A Trip Back in Time to Somanathapur

Somanathapur

Somanathapur

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes” …. Marcel Proust

This is so true, many a time we miss wonderful gems which are all around us in our quest for new landscapes in faraway lands. We discovered a gem invaluable in its antiquity and resplendent in its beauty just a couple of hours away from where we stay.

It was a bright Sunday morning and we were off on a one-day road trip, our destination, an ancient Krishna temple that was built in the year 1268 CE which lay 35 Kilometers from Mysore and about 138 Kilometers from Bangalore, India in a small town called Somanathapura, also known as Somanathapur. It was not a really long drive, we expected to reach our destination in well under 4 hours which would include a stop for breakfast. We left a still sleepy city just waking up to a lazy Sunday behind us as we made good speed on a relatively empty road.

After an hour’s drive, we pulled into a roadside eatery – Kamat Lokaruchi which we knew served some fantastic breakfast. Our stomachs were already letting out wails and moans of hunger, owing to the fact that we had all risen up early. So our digestive juices had been activated and they craved for food much earlier than the usual time. We tucked in silently into steaming and hot Idlis, that glowed like white snow and was as soft as white cotton. For the uninitiated Idlis are savoury cakes made by steam cooking a fermented batter consisting of rice and lentils. We ate the idlis with spicy Chutney, an Indian sauce made of Coconut, green chillies, ginger, coriander leaves all ground into a paste. Another accompaniment to the delicate idlis was hot Sambhar, which is a vegetable based spicy Indian stew.

No one spoke a word, till we were all done. We finished the idlis and sat back in our chairs, with foolish smiles of contentment and satiation. We were not done yet, the waiter whose face was clouded by the steam emanating from the tray that he held in his hands, deposited hot and steaming cups of filter coffee in front of us. The rich aroma of coffee wafted to our nostrils and we drowned in the experience of authentic and well-brewed coffee.

Breakfast done, we were off again, enjoying some pulsating music and generally chatting. In the confines of the car, we felt closer to each other and more bonded than ever before.

We reached our destination as planned. Somanathapur turned out to be a small village on the banks of the river Kaveri with a population of just over 5,000 people. Without much dilly-dallying, we proceeded to the reason of our visit to this obscure village, the Chennakeshava temple.

We parked our car outside a gate that led to a spacious garden with fairly well-maintained lawns and interspersed with trees. There was a paved pathway that led to a small door with two pillars. This was the unassuming entrance to the Somanathapur Chennakeshava temple complex which was enclosed by a wall.

Somanathapurs Chennakeshava Temple

We passed through the doorway and let out a collective and involuntary gasp of astonishment, the unassuming doorway had not prepared us for what was in front of us. It was as if we had just passed a doorway that led to a period back in history. Before us stood a magnificent black structure, a silent tribute to the mastery and genius of its builders. This was the main temple of Chennakeshava in Somanathapur. A rain burst which had just preceded us had bathed the temple clean and it still glistened with the sheen of rain drops. The sky with an exquisite shade of blue provided an ideal background to the stunning beauty of the temple. A lone man sat in silent contemplation on the threshold of the temple.

Chennakeshava Temple, Somanathapura, India

A pillared veranda skirted the four sides of the temple and the temple stood in the center of a big courtyard. We wondered what the scene in the temple would have been like thousands of years ago during the heyday of the Hoysala Empire during which time the temple was built. It was built in 1268 C.E. under Hoysala king Narasimha III.

This Hoysala temple is known for its intricate sculpture. The fine architecture, sculptures on the shrines and panel sculptures speak volumes about the great taste of the famous architect and sculptor Ruvari Malithamma. A unique feature of this temple is that it has 16 different ceilings and each of these celings depict depict a different stage of a blooming plantain – banana flower. The temple itself stands in the center of a raised platform with enough space on all sides to allow visitors to circumambulate it ritualistically before or after entering the temple. This is common practice at Hindu temples. The outer walls of the temple are ornamentally embellished with intricate and beautiful reliefs and friezes.

Channakeshava Temple, Somanathapura

Chennakehsava Temple, Somanathapura

The friezes are adorned with scenes from the Hindu Epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana and stories of the Hindu God Krishna. The intricate detail that can be seen in these carvings speak volumes of the skill of the artists who toiled passionately over their labor of love, in a time gone by. Those men who gave birth and lovely shape to stones are long gone but their creations have survived the ravages of time and today sing silent paeans to their unknown creators.

We were lost in the beauty of this timeless art and moved around admiring the beauty that we found in each and every nook and corner of the temple.

Chennakeshava Temple, Somanathapura

Soon it was time for us to travel back in time from history and we approached the small unassuming door which would lead us back to the present.

Channakeshava temple, Somanathapura

Our feet crossed the threshold of time and we once again found ourselves on the paved path inside the garden through which we had first entered the ancient temple. Wistfully we looked back at the unassuming doorway that led to a place that was frozen in time and gave glimpses of a once glorious and rich culture. 

Chennakeshava temple, Somanathapura

We then slowly made our way towards the gate that would take us back to our normal lives, a life cluttered with computers, cellphones, cars and the cacophony of a concrete jungle.

Do watch this video to get an idea of how the temple looks.
Video courtesy: klnaraa74 NATURE/ART CHANNEL


How to reach Somanathapur

  • You can travel by road from Bangalore to Somnathpur. It is at a distance of about 137 Kilometers
  • You can travel by road from Mysore to Somnathpur. It is at a distance of about 35 Kilometers
  • You can reach Bangalore or Mysore by Rail
  • Bangalore is the nearest airport 

somnathpur

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Where to eat in and around Somanathapur

  • You could eat at Village Family Restaurant
  • There are many food joints on the Bangalore-Mysore highway
  • Another option is restaurants at Mysore

Tips for a great experience in Somanathapur

  • The monument is open from 9 AM to 5.30 PM on all days 
  • The best season to visit is between October to March. Peak season being April to May and September to January

Other Attractions near Somanathapur

Do check our articles on Shivanasamudra waterfalls  and Mysore 

 

Our day trip to Somanathapur was fascinating. We drove back home discussin the wonderful architecture.

Somanathapur

 

Somanathapur    Somanathapur

Somanathapur    Somanathapur

 

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68 thoughts on “A Trip Back in Time to Somanathapur

  1. Kimberly c. Reply

    Wow this is definitely a muste-see when visiting this. I am amazed that the temple is still in such great shape after all these years. It is so old yet so beautiful.

  2. Paula - Gone with the Wine Reply

    Wow, this place is so amazing! I recently read another post about it and that was the first time I heard about this place. So many little details and so much history. Hope to visit here someday!

  3. mark wyld Reply

    looks like a fantastic place to visit. We love visiting temples and ruins they hold some amazing keys to our past. I would be up for trying that breakfast you made it sound fantastic

  4. blair villanueva Reply

    i truly admire how they share their stories and adventures through etching it to the walls, and made these beautiful structures and carvings. i wonder what if they didn’t created these? Will be remember?

  5. Mohit Agarwal Reply

    wow, such a wonderful write up…which made the place even much better. I have been to Bangalore back in time but didn’t know about this.

  6. Filipa Reply

    Wow, this place is breathtaking! It’s really unbelievable what a man can do/build. I would love to visit it 🙂

  7. Holly Reply

    The most important thing here is to tell us where we can find this “we drowned in the experience of authentic and well-brewed coffee”. I feel it is a VERY important detail you have overlooked =P

    • Voyager Post authorReply

      Haha, well the eatery was Kamat Lokaruchi which is an hour’s drive from Bangalore on Bangalore – Mysore Highway. 🙂

  8. Oana Reply

    This place looks unreal. If I get the chance to visit this temple, I will probably spend hours just staring at its beauty. The details from the walls and the architecture is simply amazing. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  9. Chris Reply

    You continue to amaze me with little gems from all across India.

    Without your writings, I’m sure I’d never learn of many, if not all of these places!

    Thanks for taking us along for the ride

  10. Indrani Reply

    This was the first Hoysala Temple that I saw and after that I have been searching out and seeing these in my road trips all over Karnataka. Great pictures.

  11. Punita Malhotra Reply

    There is so much to explore in South India. The temple architecture and carving details are specially intriguing. But first, I want to see Hampi..

  12. Koen Reply

    I’m currently traveling South East Asia, and after reading your article, I believe I’ll have to add some time to the journey here. Thanks for sharing. I did especially love the many images

  13. Trippin' Turpins (Kelly) Reply

    Very informative article. I love the intricate carving and the bas-relief carving of the elephants in one of the photos. Just gorgeous! The idlis and the spicy Chutney sounds delightful.

  14. Jennifer Reply

    This looks like a beautiful temple to visit! I haven’t been to India, but I’ve truly enjoyed visiting the temples in places like Bagan so I’m sure I would enjoy a visit here.

  15. Debra Schroeder Reply

    So many fascinating places in India. I’m looking forward to visiting. Was supposed to visit recently but canceled but planning to go next year. Will definitely make sure to add Somanathapur to my list.

  16. Carol Colborn Reply

    India is so exotic I have wanted to visit it for such a long time. Every day I learn about a new thing to add to my itinerary. This looks so awesome I wonder why I have not heard of it.

  17. Carola Reply

    The main temple of Chennakeshava in Somanathapur looks so beautiful. I’ve never been to India, but if I ever go, I’d love to visit Somanathapur. The intricate sculpture is wonderful. Impressing that is has 16 different ceilings! Loved the video as well. I always enjoy getting a full impression of what it looks like/ feels like to walk around.

  18. Arnav @ Eat, Travel, Live and REPEAT Reply

    India is such an amazing country with so much of history in every corner.Have visited many temples in North India and some in South and have been left amazed by all.Never been to Mysore side till now, but reading our blog and the tips, am definitely going to plan something that side soon.

  19. Sumti Reply

    I love Somanathpur very much but till now did not got the chance to visit. Thanks for sharing this post as it will be helpful to plan it in future and hope soon:)

  20. Travelling Tom Reply

    That quote at the top of the page is very true! I’ve noticed this walking around Barcelona recently. I’ve seen places that I never even noticed before and I’ve been living here for a year!

  21. Jordqn Reply

    Looks like an amazing place to explore! I hope I get to someday soon…I’ll be adding it to the bucket list for sure! Thank you for inspiring me to travel!

  22. Alina Popescu Reply

    This temple is so amazing, I have no words. The friezes are absolutely fascinating. I’d love to go to Somanathapur and see this for myself

  23. Megan Jerrard Reply

    Wow such a beautiful structure, thanks for bringing some well deserved attention to Somanathapur Chennakeshava Temple! I imagine I would probably gasp in awe on witnessing it in person too! And while I generally appreciate good weather, I do agree that a little bit of rain makes for a magical scene … and most of the time better & more unique photography too 🙂

  24. The Travel Ninjas Reply

    Wow, such intricate architecture. This temple is absolutely mesmerizing! It’s hard to believe that it is still in such a great shape after all of these years. So much history.

  25. Rosemary Reply

    Fascinating temple. So many amazing details. A place that is definitively worth exploring. I’ve never been to India, but when I do, I’m adding Somanathapur to the list of places to visit:) Thanks for sharing
    1

  26. Lisa Reply

    This looks like a very mysterious place to visit, love all the detail. I find it amazing that these places have survived over many decades. Thanks for sharing another part of India I was not familiar with. As always, your pictures captures the beauty so well!

  27. neha Reply

    I didn’t know this temple is so close to Bangalore. Will definitely visit over a weekend. The architecture so closely resembles that of a Jain temple in Rajasthan that we recently visited that I was baffled by the similarity

  28. SamH Travels Reply

    The detail on the temple is amazing! I am not surprised you took so much time to study its beauty. Its wonderful that it has survived in tact for so long. Thank you for sharing.

  29. Nilabh Ranjan Reply

    Nice piece of content with awesome photographs. Ancient Hindu temples had good architecture. I visited Belur and Halebidu in Karnata recently.

  30. Angie (FeetDoTravel) Reply

    I am rather partial to temples I must admit, especially Hindu temples as there are always fascinating carvings to admire, Somanathapur is no different! What a brilliant find this was, I can imagine part of you wanting to keep this a secret but at the same time it’s a place people should visit! Thank you for providing travel and restaurant information, this detail is much appreciated.

  31. Jem Reply

    Awesome! I always marvel at those intricate designs and what kind of technology they used in those days to create such a sophisticated artistry.

  32. Barry Reply

    I’m a big fan of history and also find the structure design interesting. Visiting temples is always a good way to learn about past generations, their beliefs, and the way they lived. I would love to visit Somanathapur one day.

  33. luxurybackpacking | Emma Reply

    Wow the intricacy of the temples are amazing and so beautiful! It’s amazing how many temples there are in the world that people just don’t know about! I love how you gave directions to the place as well, I’m sure one day we will be in this part of the world, so we will make sure to visit this stunning temple complex when we do! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  34. Alessandra Reply

    Indeed this place has amazing architecture! All these temples look so unique and definitely worth the trip from Bangalore!

  35. Johann Reply

    It’s so fascinating how the ancients used to build such detailed structures without many of things we have today. South India is home to some of the best architectural feats in the history of mankind itself and lives on to this day. It feels as though we as a people are regressing as time goes by and these structures remain to tell us a tale. Now to settle and have those idles you mentioned. 🙂

  36. Jesper, The Biveros Effect Reply

    India seem to have so many different sites of interest. Well, the country is huge, but it seems to be so many places that we haven’t heard about in the west. Really hope to go there one day. 🙂

  37. Marge Reply

    I am quite astonished myself looking at the pictures, wow the level of details, intricate carvings on the temple are quite impressive. I remember feeling the same way when I went to the Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It’s mind-blowing for me to imagine the hard work that took from the people who carved those images. And we are lucky that to this day, these temples are preserved and that we only need to visit to appreciate their magnificence.

  38. Mar Pages Reply

    Amazing! I’m blown away by the intricate sculptures on the temple. Must be quite something to see it up close in person. That video made me want to hop on a flight and spend a beautiful morning walking around the peaceful grounds of this temple.

  39. Ami Reply

    Hoysaleswara temples are just amazing. The star shaped platform, the intricate carvings, the stories within those…sigh! One visit can never be enough. Time to plan again.

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