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Karnataka Pilgrimage

Throughout the ages, most of the major religions of India have flourished in Karnataka and as such one witness a profusion of pilgrimages across the length and breadth of the state. These religious places are held in high reverence and pious devotees from distant lands come here to seek blessings.

The majority of sacred pilgrimages owe allegiance to Hinduism even though Jain religious places are found in many regions. The predominantly Hindu dynasties patronized the building of temples and shrines across the state. Great religious scholars like Shankaracharya and Basaveshwara established sacred maths and consecrated many pilgrimages.

Shravanabelagola, Dharmasthala and Karkala are prominent Jain pilgrimages of Karnataka. These sacred shrines are marked by the colossal statues of Bahubali or Lord Gomateshwara. The Gomateshwara statue of Shravanabelagola is one of the largest monolithic statues in the world and during the auspicious occasion of Mahamastakabhisekha, devotees descend here in large numbers.

The religious places of Karnataka epitomize the tenets of religious tolerance and communal harmony. For ages, religions have co-existed peacefully in Karnataka.

Banavasi Karnataka

Located on the border of Uttara Kannada and Shimoga districts, the ancient temple town of Banavasi has been a great religious hub for ages. The fact that it is regarded the most ancient city of India after Varanasi, speaks volumes about rich heritage of Banavasi.

The prime attraction of Banavasi is the renowned Madhukeshwara Temple built in the 9th century and dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Madhukeshwara temple is an amalgamation of several schools of architecture. The presiding deity of Madhukeshwara is a honey colored lingam dedicated during the period of Mayura Varma, the first king of Kadambas.

During its halcyon days, Banavasi was the capital city of the Kadamba kings, the first royal dynasty of Karnataka. The Kadambas established their empire in 345 A.D. and held supreme for two hundred years. The annual December cultural festival, Kadambothsav, is a huge gathering, organized by the state government, and featuring folk dancers, drama troupes, classical musicians, art exhibitions, while drawing together performers, artists, and writers from all of south India.


Located in the Bidar district of Karnataka, Basavakalyan has been a great pilgrimage center. The illustrious capital of the Kalyani Chalukya dynasty from 1050 to 1195, Basavakalyan witnessed a series of religious and cultural turbulence in the 12th century.

The royal heritage notwithstanding, Basavakalyan is known more for being the birthplace of Basaveshwara, a 12th Century scholar who fought against castism and orthodoxy in Hinduism. Despite being born into a Brahmin family in the Bijapur district of northern Karnataka and growing up in a strict, religious household, Basaveshwara was a pioneer who worked relentlessly to reform the inherent prejudices of Hinduism. He rejected the Vedic religion based on Vedas, agamas, shastras, and puranas.

Due to the noble work and philosophy of Basaveshwara, Basavakalyana became a seat of learning and an abode of spiritual wisdom. Basavakalyan is renowned for the saints who made the city their home: Basaveshwara, Akka-Mahadevi, Channabasavanna, and Siddarama.


Dharmastala KarnatakaOne of the most sacred places in South India, Dharmasthala is an exemplary manifestation of communal harmony and peaceful co-existence of different religions. Located 65km east of Mangalore in the Dakshina Kannada district, Dharmasthala is thronged by Jain, Hindu, Christian and Muslim devotees who come here for the cure of their ailments.

True to its tradition of religious tolerance, the Jain tirthankara and Lord Shri Manjunatha Swamy (another form of Lord Shiva) are worshipped on the same sanctified site in Dharmasthala. During the annual festival of Laksha Deepotsava held in November or December, 100,000 oil lamps illuminate the night sky with their tiny flames.

The colossal monolithic statue of Bhagaban Bahubali, located atop the hill Rathnagiri Betta, is a major attraction of Dharmasthala. The statue, weighing 200 tons and 52 feet high, was carved by famous sculpture Shri Renjala Gopala Shenoy of Karkala. He started to sculpt the statue in 1967 and finished in 1970 in Karkala.


Mudabidri Jain Basadi MangaloreAcclaimed as the 'Jain Varanasi' of South India, the landscape of Mudabidri is dotted with 18 Jain basadis. Basadis are Jain monasteries or temples where an image of one of the twenty-four tirthankaras (saints) is installed and worshipped.

The crown jewel among the Jain Basadis is the Tribhuvana Tilaka Choodamani Basadi, also known as the thousand pillars basadi. This 15th century magnificent architecture, culmination of about 50 years of painstaking craftsmanship, has one thousand exquisite carved pillars each ornamented with different designs.

The sanctum of the Basadi contains an image of Chandranatha which is more than seven feet in height and is made of Panchaloha (five alloys). In addition to a valuable collection of jewel-encrusted metallic images of Jain tirthankaras, Manasthamba, the free standing pillar is another attraction. The Jain Mutt near the main temple entrance has a library preserving some beautiful 12th and 13th century palm leaf manuscripts.


Murudeshwar Shiva Temple KarnatakaMurudeshwar is known as much for its sacred temple complex as for its picturesque beaches. Nestled between the vast sea and undulating hills, Murudeshwar is thronged by pious devotees and enthusiastic tourists alike. The 500-year-old Shiva temple of Murudeshwar is located atop a small hill called Kanduka Giri, bounded by the sea on three sides.

Situated inside the temple complex, a huge 15 m. statue of Shiva dominates the Murudeshwar landscape. The Shiva temple presents a scenic view with the sea to the west, the lofty hills to the east and the coconut and areca groves nearby. The temple, a manifestation of Chalukya and Kadamba temple architectures, is believed to have been sanctified by a piece of the Pranalinga of Mahabaleshwara thrown by Ravana.

Two life-size elephants in concrete stand guard at the steps leading to the temple. The huge fort behind the temple is said to have been renovated by Tipu sultan, the ruler of Mysore.


Shravanabelagola KarnatakaOne of the holiest Jain pilgrimages, Shravanabelagola is synonymous with the colossal monolithic statue of Jain saint Lord Gomateshwara. Shravanabelagola occupies a significant place in the Jain legacy of Karnataka, for being the place where Chandragupta, the founder of the Mauryan dynasty, became a Jain ascetic after relinquishing his throne. The place where Chandragupta breathed his last was named Chandragiri.

The gigantic statue of Lord Gomateshwara has been the piece de resistance among a multitude of Jain architectures in Sravanabelagola. The statue, created around 983 AD by Chamundaraya, a general and minister of the Ganga King Rachamatta, stands atop the Indragiri hill and at a height of 18 meters, is regarded the tallest monolithic statue in the world.

During the auspicious event of Mahamastakabhisheka, held in Sravanbelagola once in 12 years, attracts a huge number of devout worshippers from all over the world. As part of the ceremonies that last for about 20 days, the image of Bahubali or Gomateshwara is anointed with 1008 kalashas (painted earthen pots) of water, milk, coconut water, clarified butter, saffron, jaggery, bananas, sandal paste and marigold flowers.


Sringeri Math KarnatakaRegarded as one of the most sacred Hindu pilgrimages in South India, Sringeri was the abode of Shankaracharya, the great 9th century philosopher and social reformer. Shankaracharya established here the first of his four maths, the other three are at Joshimath in the Himalayas, Puri to the east and Dwarka to the west. As Shankaracharya's preaching reached distant shores, Sringeri came to be known as a seat of learning and spiritual wisdom.

Overlooking the Tunga River, the exquisitely sculptured Vidyashankara Temple enshrines the Vidyatirtha-linga. An amalgamation of Dravidian and Hoysala temple architecture, the unique feature of the temple is the twelve zodiac pillars arranged so that the sun's rays fall on the pillar corresponding to the appropriate month. Typical of Hoysala style, the temple structure stands raised on a high platform and is laid out on a circular star-shaped plan.

Established by Shankaracharya, the Sri Sharada Devi Temple is dedicated to Sharada, an incarnation of goddess Saraswati. The presiding deity of the temple stands on a Sri Chankra (yantra). The temple houses one of the Sphatika-lingas given to Shankaracharya by Lord Siva in the Himalayas.

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