Hoysala dynasty is a South Indian dynasty that existed between 1110 A.D. and 1326 A.D. Vinayaditya (1047-98) ruled an an area centered on Dorasamudra (modern Halebid), which became the dynasty's capital. His grandson Bittiga (later called Vishnuvardhana; reigned c.1110-42) made extensive conquests, including the Mysore plateau, and built magnificent temples at Dorasamudra that were noted for their intricate and elaborate sculpture. Bittiga's grandson, Vira Ballala II (reigned 1173-1220) extended Hoysala control N of Mysore and made the dynasty the most powerful in S India. The Hoysalas later came into conflict with the empire of Vijayanagar and the Muslim sultans of Delhi, and the last Hoysala rule was overthrown in 1346. At its height the dynasty ruled over parts of the modern states of Mysore, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
Some of the most magnificent specimens of South Indian temples are those attributed to the Hoysala dynasty of Karnataka. How this powerful dynasty got its name is a tale that must have been narrated time and again. Hoy Sa'la meaning "strike Sa'la!", were the words spoken to Sa'la ( legendary head of this dynasty) to kill the tiger. Since Sa'la tackled the tiger single-handed and killed him, this heroic deed took the form of the dynasty's name. The rulers of this clan were called the Yadava Kings who ruled with tremendous power after having defeated the Chalukyas and rose above all to become the paramount rulers even over the Cholas and Pandyas in South India. The Hoysala dynasty originally had their capital at Halebid (about 17 kms from Belur) where they ruled for over 150 years. However, it was attacked by invaders a couple of times during the 14th century, reducing the once grand capital to poverty and ruins. Thus, the Hoysalas shifted their seat of power to Belur which stood proud as a powerful empire back then.
The Hoysala rulers were responsible for some of the most exquisite temples. Developed on the architectural style of the Chalukyas, these structures have intricate details that are breathtaking. The profusion of temple architectural styles in India can be awe inspiring. One group of temples which never fails to fascinate an observer is the Hoysala trio - Belur, Halebid and Somnathapura.
The Belur temple, the earliest in the group and built c. 1117 A.D., to commemorate a victory against the Cholas, has a single star shaped structure, whereas the Halebid temple (c. 1121), on the site of the old capital, has a double sanctum like a twin temple, one beside the other, with the side wings joined to allow access to each other. Halebid, where the temples are dedicated to Vishnuvardhana and his consort Santaleswara, has a huge Nandi (or bull )mantapa, with an imposing statue of the bull. The Somnathapura, has three star shaped sanctums, each placed at three angles. The last mentioned is the newest addition, built in 1268.