So where were we? Ah, yes, we just headed off from the Krishna temple towards Somanathapura to see the breathtakingly beautiful Chennakesava temple, built in the 13th century. Kesava is another name for Lord Vishnu. Now grab a coffee (or the beverage of your choice) and sit back for the story of this temple.
The Chennakesava temple in Somanathapura
This temple is protected under The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. Here is the entrance to the temple – bounded by high stone walls. Little would you expect the sight inside
Somanathapura is a small village on the banks of the river Kaveri and about 130 kilometers from Bangalore. It is best known for the Chennakesava Temple, a grand representation of the Hoysala architecture – built around 1268 A.D. Now, the Hoysala Empire is known for its grandeur as evidenced by the gorgeous temples at Belur and Halebid in Karnataka (Oh, I’ll visit those shortly and produce a full report when I recover from the beauty. )
So anyway – the powerful King Narasimha III (1254-91 A.D.) ruled South India (and whose full name is really a paragraph: “Sri Vishnuvaradhana, Pratapa Chakravarti, Hoysala Bhujabala, Sri Vira Narasimha, Maharajadhiraja, Raja Paramesvara, Sanivarasiddhi, Giridurgamalla, etc.) at the time when his army commander, Somnath built the Kesava temple. This commander created a village and called it Somnathpur after himself. All this is written on a stone slab in the old Kannada script just inside the entrance of the temple. The symmetry is cool, no?
And here is the temple. Was surprised to see there was quite a crowd there – probably because of the long weekend.
The temple stands on a raised platform and represents a “Universe” and there are scenes on the walls depicting Gods, Goddesses, animals, and lots more. The sculpture is unique and perfectly symmetrical. These are made of soapstone. The guide told us that they were carved on panels and then fitted together – interlocked – just like Lego. The detail in the carvings is stupendous and it takes more, much more than the four hours we spent gazing at the interiors and exteriors of the temple.
The outer walls have star-shaped folds on which the carved soapstone plaques are placed. There are three sanctum Sanctorum inside the temple with gorgeous idols of Kesava, Janardhana, and Venugopala. The Kesava idol is missing today. See the little elephants holding up the temple? Here’s the temple’s entrance into the sanctums:
Look at the pillars! There were two types. Fantastically lathed and carved. You know, inside the temple it was pitch dark and I simply aimed and clicked. Thanks to the flash – I could actually see these! Nobody’s home in this shrine:
I hope you enjoyed these pictures. On Sunday, we will continue our journey – I’ll take you to the third place we visited during this trip – Talakadu. It has an even more interesting story than this one.
Please join me again on Sunday. Happy weekend!