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Hoysala Dynasty India

Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu

  • The Hoysala dynasty was an important Southern Indian empire which ruled most of the Karnataka from 10th to 14th centuries. The initial capital of the Hoysalas at Belur was later shifted to Halebidu.
  • Originally the Hoysala rulers were from Malnad Karnataka. In the 12th century, they took the advantage of the warfare between the Western Chalukyas and Kalachuri kingdoms and occupied areas of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. By the 13th century, they governed most of Karnataka, parts of Tamil Nadu, western Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  • The Hoysala era was a crucial period in the growth of religion, architecture and art in South India. The empire is famous mainly for its temple construction. More than a hundred existing temples are spread across Karnataka, including the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu and the Chennakesava Temple at Belur. The Hoysala rulers also encouraged literature to flourish in Sanskrit and Kannada.

Hoysala Kings were:

  • Nripa Kama II (1026–1047)
  • Hoysala Vinayaditya (1047–1098)
  • Ereyanga                               (1098–1102)
  • Veera Ballala I                      (1102–1108)
  • Vishnuvardhana                  (1108–1152)
  • Narasimha I                             (1152–1173)
  • Veera Ballala II                     (1173–1220)
  • Vira Narasimha II                (1220–1235)
  • Vira Someshwara               (1235–1254)
  • Narasimha III                       (1254–1291)
  • Veera Ballala III                    (1292–1343)
  • Harihara Raya                      (1342–1355)


  • Arekalla was the first ruler of Hoysala dynasty. Maruga and Nripa Kama I followed him. The next ruler was Munda who was succeeded by Nripa Kama II who allied with the Western Ganga dynasty. After that, the Hoysala dynasty became a powerful subordinate of the Western Chalukyas. For the first time, the Hoysalas became a real kingdom after expansive military conquests of Vishnuvardhana. In 1116, he seized Gangavadi from the Cholas and shifted the capital from Belur to Halebidu.
  • In 1187–1193, Veera Ballala II, grandson of Vishnuvardhana freed the Hoysalas from subordination and created an independent empire in Karnataka. Veera Ballala II crushed the Pandya when they attacked the Chola kingdom. As per Kannada folklore, he founded the city of Bangalore.
  • Around 1225, the Hoysalas extended their grip in Tamil Nadu and made the city of Kannanur Kuppam a provincial capital. Pandya kingdom also came under the influence of Hoysala. By the end of the 13th century, Hoysalas controlled most of Karnataka, parts of Tamil Nadu and western Andhra Pradesh in Deccan India.
  • In the early 14th century significant political changes were happening in the Deccan region when vast areas of northern India were ruled by Muslims. Alla-ud-din Khilji was firm to bring South India under his control and sent his commanding officer, Malik Kafur, in 1311 to attack the Seuna capital Devagiri. By 1318 the Seuna Empire was conquered and the Hoysala capital Halebidu was captured two times, in 1311 as well as in 1327.
  • By 1336, Alla-ud-din Khilji had conquered the tiny kingdom of Kampili, the Kakatiyas of Warangal and the Pandyas of Madurai. The Hoysalas resisted the attacking armies. At Tiruvannamalai, Veera Ballala III positioned himself and offered tough resistance to attacks. In 1343, after almost 3 decades of resistance, Veera Ballala III was killed in a battle and after that the territories of the Hoysala Empire were combined with the territories controlled by Harihara I in the Tungabhadra region. This new Hindu kingdom resisted the northern attacks and known as the Vijayanagara Empire.

Economy of the Hoysala Empire


  • Economy of Hoysala Empire was based on agriculture. Kings granted lands to religious beneficiaries like Jains and Brahmins and people rewarded for services to the kings. Generally wetland that was already under cultivation was granted. Clearing of forests for cultivation was appreciated because it not just brought new sources of income but also created jobs for the landless. Know-how of agriculture comprised evaluating irrigation systems such as wells, canals, reservoirs with sluices and tanks, which were constructed and maintained by local villagers. Laborers dug the land and the landless cultivated. The highlands were suitable for spices, orchards and cattle farming. Corn and paddy and were staple crops in the plains.

Imports and Exports

  • Import of horses was a flourishing business. Arabs exported horses to Indian kingdoms. Teak was exported from Kerala. Inscriptions reveal a thriving textile industry. Trade with overseas kingdoms was at record levels. South India exported camphor, ebony. Rhino horn, ivory, gold, jewels, salt, pottery, precious stones, medicinal plants, spices and textiles to China. Goldsmiths, quarry workers, sculptors, architects and others whose trade related to building of temples were also affluent because of the vigorous temple building activities.

Tax system

  • Taxes were levied on marriage, professions, goods in transit on domesticated animals, carriages and chariots. Taxes on commodities like yarn, ropes, Sandalwood, perfumes, precious stones, gold, and produce like sugar, coconuts, palm leaves, spices, paddy, ghee, betel leaves and black pepper are mentioned in records. Fines for breaching laws were also collected.

Hoysala administration

  • The Hoysala Empire followed the well-established as well as proven ways of its predecessors for administrative functions like cabinet organisation and command, the division of territory and the structure of local governing bodies. Records demonstrate the names of several high ranking officers reporting directly to the king.
  • The kingdom was divided into provinces named Desha, Kampana, Vishaya and Nadu listed in ascending order of geographical size. Each province had a local governing body comprising of a minister and a treasurer who reported to the ruler of that province. Officials under this local ruler hired as well as supervised the local labourers and farmers employed to till the land. Subordinate ruling clans continued to rule their respective territories while following the policies of the empire.
  • The members of the royal family were protected at all times by well trained force of bodyguards. These bodyguards moved closely but inconspicuously by the side of their master, they were so loyal that they committed suicide after his death. Hero stones were built in memory of these bodyguards.
  • Coins of King Vishnuvardhana were in Hoysala style Kannada script. Their gold coin weighed 62 grains of gold.

Chennakesava Temple at Belur India



  • In the early 11th century, the defeat of the Jain Western Ganga Dynasty by the Cholas as well as the increasing number of followers of Vaishnavism and Lingayatism decreased interest in Jainism. In the Hoysala territory, two important places of Jain worship were Shravanabelagola and Kambadahalli. In South India the fall of Buddhism started in the eighth century with the spread of Advaita philosophy of Adi Shankara. During the Hoysala era, Balligavi and Dambal were the only places of Buddhist worship. Queen of Vishnuvardhana, was a Jain but commissioned the Hindu temple in Belur, evidence that the royal family was tolerant of all religions.
  • In Karnataka, three important religious developments happened during the rule of the Hoysalas, inspired by 3 philosophers, Ramanuja, Madhvacharya and Basava.
  • The impact of these religious developments on architecture, poetry, literature and culture in South India was intense. During the coming centuries, important works of poetry and literature were written based on the teachings of these philosophers. Scholars in the Mysore Kingdom wrote Vaishnavite works upholding the tradition of Ramanuja. After his conversion from Jainism to Vaishnavism, king Vishnuvardhana constructed a number of temples.

Society of the Hoysala Empire

  • The participation of women, particularly of royalty, in administrative matters was a remarkable aspect of the Hoysala kingdom. In the absence of Veera Ballala II, Queen Umadevi governed Halebidu and fought wars against antagonistic feudatories. Women took part in administration, politics, poetry, literature, dance and music. Queen Shantala Devi was well versed in music and dance. The practice of sati, though optional was common and prostitution was generally acceptable. Temple dancers were common in temples and some were well accomplished and educated in arts. These qualifications provided them more independence compared to other rural and urban women who were confined to daily ordinary tasks. The Indian caste system was noticeably present.
  • Many foreigners including Chinese, Persians, Jews and Arabs came to India for trade through the west coast. During this time large scale migration took place from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu. Materials were brought and traded in the marketplace. These were the places of fairs and recurring festivals. Famous pilgrimage places and important marketplaces gradually developed into townships. In Hassan district, Shravanabelagola developed from a religious place to an important settlement.