Temple hoppers flock to Hassan, a historical mecca in the state of Karnataka. Here, you’re surrounded by relics of the powerful 11th-century Hoysala dynasty, who ruled over southern India for nearly 200 years. Come to admire gilded temples devoted to Hindu goddesses – the city itself is named for the smiling goddess Hasanamba – and pillared structures typical of the Hoysala architectural style, arranged in star configurations with mythological figures carved onto soapstone ceilings. The only competing monument to Hoysala architecture is the area’s Gothic Shettihalli Church, which was constructed by French missionaries in the 1860s and gets partially submerged during monsoon season, earning it the nickname The Floating Church.
Visitors use Hassan as a springboard to explore temples in the nearby former Hoysala capitals Belur and Halebidu. Most famous are Hoysaleswara Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and Chennakesava, a colossal stone masterpiece decorated with over 80 intricate Madanika sculptures and engraved columns. These temples are particularly magical during festivals like Diwali, when devotees dressed in their sequined finest come to worship and light candles. Meanwhile, south of Hassan, barefoot Jain pilgrims head to Shravanabelagola where an 18-metre-tall statue of Lord Gomateshwara sits atop Indragiri Hill; India’s largest freestanding sculpture and a sacred religious monument.
Discover Hassan’s ancient Hoysala heritage on a tour led by local guides – speak to our India experts about visiting this architectural haven.
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