Day trip from Bangalore to off the beaten track Hoysala temples

5th Dec 2019

My sister and I have been exploring some of the lesser known Hoysala temples whenever possible. This time we picked four temples based on the distance from Bangalore and between each other to cover these in a day. Hoysala Empire reigned from the 11th to the 14th Centuries largely in the present day Karnataka, India and built more than 1500 temples all across their empire. Out of which only a little over 100 survive today and handful of them are well known tourist destination.

On Dec 5 th 2019 hired a local taxi (Etios car) for a day and started our journey at 6:45 AM to Nuggehalli/Nuggenahalli (about 135 KM from Bangalore via Mangalore NH 75 to Chennaraypatna-Tiptur route). This is an ancient town and apparently people from here were the first ones to lead during wars/attacks and hence called "Nugge/kannada word for pushing forward halli/village". We had breakfast at Swathi restaurant on the highway - A decent pit stop. Roads are good but the route after Chennaraypatna was very dry due to drought this year. We did not realize till we got here that it was a highly contested election day here, we had to go through police check posts as we entered the town and town was sort of dead with shutters down.We reached our first destination by 9:45 AM.

Lakshmi Narasimha temple, Nuggehalli: Once we reached, we were unsure if this was the right temple. From outside it didn't look anything like the picture on the net.Once we went inside the compound, only expression that came out was WOW!!! This 1246 CE temple built by Bommanna Dandanayaka, a commander in the Hoysala Empire during the rule of King Vira Someshwara , is in a typical 13th Century Hoysala Architecture.

Temple is constructed in trikutachala/three sanctums and is on a jagati/pedestal, material is soapstone with intricate carvings on the walls.

The friezes are from the Bhagavatha. There are about 120 panels with Hindu God and Goddess sculptures. There are horizontal sections below with carvings of elephant processions, horses, foliage, scenes from the Hindu epics and beasts.The marvelous work of sculptors Baichoja and Mallitamma here are awe inspiring.There is an inscription in Halegannada/old Kannada script.

Main door to inner sanctum was closed.So I went knocking on the doors of the houses in that street to see if they were the priest of the temple ???? and luckily just then, the priest was walking towards us and said he had gone to vote and hence late.Inside the temple the 3 garbagruha/inner sanctum houses idols of Lord Narasimha in the northern sanctum, Keshava in the western sanctum along with Durga, Saraswati & Harihara and southern sanctum has Venugopala. Priest reminded us that since this is a trikutachala temple, you are not allowed to do namaskara/bow inside the temple as garbhagruhas are in 3 different direction.It has lovely work in the ceiling and on pillars. No photography allowed inside.

Photo of Day trip from Bangalore to off the beaten track Hoysala temples 1/5 by R Rao

I read somewhere after we retuned that, due to neglect of these grand edifices by the Government/ Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), people having a lineage to Nuggehalli came together more than 40 yrs ago to form a society under the name Nuggehalli Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Seva Samithi for the upkeep of the temples & to ensure the day to day pooja's are performed to the almighty as per the shastras/tradition"

Photo of Day trip from Bangalore to off the beaten track Hoysala temples 2/5 by R Rao

From here we proceeded to Govindanahalli about 40 KM on Chennaraypatna road towards Arasikere. The landscape changed, it was green all over with coconut trees and Sugar cane.A decent single lane road till the last 5 KM stretch!

Photo of Day trip from Bangalore to off the beaten track Hoysala temples 3/5 by R Rao

Panchalingeshwara temple, Govindanahalli: As we entered the gate, was pleased to see the temple yard maintained (under archaeology Dept.).This temple was built around 1238 CE, during King Vira Someshwara period. The sculptor credited for this exquisite complex is Ruvari Mallitamma. Temple is built directly on the ground without pedestal.

There are jali/perforated works on the wall for the light to enter the temple. Although this is a Shiva temple, there are the carving of Vishnu Dashavathara sculpted on the upper railings of the wall with Mandakini figures between the pillar and wall which is another distinct and uncommon feature.

The other notable idols as you walk around the temple are the Vishnu avataras, Shiva, Parvathi, Brahma, Ganesha and the dancing Saraswathi which is extremely rare to spot in the Hoysala temples. There are twin snakes, the male snake bearing seven heads and the female snake bearing five heads, this is also rare is what we heard. Each of the 5 gopuras/towers are different without any repetition.

Two of the gopuras had slid from its original position due to wear & tear. The first damage was man made by Malik kafur (Kafur wasAlauddin Kilji's General who led many destruction in South India and destroyed many Hindu temples). 3 yrs ago archaeology Dept. took up this project. After marking every stone, they completely removed stone by stone till ground level and re-laid them. They have done a decent job but we could see cement marks where new stone were used.Now one more gopura is tilting. Renovation work is yet to start. The most unfortunate part is during their 2 yrs work under Dept. supervision, couple of sculptures was stolen.Isn't' it strange that these which survived all these years gets stolen now???!!!! Inquiry minds want to know!!! Another interesting thing is, the real guide with diploma in archaeology who was stationed here by the Dept. was from Bihar refused to stay after 2 Yrs and they trained a local watchman with no archaeology background to be guide - Hmmm!!! Good, bad or ugly?

By now it was noon, we proceeded towards Kikkeri about 5 KM from here on Arsikere road for our 3 rd destination.

Brahmeshwara temple, Kikkeri : Perfect location on the banks of ahuge lake. As per its foundation inscription, this temple was built by Bammavve-nayakiti, the wife of Samanta Baramayya, in 1171 CE during the reign of the Hoysala King Narasimhadeva. This temple is at the ground level without pedestal. The temple is dedicated to Shiva with Brahma on the doorway and hence the name. This is a trikutachala temple facing east.

Photo of Day trip from Bangalore to off the beaten track Hoysala temples 4/5 by R Rao

There is an ornate Nandi (see the picture of rope carving on Nandi) facing west and just behind the Nandi is the idol of Suryanarayana which is also facing west. Understand once a year Sun enters the temple and touches the linga.Temple was locked and a village shepherd who was in this complex told us priest left for the day and is not reachable.There was no one around to ask nor any contact number pasted on the door.We saw the inside through jali.Awesome 4 huge pillars and carving in the ceiling could be seen.But climbing the platform to see through the jali was an experience. Platform was covered with dirt, cobweb and garbage. This temple is in the most depleted condition. Absolutely no maintenance in the complex.We saw plants growing on ceiling.The shepherd said he and other town boys clean all these once a year for jathrei/festival. He seemed very proud. We told him he should clean often and he gave a blank look. He extracted some coffee money from us for walking behind us. Don't underestimate him, he had a smart phone.

From here we proceeded to our final destination Hosaholalu - 16 KM from Kekkeri towards south on Arsekeri road to Chennaraypatna. It is 2 KM from K R Pete.

Lakshminarayana temple, Hosaholalu : Good to see huge open area all around this majestic temple which is on a jagati/platform.This temple was also built iby Hoysala king Vira Someshwara in 1250 CE. There is a structural addition to the main entrance built during the Vijayanagara times and one can easily identify the structure which is similar to Dravidian style of construction. The Garudagamba is missing.

Photo of Day trip from Bangalore to off the beaten track Hoysala temples 5/5 by R Rao

Here too temple was locked but had priest contact number pasted. We called the priest who was little reluctant to come and was asking too many questions. In the meantime we walked around the complex to see and admire the carvings all around.Carvings of Bhagavatha, Ramayana & Mahabharatha in great details on the railings and the beautiful images of Vishnu, Lakshmi, Parvathi, Shiva, Brahma, Ganapathi, etc., can be seen.There is even an awesome carving of Samudhra Manthana. Time to wait for the priest - got some entertainment from the kids playing on this temple steps. Finally he showed up and opened the door.

It was 2:00 PM now.Our taxi driver said there is a decent place in K R Pete town center for lunch.It was fine and was only Rs 60.At 2:40 PM we left - had a coffee break at Swathi restaurant and more importantly a much needed pit stop (From morning till now there was no pit stop -A huge issue while traveling to these places). Reached home by 6:00 PM after a wondrous 11:00 hrs/450 KM trip at a total cost of Rs 6,000.

We have to thank Late C K Nagaraja Rao for his extensive research on Hoysala empire. His books "Pattamahadevi Shantaladevi", "Veeraganga Vishnuvardhana" and "Dayada Daavanala" have inspired us to visit lesser known Hoysala temples. Viji has created the list of temples we must visit from these books.

How can I end my writing without my two cents closing statement? Anyone who has visited any of the Hoysala temples will agree that these sacred ensembles of the Hoysala represent the pinnacle of artistic and cultural accomplishments. It is unfortunate that we are yet to act on preserving some of these surviving Hoysala temples. I remember my extended stay in Peru - initially one sees only the prominent places of their heritage that are well managed, as you travel deeper, you see the same apathy with houses and colonies built on ruins and artifacts stolen. Wonder if other older civilizations are also like this?

DO visit my blog as this post is imported from it. Has much more photographs