DHARMASTHALA SRI MANJUNATHA TEMPLE
Dharmasthala is perhaps the most highly revered and best known temple town in Karnataka. Located amidst the picturesque Western Ghats on the banks of the Netravati River, it is about 100 kms. from Udupi. Devotees of all caste and creed visit this holy place well known for charity. Everyone enjoys generous hospitality without any distinction whatsoever. On an average the flow of pilgrims is about 10,000 people everyday. A mechanized and clean kitchen provides free food for all pilgrims can feel comfortable at the guest houses, which have all modern amenities.
Dharmasthala symbolizes the true essence of religion and stands out as an oasis of peace and harmony. Here, one can witness a happy confluence of three faiths co-existing in complete harmony. While the presiding deity is Lord Shiva, the priests who conduct the daily rituals are Vaishnavaite Brahmins and the Dharmadhikari of the temple is a devout Jain. Thus religious tolerance and a spirit of oneness, which are the prominent characteristics of the Indian cultural heritage, has become the hallmark of Dharmasthala.
This place was originally called "Kuduma" but in the l6th century it was named as Dharmasthala - the abode of dharma and charity. The lineage of the Dharmadhikari can be traced back Over 600 years. According to the legend, a Jain Heggade known for his piety and hospitality, was chosen by the Dharmadevatas-the guardian angels of dharma, for the propagation of dharma; being Shivaganas, they installed a Shivalinga from the Kadri temple in Mangalore, so that dharma could be established in the name of the Lord. Subsequently, the Manjunatha temple was built around the Shivalinga. They also ordained the Heggade to carry out certain traditional charities.
The roots of religious tolerance and charity have been nurtured and strengthened by the Heggade family over hundreds of years. They were also patrons of art, literature and culture, and devoted their whole lives for the development of the Kshetra. The Heggade occupies one of the oldest seats of religious power in Karnataka and has a following all over the State, from members of all faiths. The influence that the Dharmasthala temple wields over the masses in Karnataka and adjoining areas is immense. People come to the Heggade for settlement of disputes over land and family quarrels. These disputes are resolved by the word of the Heggade. The disputing parties of different communities, who come to him, generally abide by his decision.
The present head of Dharmasthala, Padmashri Dr. Veerendra Heggade, the 21st in succession to the Dharmadhikari Peetha, has lived upto the great tradition. He has carried his ancestral heritage to a greater height, not only by continuing to uphold the sacred tradition, but also by achieving remarkable progress in his service to mankind. For over 25 years, Sri Veerendra Heggade has endeared himself by dedicating himself to the service of God and man in religious, cultural and educational fields. He has launched several socio-economic programmes, which have directly benefited the poor. More than 25 institutions from primary schools to professional colleges are run. Old and decrepit temples are renovated, taking care to preserve the traditional architecture. Ancient manuscripts and paintings have been painstakingly restored and preserved for posterity. A museum of beautiful antique objects, which is both educative and fascinating, has been established. A car museum houses a rare collection of vintage cars. Every year, a Sarva Dharma Sammelan held at Dharmasthala, attracts spiritual leaders of various faiths, schools and patrons of art and literature from far and wide.
As a social reformer, Sri
Veerendra Heggade has rendered yeoman service to the society. He has also
done commendable work through the integrated rural development projects in
Dakshina Kannada and around. In 1982 he got the Bahubali
statue installed on a hillock at Dharmasthala. The towering monolithic
statue (39 feet high) weighs over 210 tones and is the third biggest in