Somanathapura (sOmanAthapura) (ಸೋಮನಾಥಪುರ)
is one of the three important landmarks of Hoysala architecture and sculpture, the
other two being ‘bElUr’ and
‘haLEbIDu’. This is a small village in T. Narasipura talluk of
The Keshava temple is built on a rectangular piece of land measuring 218 feet by 117 feet and the temple complex is facing east. Along the inner wall of the compound there are sixty four mantapas. (ManTapa) Each one of these mantaps is a small temple with a small door and a separate tower. Most of them have an icon inside more often than not an incarnation of Vishnu. These doors have intricate carvings. These icons are approximately four feet tall. Some 48 soap stone pillars, which are cylindrical in shape, adorn the inner lining of the compound.
The temple stands in an open court yard.
The part of the temple which contains the ‘Navaranga’ and ‘Mukhsmantapa’ stands
on a rectangular platform and the sanctum sancta is star shaped. The outer walls
of platform are carved with the statues of elephants, Gods, and servants. (ParicAraka)
The outer walls of the temple itself are decorated all along in three different
phases. The lower most phase consists of bass relifs
in seven tiers and these layers contain the statues of elephants, horses, creepers,
episodes from epics, yALi/makara and finally swans. Each of these layers is about
seven inches tall. The elephants and horses are particularly well carved and there
is a lot of variety in their making and in the details that are depicted. The stories
that adorn the fourth row among these reliefs contain episodes that are selected
from epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Bhagavata. One interesting feature
is that many of these carvings are not related to wars. Remaining layers consisting
of creepers, swans etc are relatively uninspiring. The central part of the outer
wall is divided in to two parts. The lower of these two parts have some ninety statues
of Vishnu accompanied by his paramours and servants. These are very interesting
for students of iconography. Narasimha, Varaha, Hayagreeva, Indra, Manmatha and
Surya are some of them. Many of these statues are inscribed with the names of their
sculptors like mallitamma, bAlayya, lOhita and masaNitamma. The upper part contains
many small towers, keerthimukhas and half pillars. (Ardhastambha) If one starts
from the left side of the main entrance and goes round the temple, he notices many
gods other than Vishnu. However, the statues of Shiva are conspicuous by their absence.
This temple has three towers built in the Vesara style. They are of medium height
and they too are star shaped with sixteen apexes, just as their foundation. Almost
every inch of these towers is full of very interesting and miniature carvings of
creepers, aquatic animals, postures of dances and music etc. About twelve Yakshas
that are carved on the central tower are unique to the Keshava temple and they are
aestheticaly pleasing. Some of them are playing on a musical instrument and some
more depict various dancing postures. There one Yaksha who is writing some thing
on a ‘grantha’ with a stylus. An inverted lotus is constructed on the top of the
tower. The temple is also known for many erotic sculptures on the outer walls.
The inner yard is rectangular and it contains a mukhamantapa and a sabhamantapa.
The hall is divided in to smaller enclosures by pillars. These pillars are rectangular
at the base and assumes various shapes such as a bell, cylinder etc. These pillars
are extremely well polished. Some of the ‘Bhuvaneshvari’ structures in the Navaranga
are exquisite and they can match any such sculpture in Belur.
The sancta contain the statues of Janrdana (6 feet) and Venugopala (4½feet) as mentioned earlier. Venugopla is surrounded by cattle and Gopikaas in various postures. The statue of tAnDava gaNapati is among the most attractive features of Somantahapura.
Panchalingeashvara temple is situated at a distance of about 250 meters from the
Keshava temple. This is a panchakuta temple with five sancta constructed in a single
line. They contain Shiva lingas called bijjaLeshvara, pergaDEshvara, dEvalEshvara,
bayiralEShvara and sOmanAtheshvara. These temples are built of black granite and
all of them are independent but for a corridor that links them.
Many important inscriptions are found in Somanathapura and its surroundings.
<![if !supportLists]>1. <![endif]>Masterpieces of Hoysala Art: Belur, Halebeedu and Somanathapura, Sachindra Kumar Maiti, 1990, Delhi.
<![if !supportLists]>2. <![endif]>Keshava Temple at Somanathapura, 1940, T. Dayanand Patel, Delhi.
<![if !supportLists]>3. <![endif]>History of the Somanthapura by D.V. Devaraj, 1994, Mysore.
<![endif]>Somanathapura by S. Settar, 2008, Abhinava,
<![if !supportLists]>6. <![endif]>commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Somanathapura...
(Photo Gallery of Somanathapura)
<![if !supportLists]>8. <![endif]>commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Somanathapura... (Wall Panel)
<![if !supportLists]>1. <![endif]>travel.webshots.com/photo/1082013395012835014...
<![if !supportLists]>2. <![endif]>http://thumb14.webshots.net/s/thumb4/1/33/95/82013395CECvyy_th.jpg (Janradana)
<![if !supportLists]>3. <![endif]> picasaweb.google.com/.../sZnQTtJNvkPpTGgH4zWjzg (Bhuvaneshvari)
deepakvenkat.com/wp-content/plugins/falbum/wp... (A photo album)