This ancient capital of Hoysala was founded in the early 11th century and huge named Dwarasamudra, after a huge artificial lake dating back to the 9th century. The flourishing capital city had a small fortress with a magnificent palace. It was fortified with a wall of enormous boulders and a moat that was connected with the lake. Halebid attained glorious heights during the reign of Ballala -11, the grandson of Vishnuvardhana. The prosperity of Halebid attracted the forces of Delhi Sultanate, who invaded and annexed the town in 1311. In 1326, it was again attacked and ravaged by the forces of Mohammad bin Tughlak. Repeated invasions and the killing of king Ballala II, in the battle against the Sultan of Madura in 1342, forced the Hoysalas to relinquish their beautiful capital, which was then referred as Halebid’ or the ‘Old Capital’. The Hoysalas built over 150 exquisite temples in southern Karnataka, but the temples at Halebid, Belur, and Somnathpur are considered to be outstanding.
Hoysaleswara Temple: This magnificent shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva is the largest and the best among Hoysala temples. Its construction was started in 1121, by “Ketumalla”, one of the officials of Vishnuvardhana and could be completed only by 1207. The shrine is very similar to the Chenna Keshava temple at Belur, but its figures are more profusely carved. Even after working diligently for about a century, there are still some unfinished portions of this amazing edifice. The sculptural extravaganza has been lavishly praised by the experts, critics, and common visitors. The complex consists of two identical temples, each with its array of navranga and sukhanasi and Nandi mandapas. Both the sanctums have a characteristic star-shaped ground plan and are set on a stone platform as seen in other Hoysala shrines. The temple on the northern side is named Shantaleshwara, after Shantala Devi, the beloved queen of Vishnuvardhana, while the southern side shrine is the Hoysaleswara temple. The two temple halls are joined by a common verandah creating a spacious columned interior. Thousands of intricately carved sculptures depicting scenes from the mythological epics Ramayana, Mahabharta, puranic legends, beasts, and beauties, etc. adorn the temple walls. There are about thirty-five thousand sculpted pieces in the shrine, noted for their breathtaking beauty, but the south doorway unrivaled for its filigree work is considered to be a masterpiece of delicate carving. The central figure portrays Lord Shiva with demon Andhakasur under his feet, while on either side of the lintel are Hoysala motif depicting a man single-handedly fighting a tiger. Both the sanctums enshrine a cast facing lingam, preceded by a Nandi mandapa with a huge statue of Nandi bul1, the celestial vehicle of Lord Shiva. There is an Archaeological Museum in front of the Hoysaleswara temple. Other attractions of Halebid are Kedareswara Temple, Basadi Halli (Jain Shrines), and Sri Ranganatha Temple.