Halebid and Belur are twin towns located in the Hassan District in the state of Karnataka. These two towns together form a complete square of Hampi and Hassan towns along with the Hoysala temples. The range of the temples of the Hoysala Dynasty is distributed between both the towns. This is why both the towns together form the capital of the Hoysala Temples. The town of Belur lies on the banks of the River Yagachi and is situated at a distance of 222 km from the state capital Bangalore whereas Halebid is 238 km from Bangalore.
Halebid and Belur formed a part of the Hoysala Empire between the 12th and 13th century. A Jain, named Nripa Kama, discovered these towns and enjoyed a combined rule on both of them. Its successor was his son, Vinayaditya.
The Hoysalas belonged to the tribes of the Western Ghats and also served under the rule of the Chalukyas for a while. They came into prominence for the first time under the rule of Tinayaditya. Belur was the first capital of the Hoysala Empire and was earlier known by the name Velapuri.
After the rule of the town went under Vishnuvardhana, the capital was shifted to Halebid, which was earlier known as Dwarasamudra. This was also the period during which most of the prominent temples of Halebid and Belur, including the Hoysaleshwara Temple, were constructed.
These twin towns can also be termed as Temple Towns as their culture is rich in ancient and modern temples. The speciality of the temples of these towns is that they are drafted out of the soft stone called Chloritic Schist. The softness of this stone allows fine detailing on the structure that is well depicted in the minutely carved temple walls.
These sculptures of the temples also portray the tradition of ivory and sandalwood handwork. Due to their south Indian style of architecture, these temples are also compared to those of Khajuraho.
The Hoysala temples of these Twin Towns are undoubtedly their main attractions; however, they also offer many other attractions. One of the most popular and significant temples at the place is the Chenakeshava. This temple is a monumental structure, which was built over 103 years.
The temple has complex artistic details along with various decorative bands lining the walls. There are also scenes of fighting elephants and sensuous dancers on these walls along with 42 madanikas that were inspired by Queen Shantaladevi.
The historical towns of Belur and Halebid can be reached by both road and rail. They are best accessible by road from Mysore, Mangalore and Bangalore. The nearest airports and railway stations are at Mysore, Bangalore and Mangalore. There is also a railway station at Hassan that is 28 km from Belur. The best season to visit Belur and Halebid are the months of October to February.