Day trip: Somnathapura

After a good 6 years of using the good EOS 450D I upgraded the body to EOS 750D. Not having had a chance to use it for anything major other than shooting my posing cat, I wanted to ‘blood’ it soon. I hadn’t been to Somnathapura, ever, and this is also the season in Srirangapatna. With issues about food and the lack of options cropping up, I cropped the trip down to just Somnathapura. Anand also duly signed up and we set out in the morning at 7:30 AM. The route was via Kanakapura as Mysore Road was expected to be bad, this being a long weekend and all, and also boring, this being Mysore Road we’re talking about. The only concern was the road condition from Malavalli onwards.

Vasu’s at Kanakapura was reached, breakfast of hot Masala Dosas had and we set off. It looked like we’d reach there around 10 if the road conditions were good and 10:30 if bad. Thankfully, the section from Malavalli to Bannur is freshly laid. After Santhemara work seemed to be going on, but that is also where we had to turn off towards Somanathapura. The rest of the journey was thankfully good and we reached there by 10 AM.

This being a Saturday there were a lot of school trip vans, and a lot more tourists in general. It usually gets clubbed with Srirangapatna and its palaces and other stuff, being only 30-odd Kms from there.

Somnathpura is much larger than the other smaller temples I’ve been doing the past year or so, but smaller than Belur and Halebidu. Maybe almost the same size as Belur, but Belur also has a much larger courtyard. The sculptures are similar to Halebeedu with 7 levels of moldings followed by the main friezes in the middle. Belur has around 3-5 at most places.

Main temple
Somnathpura temple

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The relief of horses had a few surprises thrown in in the form of Camels and horses dressed like Persian horses.

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Camels amidst horses

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Camels amidst horses

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The main sculptures are pretty Vishnu centric. There weren’t many surprises. But maybe we needed to look closer. There was the chilled out one, but not by Baichoja. The carvings aren’t as intricate as in Nuggehalli or elsewhere, especially the platform on which each frieze rests.
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We did notice a fish-headed Vishnu and a tortoise headed one to denote Matsya and Kurma.

Matsya - Fish headed Vishnu
Matsya

 

Kurma - Tortoise/turtle headed Vishnu
Kurma

There were stories from the Ramayana, which oddly stopped after Seetha’s abduction.

Stories from the Ramayana
Jatayu fighting Ravana

It takes off with Krishna’s story right after. Guess someone lost his job for doing Rama instead of Krishna in a Keshava temple.
Ananthashayana

Putana and Krishna
Pootana and Krishna

 

Krishna's childhood
Krishna’s childhood

 

Krishna and Balarama wrestling Mushtika and his group
Wrestling Mushtika

War from the Mahabharatha

There was also a relief with images of Prahlada being attacked by elephants and executioners before Narasimha destroys Hiranyakashipu.

Prahlada on fire...
Prahlada thrown into fire

 

Prahlada attacked by an elephant
Prahlada attacked by an elephant

 

Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu as Prahlada looks on
Narasimha killing Hiranyakashipu. Doesn’t seem completed.

The inner sanctum is heavily carved, similar to Belur. The work on the ceilings is very intricate, and there was some story being parried by the guides about them being flowers in various stages of opening. The idols were apparently desecrated by Mohammed Bin Tughlaq. They’ve been placed back, but no worship happens.

Ceiling work
Intricately carved ceiling work

 

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Idol placed for representation purposes

 

The raised platform is typically star/lotus shaped and not circular.  This offers overhangs where you can shoot wider photos from. But it’s usually a good idea to stay close to the wall and the sculptures. The floor not being uniform, the likelihood of dropping off the platform between the overhangs is pretty high. Which is pretty much what happened as I had gone to one of these edges to get a better picture of the vimana and also discuss some work with Anand. He moved straight back to the walls, I moved sideways and felt myself dropping. There was a massive clatter of plastic, but thankfully neither the camera nor its lens were damaged. I apparently fell right in the middle and thus avoided banging my head on the sides. It was a 3-4 ft drop only. An ankle sprain, one sore elbow, and another bleeding elbow, and being generally shaken was what I was left with. The camera had literally been ‘blooded’. Such it goes.

Bards?
Bards on the vimana

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The houses in the area are painted in typical Karnataka village fashion, in bright colours. It might look gaudy and not too subtle, but when a lot of houses do that, it looks fun.

Painted houses
Painted houses

We left at 11:15 AM and followed the same route back. I dropped Anand off by 1:45 and was home by 2 PM.

Rest of the photos here:
Somnathpura - Jan 2016

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