Monday, June 28, 2010

Keshava Temple, Somnathpur

Remember my post on Belur and Halebid? Yeah?? This is one such post again.

The Keshava temple of Somnathpur is the last and the grandest of the Hoysala monuments. Somnathpur is about 140 kms from Bangalore, yes!! just 140 kms from Bangalore and you go centuries behind in history when all you can experience is grandeur and eternity.

The temple is hidden in a tiny agricultural village of Somnathpur on the banks of the river Cauvery, was founded by Hoysala's army commander Somath and he named the village after himself. It was he who petitioned the King to grant resources and permission to start the project. The Hoysalas had already completed 260 years of rule and their riches and pompus were already evident in their splendid temples at Belur and Halebid.

The temple at Somnathpur was built in 1268 AD, 740 years ago. The intricate carvings, the opulence, the engineering marvel are just breath-taking. It would make anyone from the present generation feel so waste and talentless, really I mean it!! We boast of so many things, but just visit these temples once, and you would feel so small!!

The temple is stellar in shape, just like the other Hoysala temples. This temple is better preserved than those at Belur and Halebid. It has three shrines of 3 Gods - Keshava, Janardhana and Venugopala. The temple is not used as a place of worship anymore due to the fact that all the idols have been damaged by invaders. First it was Malik Kafur and then Mohammed Tugluq's army. The temple was ransacked, looted and destroyed.

 The entire breadth of the temple is adorned by plaques of Gods, Goddesses, Animals, celestial beauties, scenes of marriage processions, war, erotic poses..... These stone slabs are meticulously arranged; each slab interlocks with the other, no concrete or cement to hold them together :-) Marvelous is it not? But each and every portion of the temple is vandalized by the invaders, if its not the nose thats broken, then its the toe or the ear :-(

Out of the 3 idols in the 3 sanctum sanctorums, the idol of Janardhana and Venugopala is damaged and this second idol has been re-installed after being removed. But the idol of Keshava, the main God; is missing.

OK!! No more history, here are few pictures. Click to enlarge the picture to appreciate its intricacies :-)

One portion of the vimana, in which lies the sanctum sanctorum of the presiding deity.  Also seen is the outlet from the main shrine.

The intricate carvings on a facade

A portion showing the stellar shape of the temple.

Seen from a different angle.

The celestial beauties and the lions. The Lion is the symbol of Hoysalas. Observe them carefully, each of their faces are damaged.

The swan, the varaha, carts being pulled for marriage procession and war.

Vishnu sitting on Sesha

The Brahma, triple headed. His face is vandalized. He holds among other things; a vase which contains amrit, the nectar of immortality

Indra riding on the elephant - Airavatha along with his consort Sachi. The elephant is depicted as if its running, its tail raised. Indra is holding the vajra - thunderbolt in his right hand

Vishnu and Lakshmi. Lakshmi rests her feet on a Lotus which is bent due to her weight but the elephant is supporting the Lotus

One of the many adorned ceilings, which depicts the various stages of the Lotus bud blooming. The outer two circles has design similar to horse shoe. The outermost ones depict some definite number(I forgot the number) of musicians playing different instruments.

Another one such ceiling showing a little more grown; about to bloom Lotus

The Venugopala. It may seem that the idol is intact and not vandalized. But observe the flute. Its broken :-(

One care write pages and pages describing the elegance and greatness of the architecture. I have so many other pictures to share along with its stories. I want to talk more about the artisans who created this masterpiece. But I would stop right here. This is just a glimpse of the vast wealth our ancestors have left for us.

To read about Belur and Halebid and see some pictures, check out my post - The Temples of Belur and Halebid

Click on Hoysala Architecture to know more about their building style.

To know more about the art and archeology of Somnathpur, click here - Somnathpur Temple


  1. write one whole series on this na..such an interesting post..what a history..India has such a rich heritage..I have seen rest of the images too..and I can understand how difficult it would have been for u to select which one to put..but what amused me the most is the description and captions of each image..simply mind blowing re :)

  2. hey buddy..nanri yar for taking us on this pilgrimage:)

  3. Super post!! :-)
    Liked it, reminding me of those childhood days when my parents took me to these places.

    I will tell you what I was thinking after reading this post. How nice it would be if we were not from this era. Say, we

    were members of that village, or to be relatively realistic, say we are from neighbouring villages in the vicinity of

    those temples and we did not have access to meet each other like our current situation. I would receive a journal, or

    more like a weekly digest, brought by a postman in his late forties to our village, every week; and I would be eagerly waiting for that digest. I can see myself annoyed if for some reason, circumstances did not allow the postman to deliver that digest to our village. And I, along with many other readers, would send you a postcard with comments every week. That would the only means to send you the comments.

    Both of our villages would be on the banks of same river. We would look at the same sky while your write and while I read. We would look at the different perspective views of the same clouds, drink the same water from the river. Sigh!!

    I am guilty of not spending enough time to enjoy these posts and to comment and give my views on it. But, if the only means of communication was a weekly postcard, the prospective of how much I would think before putting words on that postcard feels so good. Ideally, I would like to spend more time on it. But paper is different from a blog post.

  4. I have to say:- This is the best post from you among all your posts I read. Informative, descriptive, concise and beautiful pictures.

  5. Neha,

    Oh I wish!! I wish!! I so really want to write about it. So rich and so much to learn!! Oh my God!! Its really overwhelming.

    Yeah, I wanted to share more, but you get it na? dont want to suffocate the readers. Oh yes!! each sculpture has a story behind it!! Would you believe it!!

  6. Ramesh,

    Thanks sir, my pleasure :-)

  7. Gautam,

    Thank you so much, I am glad you liked it, And now, who else can think like this except for you!!

    Yeah, I feel those people who witnesses these great works are truly blessed. As you say, how beautiful it would have been.

    Yeah I totally agree with you, nothing like reading a letter or appreciation from a paper and feeling the hands that wrote it by running your finger through those words.

    Simply excellent Gautam. Dont worry, you take your time to read me :-)

  8. A,

    Thanks a lot. I am glad and honored by your comment. Yeah maybe this is the best post among that you have read.

    I would suggest you dig my archives and read through them. You would find lot of informative and educative posts and will be glad that you read them!! My word for it :-)

  9. thank you for sharing history with pics
    pics are very beautiful and clear.

  10. Insiginia,

    I carefully phrased my sentence. I know I have not read all your posts.

    I am honest with my comments. I don't comment just to please blogger.

    I will dig through your archive for sure but slowly. With next month planned for traveling at places without internet, I will have difficult time keeping up.

  11. hey..:0 well written. Not wanting to be partial,but being a tamilian i know how much temples have a significance in our communities. My paatti sure will be happy to read this..:)

  12. Very interesting and informative post!! Amazing sculptures and what intricate work!!
    Thanks for sharing!
    Cheers :)

  13. Hoysala architecture has always attracted me. But haven't been able to visit any till date. Just loved the photos. The devotion to art displayed is stupendous. Modern architecture doesn't measure up to the intricacies shown here.

  14. sm,

    thanks. Glad you liked them.

  15. A,

    Now I dont understand why you are giving me this justification :-)
    I clearly understood what you meant. I am aware that you have been reading me only until recently and that this post seems to be the best of what you have read.

    I told the same, as I understood from your comments that you like such informative posts, I just suggested that you go through my archives as you would find many other such posts which you might appreciate.

    Nothing otherwise here :-)

  16. Madhu,

    Thank you. Glad you liked it. I am not a fan of temples as such, but very much crazy about history, civilization and archeology in particular :-)

    I hope your paati will like it :-)

  17. Shilpa.

    Thank you. Yes!! amazing art and unbelievable intricacies. :-)

  18. Holy Lama,

    You have to visit at least one of the temple. Modern architecture is zilch!!

  19. This is amongst your better posts.
    Very narrative

  20. hey if blogging is good of course..otherwise i d not have come across a good person and friend like u...cheers n wishes always:)

  21. Arre yaar ab main bore ho gayi same comments de deke...i have used all the possible adjectives 4 ur pictures n posts...ab mere paas koi shabd bache nahi

  22. Sorry, I was out of station for few days and seen your posting today only.

    Excellent, best out of all.

    You made me to remember about this temple, where I took similar photographs on an ordinary 35mm film camera during 1994 and preserved those photographs till now. No digital cameras are handy during days.

    I heard it took nearly 99 years to built this temple. This is the full form and replica temple of Belur and Halebedu. Both inside and outside are fully carved in Somnathpura temple. Where as in Belur only outside and in Halebedu only inside works are carved. That is the reason the name of Halebedu has come for this temple. Halebedu means (in kannada) half completed and left. One should see this temple.

  23. Chowla sir,

    Thanks a lot. I am glad. :-)

  24. Ramesh,

    Honored. Thank you :-)

  25. G3,

    Thank you. :-) I really appreciate it. This encourages me further.

  26. Naidu sir,

    Oh please dont be sorry. You can read my posts at your leisure
    Gautam was telling me about your visit to the temple. I m glad you saw all these much earlier.

    Yes, each of the temples also the Belur and Halebidu ones took 100+ years to complete. The carvings are beautiful. Thank you for that trivia. :-)

  27. Hi beautiful pictures .. another place to visit now so are you going to promise that or no..

    One thing is good you actually write the history too which i find nice cause at least we know what we are seeing..


  28. Wow...Beautiful...My favorite for some reason was the sculpture of Vishnu and Laxshmi..So unique..

    Its just so heartbreaking to see our heritage in ruins...Thanks for sharing these pics with us though! :)

  29. hey buddy..if u say sir, i have 2 call u maam..:)

  30. nanri ya:) will visit again..cheers

  31. Historic post by u...

    Sumtyms history is interesting and u made it better..
    The pics are just awesome..



  32. It's beautiful, isn't it?
    This is the place where some temples have been buried in the sand, isn't it?
    It intrigued me very much.
    Excellent pics, by the way. :))

  33. Bik,

    Oh yes, another place on your to-see list.
    I am a voracious reader, so I do end up digging the history and other details about the places I visit and share with you all :-)

  34. Choco,

    thank you. Yeah the sculpture of Vishnu and Lakshmi has a story behind it as well :-)

    It does feel really sad to see these precious things in ruins. :-(

    My pleasure :-)

  35. Nipun,

    Thanks. History is always interesting if told in a nice way, not like our school text books :-P

    Take care :-)

  36. Karthik,

    It was magnificent. No, what you are talking about is Talakad.
    Thanks, glad you liked the pictures :-)

  37. If i show this to my mom, then next trip inga than.. since my childhood we've been trotting to temples instead of theme parks and leisure places... neverthless now i realise the marvel and importance!!...:)... arul kedachatha??

  38. Hary,

    Hmm, nice take your mom to this place, its really really breath-taking.

    You will also surely enjoy more than going to the theme parks.

    Arul kaaha pohala.. Arul enga venumnaalum kidaikkumaey :-D

  39. Have always wanted to visit Somnathpur. You know, last time you posted about Belur-halebid also I wrote the same comment and within a few months I got to see the Belur & Halebid temples. Hope it happens this time too :D

    Btw the photos do remind me of Halebid temples .. I guess the architecture is in similar lines.

  40. lostworld,

    Wow!! Isnt that awesome!! I pray that you get to visit Somnathpur soon.

    Yeah the architecture is the same as Belur-Halebid, as both belong to Hoysala dynasty.

  41. Simply Awesome!
    You've taken a real effort on it, I see! Pointing out all those intricate designs and sculptures and the concepts behind them. The awe-inspiring depictions! Just wow about the place and your fine observation!!

    And, there goes another place I've never been yet :P :D

  42. et,

    Thank you. I am passionate about these things, and hence the effort to share it with readers who would appreciate such great things.

    And it helps me learn more as well. Observe and you are in for a real treat, and I never seem to be disappointed with the wealth of knowledge I get.

    You should visit whenever you get a chance :-)

  43. Hey thanks, Nice temple.
    By the by my name is KESHAVA.

    Thank again, m gona book mark it !

  44. Hi
    I think Indian people are most fortunate to have such a rich spiritual history. Thank you for sharing and love you lots.


  45. marco,

    Yes we are very lucky unfortunately most of us dont even realize that.
    Thanks a lot

  46. Very informative post, Insignia.. I have visited this place twice and i could see something new everytime i go there. Wonderful post and keep posting!

  47. Kiron,

    Welcome to B Log. Thanks. Yes we have so much of richness in our history and culture. We are blessed to witness these marvelous creations of our ancestors.

  48. Quite comprehensive read... Somnathpur is very special for me.. I loved the picturesque surroundings, intricate sculptures and coconut plantations... one of finest monument of South India... loved it...

  49. Thanks Rahul.

    The place is always worth a visit; thousand times!

  50. Great post. I too visited this place last year and wish to visit it again & again.


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