By Swami Harshananda
Dharmasthala is a place of pilgrimage very popular among the people of Karnataka State. It is situated at a distance of 75 km (46 miles) to the East of the city of Mangalore, near the West coast and the river Netrāvatī flows close by it.
Dharmasthala was originally known as Kuḍuma (or Koḍuma). According to the local legends, a pious Jain couple who lived here, were commanded by four dharmadevatās to establish a temple for themselves. These four deities were:
Around CE 1513 Vādirāja (CE 1480-1600), a great saint of the Sode Matha of the Mādhva tradition, arrived here. He re-established the liṅga at the Śiva temple with proper rites and named the town as Dharmasthala.
The descendants of the Jain couple who built the temple with the surname Heggaḍe (or Pergaḍe), are the dharmadarśis (chief trustees) of the whole complex.
- The temple of Śiva, now known as Mañjunātheśvara, is the central shrine and the chief attraction of the pilgrims.
- The main doors are covered with silver plates.
- The four corners have four small kalaśas or pinions.
- The worship in this main temple is managed by the Vaiṣṇava brāhmaṇas of the Mādhva tradition.
- There are smaller temples dedicated to the four dharmadevatās and Aṇṇappa (a benevolent spirit).
- The huge stone image of Bāhubali, a great saint of Jainism, is another attraction of this place. It is nearly 12 meters (39 ft.) high and is mounted on a pedestal of 4 meters (11 ft.). It was installed in CE 1982.
- The large campus has several guest houses and excellent arrangements to feed the thousands of pilgrims that constantly throng the place.
- People of all religions visit this pilgrim center in large numbers maintaining perfect peace and harmony.
- The management is running a large number of educational and public utility institutions spread all over the Karnataka State.
The following are the major festivals observed in this temple:
- Lakṣadīpotsava in the month of Kārttika (November)
- Nine-days festival during Meṣa-saṅkrānti (in April)
- Rathotsava (temple car festival)
- Worship of Divine Mother during Navarātri (October)
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore