Thank GOD, Somnathpur temple is under the care of ASI and there is no priest performing mumbo jumbo. ( No insults intended, since I myself am a Hindu) This is perhaps the primary reason why the temple is maintained in pristine condition. The landscaping is excellent and it attracts more foreigners than domestic tourists being closer to Mysore. Vandalism is minimum on the temple. Some portions of the missing link have been replaced by ASI.
The artisans who were unemployed after the Belur & Halebeed temple needed work so it seems, the general thought of bettering the design and concept of his masters. Somanth, who was a general wanted his name to be remembered in the annals of history, he commissioned the construction of this magnificient edifice during his period ( 1254 – 1291 AD ).
Soap stones have been used to carve out the magnificent statues which have been embedded inside the temple. Images of Venugopala, Keshava and Janardhana are installed in three different chambers. The beautifully carved pillars form the support structure for the edifice. Ceiling of the temple is intricately carved with lingas ( phallus shaped ) which is unique feature of the temple. The art of compression and miniaturization is seen to be believed.
The grandeur of the Hoysala era is exhibited on the outer panels of the temple. Various scenes from the epics are depicted. The battle scenes are intricately carved adding to the grandeur. One gets a sneaking inkling that this temple dates back to the Ganga period which seems to have crumbled and the premise seems to have been reconstructed by the general to propagate his fame.
Mallitama, Masanthamma,Chameya, Bhameya etc are few of the artisans who have engraved the magnificient somathpur edifice. One of the most drawbacks of planning authorities is that the Guide fees fixed seems to be extremely unreasonable. ASI should infuse some discipline so that all the visitors are motivated to use the local guide. Rs 25/- would be a reasonable fee for a family for a bus group of 30 members Rs 200 would be ideal.
The heat is extremely unbearable if one visits the spot in summer, but we were lucky to have benefited cyclonic weather. It is better to finish the trip before 10 am. A coir matting roll would be ideal if it is rolled across as if it is a red carpet. Visitors are advised to carry an umbrella, it protects oneself from sun, rain and wind, elements of nature.
Somnathpur is just 37 kms from Mysore, do not miss this wonderful heritage at any cost. It signifies the penultimate artistic talent of our artisans during the hoysala era. Entry fee Rs 5/- Still camera free, Video Rs 25/- Parking Rs 10/-
Check out this video clip on Youtube :
Historical Perspective :
The primary reason for selecting Somnathpur as a location to build the Keshava Temple by Somadandnayaka in 1268 AD was perhaps it happened to be his native village nearby, secondly plenty of availability of Soapstone, thirdly it was located almost close to the banks of river Cauvery and fourthly he wanted his name to be immortalised in the annals of history as patroniser of art during his era.
Construction of the temple signified that the hoysala rulers and their noblemen, commanders were rolling in wealth due to mining, trading and conquest from neighbouring kingdoms. The lifestyle to a large extent is potrayed on the facade of the this temple. One can find the god and goddesses are intricately adorned with plenty of jewellery in the form of necklaces, waistbands, bangles, ear rings, leg pendants, etc.
Many historians have missed the erotica in the hoysala temple architecture. In Somnathpur too if one observes closely the panels on the side wall of the temple one can find a series of erotic postures. Invariably the sculpting of erotica was authorised by the rulers or sponsorers of the temple construction. It reveals that Indians had accepted openess in sex education, it was partly to educate the siblings and teenagers in a scuttle manner. The missionary posture is missing whereas the reverse is potrayed in one of the panels. Erotica is partially promoted perhaps due to expose to the world and remind that we are the inventors of Kamasutra, which is followed in the West in a reinvented fashion.
Link on Hoysala research by Sreeram Manoj Kumar http://hoysalatemple.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html