Found by the chieftain Channa Krishnappa Naik in the 11th century, Hassan city is the headquarters of the Hassan district in Karnataka. Named after the local deity Hassanamba, this district is the architectural capital of Karnataka. The rich culture of the Hoysalas can be seen all over the district.
The Hoysala dynasty ruled from Dwara Samudra the capital city then, between the 11th and 14th century. The ruins can still be found in and around Halebid in the Hassan district. Though the rulers of this dynasty belonged to the Jain faith, temples for Lord Shiva can be seen spread over the entire region.
The best time to visit Hassan is between the months of October and March when the weather is pleasant enough to enjoy sightseeing and explore outdoor. This is also the time when you can be a part of the popular Hassanamba Temple Fair.
Here are some of the most important places in this region.
Belur, also referred to as Velapuri, was the early capital of the Hoysala Empire. The main attraction in Belur is the Chennakeshava temple complex which contains the Chennakesava Temple (dedicated to Chennakeshava, meaning “Vishnu, the handsome”) as the centre piece, surrounded by the Kappe Chennigraya temple built by Shantaladevi, queen of king Vishnuvardhana.
The first moulding where the temple wall meets the jagati (platform) around the temple is made up entirely of a frieze of elephants.
There are two more shrines here that are still in use by devotees and there is a Pushkarni or stepped well to the right side of the main entrance. The Dravida style rayagopuram at the entrance was a later addition by the Vijayanagar kings, who considered this deity as one of their Kuladevata or family god.
The temple is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture. It was built by king Vishnuvardhana in commemoration of his victory over the Cholas at Talakad in 1117 CE. Legend has it that it took 103 years to complete and Vishnuvardhana's grandson Veera Ballala II completed the task.
The facade of the temple is filled with intricate sculptures and friezes with no portion left blank. The intricate workmanship includes elephants, lions, horses, episodes from the Indian mythological epics, and sensuous dancers (Shilabalikas). Inside the temple are a number of ornate pillars. Darpana Sundari (Lady with the mirror) carved on walls of Belur Temple is one of major attractions in the complex.
This temple along with Hoysaleswara temple in Halebidu and the Jaina monuments at Shravanabelagola are being proposed as UNESCO world heritage sites.