Keshava Temple – Somanathapura
The Keshava Temple of Somanathapura is one of the most famous shrines of Karnataka, situated at the Mysore district. The holy Cauvery River passes by the small village of Somanathapura, while the lush greenery encircling the temple let prayers come deep from your heart at the serene environment.
As you enter the porch of the Keshava Temple, you are no more in modern India. The perfect carvings and well defined sculptures take you back in time when South Indian temple architecture was at its peak. The Keshava Temple is one of the most well preserved temples of the Hoysala reign.
History and Legend of Keshava Temple
The glorious history of Karnataka is treasured at the Keshava Temple.
- The Hoysala Kingdom was one of the most prominent dynasties of South India. Their kingdom ranged from Karnataka, to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. South Indian art and architecture flourished during the reign of the Hoysala dynasty.
- The Keshava Temple was constructed by General Somanatha of the Hoysala monarch, Narasimha III. The temple hence is also known as the Somanatha Temple.
- The temple was built during the 1254 – 1291 AD. The inscriptions engraved on a slab outside the temple during 1269 – 1550 AD provide detailed information about the time of construction of the Keshava Temple.
- It is believed that the Keshava Temple was the last major temple built by the Hoysala dynasty.
- As per the information of Archaeological Survey of India, the original idol of Lord Keshava went missing and later it was replaced.
- One of the myths state that the deities were removed from the temple by the Britishers and taken away.
Significance of the Keshava Temple
The Keshava Temple is a must visit for historians and tourists who wish to get back to the golden time of Indian architecture.
- The Keshava Temple is an epitome of Hoysala architecture. Even the platform of the temple is unique in a star shaped layout. This layout is significant as it is believed that it was used for ‘pradakshina’ that is for circumambulation of the temple, a mandatory ritual of Hinduism and Buddhism.
- The Keshava temple represents the Trikutchala form. There are three sanctums to the north, south and west of the temple. There are three antaralas and a navarang within the temple.
- The Keshava temple is known for its fine carvings both at the interiors and exterior walls. Even the ceilings and the doors depict marvellous ornamentation.
- The ceilings of the Keshava temple depict sixteen different types of Hoysala art and hence are no less than pieces of gems.
- There is a relief sculpture of Narasimha on the outer wall of the Keshava Temple.
- The images of Keshava, Venugopala and Janardhana adorn the ceiling of the sanctums and are surrounded by spectacular shikara images.
- While the central sanctum is dedicated to Lord Keshava, the southern sanctum houses the deity of Lord Venugopala and the northern sanctum has the idol of Lord Janardhana.
- Some of the fine sculptures found at the Keshava Temple are that of Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesha, Goddess Lakshmi and Saraswati.
- There are also images of mythological figures and demons within the temple, like that of Rati, Manmatha and Mahisasura.
- The Keshava Temple was built within a massive enclosure over a raised platform. This shrine comes with sixty four cells.
- The basement of the outer wall of the exhibits friezes of finely carved elephants, scrolls, scenes from Indian epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana and mythological stories, legends and folklores. All the events are sculpted in a clockwise direction, that is, in the direction of ‘pradakshina.’
- Visitors can get a vivid picture of the religious beliefs of Hinduism as the images of gods and goddesses along with their vahanas remain frozen at the walls of the Keshava temple.
- The presence of the line of elephants at the lowest course of the basement is symbolic as it presents that the elephants are carrying the burden of temple on their backs.
- The battle field of the Hoysala times is depicted by the horse riding soldiers tampering the fallen warriors.
- The daily life of ancient Karnataka
- Another important fact about the Keshava temple is that you can get names of some of the sculptors engraved at the pedestals of the sculptures, like that of Mallithamma, Masanathamma, Chameya and Bhameya. From these details it can derived that Mallithamma is sculptor for most of the images and also have constructed the northern shikara of the Janardhana cell.
- The seven feet tall stone slab which stores inscriptions in Kannada language related to the construction and upkeep of the Keshava Temple is also embellished with intricate cravings.
- The rock windows of Keshava temple are amazing. While these rock cut windows provide ample amount of sunlight to enter the shrine, the lathe turned pillars characterise the Hoysala temples.
- The entire temple is cloistered and it is believed that the numerous cells within the temple complex used to have idols of different deities of Hindu religion.
- The southern colonnade consists of typical lathe tuned pillars while the northern colonnade is a mix of simple and lathe turned pillars. The western colonnade has just one lathe turned pillar and the rest are simple. This is just one asymmetrical flaw that is found in the planned complex of the Keshava Temple.
- There is a red post box within the temple complex, attached to a large tree. If a visitor posts postcard in the box, it would be stamped with a unique Somanathapura stamp, which is one of its kind in the whole world.
Keshava Temple Timings
- The temple is open for visitors from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm.
- It is advised to visit the temple during early morning hours as you need to walk throughout the temple bare footed.
- Winters are the best time to visit the temple to avoid the scorching heat of the sun.
- If you visit the temple just after the monsoons, you can also check out the enchanting beauty of the nearby Shivanasamudra waterfalls.
Keshava Temple Food Timings
As the Keshava Temple is just a sightseeing spot and is not functional at present, hence there is no arrangement of food or prasada at the temple.
Though there is no particular dress code to enter the Keshava Temple complex, there are restrictions related to footwear. Tourists need to keep their footwear outside the temple complex.
Festivals celebrated at the Keshava Temple
Keshava Temple bears the history of the 12th century Hoysala kingdom and it is no more used for worship. Hence at present there are no festivals that take place at this temple complex.
Poojas and Rituals at Keshava Temple
The Keshava Temple is a major sightseeing place at Karnataka. Worship of the deities does not take place here and hence visitors have no scope to witness any rituals and pooja at this temple complex.
How to reach: Road, Rail and Air
By Air: The Bangalore international airport is the nearest airport to Somanathapura.
By Train: the nearest railway station to the Keshava Temple is the Mysore rail head. You can get frequent trains from Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi to Mysore. From Mysore railway station tourists can avail taxis to the Keshava Temple.
By Road: By road the Keshava temple is almost 2 hrs from Bangalore, lying at 180 km from the capital city. You can avail taxis to get to the site. The Maddur- Malavalli- Bannur- Somnathapura road is the best way to reach the Keshava Temple. Tourists travelling by road are advised to take the Malavalli road from Maddur, then a right turn from the Malavalli City Junction that goes towards Bannur. From the main junction at Bannur, a left turn takes the visitors to the temple.
Tourists can also opt for the Bangalore- Mysore road and take a diversion Srirangapatana bridge. The Keshava Temple is approximately 50 km from the district headquarters of Mysore. There are a number of private buses that ply between Mysore and Somnathapura, but it is advisable to visit the place via private cars as you have many sites to visit around the Keshava Temple.
Hotels in Somanathapura: Where to stay
Accommodation facilities are not available at Somanathapura. Tourists are suggested to stay at Bangalore or Mysore. United 21, Mysore, Regaalis Mysore, Hotel Dasaprakash, Mannars Residency, the Quorum, Royal Orchid Metropole are some of popular hotels located near the Keshava Temple. From budget to premium rooms, all types of rooms are available here.
Where to eat
There are no such restaurants near the Keshava temple. Tourists can have coffee, tea and cold drinks at a nearby canteen. Restaurants are available near T Narsipura. If you are travelling by road, you will also find some eateries on the Mysore road, serving authentic South Indian cuisines.
The district of Mysore is known for its quaint villages, each one treasuring a marvellous temple. Some of the nearby temples that you can check out on the way to the Keshava temple are:
- Chennakesava Temple, Belur: One of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture, the Chennakesava Temple is located near to the Keshava Temple. Life seems to be frozen in the stone sculptures of gods, goddesses and mythological figures of this shrine.
- Nanjanagudu: Lying on the banks of River Kapila, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple is historically important as it is believed that the Shiva Lingum of the temple was placed by the famous Rishi Gauthama and was also worshipped by Parashurama when he was on his journey to cleanse his sin of killing his mother.
- Talkadu– Located at 25 km from Somanathapura, this place lies at the banks of River Cauvery. Lord Shiva in the form of Vaidyanatheswara is worshipped here. The place is also famous for its sand dunes. It is believed that several temples are still buried under the sand dunes. Some of the famous temples found here are the Pateleshwara Temple, Viadeyshwara Temple, Maruleshwara, Kritinarayana, Gourishankara and Anandeshwara Temples. An interesting fact is that the Shiva Lingum of Pateleshwara Temple changes colour; it is red in the morning, black in the afternoon and white in the evening.
- Sri Rudra Devasthana, Vijayapura: This temple is known to fulfil the good desires of the devotees and numerous pilgrims visit the temple every year to attain salvation, wealth, cure diseases and gain knowledge. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
- Sri Varadaraja Temple, Hammige: Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, this temple comes with a rich history.
- Tirumakudal Narasipura: Located at the Mysore district, this site is famous for Kumbhmela at South India. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is worshipped in the form of two Shiva Lingums, Someshwara and Markandeshwara.
- Vishvanatha Temple, Krishnapura: This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and also consists of a chapel near it. Hence this quaint, ebony tree fringed village quietly preaches the message of unity among diversity. The place also has the Krishnapur Matha, one of the eight mathas established by Sri Madhavacharya, one of the famous Dvaita philosophers.
- Ranganatha Temple, Sriranga Patna: Located at the Mysore district, this temple was built by the Ganga dynasty of the Vaishnavite cult. The temple showcases a blended architectural style of Hoysala and Vijaynagara temple designs.
Hence visit Keshava temple this vacation to witness how stone gained life in the expert hands of Indian artisans during the golden days of Indian architecture.