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History of Karnataka
The Hoysalas
Architecture

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The following features can be recognised as distinct and unique to the Hoysala style. Generally the temple has a star – shaped ground plan. This is an innovation that the Hoysalas introduced, and is unique to the style.

The putting up of a Jagati or platform in conformity with the star shaped ground plan is of much architectural importance.

The platform is much wider than the temple, leaving a flat surface all round to serve as Pradakshinapatha, so that the visitor or worshipper can go round the temple enjoying the wall sculptures, which constituted a source of popular education.

Secondly, the Jagati gave a height to the temple, as the Hoysala temples are generally not tall.

The zig – zag character of the wall is another feature of the Hoysala style. This enables the sculptures to be seen both in sunlight and shades.

The doorway is marked by an exuberance of carving, and the Hoysala style. This enables the sculptors particularly lavished their apparently inexhaustible skill on its execution. The deep and domical ceiling is generally adorned with a profusion of delicate carvings and beautiful sculptures. The Navaranga ceiling of the Chennakeshava temple at Belur is acknowledged as a masterpiece.

The pillars are often lathe – turned, and they are variously designed. Some of them are 16, 32, and 64 – pointed. Some of them are bell – shaped. They can take very high polish. The pillars of the Parsvanatha Basadi at Halebid display special properties connected with the reflection of light.

The Narasimha Pillar of the Belur temple is a marvel of minute carvings and sculptures. The later Chalukyan style is weak in figure sculptures. But this is a strong point of the Hoysala style.

The general treatment of wall surfaces is marked by a large number of horizontal friezes imposed upon one another. The lowest band is usually a procession of elephants; the next, of horsemen.

Then, after another band of spiral foliage, and on a level with the eye, is a wider frieze depicting a succession of Puranic themes – “a picture gallery in stone executed with marked dramatic effect and wealth of detail” (Percy Brown).

Above them congregate gods and goddesses of every description and mood, some blessing the pious, others glowering at the wicked, but everyone a model of sculptural art.

In some of the Hoysala temples we come across the beautiful alluring images of Madanikas, also called Salabhanjikas.

“Irrespective of their significance and of the symbolism that governed their conception, the exhibition of as many facets of feminine physique, grace and beauty appears to have remained uppermost in the minds of the artists who carved them.” (Dr. S. Settar).

The Salabhanjikas embody the physical and psychological elements of an adolescent female.

The Vimana of the Hoysala temple is not noted for its soaring verticality. It is a modest structure; here the premium is more on delicate execution than ambitious form. “There is a certain elastic beauty in its rich sculpted texture, but architecturally it is formless, and lacks structural strength”. (Percy Brown).

By constant explorations of the Archaeological Survey of Mysore, around ninety Hoysala temples have been discovered. They can be broadly classified according to the number of Vimana or tower they have.

Let me explain about it in the next edition.

to be continued......

Arthikaje,
Mangalore

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