» »Dharmasthala: Epitome of Religious Tolerance

Dharmasthala: Epitome of Religious Tolerance

By Akshatha Vinayak

Dharmasthala holds a great importance among several religious places in Dakshina Kannada, Karnataka. 800-years old history of this temple town is interesting to hear. A unique culture exists in this town which stands as a grand example of multi-culturalism in India. Dharmasthala is popular for Dharmasthala Manjunatha Temple but curiously it is not just a Hindu religious site.


Dharmasthala Manjunatha Temple

Photo Courtesy: Naveenbm

Legend of Dharmasthala

Once there was a Jain couple named Birmanna Pergade and his wife Ammu Ballalathi. Birmanna Pergade was the local chieftain of the village Kuduma. This couple were known for being charitable and pious. Hence, the Dharma Daivas (Gods) came in this chieftains dreams and told him to establish a shrine at his house Nelayadi Beedu.


Chandranath Basadi

Photo Courtesy: Naveenbm

So, Birmanna Pergade vacated his house and made it a shrine for Dharma Daivas. Later, when some priests were performing rituals in this shrine, they suggested him to install a Shiva Linga near to this shrine. Upon their request, a person name Annappa Swamy was ordered to bring a Shiva Linga. Next day he brought a Shiva Linga from a place called Kadri near Mangalore. This Shiva Linga was installed and a temple was built around it. This is the famous Sri Manjunatha Swamy Temple in Dharmasthala.

What Makes Dharmasthala Unique?

Dharmasthala is unique for three different reasons. First, it is a Shaivite Temple but managed by the family of Jains. Sri Dr. D Veerendra Hegde, is the present Dharmadhikari whose family has been managing this pious temple for generations. In fact, this family is the descendents of Birmanna Pergade who took the pious duty of turning it into a temple town.


Statue of Gommateshwara

Photo Courtesy: Abdulla Al Muhairi

Another interesting aspect is that the temple priests belong to Madhva Community. Though it is a Shaivite temple, the priests here are Vaishnavas. The story behind this tradition goes back to the 16th century. The then Dharmadhikari Sri Devaraja Heggade invited Sri Vadhiraja Swamy of Udupi. However, the Vadhiraja Swamy refused to accept Bhiksha (food offering) as the diety was not consecrated according to vedic tradition. So, Sri Devaraja Heggade requested Sri Vadhiraja Swamy to re-install the temple deity according to the Vedic traditions. Since then Madhva priests are devoted to perform the daily worship in Dharmasthala Temple.


Carving of Shiva

Photo Courtesy: Gopal Venkatesan

Dharmasthala is not just a Hindu religious site but also a Jain pilgrimage center. The temple of Chandranatha (Sri Chandranatha Basadi) is located near to the temple. This shrine has been there for centuries. Hence, this temple town is also one of the important Jain religious places in Karnataka.

Yet another major attraction of Dharmasthala is the statue of Bahubali. This 39ft statue of Bahubali was created during the time of Sri Ratnavarma Heggade. This monolithic statue stands on a hill called Ratnagiri and is one of the major attractions in Dharmasthala.

Dharmasthala XX

Another Temple in Dharmasthala

Photo Courtesy: Gnanapiti

The Sri Kshethra Dharmasthala has turned into an important place in Karnataka. Not just as a religious place but also as place known for charity and service. In fact, it is because of the huge contribution of Heggade family that Dharmasthala has gained more importance.

Generations of Heggade Family has managed this temple and have brought in various changes to this temple town. Among all other Dharmadhikaris, the contribution of the present Pattadhikari Sri Dr. D. Veerendra Hegade's strong efforts has not only given a modern outlook to the temple town but has also helped several people in the surrounding regions.


Manjusha Museum

Photo Courtesy: Gowthami k

Today around 10,000 people visit Dharmasthala on a daily basis. It is also one of the places which gives decent accommodations for all the visitors. There is also a dinning hall called as 'Annapoorna' which offers free food to all the devotees of the temple.

Therefore, Dharmasthala Manjunatha Temple is one of the top temples in Karnataka. And the temple town is a great example of religious tolerance which has been maintained for centuries.

How to Reach Dharmasthala

Dharmasthala is located in Dakshina Kannada district. It is also within 100km to Sringeri and Horanadu.

Click: How To Reach Dharmasthala

A visit to this pious town is a must in Karnataka.

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