Keshava Temple, Somnathpur

Somnathpura is a small village near Mysore, Karnataka. Its built in Hoysala architecture and has three sanctum sanctorums, one each for Keshava, Venugopala and Janardhana.

Somanathpur the place, which was earlier under the rule of the Cholas, was conquered by Hoysala Vishnuvardhana in A.D. 1117. Later it was ruled by the Vijayanagara kings and Wadeyars of Mysore. It became one of the foremost agrahara townships during the rule of Narasimha III. An inscription dated A.D. 1268 records that Somanatha Dandanayaka, an illustrious general of the Hoysala king Narasimha III, consecrated the temple of Kesava. The temple is the most ornate and perfect model of the Hoysala style of architecture. The temple facing east has three garbhagrihas on the west, north, and south, all connected to a common pillared hall through a separate sukanasi. The western sanctum houses the image of Vishnu as Kesava. The southern has the image of Venugopala and the northern has image of Janardana. The temple stands on a high stellate platform, and is enclosed in a spacious courtyard by pillared corridors with sub shrines. The temple is known for elaborately carved doorways, and beautifully executed ceilings of the navaranga mandapa. The friezes of the basement, beautiful images of deities adorning the exterior wall surfaces with names of the sculptors who carved them like Mallitamma, the highly decorated and beautifully proportioned superstructure resting on the three sanctums, known for their poise and elegance render the keshava temple a perfect model of the trikutachala order.

ASI

We planned to catch the midnight train to Mysore which leaves Bangalore by 2 AM and reach Mysore and to take a bus from there to Somnathpura. We reached Majestic bus stop by 10 and were waiting till 12 to book the train tickets and then had to wait till 2 for the train.

Bangalore railway station at midnight
Bangalore railway station at midnight.

The general compartment shows how the poor India travels. Living in Bangalore and spending time by watching movies and trying new restaurants every week, just keeps you away from reality. It felt like I was living in bubble with all good things around me. I tried to sleep a bit but couldn’t get any sleep because of the weather. I hadn’t taken any precautions for the weather. The night was so cold.

Was expecting the train to reach Mysore by  5 in the morning. But to our shock it reached Mysore by 4. Now we have to face another problem. We will have to kill time till might be till 7 till the buses starts functioning to the remote village. Our first thought was to sleep in the railway station. But we were not able to find any nice place to crash. The station was overcrowded and all place where one would sleep were already taken. So we reached the palace and started to take a walk around it. The town was just waking up.

Mysore palace @ 5 in the morning
Mysore palace @ 5 in the morning
The roads around the Mysore palace
The roads around the Mysore palace
Finally the sun is up
Finally the sun is up

We had to take two connecting buses to reach Somnathpura. The first bus took us completely outside Mysore to a small town called Bannur. I had a chance to see a lot of Metdaor vans after a long time. They had just vanished from my memory. I never knew they still existed. We were waiting there not completely aware if we are in the right direction towards Somnathpura. Just then we encountered a Chinese who was backpacking around South India for a month now. A sign of a foreigner in a remote part of India just means that you are in the right direction towards your destination. Now all we have to do is follow him.

We had reached the temple well before the gates were open. The gates open by 8.30 AM. We took a small walk around the village, and then was back to the temple complex.

The temple complex looked so small at first. Small compared to a lot of other temples, I have visited. But it was later when I found out that why this temple out of no where in some remote village attracted so many visitors. During the few hours I spent in the temple, I had seen a lot of foreigners than Indians.

The thing, I like about old monuments is that, these are like time machines to a period gone by. Just overheard it from the tourist guide, that this temple stopped operating, I mean people stopped worshipping in this temple after Mallik Kafur raided this temple and destroyed the structure. And he also pointed at the main shrine and mentioned that it was a replica of the original shrine which is in London Museum.

The temple is star shaped with three sanctum sanctorum. Keshava in the west, Venugopala in the south and Janardhana in the north. The temple is constructed on a elevated platform. There are steps to reach the platform from the east and these steps lead you into the main hall. The doorway to the hall has two door keeper statues.

Somnathpura temple
Somnathpura temple

Typical of any Hoysala temples, the outer wall of the hall has rows of sculptures. The first row has elephants followed by horses followed by creepers followed by scenes from the Indian mythology followed by two rows of mythical creatures. This mythical creature called Makara has body of the pig, legs of lion, crocodile’s face, trunk of elephant, ears of a cow, monkey’s eye and tail of peacock.

Once you enter the temple, notice the ceiling. The ceiling has lotus buds and banana buds depicted there and is typical to Hoysala architecture. There is an open and raised verandah surrounding the temple having 64 empty cells.

Verandah surrounding the Somnathpura temple
Verandah surrounding the Somnathpura temple

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