01 February 2016

Breaking the Somanathapura Jinx !

Side view of Keshava Temple at Somanathapura
A few things in life somehow continue to remain jinx and one of among them for me was visiting famous Hoysala temple in Somanthapura. The place along with Shivanasamudra and Talakadu are obvious locations for a packed day long outing for Bangaloreans. I have visited other two places several times but the Somanathapura was skipped due to some reason or the other. 

Some Flashback:
First time in 1993, our school outing was washed out due to heavy rains on that particular day and our trip was restricted to Shivanasamudra itself. Then in 1999, with my PUC classmates after covering Shivandasamudra in the morning we ended up spending post lunch time in Talakad only and Somanthapura was given a skip since we had to be back in Bangalore early in the evening. In 2004, similar story continued as then newly excavated temples in Talakad took a lot of time to explore. Later in the same year, I ventured out at the same locations in a bike but since it was my first bike-trip to avoid fatigue we returned back early from Shivanasamudra. 

Fast forward 2014, my blogging buddy Shrinidhi Hande had planned for a 24-hour outing around Mysore in a self-drive Toyota Fortunner. After starting the day at Chamundi Hills, breakfast in Mylari(mysore), we made a quick visit to Talakadu and Bharachukki falls. Since a few of our trip mates had to be back in Mysore by lunch, we ended up skipping Somananthapura and after lunch at Mysore, we covered Melukote in the evening and returned to Bangalore via Yadiyur. And thus, the Somananthapura jinx continued. 

Finally, the jinx was broken on 25th December 2015 through a family outing. I was so much particular about the breaking the jinx, the first place which we visited on that day was Somananthapura. Okay now enough about the jinx, let's get into details of the place. 

Getting There: 
There are two routes from Bangalore: one via Kanakapura and other via Maddur. The preference of the route will depend on the present condition of the road. We opted for Bangalore-Maddur-Malavalli route. After breakfast at Shivalli Restaurant at Maddur, we faced under construction patches between Maddur and Malavalli. From Malavalli, a breezy drive took us to Keshava Temple in Somanthapura. 

About the Temple: 
The Keshava temple was constructed by Soma, a high officer under Hoysala king Narasimha III (1254-1291 A.D). It's one of the perfect examples of the Hoysala style of architecture. Standing on a raised platform in the centre of a spacious enclosure having sixty-four cells, this three-celled (trikutachala) structure consists of three garbhagrihas, three antaralas and a navaranga

Trikutachala - 3 garbhagrihas, 3 antaralas, 1 navarang ( image source: Gerad Foekema's Book)
It has a mahadwara standing on the east. The statues of Venugopala, Kesava and Janardhana are installed in the cells which are surmounted by elegantly carved sikharas. The statues of Venugopal and Janardhana are in original form. Whereas, the main deity - Keshava's statue was destroyed during Muslim invasion and authorities have placed a smaller replica from outer walls.

Statues of Venugopal, Keshava and Janardhana
The inscriptions engraved on a huge slab standing in the mahadwara and on the beams of the navaranga ranging in date from 1269-1550 A.D. give the details of the construction of the temple and several grants for the upkeep of the temple. In post medieval era, the temple was frequently visited by guests of Mysore royal family and that's one of the reason for this temple being one of major tourist attractions around the royal city.

Mahadwara of Keshava Temple

Sculptures and Architecture: 
The basement of the outer wall is highly ornamented with friezes of elephants scrolls, epic and puranic scenes, small images with intervening turrets and columns with figures in between. The number of gods/goddess (which includes 164 forms of Vishnu) their attendants adorn the walls. The names of a number of sculptors Mallithamma, Masanathamma, Chameya, Bhameya etc are carved on the pedestals of the images.

Friezes of Elephants Scrolls, Epic and Puranic Scenes

Some more details through photographs:
Slab in Halegannada inscription with details about History of the temple.
Postbox inside temple premises. Letters posted here will be delivered  with pictorial cancellation on the stamps.

Shardula: An imaginary animal with the combinations of 7 elements from different animals - Jaw of a Crocodile, Tusk of Elephant, Eyes of a Monkey, Body of a Pig, Legs of a Lion, Tail of a Peacock.
Dhanavantri - Goddess of Medicine
Yoga Narayana: Vishnu in meditating position
Image Compression: Lot of elements depicted in a small space
Horrible patchwork performed by so-called artists from ASI. It would be good to leave such patches empty than spoiling it with unimaginative work

Tip Offs:
  • Do the initial exploration of the temple with the help of a guide. It would be handy to have the details before capturing photographs from different perspectives.
  • Try to be at the temple at early in the morning. You will have a chance to capture the architecture elements in golden hours and not-to-mention you can explore the things peacefully with a negligible crowd.
  • Take a self-addressed envelope/post-card to drop at the post box inside the temple premises. You will be getting it delivered by India Post having a unique cancellation on postage stamp



  1. Good stuff Shande. Though I've been there twive, did not know about the India post item :)

  2. thanks.. yes many people have ignored India Post thing. It will be good have it at all archaeological sites.

  3. Dear Sandeep, Great post! Just like you I have not visited this temple! Good to note finer details of construction in your post.

    Regarding restoration by ASI of damaged parts of temple, me too against it. Famous Kannada writer Shivaram Karanth once spoke against restoration of damaged idols of Hampi by ASI! They deteriote the beauty and heritage of the structure!

    1. thanks Raveesh for the complements ! .. do plan for a visit before the summer sets in :)

  4. also what is pictorial cancellation by India post. Can you post the picture ?

    1. The stamps of the letters posted in the box in Keshava temple will be cancelled with special pictorial seal, unlike typical round real with date. I have not tried it ..do post a self-addressed letter when you visit there :)

    2. Here's the image which I found on internet ! http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-bHbrlKBtUIE/Ukmc0S5h6mI/AAAAAAAAWGo/Kwpyvx55sVc/s1600/Somnathpur.jpg

  5. Cool. Did you get your post? :)

    1. No Raveesh. I didn't know about this before going there. Since I was there on a holiday the post office at the temple premises was not open. Anyways, you will be posting on my behalf !