Karnataka has always been a prime religious destination with devotees and followers flocking in large numbers around numerous temples every day of the year. One such destination is the glorious temple town of Dharmasthala which is situated on the Western Ghat on the banks of the Nethravathi River in Karnataka. This town is so named after the renowned temple of Dharmasthala.
Religious tolerance finds a new meaning in this century old temple, where Hindu deities are worshipped next to Jain Tirthankaras. This temple is the most prominent attraction center of this town and numerous devotees irrespective of religion, cast and color visit this temple. It contains the shrine of numerous deities including Dharma Daivas, Chandranath, Manjunatha, and Ammanavaru. Whereas the daily worship of the idols is conducted by Hindu pundits and priests, the temple is run by Jain administration. There are almost 10,000 visitors walking through the gates of this auspicious shrine every day.
There are numerous local legends surrounding the establishment of this 800 year old temple and its resident Shiva Linga. While the lore continues to change shape, the solid devotion of the pilgrims remains a constant. Social services are held by the temple committee for the well being of the townspeople and pilgrims visiting the temple premises. These programs include ‘mass marriage’ which was first started by Dr. Veerendra Heggade in 1972 to cut on the excessive marriage expenses for the lower classes. There are a number of participants in this program and it is held every year during the months of April and May.
A very auspicious and anticipated program held by the temple committee is the ‘Anna Dana’. This is where free food is distributed to the thousands of visitors who enter the temple premises every day. A strict anti-discriminatory message is imparted in the manner in which people of all religious beliefs and social order get together for a meal. There is also the ‘Vidya Dana’ where as many as 25 educational institutions are run by the temple organization accommodating hundreds of students. Subject like yoga, Indian culture, Sanskrit, Engineering, dental science are emphasized upon.
Dharmasthala Temple Timings
The timing of the Dharmasthala temple, when visitors are allowed a glimpse of the deities and offer their prayers is 6:30 am in the morning to 2:00 pm in the noon. ‘Archana’ or is also included during this time which is held from 8:30 am in the morning to 11:30 am in the noon. The evening prayers are held at 7:00 pm in the evening to 8:00 pm in the night.
Within the realms of the Dharmasthala temple, several festivals are arranged and celebrated. The ‘Ganesh Chowati’ and ‘Shivaratri’ are the celebrations surrounding Lord Ganesha and Lord Shiva respectively. There is also and Navaratri, the annual nine day festival held every year in the month of April, celebrating the triumph of good over evil. Deepavali, the festival of light is also celebrated on a grand scale along with Patthanaje and Laksha Deepotsava.
On the surface this might resemble the many other religious towns of India. But the Dharmasthala temple and the surrounding town are distinguished based on the valuable messages of solidarity and tolerance that is imparted by their ways and means everyday.