There is a proverb in Kannada saying Badavarige Manjunatha Ballidarige Venkatesha meaning thereby For have-nots (Dharmastala) Manjunatha is god and for haves (Tirupathi) Venkatesha. In a sense it is the popular notion that rich people can afford to go to Tirupathi and poor can only go to Dharmastala. Probably when this proverb was coined some centuries ago there were no proper transportation facilities and it was difficult for a common man to go to Tirupathi. Whatever that be who is this poor man’s god? Where is His abode?
The answer is simple. It is Dharmastala in Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka. Let us go to Dharmastala seeking the grace of Lord Sri Manjunatha swami and other gods of His team on the banks of sacred River Nethravathi.
This temple does not look like the temples Chamundi, Venkateswara etc. It is one like the temples in Kerala. For that matter all the temples in Coastal area in Western side of the country are similar in structure. You have to enter the temple in the main gate following the queue via seva counter where you may buy tickets for any particular offering of your choice and to purchase prasada inside after darshan, or else you may proceed. The main deity is Lord Manjunatha, one of the other names of Lord Shiva. There are idols of other gods such as Ganesha, Annappa, and Kanyakumari etc. The idol is covered with gold plate, which will be removed at the time of abhishekam (bathing of the idol). It is beautiful and attractive with full of divine virtue. If you stand in front of it for a while you will feel the divine vibration. As in Tirupathi you will not be pushed or forced to move in the line. You will have ample opportunity to see the god for a considerable time, provided the devotees in queue do not push you forward. You will experience a different kind of thrill when you come out of the temple.
When I was a young lad, during 1950s, while sitting in our shop attending customers along with my father, I had observed that he was sending Rs. 2/- or Rs.5/-on certain occasions to Sri Rathnavarama Hegde the Chief priest and Dharmadhikari of Lord Manjunatha temple at Dharmastala. In those days it was a considerable sum as money had so much value then. There used to be a reply by a printed post card acknowledging the amount and that they prayed for our well being also. The present Dharmadhikari is Sri Veerendra Heggade, who has been doing wonderful service and has excelled all his ancestors in office.
The special and extra ordinary features of this temple are that it is a Hindu temple, managed by Jain family and priest is a Brahmin, belongs to Madhwa community.
The annual Lakshadeepotsava festival of one lakhs lighted oil lamps (country side mud lamp) attracts millions of devotees to witness and participate. It will be celebrated during Karthika month between October –November.
Dr. Veerendra Heggade has started free mass marriages in 1972 and the annual mass marriages are held usually during April every year. He is also running many educational institutions. There is medical service and mobile hospital. Dr. Heggade has been actively involved in propagating the practice of Yoga, the ancient system of fitness. The Temple has been preserving ancient manuscripts and paintings in the museum of antique objects called “Manjusha Museum”. The car museum here houses a rare collection of vintage cars. Traditional folk arts like Yakshagana and ethnic crafts like Navalgund carpets and Kasturi embroidery are revived by Dr. Heggade.
In 1973 the Lord Bahubali statue was installed at Dharmastala on a hill near the temple. It is about 39 feet (12 m) high. It is interestingly beautiful.
Another famous and powerful god here is Annappa. The temple where Lord Annappa is located is on the way to main temple from buss stand. There a strict prohibition of entry for ladies and children. It is said that this restriction has been strictly adhered to since more than 800 years.
The other important thing which you must do in Dharmastala is to take a sacred bath in holy Nethravathi River, which flows through thick forest of herbs and carries curative elements for several ailments. But be careful about the sudden floods during rainy season when taking bath.
Free food is provided for all the devotees. The temple authorities are maintaining good lot of varieties of accommodations. There is no problem for food, shelter and water in this precinct.
Dharmastala is well connected by road. There are number of public and private buses apart from other tourist vehicle ply every day from every nook and corner of Karnataka.
Padmashri Dr. Veerendra Heggade is a true social reformer. He has been rendering yeoman service to the society. He has already done and has been doing commendable work through the integrated rural development projects in Dakshina Kannada and other areas. I met him several times whenever I visited Dharmastala and presented some law books authored by me. He is social and friendly with all the visitors and treats every one alike with a smiling face that attracts one to meet him again and Bola Deposit Pulsa.