A gem of Hoysala temple architecture, the Hoysaleshwara temple of Halebid is ornamented with a plethora of exquisite carvings and sculptures. It was built by Ketamalla, a minister of Hoysala ruler Vishnuvardhana, in the 12th century AD. It is believed that the construction of the Hoysaleshwara temple never reached completion as the Hoysala rulers were forced to relocate their capital in the face of attacks by the rampaging armies of Malik Kafur.
The Hoysaleswara temple enshrines the deities of Hoysaleswara and
Santaleswara, named after King Vishnuvardhana Hoysala and his wife Queen
Santala. The composite structure of the Hoysaleswara temple comprises a
pair of identical temples, each with its own east-facing linga sanctuary
opening on to a hall and a screened porch. As the two halls are joined
together to create a spacious columned interior, the temples function as
a single monument.
The Hoysaleshwara temple is regarded a masterpiece for the profusion
splendid carvings and friezes. The temple walls are studded with richly
sculptured friezes of naturalistic and fanciful animals and scenes from
the epics of Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Intricate wall panels
depicting Lord Shiva in the form of Nataraja and Lord Krishna holding up
Mount Govardhan adorn the northern and southern sanctuaries.