Stories the structures tell

Stories the structures tell

River Hemavathi  originates in the Western Ghats and flows through Hassan and Mandya districts making them fertile, before joining the River Cauvery just before the Krishna Raja Sagara (KRS) Dam. River Yagachi, which is famous for adventure sports, is its main tributary. There are many interesting sites along the river in Hassan district that are worth a visit, especially during the monsoon season.  

On the banks of River Hemavathi is a town named after the river and the main deity worshipped in the town – Holenarsipura. No one knows for sure when the temple was built. It could belong to the Chola period or the Hoysala period with later additions by Palegars (local chieftains) and the Wadiyars. Some are of the opinion that the temple was built in the 16th century by the Palegars.  

According to local legends, Sage Vasishta prayed to Lord Vishnu in his Narasimha form at the very place where the temple is situated. When Lord Narasimha, pleased by the penance of the sage, appears and gives him a boon, Sage Vasishta asks Narasimha to stay put and grant the wishes of all those who come there and worship the deity.  

The temple is a trikutachala and the three shrines house Venugopala, Channakeshava and Lakshmi Narasimha. The north facing Lakshmi Narasimha shrine is given prime place here because of the legends associated with it. A Dravidian gateway with a modest gopura leads to a mukha mantapa. A couple of halls then lead to the main part of the temple. There is an idol of Sri Prasanna Kamala Mahalakshmi in the temple. The goddess is considered as the patron goddess of the town (gramadevathe). There are other idols placed in and around the main temple including those of the Alwars, Subrahmanya and Anjaneya.  

A  sight to behold

The annual car festival is in March and happens on the same day on which Lord Narasimha is believed to have appeared before Sage Vasishta. A large wooden chariot is kept outside the temple premises which is now in a state of disrepair. The chariot has intricate carvings of imaginary beasts, mythical characters and floral motifs all over. The Gandaberunda symbol of the Wadiyars is carved in front, just below a carving of Ganesha. One can only imagine how magnificent it would look when it is decked up with flowers and lights. A new chariot is in use from 2008. According to sources, it took three years to make this chariot. The area where the temple is located is referred to as Kote which indicates that the town was fortified, mostly during the rule of the Palegars.  

Just 10 km from Holenarsipur is the sleepy hamlet of Gorur, which came into the spotlight in 1979 when a dam was built there across River Hemavathi. When the water level in the dam reaches its full capacity in monsoon, it brings the smiles back on the faces of the farmers. The rare sight the dam offers also attracts a large number of tourists. The reservoir has six large radial spillway gates. It is a sight to behold when the dam is full and the gates are opened.  The village is also the birthplace of well-known Kannada writer Goruru Ramaswamy Iyengar.

There is also a Yoganarasimha Temple apart from a couple of other small ones in the village. The temple structure dates back to the 16th century though the idol could be an ancient one. The peculiarity of this temple is that the main deity has three eyes and faces the west (usually the main deity is placed facing the east). Gorur was also known as Gokarna Kshetra as Sage Gokarna is believed to have performed penance on the banks of the river here.  

Symbol of endurance

When the dam was built, as many as 28 villages were submerged and thousands of villagers had to relocate. The Shettihalli Rosary Church, which is located in the area, stands as a symbol of devastation caused because of the construction of the dam. The structure reminds us of the fact that the villagers had to give up their homes and lands so that we can get water in our taps and farmers can irrigate their fields all year round.

Bumpy village roads off NH 75 will take you through sleepy villages to this church which appears almost like an apparition  out of the barren flat landscape during the summers, and even in the winters, if the monsoons have failed. It is partially submerged during the monsoons and you can access it in a coracle with the help of a local.  

The  church was built almost 150 years ago by French missionaries in a Gothic Style with flattish bricks shaped according to each architectural element. It is said that it was painted white a few years ago by an insensitive film crew. The forlorn church walls have been defiled by miscreants who also hang around the area, making it unsuitable for families to visit. The Shettihalli Church is about 20 km from Hassan and 16 km from Gorur.  

None of these sites are major tourist spots. So, stay and good quality food is hard to find nearby. Hassan is the nearest city with all the amenities. The temples are open at fixed timings only. Holenarsipura, Gorur and Shettyhalli are well connected by road. A trip along River Hemavathi makes for an ideal heritage trail, blending nature and history.

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