10 Notables of Chennakeshava temple at Somanathapura

With amazing views of Shivanasamudra, I was already thrilled with this weekend drive :) The sun was high and my energy to explore more was high too! It was 3:30 pm when I was munching lunch at Mayura hotel. Though it was time for us to get back riding to Bangalore, I know my mind was crazy! Talakad (30km, 40mins) and Somanathapura (43km, 1hour) are nearby places to explore. The farther the ride, the more awesome it is! The navigation was on to Somanathapura! An hour of countryside bliss ride was worth it!

[caption id="attachment_7396" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Countryside bliss to drive along[/caption]

Brief on Somanathapura

Somanathapura is a small village on the banks of river Cauvery. The village is renowned for its Chennakeshava temple, one of the masterpieces of Hoysala architecture. One would presume Somanatha (which is a name of Lord Shiva) would be the main deity here, however, the temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. And the village is named after Somanatha, a subordinate ruler of Hoysalas granted the land to build temples around.

It was almost 5 pm when we reached the temple, so I just had 30mins to look around the vast heritage site. Absolutely,  It's a short duration for an architecture buff like me, so I took a quick tour and the notable ones are as below.

[caption id="attachment_7405" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Garden surrounding the temple[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7411" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The temple entrance - Maintained by Archeological department of India[/caption]

1. Symbols of Hoysala architecture at Somanathapura

My first introduction to Hoysala architecture is at Belur Chennakeshava temple. Hoysalas are very known for their stellate (star) shaped temple plan. The main temple in the centre is on a high star-shaped platform with three symmetrical sanctums (garbha-griha). All Hoysala temples are built on the raised platform called jagati to symbolise worldly platform and serves as the circumambulation passage. The temple is enclosed in a courtyard with a pillared corridor of small shrines.

[caption id="attachment_7406" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The Chennakeshava temple of Smonathapura[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7427" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Side view of the temple - Star shaped temple plan and the raised platform[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7412" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Corridor pillar and the symmetry[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7410" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The courtyard of the temple[/caption]

2. Chief deities of Somanathapura - forms of Krishna

The temple houses three sanctums dedicated to Chennakesava (handsome Krishna), Janardhana (protector of people) and Venugopala (Krishna playing the flute around cows). All three shrines are intricately carved with miniature details and are a visual treat.  Though the temple exhibit iconic Vaishnavism but the deities are no longer worshipped as they are damaged by the foreign invasions.

[caption id="attachment_7419" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Janardhana - protector of people[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7416" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Chennakeshava - the handsome Vishnu[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7397" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Venugopala - Krishna playing flute around cows[/caption]

3. Ceilings of Somanathapura temple

The temple ceilings are interesting in Somanathapura. Around 16 complex unique carvings on ceilings exhibit the excellence of craftsmanship. The carvings comprised as lotus petals blooming stages, banana bud, stepped pond and endless knots. The symmetry and the minute details carved around centuries ago with such precision surprised me.

[caption id="attachment_7398" align="aligncenter" width="681"] Banan bud[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7407" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Blooming lotus - one of the stage[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7399" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Ceiling of sabha mantapa[/caption]

4. Lintels & Pillars of Somanathapura temple

Right above various entrances of the temple is impressive ornate lentils, which represented the forms of Vishnu. The below lintel shows a seated Lakshmi and the canopy shows a Yoganarayana doing yoga. The mantapa hall is supported by lathe turned pillars. The corner pillars have common life themes like the disc, bell, pot etc.

[caption id="attachment_7425" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The view of Garbhagriha[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7408" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Lentil with Lakshmi and Yoganarayana[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7400" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Pillars that support[/caption]

5. The combat forces as the borders of Somanathapura temple

The lower portion of the walls had many rows of intricate carvings of combat forces such as elephants, horses, camels, lions, soldiers marching in the clockwise direction. An interesting fact about these carvings is that no two identicals can be found here which means each of them is unique. I noticed each of them had their own natural expression and a story of their own. Above the horses, the bands is a scroll of nature which shows flowers, fruits, peacocks and wildlife.

[caption id="attachment_7414" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Combat forces - identical elephants, horses, nature scroll, marching soldiers[/caption]

6. Mantapa wall carvings of Somanathapura temple

Above the combat forces is the mythology band. Here I noticed the carvings related to dancers, musicians, and various scenes depicting the stories from Indian mythology. If we closely notice, we can find the legends and spiritual stories related to Ramayana, Bhagavata Purana and Mahabharata.

[caption id="attachment_7394" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Exterior wall carvings[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7395" align="aligncenter" width="800"] With mythological carvings[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7423" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Battlefield scenes - Lion and elephant[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7392" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Kalinga mardhana Krishna[/caption]

7. Garbagriha exteriors of Somanathapura temple

Around the 3 grabagriha towers, we can notice various sculptures which are intricate. The angle of view is a feast to eyes and forms of symmetrical angular projections with various sculptures related to the Hindu gods in various avatars.

[caption id="attachment_7404" align="aligncenter" width="800"] View of garbagrihas[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7429" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Look how artistic they are ![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7393" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Mythological idols adorn the walls[/caption]

8. Mythological shrines of Somanathapura temple

There are about 90 sculptures showing mostly Vishnu with Lakshmi, as well as Shakti, Shiva, Brahma, Saraswati, Indra, Indrani, Kama, Rati, and others. Most of these are also partially defaced such as broken noses, chopped limbs, chopped out stone jewellery and show other forms of damage. Some are therefore difficult to identify.

[caption id="attachment_7420" align="aligncenter" width="571"] Dancing Ganesha[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7413" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Krishna playing flute[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7403" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Vishnu seated on Adishesha[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7401" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Dwarapalaka[/caption]

9. Vimana / Towers of Somanathapura temple

The large wall images on the three identical tower superstructures each have an arch (torana) to frame the image. The western side has simple flat or geometric arches, while the northern and southern sides have intricately carved nature themes, such as hanging fruits, flowers and flower-laden creepers.  The tower itself combines intricate artwork, in a plan that alternates rotating squares with star-shaped 16 petalled lotuses. As the tower rises, interim shikaras are capped with kalashas.

[caption id="attachment_7424" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The towers - Complex forms of art[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7409" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The mantapa towers with knotted endings[/caption]

10. Inscription of Somanathapura temple

Right to the entrance, an inscription dated to 1497 CE found which is scripted in Halagannada (old Kannada). The inscriptions confirm that the temple was operational about the mid 13th century. It also describes the golden rule of Hoysalas and their achievements.

[caption id="attachment_7428" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Inscription dated to 13th century[/caption]

With this, I completed the 30mins quick tour of the temple and the authorities were already clearing the tourists. I was happy that noticed many details. I wish I had more time to dive deep into the Hoysala age and experience the glorious time. I would come back here again to explore the story each carving and I consoled myself. Started back to ride to Bangalore, with some breaks to witness awesome sunsets and for kadak chais :)

[caption id="attachment_7272" align="aligncenter" width="1025"] Colorful sunsets on the way[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_7282" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] The camera that survived :)[/caption]

The Last Note

One of the finest architecture of Hoysalas can be found at Somanathapura (others are at Belur & Halebidu). They speak of history, the culture, the people and eras of prominent rulers. These intricate sculptures surprise me about how skilled our sculptors were in the 13th century. Indulge yourself and listen to the stories of these age-old art forms. It's a matter of pride that we are able to able to witness them just a few km from where we live. Somanathapura must be definitely on your bucket list to time travel to centuries ago, just 150kms from the city!

[caption id="attachment_7431" align="aligncenter" width="1118"] Me capturing the moments :)[/caption]


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Visiting tips

  • Cost of the trip - Rs.500 to 1000 per head. It was a bike ride, full tank petrol and food were the only major costs.

  • How to reach Somanathapura - Marking 150kms from the Bangalore and 40kms from Mysore, the best way is to drive own vehicle or take the buses.

  • Timings of Somanathapura - 8:30 am to 5:30 pm

  • Entry fees to Somanathapura - Rs.25 for Indians and Rs. 300 for foreigners entry fees.

  • Best time to visit Somanathapura - Any time of the year. Choose Monsoons, when combined with Shivanasamudra. From mid-June to September just drive here.

  • Where to stay - Mysore, Mandya or Bangalore.

  • Where to eat - Few stalls selling snacks and fruits can be found at the falls. Get your own food!

  • Nearby places - Shivanasamudra, Talakadu, Ranganathittu, Srirangapattana etc.

  • Guides are available for your assistance to know more about the Hoysala architecture. Please opt for guides to understand the essence of the architecture.

Smitha N


  1. Very pleased to see someone even in 21st century era appreciating our ancient history, culture and heritage and nicely put all at one place. :)

  2. Thanks Sai Absolutely, History repeats and I love the architectures that tells us history

  3. Got to learn about hoysala architecture through your blog. Great composition Smitha.

  4. Thanks for the compliment Bingu

  5. Thanks for your post. It's very helpful post for us. You can also visit Lord Shiva 3d Wall Stickers for more Victor Steel related information. I would like to thanks for sharing this article here.

  6. Excellent post. I really enjoy reading and also appreciate your work.jaganath temple puri This concept is a good way to enhance knowledge. Keep sharing this kind of articles, Thank you.

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