Saundatti is one of the popular pilgrim destination in Karnataka. It is situated at the foot of the scenic hills known as Sidhachal or Ramagiri overlooking the beautiful river Malaprabha which enhances the richness of the region. This wonderful sylvan region is about 112km from Belagavi. However Dharwas and Bubballi are nearer, at a distance of 38 km and 58 km respectively.
A temple dedicated to Goddess Yellamma also known as Goddess Renuka, the consort of the mythical sage Sri Jamadagni and mother of Lord Parasurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, forms the sacred crown of the beautiful hill, about 8 km from Saundatti. It is learnt from the legends that a part of the corpse of Sati fell here when it was served by the Chakra or the ‘Holy Wheel’ of Lord Vishnu.
By a strange sacred convention the devotees young and old, men and women bathe naked in the holy waters of the Kunda or tank known as ‘Yogarbavi Satyamma Kunda’ at the lower part of the hill as part of a sequence of rites and rituals during a festival, before donning new clothes and proceeding to the temple for worship which is marked by, among other features. ‘Nimmana’ which is the custom of performing clock-wise reverential circumambulation in the Sathyamma Temple carefully holding sacred neem leaves in their mouths.
Another convention known as the ‘Devadasi Custom’ by which girls are given in marriage to none other than the Almighty God is also prevalent here. ‘Deva’ stands for God and ‘Dasi’ for ‘Servant Maid’ and thus ‘Devadasis’ means women who have dedicated themselves wout and out to the service of God. It is also believed that the parents who give their daughters in marriage to God take another step towards the ultimate salvation.
The Goddess has a preponderance of devotees in western India who congregate here during the festivals of Devipaksha, Navarathri and Mughi Purnima. Behind the temple there are three sacred tanks known as Kumkum Kundam, Yoni Kundam and Arishan Kundam where devotees take holy dips and perform, ‘Pooja’. The holy water of Yoni Kundam is sold in sealed containers. ‘Jogal Bhavi’ is a sacred well nearby whose holy waters are believed to cure skin diseases. Adjacent to the temple like the sacred ground known as the ‘Parasurama Kshetra’, meaning ‘The Place of Parasurama’ where Lord Parasurama is said to have meditated.
Saundatti, the present taluk headquarters of Belagavi was in the olden days the capital of the chieftains called the Rattas. An 18th century fort built by Sirasangi Desai can also be seen here. Besides, there are also other wonderful monuments in Saundatti. The beautifully sculptured, sacred reliefs of Lord Ankeswara, Lord Venkateswara, Lord Mallikarjuna, Lord Puradeswara and Lord Veerabhadra are to name a few. Two small Jain Bastis of the Ratta era can also be seen. The river Malaprabha graces the outskirts of the city. About 2 km from Saundatti stands a wonderful hill fort which was expanded by ‘Chatrapathi Shivaji’.