North Karnataka region has many hidden and less explored places that can fascinate the travellers. Not all the places are well known, and some of them may not even be easily accessible. But yet, it can make an ever lasting impression once you visit the place. On one of such exploration trips to Sirsi, a town in the Uttara Kannada (erstwhile North Karnataka) district, one of the localites suggested me to visit Sahasralinga. On hearing the name, my mind started thinking that it would be a temple with about one thousand Shivalingas (Sahasralinga translates to 1000 lingas). There are few such temples in India (with huge number of Shivalingas), and I did not know that there was one near Sirsi too. Before my mind could further start imagining things about the place, he went on to say that this place is much different than rest of the other temples you may have visited. He told he would leave it to me to find out what was so different! Well, that left the explorer in me with enough curiosity, and I decided to find out more!
Sahasralinga is about 15 km from Sirsi towards a place called Holgol. At Holgol, I noticed a small board with directions to Sahasralinga. After driving for about a kilometer in the direction (and the distance) mentioned in the board, I reached the banks of a calm and peaceful River Shalmala. For a moment, I thought I had missed spotting the temple. I thought of asking someone for directions, but the place was deserted. So, I decided to spend some time on the banks of the river, and in the meanwhile, if I spot someone, I thought I will ask them for directions. As I parked the vehicle, and walked towards the river, that is when I was pleasantly surprised! The local person who suggested the place was indeed right! Sahasralinga is quite unique. That is because, unlike the other shrines, Sahasralinga is in the river itself! Yes, and true to its name, there are numerous lingas that are carved out on the rocks and are present in the middle of the river.
Shivalingas carved out on the rocks in the middle of the river
The lingas are present everywhere. In the middle of the river, on the banks of the river, some even a little away from the river! The lingas are neatly carved, some of them immersed in the river water, while some were elegantly protruding out of the free flowing water! If you visit the place during summer, when the water in the river is less, you can spot numerous lingas all over the place! However, if you visit during monsoon, most of the lingas are submerged under water, and the water currents are so high that it would be dangerous to get into water and reach out to the lingas.
It is an amazing sight. The river flowing gently in the middle of lush green forests on both sides, huge number of diverse birds chirping melodiously, and the beautiful River Shalmala giving a religious twist with such huge number of Shivalingas!
If you observe carefully, you also see Nandis facing the lingas. Mythologically, Nandi is believed to be the vehicle of Lord Shiva. It is very common to see Nandi in front of any temple that is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Legends say that there used to be one Nandi for every linga on the river, but over a period of time, due to water currents, some of the lingas and Nandis have been washed away. It is also believed that there were thousand pairs of Nandi and Lingas in the region.
After exploring the place, I headed back to Sirsi, and asked few others about this place. As per history, all these Shiva Lingas were built by Sadashivaraya, King of Sirsi during 16th Century. King Sadashivaraya was a firm believer and follower of Lord Shiva. As he was childless for many years, he pledged to the Lord that if he had a child, he would carve thousand lingas. Few years later, he was blessed with a daughter! And as a result of his pledge, these lingas are carved out on the rocks.
Every year, during Mahashivaratri, lots of devotees turn up to this place. Other than that auspicious day, the number of people visiting this place is very less. There have also been instances of people camping at this place and enjoying the mesmerizing riverside.
Other Places Around
- Shivaganga Falls (also called Ganesh Falls/Ganeshpal)
- Burude Falls
- Mattighatta Falls (also called Hase Halla Falls)
- Bheemanavare Gudda
Where to stay?
- Camping on the banks of the river
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