Halebid literally means ‘the ruined city’. During the 12th and 13th centuries AD, it flourished as the capital of the Hoysala Dynasty for about 150 years. It was also then known as Dwarasamudra (gateway to the seas). However, invaders who robbed it of its treasures, leaving behind the ruins of the once-magnificent Shiva temple, twice attacked it. The Hoysalas then shifted their capital to Belur, leaving behind Halebid, a city once grand and since reduced to poverty and ruins.
The Shiva Temple, Hoysaleshwara, is unique for its two shrines in the Linga form and gigantic figures of Nandi. It is actually two temples attached along the north-south axis by pillared walls. This temple is twice the size of Belur’s Chennakeshava Temple and the figures are larger as well. The twin Shiva Temple with a common platform and two garbhagrihas, one beside the other have a common broad navaranga.
The temple doorways are highly ornate and impressive. Outer walls have rows of intricate figures narrating episodes from epics like Ramayana, Bharatha and Bhagavata.