A general of the Hoysala king Narashima III, builds a temple and dedicates it to lord Krishna or Keshava in the Mandya district of Karnataka. He does this probably to prove the architectural deftness of the Hoysala period apart from the military prowess , which they were already so acclaimed for.And thus was created another masterpiece!!!!.The Kesava temple at Somnathpura (Somnatha Dandanayaka being the name of the general) is merely another example of the Hoysala architecture,....one of the many gems that are strewn all over the Deccan.
It was my third visit to a Hoysala temple,the first two being the Chennakesava temple at Belur and the Hoysaleshwara temple at Hallebedu.if the other two were awe inspiring in terms of ornate carvings ,the Kesava temple at Somnathpur surely did not fall behind.
We set out for our visit to this place early (at around 5 in the morning) to avoid the heavy traffic on the Mysore Bangalore highway,and took a deviation at Mandya .Mandya district , the sugar capital of Karnataka,.greeted us with sugarcane fields on the way.The drive to the temple after crossing the town of Mandya is beautifully pleasing.With the Cauvery meandering nearby and the land iirigated from the K.R.Sagar reservoir, it was lush green all the way.We crossed the many bridges on the Cauvery on our way ,since the river Cauvery splits into two here,forming the Cauvery and the Kabini.,and also forms huge meanders all its way.Whatever be the reason we enjoyed the drive.The day was little cloudy with intermittent drizzles,and a huge lake (the Malavalli lake) on the way made it all the more soothing.
And finally at the temple........
The temple is a welcoming place to visit with well maintained lawns at the entrance. You can actually spend some quite moments there if the weather is good.
That is the best capture I could get ,waiting for quite sometime for the crowd to disperse,but as you can see there were many people inside the temple still. The temple is no longer in use unlike the Chennakeshava temple ,the crowd inside were only busy clicking the inner walls which is equally intricate as the outer walls.The entire structure is carved out of soapstone like all other Hoysala temples
Another very important characteristic feature of the Hoysala architecture is the jagati or the elevated path made for circumambulation (pradakshina) around the main shrine. This was very prominent in the Somnathapura temple ,though it was quite noticeable in the Chennakeshava temple at Belur too. The jagati at the Somnathapura temple was beautifully star shaped,encompassing the three garbagrihas.The picture below shows the temple from the western end ,or from behind ,as the temple faces east.
The picture above shows the three towers from behind the temple.
The carvings of mythological characters on the outer walls of the temple
Few of the many defaced statues as a result of the future invasions
The intricately sculpted walls with stories from the epics which I cannot resist sharing
As already mentioned the inside of the temple was as elaborate as the exterior ,but two things captured my attention inside .The first one being a small lamp carved out in a pillar , reminding us of the no electricity days ,when evening prayers were held with probably these oil lamps lighted.The inside was pretty dark even in broad day light and all these clicks of the interior were taken with the flash on .
The other interesting thing was the small carved figure with folded hands
The many carved facades on the roof inside each one having a different pattern
Temples formed an integral part of life in those days ,where every ceremony in ones life revolved around it . Religion was the one of the very few forms of entertainment or recreation a few centuries ago . The huge courtyards tells the story of the number of people who gathered here very often..So one can well estimate the importance of temples then ,and that probably explains the time spent and the pain taken for these humongous works of art.
The idol no longer exists,but this temple continues to lend an aura of grace which makes it stand apart from all other temples. It does not cease to pull crowds ,history buffs or not alike.