Thursday, May 25, 2006


.....did gods build this place?

IMG_2676somnatpurHosted on Zooomr Was Maya the heavenly architecture the brains behind its breathtaking beauty. Those were the questions that ran through my mind when I first set eyes on Somnatpur.


I was taken aback by its beauty and the next thing I did was check to see if I had enough space for photos ;p Every single space on the temple was carved, and did I tell you it was burning hot yet I didn't care?
The Chenna Kesava temple - the last great temple built by the Hoysala dynasty stands out from the other 2 in Belur and Halebid.

Though smaller in size exquisiteness is what Somnathpur is about. Every inch a different story, every space a different canvas of the most breathtaking detailed sculptures.

Carved out of soapstone mined from the earth while still soft, I'm wondering how long he took to imagine his prized creations and how fast he sculptured them given the stones become hard on exposure to atmosphere.


There is nothing ordinary about the temple from its shape to its structure to the details on its cone and angled shaped Gopuras.

"The village of Somanathapura is named after a minister by the name Soma in the court of the Hoysala king Narasimha III (13th century CE), who founded it.
The Somnathpur temple built in AD 1268 is considered an example of the fully evolved style of Hoysala architecture. The Hoysalas were a mighty martial race who ruled large parts of present day Karnataka between 1100 and 1320 AD.

The temple itself, stellar in shape, has three elaborately carved pinnacles with a common Navranga and stands on a raised platform. The three sanctums once housed beautifully carved idols of Kesava, Janardhana and Venugopala. Today the idol of Lord Kesava is missing, but the other two still adorn the sanctums in their original form.

The star-shaped plan of the shrine is characteristic of this style but such elaboration did not end here-even the shikhara that crowned the building developed a flower-like or star shape. The temples, instead of having merely one sanctum, had three as in Somnathpur, or were built like Siamese twins as a joint-double temple, like the one in Halebid. The star-shaped plan was further extended to incorporate these additional shrines, and what resulted was a very flamboyant structure with a minimum of long straight walls.

The entire temple was built on a broad platform to enable devotees to perform a pradakshina of the temple and to view the wonderful world of sculpture that adorns the outer wall surface.
Above, the starry temple wall projected a deep cornice that cast strong shadows on the minutely textured surface. At Belur and Halebid the superstructure or shikhara can hardly be seen (if built at all), but at Somnathpur the triple-shrine structure has three shikharas, each a beautiful star-shaped, ornate bell....." From 4to40 (a must read)


Each angle gives out a different view though it seems as if the 3 shikaras mirror each other. If you read the article you'll realise much thought has been given in building the temple.

The combining of three towers into one chamber, then the raised platform for pradakshina and the layers of art surrounding the building at different levels. Every inch of the walls of the temple is covered with carvings including the inner parts of the roof.

IMG_2640somnatpurHosted on Zooomr

I love how the sculptures appear as if floating coz of their raised appearance.

Inside even the ceilings are covered in intricate details. Each doorway leading to the main idol (there are 3) has small carvings above them which such intricacy. Example this krishna one - there are devars, maidens, devotees and the cows around Krishna who is playing his flute. Reminds me of the phrase


alaypAyudE kaNNA en manam migha alai pAyudE
un Ananda mOhana vEnugAnamadil
nilai peyarAdu shilai pOlavE ninra
nEramAvadariyAmalE migha vinOdamAna muralIdharA en manam (alai)
.......kaninda un vENugAnam kATril varugudE kaNgaL shorugi oru vidhamai varugudE

or in
kuzhalUdi manamellAm koLLi koNDa pinnum kurai Edu enakkEdaDI tOzhi
.......agamagizhindilagum nilavoLi tanilE tanai marandu puLLinam kUva
.......kanru pashuvinavum ninru puDai shUzha enru malarumukha iraivan kanivODu

...........the maidens (gopiyars) gods and cattle stood mesmerised by the beautiful haunting sound of Krishnas flute.

The pillars inside are another set of beauties either rows of angled lines or rows of circles. I think they're made of 2 different stones - one brownish in appearance the other black ( i might be wrong) but the black stone has a very cooling characteristic (will explain later). Despite the blazing sun outside, the interiors were chilly and pleasant, you really don't want to leave.

IMG_2643somnatpur1Hosted on Zooomr
This is my fav goddess image, there's something forlorn in her expression as if her thoughts are faraway contemplating something yet charmingly feminine. The tribangi dance position, the gestures, the gentle flow of her ornaments - it somehow seems as if it was been blown gently by the breeze.

You know there's a wonder about this temple and the other 2 Hoysala temples. I was there around mid afternoon, burning sun and walking at the front led to screams of ouch ouch (though it didn't deter me from gawking). However when we reached the back exactly behind, despite walking on sunny platforms and finding no building shadows protecting the platform, it was cool. Pretty amazing.


We finally left Somnathpur, heart heavy with amazement of its wonder only to be greeted by a shepherd and his sheep.
IMG_2686somnatpurHosted on Zooomr

Truthfully I have fallen in love with this place, would have loved spending more time but wrong company. I will return one day maybe at sunset or sunrise to see what the rays of the sun does to this beautiful place.

If you have a chance don't miss going there.

Next : Melkote

Ps : loads of pictures inside my zooomr.


Balajoe said...

When I looked at the photos, I feel humbled...God is great! Attention to details is greatly admired

My days(Gops) said...

nice post with nice photos visith'nu=> solli solli bore adigudhu.... vera edhaachum sollava?

he he he....
cHaNcE'ey illaaaaaaaa......

Maran said...

Cool design.

geetha said...

You have really described the beauty of the place till the details.. it must have embeded in your mind, all that beauty. Love the photos :)

Ariel said...

OMG babe! the place is awesome!

btw i'm planning an india trip sometime end of this year.. plan to do the kerala thing and maybe some other temple. wondering if you can share the details of your trip with me.

Keshi said...



tulipspeaks said...

:( sumthing wrong with server i think. couldn't view any pic.. *sob *sob


WA said...


still_figuring_out said...

how have you been?

those are some AWESOME pictures, gal. beautiful! would you mind if i use them sometimes?

visithra said...

Balajoe : same here - was really amazed humbled looking at them

mydays : hehehe thanks

maran : i like that shot ;) yeah verycool designs

Geetha : it did - i was just amazed by the beauty - thanks ;)

ariel : it is it is ;)

ohhh do go - ask me anything ;)

keshi : i love that shot ;) hehe thanks - does seem so

amu : awww do try later gal

uma : it was ;)

still : yayyyyyyyy ure back

been good ;) thanks and sure no prob use them anytime just link it back ;)

ashok said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ashok said...

Amazing Architecture! .... wonderfully captured by ur lens...clap! clap!

Usha said...

The symmetry and the amazing intricacy - ya, you are right it must have been more than human power. I love to go to this place too. And it is set in such a quiet and serene village which enhances the effect the monument has on you.

visithra said...

ashok : aww thanks it is an amazing work of art - if u havent seen it dont miss it ;)

usha : ah looks like we share the same interests ;) it is quite quiet and beautiful - nice children too - was waving to so many ;)

Anonymous said...

I was reading random blogs to cure my insomnia when I happened on yours.
These temples are just stunning. I haven't visited India in ages and all these
seem like mythical structures. I found this website which has photos of
many Indian temples with descriptions. It is a fascinating place to learn
about the various temples.
Even though I am not in the least religious, I find great joy in religious
art/architecture. Thanks for the images.

tulipspeaks said...


saw the pics. and looks like everyone else have praised them till i couldnt find any new words!



visithra said...

Anonaravind : welcome here ;)

thanks ;) they r stunning and im quite familiar with templenet - whenever i plan my trips i do visit them first

Amu : yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy thanks dear

Priyamvada_K said...

Beautiful photos! Gotto google for Somnathpur to see where it is.


visithra said...

priyam : thanks aww its near mysore srirangapattinam, karnataka

Priyamvada_K said...

Thanks, I want to go see the place on my next visit home :)

Psst...don't say "Mysore is laidback and nice". See, this is what they said about Bangalore too. And it was - absolutely lovely, until early 1990's. Beautiful, nice weather, ok traffic.

Then too many people appreciated Bangalore's beauty and started moving there in droves. Now I dare not visit that place. :((


visithra said...

priyamvada : do go - and check out the other 2 hoysala temples as well - will be writing on them - n the sringeri one

ahhh i shall not say that again then - we'll keep mysore to ourselves ;)