The Chennakesava Temple is located in Somanathapura. It is a fine example of Hoysala Architecture. The temple was built by Soma, a Dandanayaka in 1268 CE under the Hoysala king Narasimha III.
About the temple
The temple is situated in an impressive high walled enclosure and the entrance to the complex is through a porch with tall lathe-turned pillars. The material used for the temple is soapstone (Green schist).The Keshava temple standouts out as one of the finest the Hoysala architects produced. Its symmetrical architecture, fine sculptures on equally prominent shrines, and panel sculptures form a cloister that speak of good taste While there are Hoysala temples with better sculpture and others with better architecture, this temples satisfies all requirements. 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.
The temple is built on a jagati and is a Trikuta. Inside the temple, each vimana has a vestibule that connects it to the main rectangular mantapa (hall). Like the shrines, all three vestibules also have their own tower called the Sukanasi (or nose), though it is shorter and hence looks like a low extension of the main superstructure over the shrine. The outer walls of all three shrines, their towers and Sukanasi are equally well decorated, making it overall a very well balanced design. The temple stands on a jagati (platform) and the three vimanas are located at the back and are connected by a common rectangular closed mantapa. The jagati closely follows the plan of the temple exterior and there is a gallery with lathe-turned pillars all along the enclosure of the temple complex which adds to the effect. There is one flight of steps that leads to the jagati and one that leads from the jagati to the mantapa. The wide jagati invites devotees to follow the ritualistic clockwise circum-ambulation before entering the hall. The full effect of the rectangular hall is seen only when the temple profile is viewed. The hall has sixteen bays. The moldings on the outer wall of the mantapa has well decorated reliefs and friezes, with pierced windows screens above them.
All the three shrines are 16 pointed stellate (star-shaped) in design and their towers follow the same pattern. Hence the whole structure looks like a rhythmic progression of well decorated projections and recesses (called architectural articulation). The number of points makes the towers look circular in shape.
About the Deity
The ceiling of the mantapa is supported by lathe turned pillars, a standard feature in Hoysala constructions. Between pillars, the ceiling is domical and intricately decorated. These decorations could include multi-petalled lotuses, banana bud motifs based on stepped ponds and snake like (ananta) knots (symbolizing eternity). Of the three shrines, one shrine has the image of the god Keshava, but the image is missing from the sanctum. The other two shrines house images of Janardhana and Venugopala (all three images are forms of the Hindu god Vishnu). This is strictly a Vaishnava temple and there are no depictions of any forms of the Hindu god Shiva. Other sculptures include of depictions of affluence of that age including members of the royal family riding richly decorated chariots, soldiers and commoners riding horses, camel drawn vehicles, dancers, musicians, hunters armed with bows and arrows and accompanied by their dogs, all heading for a hunt. There are sculptures of royal palaces protected by armed guards, intricate carvings of jewellery, such as pendants, necklaces, waistbands and rings and of woman sporting hair styles that were in vogue. The names of many architects and sculptors are etched on stone from which it is evident that the artists were both local and from outside the region. Famous among them are the locals such as Ruvari Mallithamma, Masanithamma, Chameya, Rameya, Chaudeya and Nanjeya while Pallavachari and Cholavachari are prominent artists from Tamil country.
Legend and stories
The temple was commissioned by King Vishnuvardhana in 1117 AD. Scholars are divided about the reasons for the construction of the temple. The military successes of Vishnuvardhana are considered a probable reason. Some scholars believe Vishnuvardhana commissioned the temple to surpass his overlord, King Vikramaditya VI of the Western Chalukya Empire (who ruled from Basavakalyan), after his initial military victories against the Chalukyas. According to another theory, Vishnuvardhana was celebrating his famous victory against the Chola dynasty of Tamil country in the battle of Talakad (1116 AD), which resulted in the annexation of Gangavadi (modern southern Karnataka) by the Hoysalas. Another theory points to Vishnuvardhana's conversion from Jainism to Vaishnavism (a sect of Hinduism) after coming under the influence of saint Ramanujacharya, considering this is a predominantly Vaishnava temple in sculptural iconography. The Hoysalas employed many noted architects and artisans who developed a new architectural tradition, which art critic Adam Hardy called the Karnata Dravida tradition. In all 118 inscriptions have been recovered from the temple complex, covering the period 1117 AD to the 18th century, giving historians details of the artists employed, grants made to the temple and renovations committed during later times.
The nearest airport is in Bangalore and the nearest railway station is the Mysore Junction and then the Bangalore City Railway Station. There are direct trains to Bangalore and Mysore. The nearest bus stand is in Somnathpur.
Somanathapura, Karnataka 571120.
Devotees visit this temple to seek fulfillment of the following:-
- Freedom from diseases
- Relief from adverse effects from bad planetary aspects
- Relief from bondage
Achutham Keyshavam Rama Narayanam Krishna Damodaram Vasudevam Harim Shridharam Madhavam Gopika Vallabham Janaki Nayakam Ramachandram Bhajey
Meaning -Oh Lord who cannot be perished, who also has names like Keshava, Rama, Damodara, Narayana, Sridhara, Madhava, Krishna, Ramachandra the beloved of Janaki, let me say your name regularly.
Vasudeva Sutham Devam Kamsa Chanoora Mardhanam Devaki Paramanandham Krishnam Vande Jagathgurum
Meaning -I bow to you O Krishna, the ultimate guru, Devaki and Vasudeva's son, and the destroyer of Kamsa and Chanur.
Adharam Madhuram Vadanam Madhuram Nayanam Madhuram Hasitam Madhuram Hridayam Madhuram Gamanam Madhuram Mathuraa Dhipate Rakhilam Madhuram
Meaning -Meaning - Sweet are Your lips, sweet is Your face, sweet are Your eyes, sweet is Your smile, sweet is Your heart, sweet is Your gait, O Lord of Mathura, everything about You is sweet.
Alokya Mathur Mukha Madarena Sthanyam Pibantham Saraseeruhaksham Sachinmayam Devam Anantha Roopam Balam Mukundam Manasa Smarami
Meaning -I think of this Balamukundan as the one who looks lovingly at his mother's face while taking milk from her, who has eyes similar to the red lotus, who is the embodiment of truth and intelligence and other forms.
8:30 AM to 8:00 PM.