The Hoysala style part II

The two brothers Narasimha III and Ramanatha inherited kingdoms from their father Somesvara who divided his large kingdom between the two. Unfortunately the two rulers hardly saw eye to eye and fought each other bitterly for a long period of time. Narasimha III ruled for 37 years in the thirteenth century (1254-1291) over Darasamundra. Ramanatha ruled for 41 years (1254-1295) over Kannanur. Their feud only strengthened the Yadavas who moved further into the Hosalya land. The Hosalyas put up a fight against them in the end, but the retreat of the Yadavas laid waste to the Hoysala country. However the brothers clashed repeatedly and Ramanath even joined the Gajapatis of Orissa at Seileur to fight against Narasimha.

Of about 40 Sri Vaishnavas centres which received patronage under Narasimha III, Somnathpur possesses one of the most beautiful temples of the Hoysala period: the temple of Keshava was built in 1268 by Somnath, the minister of Narasimha III. The difference between this compound and the Belur complex and the Halebid temple is that the Keshava temple conserves its superstructures and seem to be much more harmonious.

The Keshava temple:
A: Gopura entrance gate
B: Enclosure with gantry and cells
C: Courtyard
D: The Pradarkshina platform
E: The Mukhamandapa gantry
G: The Antarala hall
H: The Garbhagriha cell

The star shape base on top of this temple allows more possibilities for the sculptures to be inserted between each panel. Placed under arches or under flagstones, the statues are remarkable decorative works of great beauty. This statue below, which beautifies the temple of Somnathpura, represents Lord Visnu with his conch and Sundarchana Chakra.

Lord Visnu with his conch and Sundarchana Chakra.

The Somnathpura temple conserves its cover roof and is one of the most beautiful Hoysala temples. From the top of the temple enclosure, you can admire the panoramic view of the star shape of the temple compound, as well as the vertical lines of the constructions. They seem to be turning around themselves like a spirally movement. The three cells which constitute the complex dedicated to lord Visnu radiate from the rectangular mandapa following a blueprint in the form of a Latin cross as seen above.

Keshava Temple in Somnathpura

Preceded by a gantry, the mandapa is itself divided into two rooms, one with twelve columns, and the other with four columns. The second room opens on new cells preceded by a vestibule. The sanctuaries are built on an unusual diagram: The central sanctuary shelters the deity of Keshava, an expansion of Lord Vishnu, while the lateral sanctuaries are reserved to Venu-Gopal, representing Krishna playing the flute and to Janardana (He to whom all devotees pray for worldly success and liberation), another aspect of Vishnu. The base of the temple is decorated with superimposed friezes representing Elephants, horses, vegetal volutes, and scenes from the Vedic literatures, and surmounted by niches containing different Gods and a series of miniature edifices. A large eave bordered with festoons forms the base of the superstructure, which prolongs the star shape movement of the lower walls. The detailed carvings of the roof’s cover are staged on four levels and end in a double lotus with curved petals. The mere profusion of statues, the meticulous details, as well as the continuous play of projections and depressions contributes to the wealth of this decor.

Intricate carvings of the Keshava temple in Somnathpura from the star shaped Gopura

The Hoysala architecture style is unique and is described as Karnataka Dravida as distinguished from the traditional Dravida, and is considered an independent architectural tradition.
Dravidian architecture is a style of architecture that emerged thousands of years ago in the Indian continent.
They consist primarily of pyramid shaped temples, dependent on intricate carved stone in order to create a step design consisting of numerous statues of deities, warriors, kings, and dancers.
Surveys in modern times have indicated that 1000–1500 structures were built by the Hoysalas, of which about a hundred temples have survived to date. The Hoysala art is a translation of the artist’s ebullient expression , enhanced by the ingenuity of the Hoysala Chalukyan artists. It is said that even the great Cholas could not get their artists to produce works with the same effervescence.

Sources:
The Hoysala temples by S. Settar, ”L’inde ancienne” published by Gründ, Wikipedia.