The three temples in Somnathpur, Belur and Halebid are exemplars of Hoysala-style temples in South India, dating from 12th and 13th centuries. The Hoysala empire evolved its own unique temple architecture style characterized by hyper-real sculptures and stone carvings that cover the entire surface, a circumambulatory platform, a large-scale sculptural gallery and a multi-tiered frieze.
The Star shaped Keshava temple in Somnathpur is considered a perfect example of Hoysala architecture. The exquisitely carved triple towers and spellbinding friezes that adorn the outer walls feature intricately carved rows of caparisoned elephants, charging horsemen, and mythological beasts and birds.
The Chennekesava Temple in Hoysala capital of Belur commemorates Hoysalan victory over the Cholas. This star shaped temple with its magnificent 3.7 m tall image of Lord Vijaya Narayana, hand lathe-turned filigreed pillars and sculptures is the only Hoysala temple still in active use for worship. The temple has exquisite artwork on its outer walls adorned with bracket figures of dancing girls in various poses. At the entrance facing the temple is a magnificent sculpture of Garuda. In front of the shrine is a smooth circular platform that exhibits a fine sculpture of Shanthala Devi, King Vishnuvardhana’s queen.
Halebid’s Hoysaleswara Temple has a profusion of intricately carved Hindu deities, sages, stylised animals, birds and friezes depicting the life of Hoysala kings. Imagery from epics like the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagvad Geeta adorn the outer walls with highly ornate temple doorways.