For a history student or history buff wanting to study Hoysala architecture, the instant attraction is to visit Belur and Halebidu near Hassan in Karnataka. The temples there are truly spectacular and make a perfect day or weekend trip from Bengaluru. However, there are many more stunning examples worth visiting. One such fine example is the Keshava temple in Somanathapur, Karnataka… about 4 hours from Bengaluru.
Our original itinerary was to travel to Somanathapur via Shivanasamudra Waterfalls, which would be about a 40 minute detour. On our way we found out that there was no water in Shivanasamudra and was not worth going to (we were advised to go right after the monsoons instead : )). So, we went directly to Somanathapur instead.
One of the really nice things about the Bengaluru-Mysore highway that you travel on for a while is that there are plenty of good eating options. So, you do not have to worry about packing food and can have breakfast and lunch along the way which is what we did.
We reached Somanathapur around noon and it was quite hot. Depending on the time of the year, make sure you take precautions (hats, water, etc.). The complex has been well developed by the government. There is an outer compound with a beautiful garden which allows visitors to chill and have a picnic if they have time and the inclination. The entrance is ticketed and you do have to pay for camera use as well but it is well worth it. After walking on a well paved path, you arrive at the main complex.
Right outside the main complex there is a tree with a mailbox. It is said that you can mail a letter here and it will reach you with the Somanathapur stamp on it… pretty cool. However, we did not try it.
You have to leave your shoes outside and enter the main complex. The pathway is carpeted so you don’t necessarily feel the heat below your feet. There is guide available if you wish to use his services. It was actually good … we were able to notice a lot of the little details with his help.
The Somanathapur temple is also known as the Keshava Temple. While the exterior has carvings of many different Gods, the inner temple has three idols of Vishnu. On the left side, you will notice the idol of “Venugopala” – Krishna with his flute. The guide told us that there is a safe located behind the idol which stored the temple treasury during the Hoysala days. In the center, there is an idol of Keshava. The original idol was destroyed by invaders. The current idol is an idol recovered from a nearby Hoysala site. The right side has an idol of “Janardhana” – another form of Vishnu.
The ceiling is divided into several sections and each section depicts a stage of a lotus flower blooming – from bud to fully opened. We learnt and noticed all these little things thanks to the help of the guide.
After spending time taking a ton of pictures, we headed back out towards Bengaluru. Near Mandya district we had an opportunity to enjoy some amazing local coconut water – freshly cut from the tree. We had never seen a coconut brimming with water before. It was absolutely delicious!! So, if you come across a roadside stand, do stop and enjoy the local coconut water.
On the way back, we stopped at Channapatna to pick up some local wooden toys and knick-knacks before heading back to Bengalaru. Once we got home we were happy that it was a day well spent!
Somanathapur can be a detour on your way to Mysore from Bengaluru as well. The detour is well worth it especially if you have not experienced Hoysala architecture before.