Sri Manjunatha temple is in Dharmasthala, the abode of dharma or righteousness. The presiding deity here is Lord Shiva, the priests are of the Madhwa Vaishnava persuasion, and the Heggades, temple guardians, are Jains. On the hill nearby is a giant statue of the Jain muni, Sri Bahubali.
According to the sthala purana, 800 years ago, when Dharmasthala was known as Kuduma, there lived here a Jain chieftain, Birmanna Pergade, with his wife. One day, some dharma devatas came to their house in the form of strangers, but were still feted and fed. Later that night, Pergade had a dream. The dharma devatas told him that he should convert his house into a temple and dedicated his life to the propagation of dharma. Pergade did as he was instructed. He was again told to build separate shrines for Kalarahu, Kalarkayi, Kumaraswamy and Kanniyakumari. He was also instructed to procure the services of noble souls to conduct the rituals. In return, the Pergade family was promised protection, prosperity and abundance. Pergade persuaded members of a nearby Vaishnava family to e the temple priests. A Shiva Lingam was brought from nearby Kadri by Annappa, a domestic help in the Heggade family. The Lingam was duly installed and the temple of Manjunatha built round it. Annappa disappeared thereafter, and is now worshipped here as Sri Annappa Swamy.
In the 16th century, Sri Vadiraja Swami of Udupi visited the place. The Swami, however, refused to accept the offering of food, as he felt the idol of Sri Manjunatha was not consecrated properly. The idol was then re-consecrated, as per Vedic rites. Sri Vadiraja was pleased with the family's dedication to dharma and renamed the place Dharmasthala.
During the annual Laksha Deepotsava festival, in November to December, one hundred thousand lamps are lit, and literary and religious discourses held. Then, as now, pilgrims are given food and shelter free of cost. The massive Annapoorna Choultry is a dining hall that feeds up to 10,000 devotees every day. The present set of Heggades, headed by Sri Veerendra, also act as counselors, solving disputes among the local populace.
The temple is in the West Coast style. In the nearby hill is a replica of Sri Bahubali of Shravanabelagola. Work on the nearly 12-metre (39 feet) tall statue, carved from a single stone, began in 1967, and took four years to complete. The statue stands on a four-metre high pedestal. Weighing about 170 tonnes, the monolith was brought here from Karkala (64km), and installed in December 1975.
Also in Dharmasthala is Manjusha Museum, which houses variety of stone and metal sculptures, paintings, jewellery, toys and manuscripts collected from the nearby coastal areas. The Heggades' collection does not belong to the ancient past alone. There is a handsome collection of Vintage cars and cameras as well.
Sri Manjunatheshwara Cultural Research Foundation has a collection of over 5,000 ancients manuscripts in Sanskrit, Kannada and Tulu. The Heggades also run a general hospital, Ayurvedic hospitals, a nature cure hospital, eye hospital, dental hospital, hold yoga camps, and organize mass weddings. They also administer more than 25 educational instaurations, from primary schools to professional colleges.
How to get there:
Dharmasthala is about 15km from Beltangadi, off the Chikamagalur-Mangalore state highway. It is 325km from Bangalore and about 100km Udupi, and well-connected by buses. Mangalore, 75km, is the nearest airport.
Accommodation: Apart from the free choultries, there are many guesthouses, AC and Non-AC, available on payment.
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