Poetry in stone - Somanathpura Kesava Temple

Whenever people talk about the brilliance of Hoysala architecture, they give examples of temples in Belur & Halebidu. I was in Belur last year and Chennakesava temple over there left me speechless. Belur and Halebidu both are very popular temples and crowd pullers. But there is another temple

140 KM from Bangalore and just 30 km from Mysore, in the small village of Somanathpur "The Kesava Temple" last temple of Hoysala kingdom. Not so popular, lesser-known but equally beautiful (maybe more) and highly ornamented temple.

Somanathapur was earlier under the rules of Cholas was conquered by Hoysala in AD 1117. Later it was ruled by Vijayanagara and Wadeyars of Mysore. It becomes of the foremost agrahara (quarters for Brahmin) township during the rule of Narasimha III . An inscription dated AD 1268 records that Somanatha Dandanayaka, an illustrious of Hoysala king Narasimha III established an agrahara in Somanathapur and named it “Vidanidhi Prasanna Somanathapura” and consecrated the temple Kesava.

Bangalore to Somnathpur drive was great. Take NICE road, and then Mysore highway. Drive till Maddur (SH275) take left towards Kanakpura road. Overall road condition is great. I was aware of road construction work on the Kanakpura route (SH 209), so avoided that.

Two and a half hour drive reached Somanathpura. The temple complex is well maintained. The entry fee is 30 rs per head. From the entrance gate to temple gateway there is a beautiful lawn and a huge banyan tree.


A tall lamp post at the right-hand side of the temple gateway.  

After crossing the gateway,  in front of us, there was a magnificent temple. At the first glimpse, you can make out this is an outstanding and beautifully carved temple.

It seated on a perfectly symmetrical star-shaped platform (jagati), enclosed in a spacious courtyard surrounded by pillared corridors the navaranga mandapa. The temple facing east has three grabhagirha  (sanctum sanctorum) on the west, north & south.

The “Venugopala” (The cowherd flute-player), “Janardhana” (Represent success and spiritual liberation) and “Kesava” (with beautiful long hair) three aspects of the Lord Vishnu respectively in its three excellently ornamented individual shrines. Worship is not offered here. Unfortunately, idols are missing. 


The outer walls of the temples are decorated with beautiful carvings. The platform on which the temple stands is adorned with two seated lions

The basement of the outer wall is highly ornamented with friezes of elephants, epic scenes of Ramayana and Mahabharta.

Elephants are often found on the lowest course of the walls, as they are considered to symbolically support the temple on their backs. In another section of frieze, horsemen, a battle scene, musician.

Inside the temple

the ceiling inside, notice the fine art, and detailed carving.

Its time to explore the outer wall

Sarasvati plays the vina, additional arms have rosary (upper right arm), and book (upper left arm). Her vina and book (interpreted as a copy of the Vedas) establish Sarasvati as the goddess of poetry and the arts.

Lord Vishnu

Lord Narsimha

And there are many. You will not get tired of looking at each and every sculpture over there. Guides are available there, would be good to hire if you want to get more details and understand the architecture.

I don't understand why this temple is not highlighted by the state tourism board. This temple is as beautiful as temples in Belur and Halebidu. But it has own advantages, not much crowd over there, you will have ample time to see its every nook and corner in more details (most importantly in peace and without any shor sharaba)

I know all these pictures do not do it justice, It lacks details, yes..but if you are in Bangalore, love archeology, India architecture and history buff, its perfect weekend gateway and see for yourself.

Enjoy the video

My old blogpost - Belur

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