Welcome to Art’s first guest post here.

Somnath, I thought it was in Gujarat and was surprised to find another place by almost the same name in Karnataka. We were on our way to Georgia Sunshine village when we requested our driver to take us to any place of interest en route.

Usually, I would have read up/ watched a travel story on the destinations. It kills the romance and surprise of discovering something altogether new. Though one could argue that the thrill of seeing it in person still remains.

After the mandatory detour to fuel our stomachs at Mylari in Mysore, we reached Somanthpur (about 40 kms away). It was around 10 in the morning. We had no expectations what so ever as we headed for the Keshava Temple in this little hamlet.

A nominal entry fee ( Rs 10 if I recollect) and then a large lawn, well manicured and punctuated with huge trees greeted us. There were some lovely birds which are predominantly white while just one among them was black ( like a “drishti pottu”)* ?

Commissioned by and named after an officer of the Hoysala empire, the Keshava Temple is enclosed in a courtyard. It dates back to the 13th century and yet wears a well preserved look. It stands elevated on a platform /pedestal.

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At the main entry there is a large stone wall which has the names of the workmen who were part of this project. They made sure that they leave more than a mark! Mallithamma was the foremost among them with his name inscribed on various pillars as well.

The temple has three sanctums and the deities housed include Venugopal, Keshava and Janardhana. The ceilings are lavishly embellished with patterns of flowers like the lotus and snakes intertwined. The outer walls reminded me of Belur- Halebid with elephants and peacocks and a myriad other animals and of course deities and their attendants. The number three continues to dominate in terms of the number of shikaras that the temple has.

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As we were leaving, an intrepid foreign contingent came with a French interpreter who waxed eloquent for pretty long about the site. I missed having an English/ Hindi speaking guide to tell me more about this enchanting piece of art.

* Nazar ka tika; Mark to ward off the evil eye

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