Somanathapuram temple, the finest piece of art by Hoyasala Kingdom is located 35 KM from Mysore, state Karnataka,India. If you visit Halebeedu and Belur then you should not miss to see this temple also which will complete your journey of the Great Hoyasala kingdom art and culture. When I saw this temple I felt it is sobbing in want of puja. But solitude adds to its beauty as I saw foreigners stunned to see this temple.
History of temple
Once this village was owned by Chola kingdom and later it was annexed in 1117 AD by powerful Hoyasala king Vishnuvardhan (who built Halebeedu and Belur temples).
Located at Somanathapura is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture. The temple was built by Somanatha, a commander in 1268 AD. under Hoysala king Narasimha III, when the Hoysala Empire was the major power in South India.
Somnatha named this place as “Vidyanidhi Prasanna Somanatha” and founded this temple for deity “Keshav” ( Lord Vishnu).According to the Mysore archaeological reports, it was built by the famous architect and sculptor Ruvari Malithamma who was well known for his expertise in ornamentation. We can see his signatures in different masterpieces here.
Architecture of temple
A guide is must for this temple to know the details and architecture.
This is tri-kuta(triple shrine) temple(Halebeedu temple is dwi-kuta while Belur is ek-kuta). It is called tri-kut as there are 3 shrines, one each of Lord Vishnu. Lord Venugopal and Lord Janardhana. These three are incarnation of same Lord Vishnu.
The contemporary kingdoms are shown in map below.
Contemporary monuments in India
By this time (I mean in period from 10th to 12th century) when this temple was constructed, already Khajuraho by chandels, Badami caves and pattadakal by western Chalukyas, Brihadeshvara temple at Thanjavur by Chola, Shravanabelgola by western Ganga, Halebeedue, Belur by Hoyasala, Thousand-Pillared Temple at Hanamkonda, Andhra Pradesh and Svayambhu Temple by Kaktiya were already existing, also was existing an unfinished Shiva Temple 11th century. Bhojpur, Madhya Pradesh and masterpiece Konark Sun temple was constructed about 13 years before this temple.
How to reach
35 KM from Mysore. Or on way from Ooty to Bangalore you can take a slight diversion and reach Bangalore via Somnathapuram which is just 12 KM more than via Mysore route.
We followed below plan
|From||To||place to visit||Stay||Comments|
|Bangalore||Srirangpatna||Covered in below sequence : Rangnathaswamy temple- Narsinghswamy temple- Baily-Lal mahal- museum-water gate-tipu death-jumma masjid-daulat daria-gumbaz-sangam||1 night||All monuments are within radius of 4 KM and can be covered in 5 hours|
|Srirangpatna||Rangan-titu, Balmuri falls||Rangan-titu, Balmuri falls||–||Boating. Visit time 3 hours|
|Rangan-titu||Ooty||Stay at Ooty 3 nights and 4 days||Followed shorter route Journey 4 hrs as I am slow driver.
We followed shorter route rangan titu-Theppakadu-Masingudi-Ooty
On way passed through Bandipur
|Ooty||Somnathapuram||–||Time needed to visit the temple in detail is 3 hrs with guide.||Followed longer route Ooty –Gudalur ( 30 KM longer) to get some scenic forest views and Bandipur.|
|Somnathapuram||Talakadu||If you are interested go. We did not go here in this trip.||16 KM||Optional visit|
If you are very enthusiastic you can follow this plan
Bangalore-> Savandurga Hills ->Srirangapatan-Bannur ->Shivanasamudra Falls->Makedatu->Chunchi falls -> Somnathpura ->Bangalore a total of 430 KM
My real experience at Somnathapuram
Frankly speaking I had a sad experience on my visit to this great temple which is absolulty a masterpiece of all the Hoyasala Temples if you compare with Halebeedu or Belur. Yes, it is absolute master piece.
My experience was that there were no sign boards leading to Somnathapuram and inspite of GPS we had to ask locals several times on way.
Near temple they have blocked the route in such a way that only car can pass and that too with much difficulty. In this exercise our Honda city car got dents first time.
On reaching temple we parked the car (Panchayat fee Rs.30) and saw garbage lying here and there around the temple premises. About 50 tourists including foreigners were there. There was only one guard. With help of guard I could hire a guide (Rs.300). Though the inside premises of temple was kept very clean and green still the temple looked to be very deserted , neglected and sobbing. First time I realized a sobbing temple. Even Patadakkal was not like that.
The Sculpture of Temple
Before we start the temple tour I think we should know the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. These are
- Matsya avtar ( Fish faced incarnation) To rescue the first man, Manu, from a great deluge.
- Kachhap avtar ( turtle faced ) To give base for ocean churning between sur and asurs
- Varah avtar ( Boar faced incarnation) To save earth and kill Hiranayaksh (Hiranyakashyap brother)
- Narsingh avtar ( Half man half lion faced incarnation) To kill Hiranyakashyap
- Vaman avtar ( Dwarf incarnation) To help Dev Indra to regain supremacy when Asur King Bali was winning all universe.
- Parusuram avtar (Kshatriya incarnation) To devoid the world of kshatriyas twenty-one times over after the mighty king Kartavirya Arjuna.
- Ram avtar (Kshatriya incarnation) To help Rishi and saints from Asurs
- Kondairaman avtar ( Balram, Krishna brother incarnation)
- Krishna avtar ( Balram, Krishna brother incarnation) To kill king Kansa
- Kalki avtar (Warrior incarnation) Against foreign attacks
Note that some purans say that Lord Buddha was also 8th incarnation of Vishnu but all Buddhists do not agree to it. Also some purans state that there were more than 30 incarnations of Vishnu.
Carvings on Exterior walls
There are about 500 carvings and statues (icons) in this temple which took about 58 years and about 500 artisans. The exterior carvings depict Ramayana, Mahabharata stories, different icons of Vishnu etc. There is not even once the mention of Lord Shiva in this temple though if you see Halebeedu temple made by same kingdom was dedicated to Shiva only.
Icons on Exterior walls
In order to understand the soul of these temples and exploit this invaluable visit you must hire a guide. There are about 500 artifacts and there are some repetitions as well.
The inside of temple consists of three shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Lord Venugopala and Lord Janardhana. All three are the form of Lord Vishnu.There are 18 pillars inside the temple. All three shrines have their own Garbh Grah ( icon house), Darshan grah ( visitor gallary) and there is a common Nritya grah ( dance platform). The remarkable roof of the inside of temple is unforgettable and unparallel and seems more art has prevailed into this temple than in Halebeedu or Belur.
This temple is masterpiece of Hoyasala kings. In one look it looks deserted and neglected. It may be due to fact that no puja is conducted here. Inside premises were very clean but there are no lodges nearby and no sign boards to reach the temple.
We can still compare these Indian monuments with a church in cologne and Rome Church which are an amazing piece of art, specially cologne’s. Still some churches which I saw in Europe like in Austria and Florence also were having very finest possible carving by human beings. In later period starting from later Vijay nagar empire and moguls the finer arts disappeared and turned to mass colossal structures including Tajmahal. Just my observation with limited knowledge. The change in art in India I think happened because of frequent invasions and later period folloed some persian arts.