A wondrous structure in Hulikere

The ornate temples of Belur and Halebidu in Hassan district that attract lakhs of travellers from across the world are considered to be the best examples of Hoysala style of temple architecture. The district has many more Hoysala structures that can be of interest to art aficionados. Interestingly, many of them are unknown to people and remain off the tourist circuit. One such place is Hulikere Kalyani, situated two kilometres away from Halebidu on the Hagare road. Hulikere (huli translates to tiger and kere translates to pond in Kannada)  village was part of Dwarasamudra (now Halebidu), the erstwhile capital of the Hoysala rulers. The water tank located here is considered to be a milestone in the construction of kalyanis. Unfortunately, there is no proper connectivity to the place and the road is narrow. Though there is a signboard it can be easily missed. 

The elaborate kalyani has three levels with 30 steps. One can see an amalgamation of astronomy and architecture in this kalyani. At mid-height, there are 27 ornate miniature shrines or sanctums adorning the steps on all the four sides. These are said to represent stellar constellations. While some of these shrines have superstructures (shikahara), some are devoid of such pinnacles. 

It is said that these shrines had idols of gods in the past. The Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage has arranged the idols of Shiva, Vishnu, Surya, Ganesha, etc on the steps. Most of these idols are broken and disfigured. As per the inscriptions, the artistic kalyani that reflects the grandeur of Hoysala architecture is around a thousand years old. 

There are many legends linked to this structure. While some say that the structure was Queen Shantala’s private pond, others say that water required for the
temples of Halebidu was supplied from this kalyani. Folklorists also mention that Sala, the founder of Hoysala dynasty, lived in
Hulikere. 

According to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) website, “The earliest inscription found at this place belongs to the reign of Hoysala Narasimha I (1152-1173 AD). His official, Lattayya, built a temple called Bhuvana-bhushana Lattesvara and an ornate Kalyani in 1160 AD at this place. Although no remains of Shiva temple are seen in the vicinity, the tank still exists in all its splendour.”

While the kalyani stands the test of time, lack of infrastructure has made it remain unnoticed. With appropriate measures from the Tourism Department, the kalyani can become a prominent tourist attraction.

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