Somanathapura Keshava temple is located on the river banks of Kaveri, about 30 kilometers from Mysore city. This temple is now under the custody of Archeological survey of India. This is also declared by United Nations as ‘Culture Heritage Center’. Every carving of a stone in this temple makes you wonder about the kind of artists our country is blessed with. Especially the Hoysala style which resembles that of Belur and Halebeedu, all belonging to the state of Karnataka. As mentioned in one of my previous posts, here is the detailed information on this great place!
Reaching Somanathapura is no difficult, well connected with roads. However, some roads aren’t that great as some of the parts are still being asphalted. Nevertheless, the awaiting feast for eyes will not dampen the road conditions. If you are traveling from Bangalore, you can choose one of the two routes among Mysore Road or the one that passes through Kanakapura. If you have plans of visiting other places around Mysore like Srirangapatna etc., it is better to take the Mysore road route from Bangalore. Start early in the morning so that you can cover most of the places in one day.
The construction of the temple was initiated by Somanatha, a commander for Hoysala king Narasimha III (1254-1291 AD). It is a spendid example of the Hoysala style of architecture. It stands on a raised platform in the centre of a spacious enclosure having sixty four cells. This three celled (Trikutachala) structure consists of three Garbha Grihas (Sanctum), each houses statues of Venugopala, Kesava and Janardhana. The mahadwara (main entrance) faces the east, Keshava sanctum is elevated to face the east while other two are towards north and south on either side of the Keshava statue. All these are surrounded by elegantly carved shikharas. See the images here. If you wish to see them bigger, head on to my flickr album or view this slideshow in fullscreen mode.
The basement of the outer wall is highly ornamented with friezes of elephants, scrolls, scenes from epics and puranas. There also exists small images with intervening turrets and columns with sculpted figures in between. Not just that, you get to witness a number of gods, goddess and their attendants adorning the walls emulating the imagination of the sculptors in various forms. The lathe turned pillars and delicately carved sixteen different types of ceilings are the characteristic feature of the Hoysala art. The names of a number of sculptors, ie., Mallithamma, Masanathamma, Chameya, Bhameya and many more are carved on the pedestals of the statues. It is observed that Mallithamma has not only carved the maximum number of images but also carved the Northern Shikhara that of Janardhana.
Inscriptions engraved on a huge slab standing in the mahadwara and on the beams of navaranga ranging in date from 1269-1550 AD provides the detailed information about the construction of the temple and several grants for the upkeep of the temple. Do visit this place on your next visit to witness the stone sculpture art at its best.