Name of the Hoysala empire comes from Kannada folklore that tells the story of a young man called Sala who fights and kills a lion (or tiger) to save his Master Sudatta. “Hoy, Sala” in Kannada language means “Strike Sala” which became the name of the dynasty he founded. The pictorial representation of this incident became the emblem of Hoysala empire too. A statue of Sala fighting the lion welcomes you at the entrance of Chennakesava temple at Belur.
The temple was built during the rule of Vishnuvardhana of the Hoysala dynasty in 12th Century AD. According to the legend, Chief Architects of Chennakeshava Temple were ‘Amarashilpi Jakanacharya’ and his son ‘Dankanacharya’. Please go through my detailed article on the history of Belur & Halebid by clicking here.
Chennakesava temple is well-known for extremely fine carvings, sculptures and motifs on its outer walls. The most famous and exquisite ones among these are the 42 well-carved bracket figures known as Madanikas (Chaste Maidens or Salabhanjikas). 38 of these are placed outside the temple while 4 of them could be found inside.
Vishnuvardhana’s Queen Shantala Devi was considered to be the epitome of perfect feminine beauty and the Madanika sculptures were crafted by portraying the queen as a model. She was well-versed in music and BharatNatyam dance. Every Madanika figure depicts a BharatNatyam posture with minute details of costumes, makeup and ornaments. It is worth mentioning here that a Queen has demonstrated freedom of expression in the conservative society of that period.
Let’s have a look at some of these exquisite pieces of art. I have a good collection of detailed imagery available for commercial use. Kindly contact me if you wish to license these high resolution images.
Out of all the Madanikas, Darpana Sundari (Lady with the mirror) stands out for its beauty and perfection. If you have a closer look at the anatomy, proportions and features of her body parts, it is undoubtedly a classic piece of art.
The statue of Mohini, in the most perfect dance posture is another example of Hoysala workmanship. It has been constructed in perfect symmetry, so that if you let a drop of water fall from the tip of her right hand raised above the head, it would touch her nose, then touch the left breast, tip of the left hand and finally land on the toe of her left foot.
These intrinsic works of art with its exceptional beauty and quality has been termed ‘Poetry in Stone’. Some of these sculptures are incredibly realistic and it is hard to believe they were carved out of stone.
The Madanikas have been named based on their postures viz., Darpana sundari (Lady with mirror), Shuka sundari (Lady with parrot), Vasantha sundari, Sundari and Kapi (Lady with monkey), Bedithi, Keshabandha, Adhbhuta Nritya, Durga Nritya, Davane Nritya, Venuvadana (Flutist), Geethe, Mohini Nritya, Rudraveenadhari, Keshapasha, Parnashabari, Poornamohini Nritya, Vrishchika Mattu Yuvathi, Dwibhuja Sharada, Vyajana Nritya, Nagaveena, Lasya Nritya, Thribhangi Nritya, Kesha Shrungara, Gandharva Dance, Shantaladevi, Fortune teller, Songstress, Arch dancer, Lady with make-up, Kite dancer, Pony-tale haired lady, Drum dance, Nagaveena Dance, Gypsy girl, Bhasma Mohini dance, Huntress, Divine Dancer, Masculine woman, Violinist, Bewitching beauty, Musician, etc.
The Hoysala craftsmen had a habit of signing their creations by making inscriptions which gives an insight into the details of their life, biography, families etc. From the Stone/Copper plate inscriptions, it has been identified that more than 40 sculptures were the work of an artist called Ruvari Mallitamma. Other prominent craftsmen were Dasoja and his son Chavana from Balligavi (in Shimoga district), who made 4 and 5 Madanikas respectively. Malliyanna and Nagoja were the experts in creating animals and birds in the sculptures while Chikkahampa and Padari Malloja took the credit for some of the sculptures inside the temple. Other names mentioned were Masada and Nagoja. Further research proved that the construction was carried out under proper supervision, adhering to strict project planning and co-ordination.
Though King Vishnuvardhana and Queen Shantala d practiced Jainism, they embraced Hinduism and became ardent Vaishnavites later. A tragic fact is that Queen Shantala committed suicide by jumping from a hill, because she was unable to bear a child.
Hoysala Empire ruled the Deccan Plateau region of Southern India between the 10th and 14th centuries. They developed their own style of architecture and built a number of impeccable masterpieces around the kingdom, thus leaving their cultural imprint in and around the region. Several of these architectural wonders still exist in Karnataka, the most prominent ones are listed below in chronological order :
Click the name of a temple to go through a photo tour.
|Kedareshwara||Halebidu||1200||Veera Ballala II|
|Veeranarayana||Belavadi||1200||Veera Ballala II|
|Ishvara (Shivalaya)||Arsikere||1220||Veera Ballala II|