After visiting Belur and Halebid, I told the better-half in the passing that it would be nice to visit the third among the most magnificent Hoysala Temples. Let’s go he said and we went. Trust me, it helps to have a young man with a newly acquired Driver’s License, with nothing much to do while waiting to start at University and with a new found love for historical places 🙂 Can you tell that we killed more than two birds with one stone 😉
The Somanathpur temple is the ‘youngest’ of the three temples and was constructed nearly 100 years after Belur and Halebid by Somanatha, the military commander of the Hoysala King Narasimha III. Once you enter the main gate and walk past the ticketing area, you will be greeted by a tall pillar, the Garuda khamba and notice that the temple walls are mostly intact. You enter through a not-so-impressive door.
After visiting the other two temples, we felt we knew enough to not engage the services of a guide and I must say we did pretty well on our own 🙂 Once you enter through this door (see pic above), on your left hand side you will see a stone inscription in Old Kannada that gives details about the construction, donations received, maintenance plans etc of the temple.
On the inner side of the outer wall you will see really long corridors, one side with lathe-turned pillars that is typical of Hoysala architecture and the other side with 4-sided granite pillars.
There are 64 small rooms or cells in the corridor that housed statues of different gods and goddesses. They were destroyed and/or mutilated during invasions. So most cells today are empty or house remnants of the original statues. The ceiling in front of every cell is very decorative and no two are alike.
Walk along the corridor to admire the temple. The perception of the stellate base is easier here as the temple is not as large as the ones in Belur and Halebid. The wall freizes have only 6 layers here as compared to 9 in Belur and 11 in Halebid and in similar fashion to the temples of Belur/Halebid have animals, floral patterns and scenes from the Indian mythology. Just above the wall freizes are statues of gods and goddesses. There are three sanctums here and there is a tower each on each of the sanctums. Above the layer of statues the towers taper and end up with a pointed stone top (stone Kalasha).
The main doorway leading into the temple is rather simple, the mini-shrines and doorkeepers (dwarapalakas) are not as grand as the ones in Belur/Halebid and you will notice that the lintel is pretty plain. It appears as if the entrance and facade of the temple was destroyed during invasions and was later put together during restoration with blocks and chunks that were found on-site.
This temple has three sanctums dedicated to the Gods Keshava, Venugopala and Janardhana. There is no worship taking place here.
What’s not to miss in this temple are the ceiling domes (Bhuvaneshwari). There are 16 of them and they are simply exquisite and very very decorative. Due to the lack of good lighting I could not take good pictures of the ceilings which in my opinion is the most important feature of this temple.
The temple is closer to Mysore (about 30-odd kilometres) than it is to Bangalore (about 140 km). There is an entry fee to be paid. Guide services are available, as also restrooms.
For a brief on the three Hoysala Temples, read this and to know about Belur and Halebid read this and this.