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Made of Soapstone: Somanathapura Temple is a Perfect Example of Famous Hoysala Architecture

Last Updated on March 7, 2023 by Tariq

A Hindu temple, usually called a mandir in India, is a place of devotion for Hindus.

A temple contains all of the elements of the Hindu cosmology, which symbolize good and evil, as well as the concepts of cyclical time and the essence of life, which stand for dharma, kama, artha, moksa, and karma.

Moreover, a Hindu temple aims to promote introspection, aid in mental cleansing, and start the process of inner discovery in its devotees.

Several Hindu temples include a variety of main deities to symbolize this spiritual belief.

Temples are constructed after much thought and are excellent examples of captivating architecture.

The square form, grid ground plans, soaring towers, and elaborately decorated sculpture that incorporates gods, worshippers, scenes from Hindu epics, animals, and floral and geometric patterns are among the fundamental components of temple architecture.

The Somanathapura temple is dedicated to Lord Chennakesava (meaning “handsome Keshava”).

It is situated on the banks of the River Cauvery in Somanathapura, close to Mysore, and is an example of a masterpiece of architecture.

Let us, through this blog, learn more about the temple!

Overview

Somanathapura is situated in the Mysore region of Karnataka, India, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.

This small town is located 35 kilometers away from the city of Mysore.

Somanathapura temple, made out of soapstone

(Source: Wikimedia commons)

The well-known Chennakeshava Temple, constructed using soapstone in this town in 1268 AD by the Hoysala officer Somnath, serves as a living example of the history and culture of the Hoysala Empire.

The architectural design of this temple is a masterpiece that draws visitors from all over the world.

The Archeological Survey of India has labeled it a heritage site.

History

Under the Hoysala king Narasimha III, the temple was built in 1268 AD by Hoysala army commander Somanatha.

The Hoysalas built numerous enigmatic temples in Karnataka, including one with three idols: Keshava, Krishna, and Janardhana.

The temple was carved out of soapstone, a flexible stone to work with.

Mallithamma, the most well-known of these sculptors, is credited with creating the majority of the carvings seen inside the temple.

A star-shaped temple designed in the Trikuta style, Somanathapura, was constructed on a raised platform.

After the Mughal invaders destroyed the original idol of Keshava, no religious rituals or events have since been held at the temple.

The Archaeological Survey of India (AsI) brought an image of Keshava to the temple.

On its left and right sides, respectively, are Krishna and Janardhana.

ASI also renovated the temple’s beautifully carved entrance in 1958.

Architecture

The principal features of the temple’s architecture are as follows:

Somanathapura temple, Karnataka architecture

(Source: Magic India)

  • At the entrance to the temple is a stone plaque with details on the temple, its festivities, and gifts between 1269 and 1550 AD
  • The temple’s interior has elaborate ceilings decorated with images of banana flowers, lotus buds, etc
  • The square-shaped navaranga (congregation hall) of the temple was once utilized as a dance floor by the devadasis
  • On the right is a statue of Janardhana with four shoulders. His chest looks like a cow’s face if you look carefully
  • Squares on the surface and stars from the interior characterize the ventilation ducts surrounding the temple
  • Rows of elephants representing power, rows of horses representing speed, and finally, gods and goddesses in various attitudes can be carved on the exterior wall
  • The deity of medicine, Dhanvantri, Vishnu, in his numerous incarnations, Durga killing the demon Mahishasura, and the supreme god Indra all share space on the exterior walls. Moreover, there are numerous Ramayana and Mahabharata scenes painted on the walls
  • If you look closely, you will be astounded to find the meticulous details on the sculptures, including beautiful finger rings, bracelets, and even fingernails. The sculptors have utilized the materials to their fullest potential
  • Alongside their sculptures, the names of the sculptors, such as Mallithamma, Balayya, and Bhamayya, are inscribed on the walls, as was customary during the Hoysala era
  • 64 cells that once housed demi-gods encircle the 87 by 83-foot elevated base on which the temple is located
  • A large lamp tower can be found on the temple’s exterior. The purpose of this lamp tower was to notify the nearby communities that religious rituals were taking place at the temple

Sculptures at Somanathapura Temple

Sculptures can be seen all around the temple’s outer wall.

The sculptures are separated into horizontal strips to give them a pleasing symmetry, with each one representing a component of nature, culture, or religion.

The Elephant Strip

Elephant strip, Somanathapura temple

(Source: Sketches from life)

The elephant is most probable of all other creatures you will see most frequently adorn Indian temple walls.

At the base, an elephant strip represents the Hoysala Kingdom’s power and symbolizes its power.

The fact that each of these elephants is unique is intriguing to note.

The Horse Strip

Horse strip, Somanathapura temple

(Source: Journeys across Karnataka)

The horses, another significant animal for a powerful army, have been set up above the elephants.

The fact that the horse riders appear to be carrying various goods hints at casual riding by the military, travelers, and regular people.

In certain blocks along the right wall, camels have replaced horses.

Natural Elements Strip

Natural strip, Somanathapura temple

(Source: Wikipedia)

All Hindu temples strongly emphasize, and the wide variety of local flora and animals has undoubtedly increased the sculptors.

The Mythological Stories Strip

Mythological stories strip, Somanathapura temple

(Source: Travel Hippies)

The fourth strip of the outer wall of Chennakesava Temple in Karnataka has stories from Hindu mythology etched onto it, including the Ramayana, Bhagavad Purana, Vishnu Purana, and Mahabharat.

The carvings show powerful narratives: Dasharatha conducting the Yagya for the Ramayana heirs, students engaging in Kushti indoor games, Lord Krishna stealing butter and gopi clothes, and the execution of Putna.

The Peacock Strip

Peacock strip, Somanathapura temple

(Source: Historyreads)

Peacock or Mayura figures comprise the uppermost band. It was considered Krishna’s favorite bird.

Dancing Deities

Dancing deities, Somanathapura temple

(Source: Explore with Ecokats)

These sculptures are arguably the most detailed.

The majority of these intricately carved sculptures are manifestations of Vishnu.

Each sculpture features holding something.

The intricate canopy covers their heads.

On the exterior wall, there are about 190 such deities.

Somanathapura Temple Interior

With three symmetrical sanctums (garbha-griha) placed in a square matrix (89′ x 89′) aligned along the east-west and north-south axes.

The main temple is located in the center on a high platform with a star-shaped structure.

Not only does the temple’s exterior deserve appreciation, but even the exterior is commendable.

Navaranga

A Navranga with the traditional nine squares, as described in ancient Hindu literature, is seen when one enters the wooden door to the temple’s interior.

The three ankanas and jagali platforms have seating for the visiting worshippers.

The Panchayatana puja architecture prevalent in Smarta Hindu tradition would have inspired the temple architecture, as indicated by the interior of this temple and the Navranga.

The Pillars

Somanathapura temple Pillars

(Source: Wikipedia)

Many pillars support the massive mandap hall.

The four central pillars depict typical life themes stacked in the following order: disc, bell, pot, wheel, and umbrella.

Yakshas and brackets on the four central square pillars are either missing or damaged.

On the east, two additional pillars resemble 32-pointed stars.

Things to do in Somanathapura

Besides visiting the renowned Hindu temple, one can visit a few other places nearby.

  • Mudukuthore (renowned for Mallikarjuna temple)
  • Talakad (renowned for Vaidhyanatheshwara temple)
  • Shivanasamundaram (famous for Gaganachukku and Bharachukku waterfalls)

Restaurants and Local Food in Somanathapura

Mysore is the ideal place to spend the night as there are no accommodations available in Somanathapura.

A few alternatives in Mysore are:

  • Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Mysore
  • Grand Mercure, Mysore
  • Southern Star, Mysore

Genuine Dakshin Karnataka cuisine is available at numerous family-run roadside restaurants.

To enjoy a wonderful and fresh vegetarian breakfast or supper, just drop by one of them.

Best Time to Visit Somanathapura Temple

The months of October through March are the ideal times to visit the temple.

The trip is unpleasant for the remainder of the year because of the extremely high temperatures and excessive humidity in this region of the country.

If you want to avoid a noisy mob, you can also go early in the morning.

Tips While Visiting Somanathapura Temple

  1. Photography is strictly prohibited inside the main complex
  2. Pets are not allowed in the temple
  3. You may sit in the open garden surrounding the temple but maintain cleanliness
  4. You can avail of the facilities of a government-certified guide for a fixed rate of INR 300 per 30 minutes
  5. Being an ancient temple, respect the structures by not sitting on or drawing on them
  6. Like every Hindu temple, devotees cannot wear footwear inside the temple complex
  7. Do not enter closed-off places, and always follow the directions the temple security gives
  8. Throw your garbage in the dustbins at the temple entrance

How to Reach Somanathapura Temple

From Mysore, towards the east, it takes 34 kilometers to reach Somanathapura.

By Bus

The best option is to take a bus from Mysore to T.Narasipura and then another bus to Somanathapura since there is no direct bus that runs between the two cities.

By Taxi

Near the bus stop in T. Narasipura, many taxis are available. Hiring a cab for a round-trip to the temple will run you about ₹250. It takes about 90 minutes to reach the temple one way.

By Train

The Mysore railhead is the closest train station to the Keshava Temple in Mysore. Trains to Mysore frequently run from Chennai, Mumbai, and Delhi. Travelers can use cabs to get to the Somanathapura Keshava Temple from the Mysore railway station.

By Air

For international travelers, the closest airport to Somanathapura is Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport, while Mysore Airport is the closest for domestic travelers.

Somanathapura Temple Entry Fee

  • Rs.25/- for Indians
  • Rs.300/- for Foreign Tourists

Somanathapura Temple Timings

Days

Timings

Monday

09:00 A.M to 05:30 P.M

Tuesday

09:00 A.M to 05:30 P.M

Wednesday

09:00 A.M to 05:30 P.M

Thursday

09:00 A.M to 05:30 P.M

Friday

09:00 A.M to 05:30 P.M

Saturday

09:00 A.M to 05:30 P.M

Sunday

09:00 A.M to 05:30 P.M

Location

FAQs

Who destroyed Somanathapura temple?

Islamic invasions on the Hoysala kingdoms led to the destruction of the temple. The initial attack was launched in 1311 by Malik Kafur, the general of Alauddin Khilji, and the remaining buildings were demolished in 1326 by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq.

Why is the Somanathapura temple famous?

The Keshava temple, constructed during the Hoysala emperors’ rule, is located in Somnathpur. The temple’s upright posture symbolizes the Hoysala emperors’ supreme power and expertise. The Hoysala kingdom is well-represented in sculptures and idols of God and Goddesses.

Which district is Somanathapura?

The Somanathapura is a town and Grama Panchayat located in the Mysore district of Karnataka.

How to reach Somanathapura temple from Mysore?

There are two different ways to get from Mysore to Somnathpur. As opposed to the first one, with goes via Bannur, the second is a few kilometers longer and goes via Narsipur. A road connects Somnathpur with Mandya (32 km) and Srirangapatna (32 km).

Who built the Somanathapura temple?

Somanatha Dandanayaka, general of Hoysala King Narasimha III, erected the temple in 1258 CE. It is situated 38 km east of Mysuru city. The elaborate temple serves as a perfect example of Hoysala architecture.

(Feature image source: Karnataka.com)

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Tariq
Tariqhttps://tariqsp.com
An entrepreneur based in Bangalore with a passion for blogging, real estate, and digital marketing. Connect with me on Instagram @imtariqsp.
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