Kesava Temple at Somnathpur

Somnathpur was one place we missed visiting each time we went to Mysore. This time we were determined to make it there, and the stars favored us. We drove 35km to Somnathpur from Mysore, part of the road was in bad condition. The temple here is not as well known as the temples of Belur and Halebid, probably that is why they are not damaged like the temples of Belur and Halebid.

(Do click on the pictures to get an enlarged and better view.)

The temple is erected on a star shaped platform and has three sacred shrines and three sanctums. The northern sanctum has Lord Janardhana and the southern sanctum has Lord Venugopal’s idol. In the main hall there was the idol of Lord Krishna.

All the while I was under the impression Somnathpur as the name indicates has a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, but it is actually a Kehava temple, a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. The place got the name Somnathpur because the construction of this temple was by Somanatha, an officer under Hoysala King Narasimha III (1254 – 1291 A.D).

The temple stands in the middle of an open verandas with 64 cells.

The sides of the raised platform are carved with rows of elephants, horses, stories from epics and other characters. We were told there are 540 elephants carved all around the structure and no two elephants are carved alike. Elephants represent strength, and they are holding up the entire structure.

The interiors of the temple was dimly lit. Photographs taken inside did not come out well. Below is a shot of intricately carved ceiling.

The inscriptions on the slabs near the ‘mahadwara‘ the main gate give the details of the construction of the temple. There is also some mention of annual grant of 3,000 gold coins by the king for the temple’s upkeep and maintenance.

The sculptors had engraved their names under some of their works.Names like Mallithama, Masanthamma, Chameya, Bhameya can be found engraved on the pedestals of the images. Mallithamma is credited with maximum number of images and also for carving the northern shikhara, that of Janardhana cell.

The temple exteriors have been maintained well, with beautiful gardens and other tourist friendly requirements. There were many guides very willing to explain the temple’s history and architecture. We were charged Rs. 300 by the guide(standard rate) for an hour’s explanation and tour around the temple. The place is worth visiting if you are anywhere in and around Mysore.

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31 Responses to “Kesava Temple at Somnathpur

  • oh wow! these are gorgeous pics! i love anything and everything about architecture! 🙂 thanks for sharing these! 😀

    Chocolate Lover’s S’mores”
    Some More S’mores, Please!

  • Hello !

    You have great pictures of the temple !

    Belle promenade à effectuer !

  • Indrani, so good.

    The architecture and the intricate carvings are remniscent of the Belur temple – which also I have seen only in pictures.

    Thanks for the information too. Your guide seems to have know his stuff. 🙂

  • Magnifique cette architecture, on dirait de la dentelle ces sculptures…

  • amazing place. so many things to see. thanks for shared

  • I”m blown away by craftmanship.

  • Oh wow… look at those details! Great looking temple!

    My WS entries are posted here and here. Have a great week ahead!

  • Those are all great shots and a very interesting post. I love the detail you showed us in these photographs.

  • Those are interesting works of art 🙂

  • Temples in south India are always fascinating. No ?

  • interesting shots!

    Mine is up HERE

  • Wow gorgeous building those design speak really the artistic ability of your people even in olden days..Lovely..

  • Excellent pics, Indrani.
    Can you try to visit a temple in Belur campus of NAL? It’s quite ancient, and you can find similar inscribed stones there.

  • OMG, the pictures are wonderful. The architecture, the intricate carvings, detail are all marvellous.

  • Somnathpur or Somanathapura temple architecture belong to the Hoysala style architecture of Belur or Belooru and Halebid or Halebeedu. Hence the carvings look similar. These temples stand as testament to the glorious days of Karnataka emergence as a nation (the term nation here indicates a cultural group) Hoysala kings in some respect can be compared to Chola Kings in the way they encouraged architecture and arts. This is not surprising as Hoysalas emerged after the decline of the Chola dynasty and the influence of the latter cannot be underestimated. Indeed, if one could take time to study the architecture, particularly the carvings at Brihadeeswarar temple at Tanjore and compare the style of those in Belooru, Halebeedu and Somanathapura, one can feel as if a further chapter was added. Ofcourse, the carving material is softer in Hoysala architecture thus producing finer details. It was said this exercise took decades to accomplish.One significant aspect of this Hoysala architecture was that the architects and sculptors left their signatures or names on stone slabs.

    Every primary school Kannada texts in those days (1950s) had pages of these pictures and description of Hoysala dynasty. Belooru, Halebbedu and Somanathapura were the essentials on every school trips. A compendium called ‘Mysooru Kaipidi’ ( Mysore handbook) was a source often referred to
    in our classes those days.

  • great pics and interesting anecdotes.

  • the details r so intricate. the craftsmen mus b very skilled

  • Congrats to Indrani, Mallithama, Masanthamma, Chameya, Bhameya for
    their works :))

    The Temple looks superb. In these days when people head for Theatre
    complexes, you are unusual..!!!!

  • i remember we went to this place for a schoool trip, how fun it was!! I guess u have captured my memories of the place perfectly for me to reconstruct it! Absolutely beautiful. 🙂

  • I thought the pictures from the inside turned out rather well, while not extremely sharp. That piper in the dark was my favourite from these.

  • Great review about the temple and it structure look very attractive and awesome. Moreover can you share the experience in more details with me.

  • Great review about the temple and it structure look very attractive and awesome. Moreover can you share the experience in more details with me.

  • What details are you exactly looking for? You can mail me. indranidotghatgmaildotcom. 🙂

  • Your photos of Asian architecture are always fabulous.

  • so much like belur halebid! thank you so much for introducing somnathpur. have put it on my must visit list now!

  • I have been here 2 years back, and i think this temple is better maintained than bellur and halebidu or may be here the damage done was less. But the approach roads was bad and i heard that it is still the same.

  • thoroughly fascinating pics – what intricate work on the walls! i must agree it is superb!!

  • a country rich in cultural history as yours is really worth sharing. at least, we don’t need to spend to travel and see them anymore. and this is one of the finest things in blogging! thank you indrani!

    and thanks for dropping by my site again. have a great weekend!

  • This temple kindled my interest in Hoysalas and I went on the trail including 30 temples..had posted it in my earlier blog , but been wanting to do another post on it..unfortunately ,my pics are analog ..yours are splendid..and they are a reminder that my hoysala trail is long overdue

  • These are just incredible shots of some wonderful architecture. You’ve captured it beautifully, as always.

  • Oh, Indrani..You have left so much for me to catch up…

    Will read over the weekend..Nice pictures, anyway.

    first two blogs updated.

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