Thursday, July 20, 2023

Someshwara temple, Bangalore

Mandapa in front of the temple. Photo from Wikipedia

Its not everyday that one discover an old famous temple (yet unknown to me) in Bangalore city. This is what happened on that weekend. As my mother was in Bangalore at that time, I was looking for a temple to visit during weekend. Then suddenly Someshwara temple came the in search results.


Located close to Halasuru metro station in Old Madras Road (OMR), this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and one of the oldest temple in the city. It is believed that, this temple dates back to Chola period. Significant additions were later made during the Vijayanagara period; when Kampagowda was the ruler of then Bangalore.


Halasuru (better known as Ulsoor) is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Bangalore. It is believed that, there was an early settlement around Someshwara temple. In mid 16th century, Halasuru was one of the 12 hoblis (group of villages) granted by Achutaraya (then ruler of Vijayanagar empire) to the local ruler Kempagowda. Water for for farming and sustaining a community was available from Ulsoor lake (attributed to Kempagowda). Later in 1807, Company established a cantonment in Ulsoor.


We went there on a Saturday morning. After parking the bike in the front; we walked towards the temple. First structure we encounter was a majestic pillar in front of gopuram. After looking at the pillar for sometime we walked towards the gopuram. It’s an imposing structure. Lower half of the gopuram was constructed using stone and the multi- storied upper half was constructed using brick and mortar. Crossing the gopuram took us to a large ground, were small shrines are present on both sides. After visiting these shrines we walked towards the mahamandapa.


Mahamandatpa is located in front of main shrine and have 48 decorated pillars. These pillars have more than five hundred relief sculptures carved into it. Most pillars have seated lions at its base; however, the carvings in the middle and top differs. Frequently used relief sculptures are that of Shiva (in the forms of Nataraja, Virabhadra, Mrityunjaya, Umasahita etc), Parvati, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Ganesha etc. There were also carvings of animals, ascetic, gods, goddesses, hybrid animals etc.


On the door way, there is an illustration of King Ravana shaking Mt. Kailasha; goddess Mahishasuramardini; dwarapalakas etc. In one pillar, symbol of Vijayanagar kings - double headed eagle - is depicted. This image later became the symbol of Wodeyar kings of Mysore and eventually become part of Karnataka State emblem.


Closed circular pathway comes after open mandapa; here we saw the idols of a lot of deities. We took a left turn to the path way; after walking the entire circumference reached the front again. This time we went inside and saw sanctum (rectangular/square in shape) and the idol of Shiva inside. There were hardly 10-15 people inside. After spending some time there we came outside.


On the right side of main temple, there is a separate shrine for Kamakshi Devi (a form of goddess Parvati).


Outer walls of main temple on the right side depict wedding ceremony of Parvati and Shiva (Girija kalyana story). Brahma officiating the marriage as priest; father of the bride (also king of mountains Himavan) pour sacred water to the arm of Shiva; which then falls in to the joint hands of the couple and then flows down to the mouth of Nandi.


A Navagraha (nine planets) temple is located on the north side. There are 12 pillars to this temple and each pillar depict a saint (rishi).

Row of sculptures on the southern wall shows nava nathas (nine saints) on various animals. Its not that, only gods and rishis are depicted here. We also have dancer's gestures, porters, wrestlers, snake charmers, huntsman etc.


The story of the temple may not be complete without telling the story of Venkata Sundara Sani. She was a devadasi attached to Someshawara Temple. She wrote the book on dance titled, 'Rasikajana Manollasini Sarasangraha Bharata' in Sanskrit written using Kannada script in 1908. This temple was also a meltipng pot of various cultures, traditions and various regions of south India. Performers here used the works from Telugu composers Tyagaraja, Shyama Shastry etc; also from Kannada composers Purandaradasa, Vyasatirtha etc. In Sani's book there are references to Bharatanatya which means the rich tradition of Tamil culture as well.


Recent excavations showed the presence of a Kalyani (temple pond) associated with the temple. It is estimated that Kalyani may be more than 1200 years old.


We went through the shirnes one by one and finally reached the room where some yajna was going on. After watching the ritual for some time, we came out and crossed the gopuram once again.





1. Someshwara Temple - Ulsoor - INTACH

2. A temple and its dancer who published a book

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