Keshava Temple, Somnathpura

Keshava Temple @ Somnathapura. The 3rd of the 3 most ornate temples built between 10th and 15th centuries by the Hoysala dynasty. The most well preserved of the 3 temples – Belur, Halebid and Somnathapura. One of the most unique architectural styles on display. The adjectives offered by English language are not enough to describe the beauty of this architecture.

Keshava Temple @ Somnathapura, view from the main entrance

This was my second visit to the monument. And I will want to return there again and see it. Everytime I go there, I see something new. The beauty of it all reveals itself more as we watch it.

Somnathpura is third of the 3 great Hoysala architecture temples, the other 2 being Belur and Halebid. Though Belur and Halebid are touted as international tourist destinations close to Hassan, west from Bangalore, I personally felt Somnathpura was a better exhibition of beautiful exquisite architecture. It is also the most well maintained of the 3. Halebid is incomplete and has suffered most damage amongst the 3. There are 2 deities in this temple and both temples are connected to each other on the same platform. Belur temple has beautiful apsara sculptures and many other intricate carvings. I have been to all these temples, and somehow Somnathpura appealed to me the most.

The Keshava temple are 3 shikaras, one for each garbha griha. The 3 deities are Keshava, Janardhana and Venugopala. The 3 shikara design is called as the Trikuta design. Indian architecture has designs ranging from a single shikhara to 5 shikharas. They are called as Ek_Kuta, Dwi_Kuta, Tri_Kuta, Chatur_Kuta and Pancha_Kuta. Even the shikaras are designed in certain styles. North Indian style is called “Naagara” style and South Indian style is called “Dravida” style. These Hoysala temples exhibit a fusion design which is called “Vesara” style.

Along the compound wall, there are 64 chambers that used to house smaller deities. But, as per the guide, these were stolen and taken away by the British when they left India and those idols are now gracing homes in England and elsewhere. Today, you can see Bat faeces and smell urine in those chambers, which is quite repulsive.

Similarly, the original Keshava idol is on display at a British Museum. Only the Janardhana and Venugopala idols are originals. And each idol has some defacing or the other. Hinduism has a custom that defaced idols are not worshipped and therefore this temple does not have any rituals being performed here. ASI recognizes this temple as a dead monument. On the contrary, both Belur and Halebid still have religious rituals being performed.

These temples were made out of soapstone mined from the earth and were carved when it was still soft. These stones became hard on exposure to atmosphere. And it clearly shows in the level of intricacy that you can see in these sculptures.

Tri_Kuta Architecture of Keshava Temple @ Somnathapur

Shikhara, Platform and the chambers

One of my favorite images that I clicked. The star design starts from the platform and goes all the way up the walls and upto the top of the shikhara.

For more pictures: My Somnathpura Album on Flickr

Read more about the temple and its architecture at this link and this link.

How to get there?

From Bangalore: Take the Mysore Road and continue on towards Mysore on the Bangalore-Mysore highway. It has been widened into a 6 lane highway and obviously a pleasure to drive on. It is about 180 kms SE from Bangalore. As you approach Mysore, after Srirangapatnam, you get a diversion for Somnathpura. Take that diversion and Somnathpura is about 37 kms from that point. En route, you will pass through a village called Bannur. However, the last 20 odd kms of the stretch is on patches of bad road. You can return via the same route.

From Mysore: Proceed towards T Narsipura and then proceed towards Somnathpura. It is just 35 kms or so from Mysore, but it could take you upto 2 hours to traverse that distance because of bad roads.

Where to eat?
If you intend to go to Mysore, you should go to the old Dasaprakash hotel for a true treat of South Indian cuisine. You will smack your lips and lick your fingers long after you are done eating, for the taste of the great food will linger on for a long time. And if you are on your way to Mysore or returning to Bangalore, stop by at Kamat’s for a taste of North Kanara cuisine. Specifically ask for North Kanara Thali.

5 Comments so far

  1. Shruthi (unregistered) on May 15th, 2006 @ 3:27 pm

    Fantastic pics, good write-up. Somanathapura is my favourite architectural wonder. It is like perfection in miniature.

  2. WA (unregistered) on May 15th, 2006 @ 4:48 pm


  3. F e r r a r i (unregistered) on May 15th, 2006 @ 4:57 pm

    Excellent write up :-)
    But I would suggest people to go via Mysore-T.Narsipura to Somnathpur. The Shrirangapatna route is extremely bad. I remember it took us 2 hrs from shrirangapatna to Somnathpur. In return direction, we reached mysore in 1 hour :-)

    And yes, its better to have food at Mysore Dasaprakash. You are referring to the one near the bus stand right? And did you know parts of Mysore is Wifi enabled?

  4. rubic_cube (unregistered) on May 15th, 2006 @ 5:32 pm

    Shruthi, WA – Thanks!

    Ferrari – Thanks! The route that I had taken was the same that you describe. Drive past Srirangapatnam, upto Mysore and then take the diversion for Somnathpura that takes you along a bypass just on the city’s north eastern border and puts you on Mysore – T Narsipura Road. Regarding Dasaprakash Hotel, yes… the one near the bus stand. I would say, it is closer to the clock tower. And I didnt know that Mysore was WiFi enabled. Free WiFi or Subscription?

  5. sln (unregistered) on May 16th, 2006 @ 2:49 am


    Thanks for the photos and report. I had been meaning to go here but waiting for the Mysore Road work to get over. Until I can do it myself I have to satisfy my quest thru Flickr only :(


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