Somanathapura (also known as Somnathpur) is a small town located 35 km from Mysore city in Mysore district, Karnataka, India. Somanathapura is famous for the Chennakesava Temple (also called Kesava or Keshava temple) built by Soma, a dandanayaka (commander) in 1268 CE under Hoysala king Narasimha III, when the Hoysalas were the major power in South India. The Keshava temple is one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture and is in a very well preserved condition. The temple is in the care of the Archeological Survey of India as a protected heritage site and visitors are allowed only from 9:00AM to 5:30PM.
Deity & Sculptures:
The ceiling of the mantapa (hall) is supported by lathe turned pillars, a standard feature in Hoysala constructions. Between pillars, the ceiling is domical and intricately decorated. These decorations could include multi-petalled lotuses, banana bud motifs based on stepped ponds and snake like (ananta) knots (symbolising eternity). Of the three shrines, one shrine has the image of the god Keshava, but the image is missing from the sanctum. The other two shrines house images of Janardhana and Venugopala (all three images are forms of the Hindu god Vishnu). This is strictly a Vaishnava temple and there are no depictions of any forms of the Hindu god Shiva.
The temple is housed inside an impressive high walled enclosure and the entrance to the complex is through a porch with tall lathe-turned pillars. The material used for the temple is soapstone (Green schist). The Keshava temple standouts out as one of the finest the Hoysala architects produced. Its symmetrical architecture, fine sculptures on equally prominent shrines, and panel sculptures form a cloister that speak of good taste. While there are Hoysala temples with better sculpture and others with better architecture, this temples satisfies all requirements. According to the Mysore archaeological reports, it was built by the famous architect and sculptor Ruvari Malithamma who was well known for his expertise in ornamentation.
According to the art critic Gerard Foekema, the temple is of the "New style" because it has two eaves running around the temple and there are six moldings at the base of the outer walls. The upper eaves is where the tower meets the wall of the shrine. The lower eaves is about a meter below the upper eaves. Between the two eaves are decorative miniature towers (called aedicule). Below the lower eaves are a panel of Hindu deities in frieze and their attendants. There are nearly two hundred such panels. Below these panels are six horizontal moldings or friezes of equal size with ornate decorations. The six mouldings of the base are divided into two sections.