Vishnuvardhana was one of the greatest rulers of the Karnataka region and he was the king who really started to establish the Hoysalas as a separate independent dynasty, freeing them from subordination to the Chalukyas.
The Emergence of the Hoysalas
The Hoysalas were feudatories of the Chalukyas and ruled over a small territory, but during the reign of Vishnuvardhana, the Hoysalas began to assert themselves, concentrating on defeating and annexing neighboring territories rather than provoking a direct conflict with their overlords, the Chalukyas. Vishnuvardhana had a great mentor and guide in his elder brother Veera Ballala, in matters of administration and the art of warfare.
His Many Conquests
Vishnuvardhana’s first conquest was Gangavadi, which he wrested from Chola control. He also tried to free himself from Chalukyan control and defeated the Nidugal Cholas and the Kongalavas. Under his general Punisa Raja, he launched successful campaigns into the Kongu country and Nilgiris.
He defeated Vikramaditya VI, the Chalukyan king, at Kennagala and Hallur, but was in turn defeated by the Chalukya General Achugi. Due to this reason, for some more time he had to accept Chalukyan sovereignty. But after the death of Vikramaditya VI, Vishnuvardhana seized many Chalukyan territories.
He forced a confrontation with the Adigaiman rulers (who were feudatories of the Cholas) and defeated him in the battle at Talakad. It is said that he burnt Talakad and polluted the Kaveri River in that region by throwing the bodies of his enemies in it, thus forcing the Chola forces to retreat in search of fresh water.
Vishnuvardhana assumed many titles like Veera Ganga and Talakaadu Konda after his successful military campaigns. He was the first Hoysala ruler to raise his dynasty to the level of an independent kingdom, though he could not fully shake himself free of Chalukyan control.
His Beliefs and the Chennakesava temple
Vishnuvardhana was a Jain and his name was Bittideva. When the great Vaishnavite Saint Sri Ramanujacharya visited his kingdom, Vishnuvardhana was greatly inspired by him and became a Vaishnavite. He was not a religious fanatic in any way, his wife Shantala Devi and many of his ministers remained Jains.
He himself became a devout Vaishnavite and built the beautiful Chennakesava Temple at Belur. He built the temple to celebrate his victory against the Cholas.
Vishnuvardhana was instrumental in establishing the Hoysalas as an independent dynasty. He tried his best to free his kingdom from the Chalukyas, and succeeded to a certain extent. He annexed various territories from neighboring kingdoms.
He started the process of establishing the Hoysala Empire, which became one of the most powerful and influential dynasties in the medieval period in South India. One of his most notable legacies is the charming Krishna temple at Belur, the Chennakesava Temple.