Among the lush greenery of the Malnad Mountains, lies the symbol of religious harmony and charity, that is the Sri Manjunathaswamy Temple in Dharmasthala. The Dharmasthala Temple is situated on the banks of the River Nethravathi in the town of Dharmasthala in the Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka.
The Temple has presiding deities belonging to both the Hindu and the Jain community. The word “Dharmasthala” means “the place where the Truth or righteousness resides (Dharma meaning the truth and Sthala meaning the place of stay)”. Hence, the place signifies the abode of “Dharma” or truth and justice.
The deities worshiped here are Sri Manjunatha (Lord Shiva) and Ammavaru (Goddess Parvati) along with Jain Tirthankara Chandraprabha and Jain protection Gods, Kalarahu, Kalarkayi, Kumarasvami, and Kanyakumari. The priests are Hindus following Vaishnavism and the temple administration is run by the Jain Bunt family called the Pergades.
Apart from the Temple, the Dharmasthala Temple administration also presides over and maintains various charitable institutions under its control. The region of Dharmasthala is popularly known as the region of Annadana (providing free food), Vidyadaana (providing free education), and Abhayadaana (providing free lodging).
The architecture style resembles the style of temple in Kerala. The simple square plan of the Dharmasthala Temple has a pyramidal roof on top. The materials used for the base walls are granite and laterite. Wood and metals have been used extensively in the sculptures, roofing and arches of the temple. The Shikhar is made of wood and has a gold plated covering.
Dharmasthala Temple History
The history of the Dharmasthala Temple can be traced back to about 800 years. The town of Dharmasthala was then known as Kuduma. A Jain chieftain by the name of Birmanna Pergade lived there with his wife Ammu Ballathi. Their home was named the Nelliadi Beedu.
The couple was known for their generosity and simple life in the community. Hearing the public talk, the four guardian angels of Dharma arrived at their home in search of a place where they could propagate the philosophy of Dharma. The Pergade couple received them in their human forms with great respect and sincerity. The angels were very happy with the treatment they received at the couple’s home.
At night, the Lord Dharma visited the couple in their dreams and asked the couple to vacate the house for the worship of the Daivas (Gods), and dedicate their life to propagate Dharma. The Pergades left the house and started worshiping the Dharma Gods. The Dharma Daivas appeared once more and communicated to the Pergades that separate shrines have to be built by them for the four Dharma Daivas – Kalaharu, Kalarkai, Kumaraswami, and Kanyakumari.
He was also asked to choose two persons of Noble birth to act as an oracle for the Daivas and four persons for helping the Pergades in administration. The Daivas, in turn, promised the Pergade family protection from all evils, abundance in funds and fame.
As instructed, Shri Pergade built the four shrines and invited the Brahmin priests to perform the rituals. On the request of the Brahmins, he sent Annappa Swamy, to procure the idol of Shri Manjunathaswamy from Kadri. Later, a shrine was built making Dharmasthala as Lord Manjunathaswamy’s abode.
The consecration ceremony of the Linga was performed in the 16th century by Shri Vadiraja Swamy of Udupi following the holy Vedic rites.
The Pergades and their future generations have maintained absolute selflessness till date and are renowned for their simplicity and charity. The successive Pergade family’s eldest male member assumes the responsibility of the Dharmasthala Temple and is given the title Dharma Adhikari and Heggade. The current Heggade, Shri Veerendra Heggade belongs to the 21st generation of the Jain family.
Significance of Dharmasthala Temple
The Dharmasthala Temple is an epitome of religious tolerance and charity. The Temple Complex houses a Jain shrine dedicated to Sri Chandraprabha Swamy and a Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Dharmasthala Temple priests belong to Vaishnavite sects (who treat Lord Vishnu as the supreme God) and the administration is run by the Jain Bunt family called the Pergades.
The Heggade who is the authority of the Dharmasthala Temple administration performs a kind of judicial function also. It is believed that Lord of Dharma resides at the Temple and that justice will prevail here. Civil complaints called Hoyulus are settled here between the parties involved after they present their cases to the Heggade. The decision given by the Heggade on the Hoyulus are accepted by the civil courts of the country.
The Dharmasthala Temple is famous for the Chaturdanas in Karnataka. Chaturdanas mean “Four types of charities”. The four types of charities that are practiced in the Temple are Anna Danam, Abhaya Danam, Aushadh Danam, and the Vidya Danam. The Anna Danam scheme involves providing free food to all the pilgrims visiting the Temple. Another scheme involves the Heggade offering his advice to people who queue to meet him in matters of general life.
This is called as the Abhaya Danam. The Temple administration runs several hospitals and health care centers and offers free medical aid to the needy. This is under the scheme of Aushadh Danam. Under the Vidya Danam, the trust has constructed several non-profit educational institutions that provide good quality education to the underprivileged class of the society.
The Annaprasadam served at the Annapurna Choultry is considered to be one of the Mega Kitchens in the world, founding a mention in the National Geographic as one of the most efficient and resourceful kitchens in India. The Kitchen can serve 30,000 to 70,000 pilgrims every day. The kitchen is highly modernized and automated. The wastage is disposed of in an eco-friendly manner.
The stone structure of Bahubali near the Dharmasthala Temple Complex is 39 feet tall and made of a single rock. The statue is naked in appearance symbolizing complete victory over earthly desires and ascent towards divinity.
Dharmasthala Temple Timings
- The Dharmasthala Temple opens at 6:15 AM and closes at 8:30 PM.
- It is important to know the afternoon break timings.
- The Darshan to devotees starts from 6:15 am to 11 am, continues from 12:15 pm to 5:15 pm and then from 7 pm till the end of the queue.
- The highly sacred Shatarudrabhishekam Pooja is performed for the deity at 8:10 AM every day.
- The Shiva Sahasranamavalli takes place at 10:45 AM every day. The Lord is praised in hymns mentioning his thousand (Sahasra) different forms.
- The Mahanaivedya Samarpana is offered to the Lord before the Annadanam begins at 11:30 AM.
- The Mahapooja takes place at 12 PM followed by Nityabali at 12:10 PM. The ritual of Mahapooja is a very elaborate Pooja in which the idol is decorated, Abhishekams are performed and several chants are sung in devotion to the God. A complete revolution of the Temple with the idol and the priests takes place during the Pooja. However, the devotees are not allowed to view the Pooja and the procession.
Dharmasthala Temple Food Timings
Very hygienic food is served for free and is a must-have in Dharmasthala Temple. The timings are from 12 pm to 2 pm.
The Dharmasthala Temple administration has a strict dress code for both women and women and if not followed, they are disallowed from entering the Temple premises. Men are required to remove their shirts and vests before entering the Sanctum. Bermuda half-pants, nighties, and miniskirts are not allowed. Children below 2 years of age are not allowed to enter the Sanctum.
Festivals celebrated at Dharmasthala Temple
- Maha Nadaveli – This unique festival is celebrated for 11 days. All the festivals that are celebrated in Dharmasthala Temple are celebrated during these 11 days. It starts with Ganesha Festival followed by the Laksha Deepotsava for five days. The chest containing the ornaments of the Dharma Daivas are taken around in a procession on the sixth day. The next four days are believed to be the days when the Dharma Daivas visit the Heggade through a Darshana Patthiri.
- Laksha Deepotsava – The festival of lights is held for five days every year during the month of Karthik (November – December). The event includes the events like Sarva Dharma and Sahitya Sammelanas. The Sarva Dharma event means giving equal importance to philosophies of all religions. Sahitya Sammelan means literary meet for all people. A seminar on religions of the world is organized on day four followed by a seminar on Arts and Literature on the fifth day. The Samavasarana Pooja is held for Sri Chandranatha Swamy, where the Tirthankaras deliver spiritual speeches to the devotees. A display of handicrafts takes place during the festival. Several entertainment programs like dance performances, bhajans and kathas are performed during the five-day period.
- Mahashivarathri – The festival is celebrated in February or March at Dharmasthala Temple. The festival signifies the marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati. Some also believe that this is the day when Lord Shiva absorbed the poison that turned him blue during the churning of Amrit episode in mythology. The day is celebrated with great reverence. Devotees keep fast and sing bhajans throughout the night and into the day. Special Poojas are performed for the Linga. Thousands of pilgrims from in and around Karnataka visit the shrine to receive blessings from the God themselves.
Besides the above major festivals, Ganesh Chaturthi, Ugadi, Annual Jathre and Deepavali are also celebrated with great enthusiasm.
Dharmasthala Temple Sevas and Poojas
The following Sevas are performed for Sri Manjunathaswamy:
- Shata Rudrabhishekam – The Pooja is considered to be extremely auspicious and sacred. It is believed that by performing the Pooja at Dharmasthala Temple, one can obtain protection and fulfillment of the wishes from the God.
- Bilva Pathrarchana – The Archana is performed for the deity at Dharmasthala Temple with the Bilva leaves on behalf of the devotee.
- Panchamrutha Abhishekam with Ekadasha Rudrabhishekam – The Lord is bathed with “Panch Amrit” that are Milk, Curd, Ghee, Honey and Sugar on behalf of the devotee. The Ekadasha Rudrabhishekam Pooja is performed for all the eleven Rudras of Lord Shiva. After the aavahan (welcoming of the deity), sthaapna (giving a seat to the deity) Laghu-nyasam is recited. Then Rudra Trishati is recited. Abhishekam is done to each of the 11 Rudras with all the 11 dravyas prescribed in the Shiv Puraana
- Karpoora Aarti – The Aarti is performed for the Lord with Camphor known as the Karpoora on behalf of the devotee.
- The Theertha bottle and Sri Prasada can also be obtained from the Seva counter at Dharmasthala Temple.
The following Sevas are performed for Sri Ammavaru:
- Pavamanabhishekam – The word Pavamana means water that flows and purifies. This Abhishekam is performed amidst hymns for the purification of the soul.
- Flower Pooja – The Goddess is decorated in a delightful combination of flowers and Archana is done with flowers amidst several chants and mantras.
- Panchamrutha Abhishekam – The Lord is bathed with “Panch Amrit” that are Milk, Curd, Ghee, Honey and Sugar on behalf of the devotee.
- Kumkumarchana – The Archana is done for the Goddess with Kumkum on behalf of the deity.
Besides the above Sevas to the Lord and Goddess, special Sevas are performed which are listed below:
- Silver Pallaki Utsav and Silver Chariot Utsav – The Idol of Lord Manjunathaswamy and Goddess Ammavaru are taken around the Dharmasthala Temple in a Silver Pallaki and then in a Silver chariot. The procession takes place accompanied by the chants and shlokas praising Lord Shiva.
- Gold Pallaki Utsav – The idol of the Lord and the Goddess is worshiped in a Golden Pallaki on behalf of the devotee.
- Silver Lalaki and Deepothsava – A large number of lamps or deepams are lit in dedication to God and several Poojas and rituals are performed.
- Ranga Pooja – The Pooja can be performed only between Monday to Friday with either 24 Yede or 48 Yede.
- Tulabhara Seva – The Seva can be performed between 7:30 AM to 12:30 AM on all the days of the week. This Seva includes the devotee sitting on one side of the Tula or the weighing balance. On the other side, offerings are arranged until the weight of the devotee and the offerings balance themselves. The offerings are then donated to the Temple. The Seva can be performed for both children and adults at the Temple. The Pooja material depends on the choice of the devotee like rice, coconut, flowers, bananas, jaggery, sugar and coins.
- Tonsuring – The devotees can also tonsure their head at the Dharmasthala Temple premises. It is generally believed that the Tonsuring of hair symbolizes the sacrificing of the human ego to God. It also means giving up of materialism.
How to reach Dharmasthala Temple
- By Air – The nearest Airport is the Mangalore International Airport which is about 65 km from Dharmasthala Temple. Domestic flights connect Dharmasthala to Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Goa, Kochi, and Kolkata are available.
- By Train – Mangalore railway station at a distance of 74 km is the nearest railway station to Dharmasthala. Devotees can hire taxis from there. Regular buses are also available to the town of Dharmasthala. Mangalore is well connected to cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Trivandrum, Thane, Udupi and Bhatkal.
- By Road – The KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) buses operate buses from all over the state to Dharmasthala. Private buses also provide regular service to the town.
Bangalore to Dharmasthala
- By Air – Fly from Bangalore International Airport to Mangalore. Mangalore International Airport is about 75 km from Dharmasthala Temple.
- By Train – Take a train from Bangalore to Mangalore. Mangalore railway station at a distance of 75 km is the nearest railway station to Dharmasthala. Devotees can hire taxis from there. Regular buses are also available to the town of Dharmasthala.
- By Road – The KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) buses operate regularly from Bangalore to Dharmasthala. Private buses also provide regular service to the town.
Dharmasthala Temple Accommodation
The Dharmasthala Temple management operates ten guest houses all of which contain basic and hygienic amenities. The guest houses are named as Ganga, Kaveri, Narmada, Gayathri, Nethravati, Vaishali, Sharavathi, Saketha, Gangotri, and Rajathadri.
Besides the Dharmasthala Temple accommodation, several private hotels and lodges also provide good quality accommodation to the devotees.
Where to eat
The Annaprasadam offered free of cost to all the visiting devotees is a must have for any visitor. The meal consists of three courses and is served in a very hygienic manner.
Several small vegetarian hotels can be visited around the Dharmasthala Temple Complex. The cuisine is mainly South Indian but certain restaurants do serve North Indian and Chinese dishes as well.
- Sri Chandranatha Swamy Basadi – The ancient and one of the most important shrines for Jain pilgrimage is situated within the town of Dharmasthala. The Temple dates back by several centuries and is a revered Digambara shrine. The Temple is made of marble in traditional Kerala style of architecture. The Trikala Poojas are performed here daily with great reverence. The Temple opens at 7 AM and closes at 6 PM>
- The Bahubali Hill – A devotee must visit the gigantic statue of Bahubali erected on a hill near the Temple Complex. The statue is 39 feet tall and is carved from a single rock. As per the legend associated with Bahubali, Bharat and Bahubali were the sons of the first Jain Tirthankara, King Rishabha. When Rishabha renounced all material things, he gave the kingdom of Ayodhya to Bharat and Podanapura to Bahubali. Eventually, Bharat conquered the whole region except Podanapura. To avoid bloodshed, they both fought hand to hand. Just when Bahubali was going to kill Bharat, he realized the futility of a war and feud. Bahubali handed over the Kingdom to Bharat and renounced the world to become a Saint or a Digambara.
- Sri Sadashiva Rudra Temple – The Temple is located about 12 km away from Dharmasthala in the village named Suriya. The Temple is 700 years old. The uniqueness of the Temple lies in the fact that only clay offerings are accepted on behalf of Lord Shiva, who is the presiding deity of the Temple. Offerings like clay chairs, tables, bride and groom, cradle, house, cattle, and limbs are available outside the Temple for the devotee to choose and offer.
- Kukke Subrahmanya Temple – The famous Temple dedicated to Lord Subrahmanya is located at a distance of 47 km from the Dharmasthala Temple. The Lord Subrahmanya idol represents him as a guardian of snakes and their King Vasuki. The famous Ashlesha Bali, Nagasarpa Dosha Pooja, and the Naagprathishta are performed here for devotees.
- Sri Udupi Krishna Temple – The unique Temple of Sri Krishna in a Bal Avatar is situated at a distance of 101 km from Dharmasthala. The idol of Sri Krishna is represented as a child holding a churning rod in one hand and a rope on the other. This form of Krishna cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. The idol is believed to be made in Dwarka during Sri Krishna’s reign by his wife Rukmini.