What you need to know about Karnataka’s Hoysala temples, which are currently on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

What you need to know about Karnataka’s Hoysala temples, which are currently on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Today, the Hoysala temples of Belur, Halebid, and Somnathapura are the outstanding examples of the 12th and 13th century Hoysala temple style. They have finally been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Amarashilpi Jakanachari, a sculptor, left his home near Tumkur in Karnataka shortly after his marriage in search of better opportunities. He went on to build temples for the Kalyani Chalukyas and the Hoysalas, and was reputedly so preoccupied with his craft that he forgot about his wife and son, whose birth he missed. Jakanachari is reported to have worked in the Chennakeshava Temple in Belur, the Hoysaleshvara Temple in Halebid, and the Somnathapura Keshava Temple, the’sacred ensembles of Hoysala temples’ built in the 12th and 13th centuries.

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This sacred temple trinity was included to the UNESCO World Heritage List 2022-2023 on September 18, making it the 42nd such property in India. It should be noted that this property has been on the UNESCO tentative list since 2014, and in 2019, the Karnataka government’s Department of Archeology, Museums, and Heritage asked the Bengaluru chapter of the Indian National Trust for Culture and Heritage (INTACH) to work on the nomination dossier. The united efforts produced fruit, and the news was received with great joy in the city and state.

The Sacred Ensembles are characterized as a serial property (which) comprises the three most representative instances of Hoysala-style temple complexes in southern India, dating from the 12th to 13th century, on the UNESCO World Heritage website. The Hoysala style was formed by carefully selecting current and historical temple components to create a distinct identity from neighboring kingdoms.

The Hoysala style refers to a diverse range of styles, including the Bhumija style of central India, Nagara traditions of northern India, and the opulent Karnata-Dravida style. The Hoysala temple architects not only exhibited their understanding of many temple architectural traditions and forms, but also blended them differently in the three temples.

The temples contained large-scale sculpture galleries and multi-tiered friezes and were built on star-shaped circumambulatory platforms. The early Hoysala temples were composed of granite and lacked the fine design of the later temples built during the Hoysala empire’s apex, as illustrated by the Belur, Halebid, and Somnathapura temples. The temple carvings were created from soapstone, a soft stone that is easier to carve, and the sculptors created ornate, ornamental, and delicate carvings, as well as hyper-real figures with intricate hairstyles, clothing, and jewelry. Hoysala artists such as Malloja, Maniyoja, Dasoja, and Malitamma, the latter of whom was famed during the latter Hoysala period, had the tradition of placing their autographs on the sculptures they carved.

What does UNESCO recognition imply?


It is hoped that the trio’s UNESCO World Heritage classification will help draw attention to the region’s other Hoysala temples, some of which are off the grid and neglected. “The tag has taken time but has finally arrived,” said brand strategy expert Harish Bijoor. We are really proud of our heritage. The UNESCO World Heritage designation will attract visitors from all over the world.”

The UNESCO World Heritage Site status has improved visitation and revenue expectations. A listed site receives international recognition and legal protection, as well as cash from organizations such as the World Heritage Fund to help with conservation under specified conditions.

What became of Jakanachari?


Why have we brought up Jakanachari? His narrative is a legend and has become part of local folklore, as well as mainstream culture. Dankanachari, Jakanachari’s son, grew up and left home to look for his father. He moved to Belur and found work as a sculptor. He pointed out a defect in a sculpture while working, not realizing it was done by his own father. Jakanachari was enraged that someone had hinted that there was a live toad dwelling in a crevice within the sculpture, thus the fault, but when he was proven wrong, he severed his right arm. Years later, Jakanachari had a vision of a temple in his homeland of Kaidala, and when it was completed, his right arm was miraculously restored.

There is a Hoysala temple in Kaidala, but because there is no epigraphic evidence of Jakanachari, experts believe he was a legendary figure. Furthermore, the temples at Belur and Halebid were constructed in the early 12th century, while the temple at Somanathapura was constructed in the mid-13th century, making it exceedingly implausible that a single artisan worked on all three temples.

It is speculated that the term may have indicated a guild of artists skilled in Karnata-Dravidan style who were active during that time period. Scholars believe that the name Jakanachari was formed simply from the terms dakshinacharya or tenkanacharya, which mean’sculptor of the southern region’ or ‘of the south’.

File of Facts


The major temple in the Belur temple complex is Chennakeshava Temple. It is a living sanctuary. The complex is located in the heart of the historic hamlet, which is encircled by mud fort and moat ruins. The temple complex is 1.59 hectares.

Hoysalesvara Temple is located in Halebidu on the banks of the Dorasamudra tank. There are numerous temples, archaeological sites, and mounds in the town, both protected and unprotected. The fort and gateways that previously secured the settlement can still be seen. The temple complex covers an area of 7 hectares.

The Keshava Temple is located in the heart of the village of Somanathapura. A multi-celled prakaara surrounds the temple. Several artifacts are on display in the open space. The temple complex covers an area of 1.88 hectares.

The images of Captain Linnaeus Tripe, one of the East India Company’s first few official photographers, informed the western world to the splendor of the Hoysala temples early on. Tripe took a leave of absence in 1854 to photograph the temples of Halebid and Belur, which resulted in 56 prints and a successful display of his work in Chennai in 1855.


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