The erstwhile Hoysala capital of Dwarasamudra comes alive in its ruins

The villager gives me a vacant look when I ask him the route to Dwarasamudra, the 11th Century capital of the Hoysalas. I try again; this time, I ask him about the Hoysala capital and temple as well. He responds with a toothless grin and rapidly gives directions in Kannada to my driver.

My search for Dwarasamudra, however, takes me to the portals of a famous tourist site, the 12th Century Hoysaleshwar temple in Halebeed.

To the many tourists here, Halebeed is the capital, but as I walk into the bylanes beyond the temple into the old village, Dwarasamudra comes alive in the ruins scattered around.

An inscription speaks of a battle fought here against the Kalachuriyas by Veera Ballalla II. A few tourists go boating on the lake, the foundation of Dwarasamudra, which means Entry by Ocean.

A villager calls me over to see another inscription. It says the Hoysalas were ruling from Velapuri or Belur on the banks of the Yagachi river. When king Vinayaditya shifted to Dwarasamudra in the 11th Century, he built a canal to channelise water from Yagachi to the new capital.

A tank was built and the Hoysaleshwar temple was constructed on its bank. “And then, it was renamed as Halebeed, meaning old abode,” explains the villager as we walk to see the ruins.

With the Bennegudda hill looking down on them, the remnants of the old city stand silently. A fortified palace and some pedestals lie scattered. There is a Linga, some headless sculptures and broken friezes. This was the capital of a dynasty that once defeated the Cholas, Chalukyas, Kadambas and Kalachuryas before being destroyed by internal strife and ravaged by Muslim invaders in the 14{+t}{+h} Century.

I sit on the steps of the ruined temple as the villager narrates the downfall of the dynasty.

The Hoysalas met their nemesis in the form of Malik Kafur, a general of Alauddin Khilji, who invaded the South in the 14{+t}{+h} Century. The invaders forced Veera Ballalla III to submit, and looted him of 312 elephants and 20,000 horses, besides jewellery.

Dwarasamudra was plundered as Ballalla fled to Belur. A few years later, the king attempted to rebuild Dwarsamudra, but the Muslim onslaught continued. As the town was further destroyed, the king fled to Tiruvannamalai, but died in Madurai, while fighting the invaders.

I read the account of Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan traveller who was in the court of Muhammad Bin Tughluq, the reigning Sultan at the time. He says “The captured king was slain and skinned; his skin was stuffed with straw and hung from the top of the walls from Madurai.”

Outside, the air is solemn as twilight sets in. As the dynasty ended, Dwarasamudra disappeared into the dusty annals of history, and emerged as Halebeed, which found its place in the tourist map.

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