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A Cultural and Heritage Travel Guide on Hassan

Blog cover for an article on the history of Hassan showing one hoysala temple on the background

The Early History of Hassan

Hassan is a district located in the state of Karnataka, India. It is renowned for its unique “Hassan style” temples, recognized by experts in the field. The Hoysala empire ruled over vast territories encompassing present-day Karnataka and parts of Tamil Nadu during the 12th and 13th centuries. 

The dynasty’s kings were highly religious and constructed more than 300 temples in the region. Out of them, about seventy are still surviving. Our main pick for you here is the magnificent Hoysaleswara Temple. Experts in temple architecture refer to the design style used in Hassan as the Kannada Dravidian style, which is distinctively characteristic.

The echoes of the Hoysala legacy are prominently visible in the ancient temples of Hassan. Comparing the temples constructed before the Hoysala period with those built during their reign reveals evident differences in architectural approach.

Although the Hoysala empire made substantial contributions to the region’s development, particularly in temples and culture, the history of the Hassan region predates their arrival. The area was under the rule of the Maurya dynasty in the 3rd century BC. 

Subsequently, several empires governed the region throughout history, including the Kadambas and Chalukyas before the Hoysalas and the Vijayanagar Empire after them. However, the Hoysalas brought global recognition to the district through their distinctive temple architecture style. 

The Colonial Heritage of Hassan

If you’re visiting Hassan for its heritage, architecture, and history, it’s not just the temples that will amaze you. During the British Raj, the Hassan area developed as a centre for trade, particularly in spices and wood. 

The British developed Hassan in the 18th century as an administrative centre for business. Many British-style buildings still stand in Hassan. The French also had some interest in the area.

 How to Reach Hassan?

Hassan is located almost midway between Bangalore and Mangalore. The town is well-connected by rail and road networks, ensuring a smooth journey from nearby cities and major hubs. 

The nearest airport is Mangalore International Airport, approximately 170 kilometres away. There are numerous bus services connecting Mangalore with Hassan. We chose to hire a taxi to reach our destination.

Situated at an elevation of about 3500 feet above sea level, Hassan enjoys dry yet cool weather for most of the year.

Top Six Historical and Heritage Places to Explore in Hassan

  • Hoysaleswara Temple: This temple is known for its intricate carvings of gods, goddesses, and mythological scenes on the walls of this 12th-century temple. 
  • Shravanabelagola: This is where you will see the monolithic Gomateshwara statue.
  • Belur Temple Complex: Chennakesava Temple is the temple that showcases Hoysala craftsmanship at its finest.
  • Shettihalli Rosary Church:  This Gothic-style church was constructed by French missionaries in 1860. We highly recommend paying a visit to the church if time allows.
  • Bisle Ghat: Immerse yourself in nature’s beauty in this lush forested area, offering breathtaking viewpoints of the Western Ghats.
  • Nuggehalli: This temple with Lakshmi Narasimha statue offers insights into the region’s history and culture.
 

Best Time to Visit Hassan

The best time to visit Hassan is during the winter months, from October to February. 

The weather during winter months is cool and less humid, making it ideal for exploring historical sites and enjoying outdoor activities without the scorching heat of summer or the monsoon rains.

Art Forms to Experience in Hassan

Like the uniqueness of temple architecture here, the localized dance forms such as Yakshagana and classical music recitals illuminate the region’s artistic legacy.

Traditional Food and Drinks to Try in Hassan

“In Hassan, you won’t come across any drastically different foods. Most dishes here are crafted from rice, ghee, and coconut. However, we’ve observed that certain restaurants offer common South Indian dishes with a distinct ‘Hassan touch’ – something worth appreciating.

Duration for Exploring Hassan

We recommend spending at least two nights in Hassan. Some temples require a bit of travel outside the city. Exploring places beyond the city limits will give you a glimpse of rural life worth experiencing.

Is Visiting Hassan Worth It?

If you appreciate and understand Dravidian temple architecture, you’ll find exploring Hassan to be quite enjoyable.

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