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Somanathapura Temple History in Karnataka – Somnathpur near Mysore

Somanathapura, on the banks of Kaveri River, is a temple town 40 km from Mysore, Karnataka. Somnathpur is famous for the Chennakesava Temple built in 1268 AD during the reign of the Hoysalas. The other equally elaborate and famous temples built by the dynasty are ones at Belur and Dvarsamudra (present-day Halebid).

After the collapse of the Ganga Dynasty, the Hoysalas ruled Karnataka from 1006 AD to 1346 AD until the rise of the Vijayanagara empire.

The Hoysalas were a mighty warrior race who built some of the great masterpiece in temple architecture and sculpture. Their rule was noted for its peace and prosperity, and the encouragement of talent in various arts. The kings commissioned the building of temples as an act of thanksgiving after their victories in the battlefield, and their splendor and riches were equally evident in the other two earlier Hoysala temples of Belur and Halebid.

The earliest of Hoysala monarchs were Jainas. King Vishnuvardhana (1108 – 42 AD) embraced Vaishnavism under the influence of the celebrated Vaishnava reformer Ramanuja. However, general tolerance of all faiths was typical of their rule.

Somanathapura Temple History

During the reign of King Narasimha III (1254 – 91 AD), the celebrated commander Somnath established a village on the left bank of the Kaveri River as an agrahara (settlement) for the people in the surrounding areas and named it after himself.

Somanatha requested the king to grant him permission and resources to build a temple so as to immortalize the craftsmanship of the Hoysalas. After acquiring the necessary funds, Somanath commissioned the best sculptors in the kingdom to carry out his plan.
Hoysala Temple at Somanathapura is unique in design and perfect in symmetry. The temple is considered an example of the fully evolved style of Hoysala temple architecture.
The shrine stands in the middle of a walled courtyard, surrounded by an open veranda with sixty-four cells. It stands on a three-feet-high platform and is supported at angles by figures of elephants facing outwards.

The three sanctum one housed beautifully carved images of Vishnu as Keshava, Janardana and Venugopala. The image of Keshava is now missing.

The sculptors involved in the project were Ballayya, Caudayya, Bharmayya, Kamayya, Nanjayya and the famous Mallitamma, to whom is attributed fort of the 194 carved images on the outer walls.

Many inscriptions are found on the temple walls in the old Kannada script, and one such is the annual grant of 3000 gold coins given by King Narasimha III for the temple’s upkeep and maintenance. In this inscription the king is described with his full regal title.