Not very far from Karnataka’s Cultural Capital, Mysore in India is a small village named Somanathapura on the banks of River Cauvery. The village is known for its Keshava temple, one of the most magnificent temples built in the style of Hoysala Architecture. I fell in love with Somanathapura the moment I entered the village. White row-houses with roofs of red tiles lined both sides of the paved streets. The coconut palms which towered over the streets along with the occasional green and blue homes added a unique charm to the neighborhood. To appreciate the town-plan of Somanathapura, I would suggest taking a look at its aerial view on google maps. The stone structure of the Keshava temple and the well-manicured lawn occupied the center of the village while being surrounded by coconut grooves on one side and the village homes on the remaining sides.
Going by the name of the village, I assumed that the temple complex at Somanathapura would be dedicated to Lord Shiva (Somnath is one of the names given to Lord Shiva). However, when I learned that the chief deity of the temple in Somanathapura is Keshava ( also called Vishnu or Krishna), I was curious to know how the town got the name Somanathapura. I was told that the village and the temple get their name after the Hoysala Commander named Somdandanayaka who constructed the temple during 1268 AD under the reign of King Narasimha III of Hoysala Dynasty. It is believed that Somanathapura is the last of the ornate settlements of Hoysalas.
A huge Manosthambha ( a stone pillar) erected outside the main temple complex caught my attention as I walked into the compound. The temple looked crowded with visitors because it was a weekend. A few families were taking respite from the heat in the shade of a huge tree present in front of the temple. The main temple was enclosed by a walled courtyard and had a gate and a Porch. From the lawn outside the temple, I could see three spires raising from beneath the courtyard wall as if keeping a watching over the village. The main door of the temple was decorated with brass spikes. Such designs on the doors were used in olden days to stop the elephants from breaking the doors during an attack. However, the brass spikes made on the current day door are more intended to be ornaments on the door. To the left of the porch was a huge inscription written in Halegannada (old Kannada script) which had details of the temple construction. Though I have studied Kannada, it was tough for me to decode the inscription because there is a lot of difference between the current day Kannada language and Halegannada.
Somanathpura is at a distance of 30 Kms from Mysore and about 140Km from Bangalore.
Nearest Airport is at Mysore and the nearest railway station is at Mysore or Mandya.
Entry Fee for Somanatha temple
Entry tickets are priced at INR.5 for Indian nationals and INR.100 for foreign nationals.
Temple is open between 8.30 am and 5.30 pm
– Somnathapura is a very small town with no facilities for accommodation. You can stay in Mysore, Maddur or Bangalore and plan a day trip.
– There are no hotels in the village except for a few petty stalls which sell tea and some snacks. It is better to carry packed food and water.
– Since the temple is fully made of stone, it gets very hot during midday. It is good to plan your visit during the morning or evening times when the sun is not very harsh.
– Guides are available for your assistance in case you wish to know more about the temple and Hoysala architecture.
– Visitors are not allowed to wear footwear inside the temple courtyard. Consider carrying a few pairs of socks if you are uncomfortable walking barefoot.
– Clean washrooms are available behind the temple.
– Other interesting places to visit near Somanathapura are Talakadu, Shivanasamudra, Melukote, Mutatti, Srirangapattana, Ranganathittu and Mysore.
– If you are interested to know more about the Hoysala architecture, plan a visit to Halebidu and Belur located around 220 Km from Bangalore.