Chennakesava Temple at Somanathapura
The Chennakesava Temple ( _kn. ಶ್ರೀ ಚೆನ್ನಕೇಶವ ದೇವಸ್ಥಾನ) located at
Somanathapurais one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture. This temple was built by Soma, a "Dandanayaka" (commander) in 1268 under Hoysala king Narasimha III, when the Hoysala Empirewas the major power in South India.
The temple is housed inside an impressive high wall and the entrance to the complex is through a porch with tall lathe-turned pillars.The use of bell-shaped lathe-turned pillars is a common feature of
Western Chalukya- Hoysalatemples (Kamath 2001, p. 117)] The material used for the temple is chloritic schist or soapstone.Kamath (2001) p. 136] The Western Chalukya carvings were done on green schist (Soapstone). This technique was adopted by the Hoysalas cite web|title=Architecture of the Indian subcontinent, 20 September 1996|url=http://www.indoarch.org/|author=Takeo Kamiya |publisher=Gerard da Cunha-Architecture Autonomous, Bardez, Goa, India|work=|accessdate=2006-11-13] The main reasons that make the Keshava temple standout amidst the large number of Hoysala monuments are its symmetrical architecture, fine sculptures on equally prominent shrines, and a temple that is surrounded by panels forming a cloister.Foekema (1996), p. 87] While there are Hoysala temples with better sculpture and others with better architecture, this temples satisfies all requirements. It was built by the famous architect/sculptor Ruvari Malithammawho was well-known for his expertise in ornamentation.According to the Mysore archaeological reports, cite web|title=Here, the past unfolds itself in all its glory & might -Hoyasala architecture in Somanathapura|url=http://www.chitralakshana.com/articles/UB%20githa/hoysala.htm|author=U.B. Githa, Research associate |publisher=Chitralakshana|work=Deccan Herald, Tuesday, May 11, 2004|accessdate=2006-11-13] The temple which is built on a "jagati" (platform)The Jagati serves the purpose of a "pradakshinapatha" (circumambulation) as the shrine has no such arrangement (Kamath 2001, p. 135)] This is a Hosala innovation cite web|title=History of Karnataka-Religion, Literature, Art and Architecture in Hoysala Empire|url=http://www.ourkarnataka.com/history.htm|author=Arthikaje, Mangalore|publisher=© 1998-00 OurKarnataka.Com,Inc|work=|accessdate=2006-11-13] is a "trikuta" (triple shrined) and fully satisfies the terminology as all "vimanas" (shrines) have a superstructure (tower).Depending on the number of towers, the temples are classified as ekakuta (one), dvikuta (two), trikuta (three), chatushkuta (four) and panchakuta (five). Most Hoysala temples are ekakuta (one tower), dvikuta (two towers) or trikuta (three towers over three shrines). Four shrined and five shrined temples ar rare. Sometimes a "trikuta" temple is literally not "trikuta" because only the central shrine of three shrines has a tower (Foekema 1996, p. 25)] 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 which is 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 nose 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".This is unusual because all other Hoysala designs have square or staggered square hall plan (Foekema 2001, p. 88)] The "jagati" closely follows the plan of the temple and there is a gallery with lathe-turned pillars all along the sides 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" into the "mantapa". The wide "jagati" invites devotees to follow the ritualistic clockwise circumambulation before entering the temple hall. The full effect of the rectangular hall is seen only when the temple profile is viewed. The hall has 16 bays. A bay is a square or rectangular compartment in the hall (Foekema, 1996 p. 93)] The outside wall of the hall is well decorated with relief friezes, and pierced windows screens above them.This is very commonly found in earlier Western Chalukya temples also (Kamath 2001, p. 116)] All the three shrines have a 16 pointed stellate(star-shaped) design and their towers follow the same pattern. Hence the whole structure looks like a rhythmic progression of well decorated projections and recesses. The number of points make the towers look circularAn eaves is a projecting roof overhanging a wall (Foekema 1996, p. 93)] The upper eaves is where the tower meets the wall of the shrine. The lower eaves is about a metre below the upper eaves. Between the two eaves are decorative miniature towers ( aedicule). Below the lower eaves are a panel of Hindu deities and their attendants. There are nearly 200 such panels. Below these panels are six horizontal mouldings or friezes of equal size with ornate depictions.A frieze is a rectangular band decorated with sculptures (Foekema 1996, p. 93)] The six mouldings of the base is divided into two sections. In the lower section, where the "jagati" meets the temple wall, the orderly placement of friezes starts with sculpted procession of elephants, horsemen and a band of foliage. The upper section has depictions from the Hindu epics and puranic scenes executed with detail, "yalis" (or "makara", an imaginary beast) and "hamsas" (swans). The Ramayanais depicted on the friezes on the south side wall, stories of Hindu God Krishnaon the rear and the Mahabharataon the north side. The overall effect of the decorated towers, wall images, friezes is well balanced.This is called Horizontal treatment (Kamath 2001, p. 134)]
Deity and sculptures
The ceiling of the hall is supported by lathe turned pillars. Between pillars, the ceiling is domed and intricately decorated. These decorations include multi-petalled lotuses, banana bud motifs based on stepped ponds and "ananta" (snake) knots symbolising eternity.cite web|title=Hoysala Heritage|url=http://www.flonnet.com/fl2008/stories/20030425000206700.htm |author=Professor S. Settar|publisher=Frontline, From the publishers of the Hindu|work=Frontline, Volume 20 - Issue 08,
April 12- 25, 2003|accessdate=2006-11-13] Other sculptures are 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, and heading for a hunt. There are sculptures of palaces of kings protected by armed guards, jewellery such as pendants, necklaces, waistbands and rings and of woman with different hair styles as well.
The names of many architects and sculptors have been discovered from which it is evident that the artists were both local and from outside the region. The famous Ruvari Mallithamma, Masanithamma, Chameya, Rameya, Chaudeya and Nanjeya are considered locals while Pallavachari and Cholavachari are thought of as artists from Tamil country.cite web|title=Here, the past unfolds itself in all its glory & might -Hoyasala architecture in Somanathapura|url=http://www.chitralakshana.com/articles/UB%20githa/hoysala.htm|author=U.B. Githa, Research associate |publisher=Chitralakshana|work=Deccan Herald, Tuesday,
May 11, 2004|accessdate=2006-11-13]
* Dr. Suryanath U. Kamath (2001). "A Concise History of Karnataka from pre-historic times to the present", Jupiter books, MCC, Bangalore (Reprinted 2002) OCLC: 7796041.
* Gerard Foekema, "A Complete Guide to Hoysala Temples", Abhinav, 1996 ISBN 81-7017-345-0
*Nilakanta Sastri, K.A. (1955). "A History of South India, From Prehistoric times to fall of Vijayanagar", OUP, New Delhi (Reprinted 2002), ISBN 019560686-8.
* [http://tamald.blogspot.com/2006/10/somanathapura-temple-art-of-hoysala.html Somanathapura, Temple art of the Hoysala Dynasty]
* [http://luhit.com/2008/04/06/somnathpura-temple-photo-gallery/ Somnathpura Temple photo gallery]
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