The Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebidu, Karnataka got its name from King Vishnuvardhana Hoysaleswara of the Hoysala Empire of the 12th century, under whose rule it was constructed. The actual construction was undertaken by wealthy Shaiva citizens, who built it in competition with the construction of the Chennakesava Temple at Belur.
Built near the large Dorasamudhra Lake and surrounded by tanks, ponds and mandapas, the temple is one of the largest Shiva temples of South India.
The outer walls of the temple leave visitors in awe as they contain intricate stone sculptures that have been described as the “supreme climax of Indian architecture”. There are around 240 images. There are eight friezes that depict various animals, none of which are repeated in a span of over 200 m (660 ft).
While the interiors of the temple are not as ornate as the exteriors, lathe turned pillars run in rows inside; the four pillars in front of each shrine have madanika (chaste maidens) in the brackets.
The temple also has a rare garuda sthamba; garudas were elite royal bodyguards whose whole purpose in life was to serve their master. When the master died, garduas would commit suicide.
The pillar in the temple honors Kuruva Lakshma, bodyguard of Veera Ballala II, who was so devoted to the king that he killed his wife and other garudas before taking his own life after the death of the king. The pillar also depicts heroes cutting off their own heads.