Surrounded by Dakshina Kannada in the west, Chikkamagaluru and Chitradurga in the north, Coorg towards the south and Tumkuru in the east, Hassan has an eventful and rich history. It is blessed with a pleasant climate and a great picturesque location. It is here where the plains (maidaans) begin to gently slope into the Western Ghats (malnad). Although not a proper hill station, Hassan is often referred to as “Poor Man’s Ooty”.
Hassan is also associated with the Hoysala Empire who had their capital at Belur and Dwarasamudra (present-day Halebeedu). The district is a veritable treasure-house of Hoysala architecture and sculpture, the best specimens of which are at Belur and Halebeedu. However, there are many more yet lesser-known architectural gems in various parts of the district. Many other touristic treasures also await you here like Hasanamba Temple and the Saptamatrikas, the drowning church at Shettyhalli, Mosale temples, a star-shaped fort at Manjarabad and Bisele Ghat.
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- Belur: Belur (also known earlier as Velapuri, Velur and Belapur in olden times) is situated on the banks of Yagachi River and was one of the capitals of the Hoysala Empire. Renowned for its magnificent Hoysala temple complex, the Chennakeshava Temple (also called Vijaya Narayana Temple), which was built by Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana to commemorate his victory over the Cholas in 1116 AD. The temple is believed to have been built by master craftsmen – Dasoja and Chavana, a father and son duo. It is proposed to be listed under UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Halebeedu: Halebeedu (formerly known as Dwarasamudra) was the ancient capital of the Hoysalas just 17 km away from Belur. The Hoysala dynasty ruled over much of South India for close to 200 years and during this time they built spectacular temples; both Hindu as well as Jain. In the 14th century, the armies of Alauddin Khilji and Muhammad Tughlak defeated the Hoysalas and raided their empire. It is recorded that enormous wealth and riches were looted. The city never recovered and fell into neglect. In fact, Halebeedu means "old house/ old ruins". However, few temples survived this devastation like the ones in Halebeedu and today when you see them, you will be mesmerised by some the most stupendous expressions ever sculpted in stone. It is proposed to be listed under UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- Manjarabad Fort: The Manjarabad Fort is located in Sakaleshpur and is constructed atop a hill, about 988 m above the ground-level. This fort was built by Tipu Sultan in 1792 with the aim to ward off enemy infiltrations from Mangaluru and Madikeri side. The unique aspect of this fort is that it is built in a star shaped design. It has a form with 8 angular tips stretching in 8 directions with a plus shaped well at the centre. A short climb to the top offers a scenic view of the Western Ghats with its hillocks, dense forests and valleys.
- Maharajana Durga: 14 kms from Alur town, Maharajana Durga is a hillock with a large precipitous rock. Remains of an old fort, built in octagonal shape with a pond at the center can be seen in Maharajana Durga.
- Haranahalli: Home to an 11th century Hoysala fort now in ruins and also features a Someshwara temple.
- Bisle Ghat Trek: This is a sprawling 40-hectare reserved forest area in Sakleshpur. Surrounded by the Western Ghats, Bisle Ghat is near the border of Hassan, Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada districts. It has a scenic stretch of pristine reserve forest, mountain ranges, and trekking trails. The view from the Bisle Ghat Viewpoint is truly spectacular. There are several hillocks like Pushpagiri, Kumara Betta, Yennikallu which are ideal for trekking. Various species of flora and fauna are found here including Teak, Rosewood, Indian Copal, Tulip and Malabar Kino along with Elephants, Bison, Sambar, Wild Boar and other wild animals. The local people surrounding this region care for the rich forests here and help in its conservation. They usually help to douse out wildfires and also patrol the area for poaching and other illegal activities.
- Tea Estate Tour: While the region is known for coffee plantations, there’re a few anomalies as well. Kadamane tea estate is a rare tea estate in Hasana. The Kadamane Estate is a mini town on its own with a hospital, temple, church, a tea factory, staff quarters and main bungalow. Besides these you can see tea gardens as far as your eyes can reach.
- Coffee Plantation Visits: Particularly recommended during December where coffee is harvested and processed. Visits are often organized by homestay owners as well as private tour operators.
- Bird Watching: Bird Watching is a popular activity in multiple parts of Hasana district- particularly in forests of Sakaleshpura, in coffee plantations and in backwaters of Gorur dam.
- Shettihalli Rosary Church: Build by the French missionaries in India during 1860s, this church is a fine example of Gothic-style architecture. The area around the church got deserted after the construction of the Gorur Dam; as during the monsoon the region got flooded and the church used to get submerged. The fact that this church remains submerged in water during monsoons makes it special as well as surreal at the same time. If you happen to visit the place during peak monsoon season, only one-third of the chapel could be visible. The view of the submerged church looks hauntingly beautiful during the monsoon. A new church has been built on higher ground nearby with edifices from this church.
- Gorur: Gorur is home to several Hoysala temples and one of the biggest reservoirs in Karnataka - Gorur Dam. At the entrance of Gorur, one can see the temple dedicated to Lord Paravasudeva. A temple dedicated to Lord Yoganarasimha is built on the banks of Hemavati River and very close to the dam. There are other lesser known temples as well in Gorur. The dam is constructed across Hemavati River, which is an important tributary of the Cauveri River. Built in 1979, the reservoir has been providing water for drinking and irrigation purposes. Hemavati Dam is very vast and covers a catchment area of 2,810 sq. km. This dam is 4,692 m long and 58.5 m high. Thus, the dam has become a popular picnic spot. A garden covered with a green lawn right next to the dam enhances the visual appeal of the place.
- Sri Rama Devara Katte, Holenarasipura: Rama devara betta, also known as Rama devara Katte in Hole Narasipura is an offbeat destination to visit while in Hasana district. This place is not to be confused with Ramadevara betta in Ramanagara district. Rama devara katte is a scenic spot where the Hemavathi river tips over a stone wall to form a mini waterfall. Water cascading over a 10 feet tall wall forms an eye catching sight.
- Jenukallu Gudda: 55 kms from Hasana, a popular hill with max height of 1389 meters
- Yagachi Dam: One of the major dams in the district, 38 kms from Hasana
- Ramanathapura: Scenic location on the banks of River Kaveri, 50 kms from Hasana. Also known as ‘Dakshina Kashi’ because of several fine temples, the oldest being Prasanna Rameshwara.
- Magajahalli Waterfalls: 20 foot high waterfall 21 kms from Sakaleshpur. Locally known as Abbi Gundi and offers a spectacular view of Pushpagiri mountain range.
- Hasanamba Temple: Inside the temple premises, there are three temples dedicated to Hasanamba, Darbar Ganapati and Siddeshwara. Although the Goddess has been known by the name Hasanamba, it is not a single Goddess but a trinity. The three of the Shakthi-Swaroopinis are settled together here. Another interesting feature here is the Hasanamba Temple is opened only once in a year (for few days) during Deepavali celebrations. A unique phenomenon here is that while closing the doors, the deity is adorned with flowers and a ghee lamp is lit. When the doors are reopened next year, the thick smoke engulfs the sanctum sanctorum with the lamp still burning. Even the flowers retain their freshness for the entire year.Another legend associated with this temple is of The Saptamatrikas namely Brahmi, Maheshwari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani and Chamundi (female counterparts/ shaktis of the male gods). On a search to find a place to settle down, they reached Hassan and were struck by its natural beauty and decided to make it their permanent home. In the three anthills inside the Hasanamba temple, Brahmi, Kaumari, and Maheshwari decided to stay. Indrani, Varahi and Vaishnavi chose the three wells in Devigere Honda (Devigere Kalyani), a lake in the immediate vicinity of Hasanamba Temple. Chamundi settled in Kenchamba’s Hosakote around 35 kms far from Hasanamba Temple.At the sanctum sanctorum, there is a small stone near the deity’s statue called Sose Kallu. It is believed to be of a woman who used to be tortured by her mother in law. During a squabble, she was hit on her forehead and got injured. Unable to bear the pain, she pleaded the Goddess to protect her. Moved by the daughter-in-law’s plea and loyalty, the Goddess, offered her a blessing to stay close to her. The daughter-in-law is said to still reside there in the form of this small stone. The stone is believed to keep moving towards the feet of the Goddess covering a distance of a paddy grain every year. It is said that the Kali Yuga will stop once the stone touches the feet of the Goddess.Another prominent attraction here is Kallappana Gudi. It is believed that long ago, four thieves tried to steal the ornaments of the temple. Goddess Hasanamba cursed and turned them into stones which can still be seen today.
- Shravanabelagola: Shravanabelagola is home to the 18 m high statue of Lord Gometeshwara; considered to be one of the world’s tallest free-standing monolithic statues. Constructed in 981 AD by Chamundaraya, a Ganga warrior, it is carved out of a single block of granite and looms atop the picturesque Vindhyagiri Hill. It is visible up to 30 km away. There are nearly 700 steps hewn in the rock-face which must be climbed to have a close-up view of this colossal magic. It is amazing to see so much grace and poise etched on a sculpture of such big scale. The statue truly reflects the idea of great strength devoid of rage and anger. This massive monolithic statue of Lord Gomateshwara will definitely leave you in awe. The surrounding enclosures has images of all the Jain Tirthankaras.
- Mosale: Mosale is a small village in Hassan which has 2 breathtaking Hoysala temples dedicated to Lord Nageshwara and Lord Chennakeshava. Built around 12th century, it is made of soapstone and are identical to each other, standing a few feet apart. Both temples have a garbhagriha, a sukanasi, a four-pillared navaranga and an entrance porch. The gable top of sukhanasa is crowned by the royal emblem of Sala (founder of the Hoysala dynasty) slaying the tiger.The Nageshwara Temple has a beautiful Nandi idol in front and a linga. The carvings include scenes of Kailash mountain with figures of various gods like Saraswati, Chamundeshwari, Natha, Sridevi, Lakshmidevi, Gauri, Maheshvari, Brahma, Sadasivamurti, Chitradhara and Bhumidevi. The Chennakeshava Temple has a beautiful idol of Lord Vishnu and the prabhavali is finely decorated with His various incarnations. Sculptures of various Gods include Garuda, Kesava, Sankarshana, Janardana, Venugopala, Aniruddha, Madhava in addition to Bhudevi, Sridevi and Chamaradharini sculptures.
- Shantigrama: Shantigrama is about 15 kms from Mosale Hosahalli and 14 kms from Hasana city. Shantigrama is famous for the temple of Sri Varada Yoga Bhoganarasimha Swamy. The temple was built in the 12th century during Chola kingdom and was renovated by Queen Shantaladevi.
- Mahalakshmi Temple, Doddagadavahalli: The temple dedicated to Goddess Mahalakshmi at Doddagadavahalli is credited with several firsts in Hoysala architecture. It is believed to be the first temple built in Hoysala style. This is also the only Hoysala temple where an idol of Goddess Mahalakshmi is enshrined and both Vaishnava and Shaiva ways of worship are practiced. This temple is also the only example of chatush-kuta or four-shrined order of temple built in Hoysala style. Though the temple is named after Goddess Mahalakshmi, there are shrines dedicated to Lord Mahavishnu, Lord Bhoothanatha and Goddess Mahakali.
- Kedareshwara Temple: Located nearby Hoysaleshwara Temple, this temple is a gem of Indian architecture. It is told that a tree took root in the tower and destroyed it. The outer walls, the tower and the doorway are magnificently carved. The basement of the temple, which stands on a high platform has a large number of friezes which depicts elephants, horses, lions, mythical animals, swans and stories from the Epics.
- Parshwanatha Swamy Temple, Basadihalli: It is believed that Halebeedu used to have many Jain Basadis but today only 3 remain. Situated nearby the Hoysaleshwara Temple, the Parshwanatha Swamy Temple is the most beautiful of the three basadis. There are rich carvings and 12 pillars that hold the dome of the temple. The pillars are well polished. A 14 ft figure of Lord Parshwanatha is made from black stone with a 7 headed serpent carved above the head.
- Veeranarayana Temple, Belavadi: Belavadi is home to the famous Veeranarayana Temple which is the biggest Thrikutachala (three shrined) temple built by the Hoysalas. Here, the idols of Veeranarayana, Venugopala and Yoga Narasimha are located in a single temple complex. The Venugopala idol is classified as one of the most graceful idols of all. It also houses the highest number of pillars in any Hoysala temples with around 152 of them in total; each unique from the other.
- Lakshminarasimha Temple, Javagal: One of the lesser known gems of Hoysala architecture, the Lakshminarasimha Temple, is a Vaishnava temple dedicated to Lord Narasimha (the half man half lion incarnation of Lord Vishnu), who is accompanied by his consort, Goddess Lakshmi. The other two shrines of this Thrikutachala temple are of Lord Vishnu and Lord Venugopal (playing the flute). The outer wall here are quite fascinating and has stunning workmanship on it with carved sculptures. The Dashavatars (10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu) are exquisitely depicted here. The base has 6 rectangular moldings which has fine carvings of swans (birds), makara (aquatic creatures), epics and other stories (from Ramayana, Mahabharata and stories of Lord Krishna), leafy scrolls, horses and elephants.
- Malekal Tirupathi: Home to Venkataramanaswami temple on a hill accessible via 1700 steps.
- Kondaji: Noted for Chennakeshava temple where sculpture of main deity is four meters tall
- Holenarasipura: Home to popular Lakshmi Narasimha temple
- Basavapattana: Home to three temples- Shantishara, Lakshmikantha and Pranatharthihareshwara.
- Agrahara Belaguli: An ancient agrahara (settlement of scholarly Brahmins) and home to several ancient monuments.
- Arasikere: Known for Ishwara temple, Halavarakallu temple and a large ancient water tank
- Basavapatna: A village with a ruined fort, three temples and an agrahara.
- Banavara: Important trading center and also has multiple temples and a ruined fort.