One of the most fascinating Hoysala temples is that of Hoysaleshwara in Halebidu in Hassan district of Karnataka State. Dedicated to Shiva, the temple was constructed in 1121 BC by Vishnuvardhana, one of the greatest Kings of the Hoysala dynasty.
The temple and other magnificent structures were destroyed, looted and mutilated by the Muslim invaders from
Halebidu was the capital of the Hoysalas and it was then known as Dwarasamudra.
Thousands of visitors admire the beauty of the temple and its stunning sculpture. But what a majority of the visitors miss is the poignant story of the Garudas, the elite bodyguards of the Hoysala Kings and the royal family.
The Garudas swore complete allegiance to the King they served and they lived and died with him. Whenever their King died, the Garuda not only beheaded himself but his entire family.
The Hoysala Kings, as a mark of respect to their Garudas, constricted Garuda Pillars or memorials. One such Pillar exists in the
. Hoysaleshwara Temple
We can term them as Garuda Sthamba, though this word is generally used to denote flag posts in front of temples. These Gardua Sthambas are much different from Viragallu or Hero stones.
The Garudas were elite bodyguards of the kings and queens. They moved and lived with the royal family and their only purpose was to protect their master. When their master died, they committed suicide.
The Garuda pillar, which is eight feet on height, is on the south of the
depicts heroes brandishing knives and cutting off their own heads. This pillar is in memory of Kuruva Lakshma, a bodyguard of Veera Ballala, the second (1173-1220). Hoysaleshwara Temple
A devoted officer, Lakshma took his life and that of his wife and other bodyguards after the death of Veera Ballala. This episode is narrated in Hale Kannada inscription on the pillar.
The Garudas were locally known as lenkas (heroes) or jolavalis (indebted to the king for food) and velavalis (those who stood by the king at all times).
They were given the name Garuda as they served the king the way the mythical eagle Garuda served Vishnu. In 1220 AD, when Vira Ballala II died, Kumara Laksmana also called as Lakshma, who was treated by the King as his own son, did along with his famous regiment of a thousand Garudas.
The Hoysaleshwara Garuda pillar notes that Kumara Laksmana and his wife Suggala Devi “became united with Laksmi and with Garuda”.
Apart from the Garudas, the other warriors who protected the Emperors and their families were Ankakaras, Lenkas and Velekaras.
The erstwhile Hoysala Kingodm has several such Garuda Stahambas detailing the sacrifices of these elite bodyguards. The
Agrahara Bachihalli inscription in Krishnarajapete taluk
belongs to 1256 AD and it records a heart rendering story about the sacrifice of seven generations of people, belonging to one and the same family.
Some of them like Yereyanga and Someshwara were killed on the battlefield. The Agrahara Bachihalli inscription says the Garudas mentioned belonged to Kabbahunadu.
This inscription is important as it records the genealogy of all those
bodyguards from the Mugila family: Gandanarayana Setty and Nayaki Maravve, Hoysala setty and his wife Nayaki Machavve, Koreyanayaka and Maravve, Shivaneyanayaka, Lakkeyanayaka and his wife Gangadevi, and Kanneyanayaka. They are called as Lenkaru.
Halebidu is 16 km from Belur and 31 km from Hassan. It is 149 km from
and it is located in Hassan district. Mysore
By the way, Garundanagiri, a hill fort which is 3,680 ft. above the mean sea level, is 27 km. from Arsikere and 69 km. from Hassan. This fort was built by Garuda, a bodyguard of Vishnuvardhana.Many Hoysala temples across the districts of