October 20, 2012

Dharmasthala - the abode of Dharma

Site Name: Dharmasthala
Site Type: Hindu pilgrimage and Jain pilgrimage
Location:  Around 300 kms from Bangalore, around 75 kms from Mangalore, Karnataka state, India
Highlights: A unique site where the Hindu temple is being administered by a Jain
Nearest Railway Station: Mangalore
Nearest Airport: Mangalore
How to reach: Well connected by road from Mangalore; a lot of public buses ply
Hotel: Accommodation is available only in temple guest houses; they are maintained very well
Restaurants: Vegetarian food is served for all the devotees in Manjunath temple; a lot of small vegetarian restaurant are found across the town

Dharmasthala can be literally translated as 'the abode of Dharma'. As per this name, one can find almost all manifestations of Dharma - duty, charity, justice, devotion, faith, etc. The entire town is a religious town which is considered as sacred by Hindus and Jains. The main attraction of the town is Manjunath temple. It is a unique Shiva temple having Vaishnaivite (supposed to worship Lord Vishnu) priest and being administered by Jain family. Let me explore this divine town in detail in this article.

Manjunath Temple
Manjunath Temple:

Manjunath temple is the main attraction of Dharmasthala. Thousands of devotees throng to this temple. You can always find a long queue of devotees in the temple entrance. The 16th century temple resembles Kerala style temple architecture; however, from outside it appears more like a Chettinad Palace rather than a temple. The temple vimana is adorned by gold. If you exclude the dining halls, waiting rooms, rooms for devotees to stay, etc. it is a very small temple. The main shrine is dedicated to Shiv Linga named as Manjunatha. The idol of Annappa and Ganapati are found at the entrance of the shrine. The next shrine is dedicated to the Goddess Ammavaru. The temple has just one prakara.


Bahubali is the second most tourist attraction after Manjunath temple in Dharmasthala. The 39 feet monolithic statue of Bahubali weighing 170 tonnes standing on top of 13 feet platform is an important pilgrimage for Jains. 

As per the legend, the king Rishabha made his first son Bharat as the king of Ayodhya and his second son Bahubali as the king of Podanpur. Rishabha is the first Jain Tirthankara. India is named after the king Bharat and called as 'Bharat'. He got some powerful weapons from the Devas and won almost all the kings except his own brother Bahubali. Both fought in a fierce battle. Bharat was defeated; however his life was spared. All of a sudden, Bahubali realised the futility of war; he handed over the kingdom to his brother and became a Digambara Jain saint. He stood naked and did a severe penance till he got enlightenment. 

The statue in this site depicts Bahubali standing naked and performing penance. The shrine located on top of the small Ratnagiri hill can be reached by a leisurely climb of steps or by road in a vehicle. It is located at a distance of around 1 km from the town bus stand. The statue was installed in 1982 AD. Since then, it remains as one of the most important tourist sites of Karnataka state.

A sculpture in the Chandranath temple wall
Chandranath Temple:

Chandranath temple is a beautiful and pleasant site. It is a Jain temple dedicated to Chandraprabhu Tirthankara. The temple wall is full of small bas relief images depicting the Jain stories. There is a small shrine for Padmavathy. The temple is located on top of a small rocky and can be reached by climbing few not so steep steps. 

Neliyadi Beedu:

Neliyadi Beedu is the house where the ancestors of the Jain Heggade family who administer Manjunath temple today. As per the legend, as per the request by four Dharmadevatas (Kalarkai, Kumaraswamy, Kalarahu and Kanyakumari) Bimanna Heggade left this house. It happened around 800 years ago. Since then, it is believed that all those four devatas reside in this house. The house is always locked. Once can get the glimpse of the house only from outside. This site is located next to Chandranath Jain Temple.

Manjusha Car Museum:

Manjusha Car Museum is definitely a surprise element in the holy town of Dharmasthala where only temples are expected. The museum has a great collection of a lot of rare vintage cars.

Annappa Betta:

Annappa Betta is a temple located on a small hilltop at a distance of around 0.5 km from Manjunath temple. It can be reached by 30+ steps. Children and ladies are not allowed in this site. The temple has four shrines dedicated to four Dharmadevatas who visited the Jain family 800 years ago. There is no idol in any of these shrines. If one peeps through the window, a swing can be found inside a shrine. 

Go and visit this unique holy place called Dharmasthala.

Happy travelling.

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