Somanathapura Chennakesava Temple




The Chennakesava Temple, also referred to as Chennakeshava Temple, Keshava Temple or Kesava Temple, is a Vaishnava Hindu temple on the banks of River Kaveri at Somanathapura, Karnataka, India. The temple was consecrated in 1258 CE by Somanatha Dandanayaka, a general of the Hoysala King Narasimha III. It is located 38 kilometres (24 mi) east of Mysuru city.

The ornate temple is a model illustration of the Hoysala architecture. The temple is enclosed in a courtyard with a pillared corridor of small shrines (damaged). The main temple in the center is on a high star-shaped platform with three symmetrical sanctums (garbha-griha), set in a square matrix (89′ x 89′) oriented along the east-west and north-south axes. The western sanctum was for a statue of Kesava (missing), the northern sanctum of Janardhana and the southern sanctum of Venugopala, all forms of Vishnu. The sanctums share a common community hall (sabha-mandapa) with many pillars. The outer walls, the inner walls, the pillars and the ceiling of the temple are intricately carved with theological iconography of Hinduism and display extensive friezes of Hindu texts such as the Ramayana (southern section), the Mahabharata (northern section) and the Bhagavata Purana (western section of the main temple).

The Chennakesava temple, states George Michell, represents the climax of the development in Hoysala temple style and yet is also unique in many ways.
The Somanathapura town was founded in the 13th century by a general named Somanatha (Someya Dandanayaka in some inscriptions). He was working for the Hoysala King Narasimha III. Somanatha created an Agrahara, that is granted land to Brahmins and dedicated resources to build and maintain temples therein. The town (pura) became known after the name of the patron, Somanatha-pura. The location is also referred by alternate spellings, such as Somnathpur.

In the middle of the new settlement, Somanatha built the Kesava temple and consecrated it in 1258 CE. This was a Vaishnavism tradition temple. In addition to this temple, Somanatha consecrated a Shaivism tradition related Panchalinga temple (literally, “five linga temple”) in the east-northeast corner of the land grant. He also built a fort wall around the land, but these are now in ruins. According to the inscriptions and textual evidence, Somanatha additionally built the Purahara, Narasimhesvara, Murahara, Lakshminarasimha and Yoganarayana temples in Hoysala style in the region, but all these temples except the Lakshminarasimha have disappeared, after wars between the Hindu kingdoms and Muslim Sultanates ravaged the region. The Lakshminarasimha temple is also in ruins. From the other disappeared temples, the sanctum image of Yoganarayana temple is only known surviving artwork, but it too is in a damaged form.

The Kesava temple too was badly damaged, according to 15th-century inscriptions. It was repaired in the 16th century with financial support and grants by the emperors of the Vijayanagara Empire. The repairs are evidenced by the different color of stones and quality of work in the veranda and parts of the northern tower and platform of the main temple. The repaired temple was damaged in the 19th century, then repaired again in the early 20th century by the colonial era Mysore government.
The Kesava temple is one of some 1,500 Hindu and Jain temples built by the Hoysala Empire kings in different parts of their kingdom. The other well studied Hoysala temples include those at Belur and Halebidu.

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