Temples of Tulu Nadu

Tulu Nadu, comprising of the districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi in Karnataka and Kasaragod in Kerala, is a very unique place. I have written a few pages about this region elsewhere in this blog so I will not get into it again. But what truly distinguishes the region from other places in India is the deep rooted religious practices and beliefs. This land is called “Parashurama Kshetra” (Land of Parashurama) and the region does full justice to that tag. Nowhere in India today is there so much focus on practicing Vedic rituals as it is in Tulu Nadu. Homas, Yagnas and Japa are an integral part of the peoples’ lives here. The natural headquarters of all these activities are temples.

The temple system of Tulu Nadu is also very distinct from other places. You will not find a Gopuram style of architecture as is common in Mysore region or in Tamil Nadu. It is also different from North Indian style of temples. The temple style is unique in itself (along with Kerala). Almost all temples are constructed as per scriptures. Hence, within Tulu Nadu, you will find a lot of commonalities between temples. Every temple will have a “Garbha Gudi”, “Tirtha Mantapa” and “Dhwaja Sthamba”. Almost all temples will have a Ganapati idol along with the main deity of the temple. Each temple has its own set of “Bhutas” which are revered and worshipped along with the Gods. Every temple will compulsorily conduct an annual festival for 3-7 days. A high percentage of temples make every effort to provide free food to devotees throughout the year.

A few other things stand out amongst temples in Tulu Nadu. Most villages have only one temple. This is like a uniting factor for the entire village. While some villages may have 2 or 3 three temples, there are also many very small villages which have no temple of their own. It is prudent to assume that on an average, there exists one temple per village. Secondly, most of these temples are hundreds of years old, if not more. The times of the Vijayanagar Kings was when Tulu Nadu prospered the most and hundreds of temples have recorded history of events during that period. The culture of Tulu Nadu has fortunately remained isolated from the events that occurred in other parts of India through the medieval ages. Hence most of the temples have survived till date (from invasions).

Another aspect of these temples is that a majority of them have their own amazing history and legend. Multiple of these temples were established by great saints and enjoyed royal patronage. Every temple has fascinating mythological stories associated with them, legendary stories vouching for the power of the Gods and Bhutas and tons of stories of miracles at the place.

For over two years now, I wanted to do something in this amazing field. In spite of the presence of so many wonderful temples, hardly a bunch of them are well known. Udupi, Kukke, Dharmasthala, Anegudde and a couple of others are very well known. The rest do not even find a mention! There may be a few books and research items published which may be languishing in some libraries on these temples. But the fact of the matter is that the information is not available to the common man. It would be a shame on us if we do not use the power of the Internet to repair this anamoly. Who knows, what with all the petroleum and oil refineries coming up in Tulu Nadu at such a rapid pace, how many of the temples will even survive beyond our generation?

I did some data collection and found that there are around 650 villages in Tulu Nadu. That means – at least 650 temples! And we hardly know 10-20 of them. Even if we assume that the average history of the each temple is around 200 years, we are talking about 130,000 years of Hindu culture!

I wanted to get started with a project on these temples of Tulu Nadu. The idea was that I start collecting data on as many temples as possible and document and publish them on the internet. The information on each temple may not be comprehensive but that’s ok. I want to make a beginning. Maybe the fever will catch on. Maybe, one day, we will have recorded information on all 650 temples!

A few days back, I made my first visit to Tulu Nadu for the project. I covered 5 temples – Elinje, Kadandale, Muchur, Posral and of course Nellitheertha. In the coming days I will post small articles on each of these temples. I hope to collect data for at least 50 temples before I move the data into a separate website of its own.

If there are other people interested in this concept, please do contact me. It will help speed up the data collection activity.

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