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Old 6th April 2014, 14:48   #1
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Smile Somanathapura: An Ancient Monumental Jewel in a Classic Fiat Elegant

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Bangalore's surroundings offer a plethora of ancient monuments, nature parks and endless possibilities for weekend getaways. My friend, who was visiting, is a keen enthusiast of architecture and arts. Rather than vile away time in town, I offered him the choice of visiting one of the fabulous monuments around 3 hours drive from Bangalore. A small discussion later, we decided to visit the Chennakesava temple at Somnathpura.

The Chennakesava temple at Somnathpura is a Vaishnavaite temple to Lord Narayan. Built in similar fashion to that of Belur and Halebid, this temple complex, though not imposing, is a masterpiece of the sculpting arts finished to a level that is awe-inspiring. Supposedly built by the General Somnath, after whom the village is named, it is a place in which you could spend considerable time gazing at the amazing skill of the artisans who had carved these beautiful masterpieces in stone. What is astounding is the attention to detail and given the fact that these carvings are on the ceiling, it raises the question as to how the sculptors found the lighting to accomplish their intricate tasks. The temple, which is built in three, exquisitely carved, star-shapes with triple towers, is perfection itself.

The temple is resplendent with carvings, the friezes on its outer walls with their intricately carved rows of caparisoned elephants, charging horsemen, and mythological birds and beasts, scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and various aspects of life are astounding in detail. What is mysterious is the carvings by both the doors have be chiseled out.These usually have details of the temple in terms of constructor,grants,and other details of revelance to the period of construction. It is ultimately very sad too that religious intolerance led to the destruction of this beautiful temple by Mallik Kafur, allegedly, according to the local guide. The looters defiled the temple by breaking the statues. They tried to get to the treasure, which was thought to have been buried under the main statue, by breaking the presiding deity.

Visiting these monuments also raises the question about the diet of the people who worked on the site. It tends to get very very hot and yet they were able to weather the heat and produce these marvels of craftsmanship, which are unique and a treasure for centuries to come.

The Ride:

For the trip, I decided to take the classic Fiat Elegant. Having spent considerable time in the basement, seeing no action due to my lack of time to use it, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to take the old girl out. A change of water hoses, plugs and some fresh petrol was all it took to fire the old girl up. We exited Bangalore, driving on the Elevated flyover to E.City and from there to Mysore road. It was past 9 pm and we made pretty good time and stopped at a MILTRY hotel at Ramnagar for a delicious dinner, consisting Ragi Mudde and chicken masala. Seated back in the car, I couldn't find my keys. After some frantic searching I decided to use the Swiss Army knife. We decided to halt at Maddur for the night. Our plan was to leave early next morning and head to Somnathpur. After a chance meeting with Shakir and Mark and breakfast later, we found ourselves on the road to Bannur. This road, while good in patches, is quite scenic. A drive through after the monsoons will delight the senses.

The car performed quite well on the rough patches. Quite surprising is the ground clearance. There is hardly ever the worry of the bottom scrapping the speed-breakers. And for a car this old, it does have pretty decent brakes too. What the Fiat lacks in horsepower, it makes up with some really nice handling around bends. The radial tyres help too. The basic suspension set up of the Elegant means it can be chucked into corners and bends fairly fast. Also, the ribbon meter seemed to lose out on the accuracy count. Having carefully run in the engine for about 2,000 km (meter showed 704 miles as it was serviced and fitted later), I decided to try a couple of fast runs by gently pushing the engine further. The car seems to be geared with the fourth gear almost feeling like an overdrive. It seemed to picks it's paws and run once I engaged it after about 55 kph.

Thankfully, the old girl did not let us down. With my friend having to catch the Rajdhani at 8.20 pm, we decided to leave Somnathpur by 1.45 pm. Due to some fluke and brilliance of thought, I decided to abandon the Mysore road and take the Kanakapura route instead. This was a really good decision as it turned out. The road from Somnathpur to Malvalli has a few hindrances in the form of speed-breakers and rough patches but onward from there to Kanakapura, it is pretty decent. We made good progress hitting the NICE road and taking the E.City flyover to Koramangala IRR. We managed about 103 kph by the AGPS on the phone while the ribbon showed 50 miles/hr on the NICE road before my friend freaked out at my pushing the old car too far. The Fiat's horn sounds different from the current crop and hence elicits response. The radiator too worked well as I had replaced the core to a 4-line one and the fan-leaf to the diesel one, which has more blades. This is a practical modification which helps in summer. I remember our Select from my school days, which we would nurse along in summer going uphill.The return journey took about 3 hours and with some drama in the traffic jam towards Majestic, returning from his sister's at Marathahalli, my friend did manage to catch his train, as did I.

Somethings one must remember when visiting Somnathpur - please have a lot of time to spend and keep a very good camera handy. We did not, so we will be visiting again. And it gets pretty hot post noon and you are not allowed to wear slippers inside the temple. Try to reach early and spend time inside the temple during the hotter parts of the day.

If you admire art and have a taste for history, do not miss going to Somnathpur. It is brilliant. If other monuments are precious stone, this one is a diamond, cut, sparkling and shining away in a league of it's own. Clearly the first among equals.

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Old 6th April 2014, 18:35   #2
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Default re: Somanathapura: An Ancient Monumental Jewel in a Classic Fiat Elegant

Doing a trip of more than 100 kilometres in a more than 50 years old Fiat is commendable. People make noises about the reliability of the vintages and classics. This thread will shut their mouth forever.
BTW are the rims from the Padmini ?
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Old 6th April 2014, 19:05   #3
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Default re: Somanathapura: An Ancient Monumental Jewel in a Classic Fiat Elegant

Hey Jammy, good to see you back in TBHP after a long time. That too with a neat Travelogue. You ran into Shakir/Mark in Maddur, how do you do that?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 100kmph View Post
People make noises about the reliability of the vintages and classics. This thread will shut their mouth forever.
I am not so sure. Jammy is different than most. He can afford to take an unreliable vehicle on long drives because he is capable of fixing it, if it gets stranded for any reason. In fact, that is usually the case (stranding & fixing) when we go on a trip with Jammy.
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Old 6th April 2014, 19:06   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 100kmph View Post
Doing a trip of more than 100 kilometres in a more than 50 years old Fiat is commendable. People make noises about the reliability of the vintages and classics. This thread will shut their mouth forever.
BTW are the rims from the Padmini ?
Hi 100kmph,
The rims are from the Padmini,the rear brake drums are original though. The vehicle is quite reliable owing to the fact that I had it redone with a view to using it for trips upto 400km. So it performs almost as much as I wanted it to.
People who sneer at old cars forget that they were the backbone of transport in the country and will run reliably as long as they are looked after well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samurai View Post
Hey Jammy, good to see you back in TBHP after a long time. That too with a neat Travelogue. You ran into Shakir/Mark in Maddur, how do you do that?

I am not so sure. Jammy is different than most. He can afford to take an unreliable vehicle on long drives because he is capable of fixing it, if it gets stranded for any reason. In fact, that is usually the case (stranding & fixing) when we go on a trip with Jammy.
Hi Sharat,
Good to be back too. I spied a jeep with the trappings of an offroader at the wheel alignment shop at Maddur, it turned out to be Shakir and Mark who were headed to Mysore. Chatted over breakfast with them and went our way.
The old petrol vehicles are quite reliable as long as we give them proper electrical spares,good radiator,and quality oils post rebuild. Something I have learnt post the breaking down and fixing of vehicles both mine and others during the learning stage of trips we did.Also the engine was rebuilt by my Rajeev's people who used to tune old rallying and racing FIATs in Coimbatore,so it has the touch of their racing derived inputs from Fiats of olden days.So many thanks to him.
Cheers

Last edited by MM440 : 6th April 2014 at 19:33. Reason: back-to-back
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Old 7th April 2014, 00:22   #5
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Default re: Somanathapura: An Ancient Monumental Jewel in a Classic Fiat Elegant

Quote:
Originally Posted by MM440 View Post
Hi 100kmph,
The rims are from the Padmini,the rear brake drums are original though. The vehicle is quite reliable owing to the fact that I had it redone with a view to using it for trips upto 400km. So it performs almost as much as I wanted it to.
People who sneer at old cars forget that they were the backbone of transport in the country and will run reliably as long as they are looked after well.

Seeing at your trip, it instills confidence in me to do long trips on my Fiat 1100d whose restoration is in progress. Please have a look at the restoration thread
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/post-w...iat-1100d.html (Restoration of 1966 Fiat 1100D)
Are you using coolant or plain water for the radiator?
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Old 7th April 2014, 00:51   #6
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Default re: Somanathapura: An Ancient Monumental Jewel in a Classic Fiat Elegant

Quote:
Originally Posted by 100kmph View Post
Seeing at your trip, it instills confidence in me to do long trips on my Fiat 1100d whose restoration is in progress. Please have a look at the restoration thread
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/post-w...iat-1100d.html (Restoration of 1966 Fiat 1100D)
Are you using coolant or plain water for the radiator?
Using a little coolant for now,had a look at your thread,nice going there.
cheers
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Old 7th April 2014, 10:26   #7
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Default re: Somanathapura: An Ancient Monumental Jewel in a Classic Fiat Elegant

I wanted to visit this place from a long time , but somewhat I have been very lazy on Sundays. Was it very crowded when you were there ? I plan to ride there on my bike for some early morning photography and get back by noon . Is Kanakpura road good or do you advise going via nice road ?

Nice car by the way , I always like their engine tune.
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Old 7th April 2014, 22:54   #8
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Default re: Somanathapura: An Ancient Monumental Jewel in a Classic Fiat Elegant

Quote:
Originally Posted by girimajiananth View Post
I wanted to visit this place from a long time , but somewhat I have been very lazy on Sundays. Was it very crowded when you were there ? I plan to ride there on my bike for some early morning photography and get back by noon . Is Kanakpura road good or do you advise going via nice road ?

Nice car by the way , I always like their engine tune.
Hi,
Thanks for the compliment.I would suggest you ride through Kanakapura,definitely a lot more scenic and less traffic all the way.I would also like to caution you on the twisties on the road past Kanakapura.Please maintain sane speeds riding through villages in the interests of safety.You could also try the Polli hotel( Madeshwara hotel) in Halgur for some nice Benne Dosas for breakfast.
The place is not usually crowded,and it is big enough to give you the space you would seek to admire,click pictures and wander around if you like to do that sort of thing.The roads are good but rough in patches.I'd reckon you would be better off looking at returning post lunch.
Cheers.
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Old 8th April 2014, 23:22   #9
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Default Re: Somanathapura: An Ancient Monumental Jewel in a Classic Fiat Elegant

Hi Jammy
Welcome back to TBHP. Where have you been in a long time?
Very nice article, now that you mention it, I must visit this place.

OT: Please call me, I have PMed you my number

Regards
Andy
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Old 4th September 2014, 22:41   #10
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Default Re: Somanathapura: An Ancient Monumental Jewel in a Classic Fiat Elegant

Hi Jammy, Welcome back. Good to see you in action mate.

Since when this Fiat with you? Where are your jeeps?

This location looks promising, let me add it for my next trip agenda.

Thanks for writing.
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