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Somnathpur Travelogue - A Marvel of Hoysala Architecture

Discussion in 'Travelogues' started by Debapriya Deb, Jul 3, 2015.

  1. Debapriya Deb

    Debapriya Deb Active Member


    Do you have any fond memories of history classes during your school life? I do have. It was this period that gave me widespread recognition in school as a budding poet. Now if you are struggling hard but could not establish a relationship between history and literature, that's not your fault. I am here to take the blame entirely as there is no apparent link between these two subjects.

    Let's set the record straight. History was the subject that I used to hate from the core of my heart. I always wondered what purpose does it serve in real life. What difference would it make if I am not aware of which king belonged to what dynasty? Not to mention the eternal struggle to recollect the year on which a certain event had taken place! "All nonsensical bullsh*t that have absolutely no relevance today" - was my honest verdict on history throughout the school days.

    So I thought to utilize the history class to impress my childhood sweet-heart (now the mother of my kid), who incidentally was my classmate in the same school. The ghost of a certain Rabindranath Tagore made a permanent residence inside my brain and words started to color my canvas of imagination. That was the beginning of tryst with words.

    A Prologue

    My perception of history being an annoying subject turned out to be a premature conclusion when we went for a Delhi-Agra trip on my final year at school. I was fascinated at the sight of the Taj Mahal, Lal Kila and Fatehpur-Sikri and gradually started to take interest in places of historical significance. From then on, I have been to many historical monuments, palaces and forts, within India and abroad, which have successfully survived the test of time.

    The Attraction

    The urge to witness one of the greatest art-works of ancient India was the reason behind our tour to Somnathpur. A perfect weekend getaway from Bangalore, Somnathpur, situated at a distance of 35 KM from Mysore, is a place of great historical significance. Somnathpur underwent a major facelift during the Hoysala empire, which ruled most of the Southern India between 10th and 14th centuries.

    The prime attraction at Somnathpur is the historical Chennakesava Temple built on the bank of Cauvery river during Hoysala ruling in the 12th Century. Keeping the-then religious significance aside, this temple is one of the finest examples of Hoysala Architecture. Taken care of by the Archeological Survey of India as a protected heritage site, it is considered to be the best preserved specimen of the distinct stone-crafted architecture that the Hoysala Kingdom was famous for. This is one of the three Hoysala architectural marvels (alongside Belur & Halebid) that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    What Matters the Most

    1. This marvelous creation patronged by Hoysala King Narasimha III is open to visitors from 9 AM to 5.30 PM throughout the week.

    2. An entry fee of INR 5 is collected from the visitors as maintenance fee by the Archeological Survey of India.

    3. Vehicle parking is available for free. Some locals may approach you with parking slips demanding fees, but that's not official. Knowledge of local language, Kannada, can be handy to drive them away.

    4. Toilets are available, but not very neat and tidy.

    5. Few shops are there near the entrance, but no decent option for lunch.

    The Travelogue:

    We visited this gem of archaeological brilliance on the 24th of April 2015. Alongside the usual suspects (wifey and daughter), my brother-in-law also accompanied us on this day trip from Bangalore. The distance between Bangalore to Somnathpur is around 135 KM which usually takes around 3 hours for one way journey.

    There are two alternative routes to reach Somnathpur from Bangalore. The first one is via Mysore Road (NH-275), while the other is through Kanakapura (NH209). Both the routes have their own advantages and disadvantages. While the 4-lane Mysore highway is shorter by 8 KM, the condition of the road from Mandya to Somnathpur (33 KM) is in shambles. On the other hand, it's a 2-lane road through Kanakapura and Malavalli - so you need to negotiate both-way traffic. The condition of this route is, however, far better. But due to its narrow width, traffic jams are a regular occurrence in Bangalore-Kanakapura stretch.

    We decided to take the first route through Mandya because of two reasons. Firstly, Bangalore-Mysore highway is easily accessible from my place through NICE Ring Road, which would save me the time needed to manoeuvre through high density traffic within Bangalore city. Secondly, the availability of several wonderful eateries en-route to douse off our hunger.

    Our Route (130 KM): Bangalore -> Ramanagaram -> Channapatna -> Maddur -> Mandya -> Somnathpur

    Alternative Route (138 KM): Bangalore -> Kanakapura -> Sathanur -> Malavalli -> Somnathpur

    Our Ride
    : Maruti Alto 800.

    Travellers: 4 (wifey, daughter, brother-in-law and myself)

    Trip Date: 24/04/2015

    Somnathpur was the only place that we planned to visit on that day. It allowed us the luxury to approach the journey in a relaxed manner. After finishing off the delicious masala dosa prepared by my better half for breakfast, we started towards Somnathpur at 7:30 in the morning. The sky was partly cloudy and the weather was pleasant - making it a perfect day to venture out.

    Filled up the fuel tank at the Shell Petrol Bunk off Hosur Road and continued towards Electronic City before turning right to approach the NICE Road. As always, it was a pleasure to drive on this beautiful stretch. Maintained a speed of 100-110 KMPH throughout the entire stretch till we joined the Bangalore-Mysore expressway right after Kengeri.

    We passed by Ramanagaram and Channapatna before taking a short break for tea at around 8:45 AM. Reached Mandya at 9:30 and asked a passerby for directions to head to Somnathpur. We had to take a left diversion to join SH-84 from Mandya. Then again turned left after a couple of kilometers to continue along SH-79 for another 30 odd kilometers. The condition of the road was better than what I had expected, except couple of bad patches in between. On the brighter side, the route to Somnathpur from Mandya is well-marked with direction boards. Also, the natural landscape is outstanding, especially towards the end of the journey. I could even spot a pair of hornbills, numerous egrets and grey herons during the drive to Somnathpur.

    We arrived at the entrance of the beautiful Chennakesava Temple at 10:45 AM, collected the entry tickets and went through a well-maintained garden to reach the historical structure. I was awestruck by such a beautiful piece of ancient architecture with the finest example of stone carvings that I have ever seen. I mean, the stone sculptures can be gazed at for hours and yet you would find it extremely difficult to turn your attention off the brilliant workmanship.

    For more than couple of hours, we thoroughly observed every corner, both exterior and interior designs, of this amazing structure with minute attention. One could only appreciate the skill and effort required to come up with such a fine piece of art-work. To be frank, words are not sufficient to describe the charm associated with Somnathpur. However, you can always turn your attention to some of the photographs captured during the tour to quench your thirst.

    The time had ticked past 1:30 PM when came out of the temple. Wifey was impressed by some embroidery designs on display at a handloom store near the entrance. She picked up couple of cusions and a hand bag from there before we started for the return journey. Followed the same route while coming back.

    We had our lunch at Hotel Empire off Mysore-Bangalore highway after Maddur. Food was superb and the staffs were courteous, so I will definitely recommend it to others.

    Finally, we managed to reach Bangalore at around 5:15 PM to conclude a satisfying tour to Somnathpur. The total tripmeter reading was 282 KM. I must also mention that my little Alto-800 gave an excellent fuel-economic performance and I got a millege of over 19 KMPL with intermittent AC throughout the journey. So alongside the Hoysala architects, hats off to Maruti engineers as well.

    princess, Deven and Chahal like this.

  2. Deven

    Deven Member

    Absolutely wonderful place and cant get over the detail in the building. Such places need to be shown on the discovery channel, India has so much of history and building of great architecture which are hidden from the world.

  3. princess

    princess New Member

    I never knew such a beautiful place exists so close to Bangalore. Very well written. I will love to go to Somnathpur in days to come.