A gem of Hoysala temple architecture, the Hoysaleshwara temple of Halebid is ornamented with a plethora of exquisite carvings and sculptures. It was built by Ketamalla, a minister of Hoysala ruler Vishnuvardhana, in the 12th century AD. It is believed that the construction of the Hoysaleshwara temple never reached completion as the Hoysala rulers were forced to relocate their capital in the face of attacks by the rampaging armies of Malik Kafur.
The Hoysaleswara temple enshrines the deities of Hoysaleswara and Santaleswara, named after King Vishnuvardhana Hoysala and his wife Queen Santala. The composite structure of the Hoysaleswara temple comprises a pair of identical temples, each with its own east-facing linga sanctuary opening on to a hall and a screened porch. As the two halls are joined together to create a spacious columned interior, the temples function as a single monument.
The Hoysaleshwara temple is regarded a masterpiece for the profusion splendid carvings and friezes. The temple walls are studded with richly sculptured friezes of naturalistic and fanciful animals and scenes from the epics of Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Intricate wall panels depicting Lord Shiva in the form of Nataraja and Lord Krishna holding up Mount Govardhan adorn the northern and southern sanctuaries.