Popularly known as Maha Ganapati Kshetra, Southadka in Belthangandy taluk of Dakshina Kannada district is hailed as one of the many siddhi kshetras of the district. Surprisingly, not many from outside the district are aware of the existence of this temple which is located just 20 km away from the pilgrim town of Dharmasthala. Away from the hustle and bustle of the main road, this temple with no formal structure surrounding it, offers a unique experience.

A spacious goshala (cow shed), a row of petty shops vending pooja materials, a small temple office where seva tickets and prasada can be bought and a modest temple kitchen that dishes up tasty naivedya prasada is all that Southadka houses. The idol of Lord Ganesha, installed majestically under the bowers of an ancient tree, is spectacular, to say the least. A shining arch is all that surrounds the beautiful idol in black stone and, of course, huge brass lamps. Right in front of the Lord's idol are rows of brass bells tied to wooden beams for devotees to sound them during the pooja. These bells in various shapes and sizes are a great attraction among children. If a temple without walls sounds intriguing, equally fascinating are the stories that the temple relates.

According to the sthala purana of Southadka, a Ganapati temple revered by a royal family was once destroyed by enemies. Not to let the enemies destroy the beautiful idol of Ganapati that was at the temple, cow herds of the place carried it along with them and installed it in a place where cucumber was grown in plenty. Since southe means cucumber and adka means meadow in Kannada, the place soon gained popularity as Southadka. The farmers of the place reaped huge harvests of cucumber, offered it to Lord Ganapati and even wished to build a temple there. But, according to a popular belief, Ganapati graced their dreams and asked them not to build a temple for him at Southadka as that would mean restrictions on devotees visiting the place to seek his blessings. The Lord expressed his wish to remain in open air with no formal structure surrounding him so that devotees could access him round-the-clock. Lord Ganapati’s wish was the farmers’ command and to this day the Lord sits majestically in the lush green surroundings of Southadka, blessing his devotees 24/7.

According to temple authorities, of the many sevas offered at the temple, the most popular one is the avalakki panchakajjaya seva (a delicious mixture of beaten rice, jiggery, til, coconut, honey and banana) performed on a regular basis. The laddu prasada too shouldn’t be given a miss. One word of caution though: whoever performs the avalakki panchakajjaya seva has to share a fair amount of Lord’s prasada with the many cows around.

How to get there
Southadka is 20 km from Dharmasthala, 45 km from Subrahmanya, 82 km from Mangalore and 2 km from Kokkada. From Bangalore, Southadka can be accessed on the road between Nelyadi and Dharmasthala. About 13 km before Dharmasthala is a huge arch on the left side of the road that leads to Southadka after a drive of about seven km.
Chethana Dinesh