We went to Somnathapura after a disappointing experience at Talakadu, about which we had heard a lot. (We were traveling freelance, and I have to confess, without having done any prior research.) The driver of the taxi (Mahesh of Travel Parkz Taxi Service in Mysore) was puzzled at our disappointment, and asked what exactly we were looking for, and we told him we had expected something altogether more spectacular and monumental, more an old architectural marvel than a functional temple thronged by hundreds of people, something along the lines of Belur and Halebidu that we had visited in 2010. Mahesh broke into a big smile and said he knew exactly what we meant, and off we drove to Somnathapura, about 30 minutes away from Talakadu.
The Kesava temple is simply gorgeous. It stands in the middle of grounds that are currently being developed into a park, and is a spectacular example of the architecture of the Hoysalas, who ruled in Karnataka in the 13th century. It is in exactly the same style as the Chennakesava temple in Belur or the Hoysaleswara temple in Halebidu in Hassan district northwest of Mysore, also built under the Hoysalas. It is clean, not very crowded, and you can easily spend a couple of hours at the complex, just looking around, taking pictures and marvelling at the workmanship that carved thousands of these small, intricate figures out of stone, with not one aspect anywhere an inch out of proportion. Truly breathtaking.
A warning for those with delicate or sensitive feet: You are expected to take your shoes off outside the main temple [don't worry, they won't get pinched, but if you are nervous, just tell the guard in the blue uniform to keep an eye on them; he is cheerful and obliging, and all he expects (though he will not ask for it up front) in return is a 10-rupee (about 16 cents or 10 pence at December 2013 exchange rates) tip], and parts of the stone floor are a little rough. You won't suffer a cut or get hurt, but it's good to be careful.
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