The Hoyasalas of Dwarsmudra, as they are known in history, started out in the Kannadiga region and rose to prominence in South India between the 11th and 14th centuries. Belur was the centre of their activities (later, the capital shifted to Halebidu).
There were a lot of people in the region who were important at the time. The western Chalukyas of Kalyani and Cholas, as well as people from the Pandayas, Kakatiyas, Kalachuris, and Yadavas of Devgiri (northern Karnataka), were the most important.
The Hoyasalas’ rise to power was made easier because the Cholas and Pandyas had less power and authority. People in the dynasty were called Western Gangas’ feudators.
Nripa Kama II was in charge of the Western Gangas and was their ruler. He took down a number of chiefs from Malnad (Karnataka), including Kongalvas and Chengalvas, as well as Sandharas and Kadambas from Humcha, Shimoga, and Bayal-nadu (Karnataka) (Wynad). It also says that Bayal-nadu was part of Ballal I’s kingdom. That’s not true, though.
Vishnuvardhana was, in fact, the real founder of the dynasty, though. His name is mentioned in an Ariskere inscription from 1197 CE. It says that he was “a devouring epidemic to Chera.” One of the records from 1190 CE says that he was the one who broke down the bones of “Cera-Kerala”). He took over Ananale, which was a small kingdom in the Western Ghats,Elumale (modern Ezhimala near Kannur, which is the centre of Mushaka power), and Bayal-nadu (Wynad).
“Kongu on its south, Kanchi on its east, the Krishna and Venna Rivers onthe north, and Arabian Sea on the west” are the borders of Belur’s kingdom in 1185 CE .
Inscriptions show that the Cholas and Pandyas lost all of their power and were completely subordinated. If Hoyasala was trying to get the last Perumal of Mahodayapuram, he moved his base to Kurakeni Kolam.
In Narasimha I, the son and successor of Vishnuvardhana, Narasimha I expanded the boundaries of the Hoysala kingdom even more. Vikramesvaram(Ramesvaram) was added to the kingdom. Narasimha I also had Kongu (Coimbatore), but Bayal-nadu, which touches the Western Ghats, was also part of his rule. This shows that Hoysala power completely over ran the Kerala region during Narasimha I’s reign. Narasimha II’s reign was marked by a friendship between the Cholas and the Hoyasalas, which was very important.
Narasimha II married his daughter to Rajaraja II, a Chola king who was in love with his daughter(1216-1256 CE). They were able to keep the Pandayas away from the Cholas because of this alliance. Pandayas may have been helped by petty chieftains in Kerala during this time, which may have led to Hoyasala attacks in the region. This is shown in the Channarayapatne record of1223 CE.
Hoyasala’s last powerful king was Somevara, and he was the last one. Arsirkere, who lived in 1239 CE, is called the “sole protector of the Chola-kula” in inscriptions and other sources .
During 1229 CE, the Hoysala kingdom had expanded to Kanchi in the east, Belur in the west, and the Krishna River in the north. In the south, the kingdom of Bayal-nadu (Wynad) was on the other side.
Narsimha II gave all of the Chera territories to his son-in-law, Rajaraja Chola III, the Chola king. It says that Somesvara was “a lion to the deer Kulothunga-Chola and to the chief of Kerala.” This is from a 1252 CE inscription in Arkalgudtaluk in Hassan district.
Narasimha III ruled from Halebidu, and Somesvara split his kingdom between Narasimha III and his half-brother, Ramnath (who ruled from Kannanur). When Ballal III was in charge, the final signs of disintegration started to show up. In1310-1311 CE, Alauddin’s forces led by Malik Kafur took over the territories, and Ballala III had to move his base to Tiruvannamalai.
Polity and Administration
King and His Officials
In the kingdom, the King was in charge. His job was “to stop the bad and protect the good”. He was the most important person and the last person to appeal. The king personally took care of everything that had to do with justice.
In the Hoysala kingdom, “crowned queens”had a lot of power. They had their own ministers and stewards, and at times they led military campaigns, even though they were separate. However, there were also “uncrowned queens” who didn’t have any power of that kind.
Yuvaraja was the next in line to the throne, second in command, and sometimes governor. However, in that case, He was not more powerful than dannayakas/dandanayaks in any way.
Mandaleshvaras were princes who were ruled by other people. At one point, they were either independent or were feudal lords of the Chalukyas or Rashtrakutas at the time. They were almost like “crowned queens.”
Below them were the mandalikas, who were usually small rulers. Then came the samantas (frontier chiefs who ruled over hereditary lands).
In the bureaucracy, there were dannayakas/dandayaks who held the highest position in the official hierarchy; they were also army generals and held other important jobs. It used to be that the king would ask the Maha-pradhans for help from time to time. Specially chosen people used to get titles like sarvadhikari, param-visvasi, bahattara-niyogadhipati, and so on that sounded very good: (master of 72).
Nayaks were in charge of the foot/horse . Inspectors were sent by the king to keep an eye out for the dannayakas. Vicaris were also sent by the king. It was called Sandhi-vigrahi, and he was the minister of foreign affairs. His job was to make alliances, fight, and talk with rajas from other places.
As long as the king was still in charge of the military campaigns, generals were often incharge of them. Their job was to be senapati (commander) or samasta-senadhipati (leader)(commander-in-chief). These people were usuallyBrahmanas.
After the battles, the commanders were given badges of honour. Granting betel-leaf as a sign of honour was one of them. To help the families of generals whose wives and children died in battle, grants were made that did not have to pay taxes.
In the inscriptions, we don’t hear about the sabhas (a meeting of Brahmanas), but we do. There were a lot of non-Brahmana villages (urs) and kaluvallis, but the most people lived in them (hemlets). There were nad-he heggade (sheriffs) and nad-prabhus in charge of the nad/nadu(deputy sheriffs).
Pattanas were the places where people from all over came to buy and sell things. These pattanas are said to have nanadesis in them, which we know about.
We also hear about pattana- svamis (mayors) of the pattas, but they aren’t the only ones. It’s true that some of the pattanas (rajadhani-pattanas) were big cities.
Strict punishments were given to the people who did wrong. People often had armed guards with them to keep the roads safe. Because of this, if crops were damaged by the marching forces during the campaigns, they paid for the damage.
A lot of state money came from land sales. In the past, land taxes were usually paid in cash or something else. Permanent (land) revenue/revenue settlement was called “siddhaya,” and it ranged from 1/6th to 1/7th of the gross produce. This was called siddhaya .
Kambas were used to measure land, and they changed from place to place. However, the list of taxes that the commoners have to pay seems to go on and on.
War tax (vira-sese),separate charges for fodder and horse contribution (kudureya-sese) for the king’s horses during the campaigns, and separate charges for the king’s troops were all collected.
Similarly, aneya-sese was put in place to pay for the care of the royal elephants. To pay for the king’s troops, paddy had to be brought in by the peasants. Kataka-sese was a gift for the camp.
In the past, people had to pay for the king to have a lot of cows and bullocks when he went on a campaign (nallavu-nallettu).
Other taxes were also levied at the time of coronation (patta- baddha). Putrotsaha forthe birth of a son was also one of them.
Another source of money for the state was through fines. If you break the law, Anyaya will get a fine. Some other taxes and fines were imposed by the nadassemblies, and the land owners had royal permission to do so. These taxes and fines are called“nad taxes.” The list goes on and on. Maduve tax, loom tax, oil-press tax, dyer tax, and so on.
Agrahara villages were given to Brahmanas so that they could look after them. More than 100 times, we find references to the agrahara villages in the Hoysala inscriptions. However, we do get some people who don’t want to convert land that isn’t part of an agrahara into an agrahara. When one of the gaudas (rich landlords) land was turned into an agrahara, the gaudas resisted.
This led to a fight between the gaudas and the Brahmanas, in which the Brahmanas won. For there pairs and up keep of temples, a lot of land was given. These lands were given to people of all different religions and sects, no matter what the king thought about them.
Trade, Merchants and the State
This is another source of money that came from trade and commerce, as well as farming. Tax on goods was usually paid in cash. The state was very dependent on merchants for the supply of arms, elephants, horses, and other valuable and rare items, which led to a stronger relationship between the two.
Some rich merchants were even given titles like Rajasresthigal (royal merchants), and they were seen as important parts of the towns (pura mula stambha). Ayyavole Ainnuruvar, for example, was a merchant in Karnataka. He had contacts with Anga, Vanga, Kashmira, Singhala, and Chakragotta.
Even merchants were given jobs in the nadus, towns, and other administrative places. Even they seemed to be taking part in the campaigns. Nagrasetti died in the battle of Sige in 1145 CE. The Ballaru inscription says that. There were a lot of merchants from Gujarat, India, Kerala, India, and Andhra, India, who settled down in the Hoyasala territory and played a big role as administrators.
Marisetti of Ayyavole, a bangle merchant, was mentioned in the Kudalaru inscription (1177-78 CE). He moved to the Hoyasala country and started a business there. He was called mahaprabhu, which means “great officer.” His great grands on, Perumadideva, was called mahapradhan (great minister) and tantrapala (foreign minister) by Ballala II when he was in charge.
Inscriptions show that these merchants even rose to the rank of pattanasvami/pattanasetti. They were also incharge of making coins. On a 1188 CE document, the name of this person is written as Kammata (mint) Chattisetti.These merchants gave temples a lot of money and helped build and repair temples.
An inscription from 1117 CE says that the mothers of two royal merchants built a Jaina temple. This is also what the Dyampura inscription says. It says that in 1188, Bammisetti’s son, Vankagavuda, built the Bammeshvara temple by himself.
Merchants also played a big role in reclaiming land, digging wells, building tanks, and other projects to help with irrigation. Sakayya, son of Palagesetti, dug up the Arapamma tank and built a sluice at Sirivur in 1027 CE.
Merchants played a bigger role in building temples in the Hoyasala state in the 12th and 13th centuries than they did in the 11th century, which suggests that the merchants had more involvement and power.
The defeat of the Jain Western Ganga Dynasty by the Cholas in early eleventh century and the rising numbers of followers of Vaishnava Hinduism and Virashaivism in the twelfth century mirrored a decreased interest in Jainism. Shravanabelagola and Kambadahalli represent two notable locations of Jain worship in the Hoysala territory.
The decline of Buddhism in South India began in the eighth century with the spread of Adi Shankara’s Advaita philosophy. Dambal and Balligavi constituted only places of Buddhist worship during the Hoysala time.
Shantala Devi, queen of Vishnuvardhana professed Jainism yet commissioned the Hindu Kappe Chennigaraya temple in Belur, evidence that the royal family tolerated all religions.
During the rule of the Hoysalas, three important religious developments took place in present day Karnataka inspired by three philosophers, Basavanna, Madhvacharya and Ramanujacharya.
While scholars debate the origin of Virashaiva faith, they agree that the movement grew through its association with Basavanna in the twelfth century. Some scholars argue that five earlier saintsRenuka, Daruka, Ekorama, Panditharadhya and Vishwaradhya founded Virashaivism, a sect that preaches devotion to Lord Shiva.
Basavanna and other Virashaiva saints preached of a faith without a caste system. In his Vachanas he appealed to the masses in simple Kannada, writing “work is worship” (Kayakave Kailasa).
Madhvacharya took a critical stance toward the teachings of Shankaracharya, arguing for world as real rather than illusion. Madvacharya upheld the virtues of Lord Vishnu, propounding the Dvaita philosophy (dualism) while condemning the “mayavada” (illusion) of Shankaracharya. He maintained a distinction between Paramathma (supreme being) and the dependent principle of life.
His philosophy gained popularity enabling him to establish eight Mathas (monastery) in Udupi. Ramanujacharya, the head of the Vaishnava monastery in Srirangam, preached the way of devotion (bhakti marga) and wrote Sribhashya, a critique on the Advaita philosophy of Adi Shankara.
Those religious developments had a profound impact on culture, literature, poetry and architecture in South India. Scholars wrote important works of literature and poetry based on the teachings of those philosophers during the coming centuries.
The Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu dynasties of Vijayanagar empire followed Vaishnavism, a Vaishnava temple with an image of Ramanujacharya stands in the Vitthalapura area of Vijayanagara. Scholars in later Mysore Kingdom wrote Vaishnavite works upholding the teachings of Ramanujacharya.
King Vishnuvardhana built many temples after his conversion from Jainism to Vaishnavism. The later saints of Madhvacharya’s order, Jayatirtha, Vyasatirtha,Sripadaraya, Vadirajatirtha and devotees (dasa) such as Vijaya Dasa, Gopaladasa and others from the Karnataka region spread his teachings far and wide.
His teachings inspired later day philosophers like Vallabhacharya in Gujarat and Chaitanya in Bengal. Another wave of devotion (bhakti) in the seventeenth–eighteenth century found inspiration in his teachings.
Hoysala society in many ways reflected the emerging religious, political and cultural developments of those times.
During that period, the society became increasingly sophisticated. The status of women varied.
Some royal women became involved in administrative matters as shown in contemporary records describing Queen Umadevi’s administration of Halebidu in the absence of Veera Ballala II during his long military campaigns in northern territories.
She also fought and defeated some antagonistic feudal rebels.
That in stark contrast to the literature of the time (like Vikramankadeva Charita of Bilhana) that portrayed women as retiring, overly romantic and unconcerned with affairs of the state.
Records describe the participation of women in the fine arts, such as Queen Shantala Devi’s skill in dance and music, and the twelfth century Vachana poet and Virashaiva mystic Akka Mahadevi’s famed devotion to the bhakti movement.
She constituted both a pioneer in the era of Women’s emancipation and an example of a transcendental world-view.
Temple dancers(Devadasi), well educated and accomplished in the arts, commonly danced in the temples. Those qualifications gave them more freedom than other urban and rural women restricted to daily mundane tasks. As in most of India, the institute of the Indian caste system prevailed in Hoysala society.
Trade on the west coast brought many foreigners to India including Arabs, Jews, Persians, Chinese and people from the Malay Peninsula. Migration of people within Southern India as a result of the expansion of the empire produced an influx of new cultures and skills. Royal patronage of education, arts, architecture, religion, and establishment of new forts and military outposts caused the large scale relocation of people.
In South India, towns called Pattana or Pattanam and the marketplace, Nagara or Nagaram, the marketplace served as the nuclei of a city. Some towns such as Shravanabelagola developed from a religious settlement in the seventh century to an important trading center by the twelfth century with the arrival of rich traders, while towns like Belur attained the atmosphere of a regal city when King Vishnuvardhana built the Chennakesava Temple there. Large temples supported by royal patronage served religious, social, and judiciary purposes, elevating the king to the level of “God on earth.”
Temple building served a commercial as well as a religious function, open to all Hindu sects.
Shaiva merchants of Halebidu financed the construction of the Hoysaleswara temple to compete with the Chennakesava temple built at Belur, elevating Halebidu to an important city as well.
Hoysala temples, although secular encouraged pilgrims of all Hindu sects, the Kesava temple at Somanathapura being an exception with strictly Vaishnava sculptural depictions.
Temples built by rich landlords in rural areas fulfilled fiscal, political, cultural and religious needs of the agrarian communities. Irrespective of patronage, large temples served as establishments that provided employment to hundreds of people of various guilds and professions sustaining local communities as Hindu temples began to take on the shape of wealthy Buddhist monasteries.
Although Sanskrit literature remained popular during the Hoysala rule, royal patronage of local Kannada scholars increased. In the twelfth century, some scholars wrote works in the Champu mixed prose-verse style but distinctive Kannada metres became more widely accepted. The Sangatya metre used in compositions, Shatpadi,Tripadi metres in verses(seven and three line) and Ragale (lyrical poems) became fashionable. Jain works continued to extol the virtues of Tirthankaras (Jain ascetics).
The Hoysala court supported scholars such as Janna, Rudrabhatta, Harihara and his nephew Raghavanka, whose works endure as masterpieces in Kannada. In 1209, the Jain scholar Janna wrote Yashodharacharite, the story of a king who intends to perform a ritual sacrifice of two young boys to a local deity, Mariamma. Taking pity on the boys, the king releases them and gives up the practice of human sacrifice. In honor of that work, Janna received the title “Emperor among poets” (Kavichakravarthi) from King Veera Ballala II.
Rudrabhatta, a Smartha Brahmin (believer of monistic philosophy), represents the earliest well known Brahminical writer. Chandramouli, a minister of King Veera Ballala II, became his patron. Based on the earlier work of Vishnu Purana, he wrote Jagannatha Vijaya in the Champu style relating the life of Lord Krishna leading up to his fight with the demon Banasura.
Harihara, (also known as Harisvara) a Virashaiva writer and the patron of King Narasimha I, wrote the Girijakalyana in the old Jain Champu style describing the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati in ten sections. One of the earliest Virashaiva writers independent from the Vachana literary tradition. He came from a family of accountants (Karanikas) from Halebidu and spent many years in Hampi writing more than one hundred Ragales (poems in blank verse) in praise of Lord Virupaksha (a form of Lord Shiva). Raghavanka had been the first to introduce the Shatpadi metre into Kannada literature in his Harishchandra kavya, considered a classic even though it occasionally violates strict rules of Kannada grammar.
In Sanskrit, the philosopher Madhvacharya wrote Rigbhshya on Brahmasutras (a logical explanation of Hindu scriptures, the Vedas) as well as many polemical works rebutting the doctrines of other schools of Vedas. He relied more on the Puranic literature than the Vedas for logical proof of his philosophy. Vidyatirtha’s Rudraprshnabhashya represents another famous writing.