Unseen Passage: Somnathpur Temple

The small village of Somnathpur contains an extraordinary temple, built around A.D. 1268 by the Hoyasalas of Karnataka—one of the most prolific temple-builders. Belur and Helebid are among their-better-known works. While these suffered during the invasions of the 14th century, the Somnathpur temple stands more or less intact in near-original condition.

This small temple captivates with the beauty and vitality of its detailed sculpture, covering almost every inch of the walls, pillars, and even ceilings. It has three shikharas and stands on a star-shaped, raised platform with 24 edges. The outer walls have a profusion of detailed carvings : the entire surface run over by carved plaques of stone. There were vertical panels covered by exquisite figures of god and goddesses, with many incarnations being depicted.

There were nymphs too, some carrying an ear of maize (a symbol of plenty and prosperity). The elaborate ornamentation, very characteristic of Hoyasalas sculptures, was a remarkable feature. On closer look—and it is worth it—the series of friezes on the outer walls revealed intricately carved caparisoned elephants, charging horsemen, stylised flowers, warriors, musicians, crocodiles, and swans.

The temple was actually commissioned by Soma Dandanayaka or Somnath (he named the village after himself), the minister of Hoyasala king, Narasimha the Third. The temple was built to house three versions of Krishna. The inner center of the temple was the kalyana mandapa. Leading from here were three corridors, each ending in a shrine, one for each kind of Krishna-Venugopala, Janardana and Prasanna Keshava, though only two remain in their original form. In the darkness of the sanctum sanctorum, I tried to discern the different images. The temple’s sculptural perfection is amazing and it includes the doors of the temple and the three elegantly carved towers.

Q. On the basis of your reading of the passage given above, answer the following question.

  1. The Somnath temple was built to house the three.
    1. prolific temple builders
    2. symbols of prosperity
    3. versions of Krishna
    4. Hoyasalas of Karnataka
  2. The outer walls of the temple have a profusion of detailed:
    1. carvings
    2. captivates
    3. invasions
    4. shikharas
  3. The temple stands on a star-shaped platform having 24 edges and ____________.
    1. god and goddesses
    2. nymphs
    3. captivities
    4. 3 shikharas
  4. The beauty of the temple lies its detailed carrings on the:
    1. outer walls
    2. ceiling
    3. pillars
    4. all of these
  5. The temple stands on a:
    1. star-shaped platform
    2. moon-shaded platform
    3. V-shaped platform
    4. U-shaped platform
  6. The series of friezes on the outer walls displayed:
    1. caprisoned elephants
    2. charging horseman
    3. warriors
    4. all of these
  7. Each corridor leading from Kalyan a mandapa was ending in a __________.
  8. The towers of the temple had no attraction at all. (True/False)


  1. versions of Krishana
  2. carvings
  3. 3 shikharas
  4. all of these
  5. star-shaped platform
  6. all of these
  7. Shrine
  8. False

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