South Kanara is scattered with temples some 5000 of them infact. You cannot escape one even if you want to. You head to the seashore and along with the roars of waves you will hear the clang of temple bells somewhere in the distance.
You trek a hill and lo you will notice a small structure- a mantapa of sorts and an idol inside. You go on a shopping spree but you cannot help but see a shrine tucked in one of the saree by-lanes. So I have given up and instead I have started focusing on what type of temples these are whenever I have visited Dakshina Kannada.
The temples of South Kanara look modern on the outside yet they are very much ancient some dating back to 6th century and even earlier. Just take a look at the inner sanctum , the Mukha Mantapa, the ornamental balustrades leading to the sanctum and you will know what I am talking about. The temples, be it atop a hill or on a highway confirm to certain structural parameters. They are either square,circular or rectangular. The Jain temple which South Kanara is famous for are generally of granite, located amidst scenic locations-top of hills, amidst greenery ….
So a question arises, why so many temples and Jain Basadis here in the land of Tuluvas or Tulu speaking community? The answer in part lies with the rulers who ruled this part of the country from ancient to modern times. The temples had great patronage of kings be it Alupas,Vijayanagara Kings, Keladi Nayakas or local rulers like Chautas, Bangas,Bhairarasas,Ballalas and Heggades ruling South Kanara.
Presence of Jains:
Jainism especially had strong presence especially in 10-11th century as it was having support of Bhairarasas of Karkala and Chautas of Moodbidri. The Gomata structure at Karkala for instance was installed in 1432 by a Bhairarasas king- Veerapandyadeva. The 1000 pillar Basadi in Moodbidri was built in phases and its first phase was constructed by Chautas of Moodbidri and Ballalas in 1429.
Hindu Temple Architecture:
The Hindu temples too are plenty. The worship of Mahishasuramardini,Krishna, Janardana,Mahalinga and Ganesha is quite common here. South Kanara temples are generally surrounded by a big compound or Prakara made of Laterite bricks- these bricks abound in plenty. Inside the temple you will notice a Balipeeta and Dwaja Sthamba-a flag mast made of wood,covered with copper plates. You will also see a Mukha Mantapa- a hall at the entrance, then a Navaranga and then the inner sanctum. Most often rectangular temples do not boast of an inner parikrama passage while Square temples do not have Mukha Mantapa. Shiva temples on the other hand are most often circular temples.
The rooftops of temples are generally thatched in villages. In some places they are covered by stone slabs and in some places they are covered by copper plates. They are generally sloped to protect against heavy rains that are quite common in the coastal areas. And chariots are generally present as every temples celebrates its annual procession and its fair in style.
Faith and Hope:
These structures are just not temples alone. They are part and parcel of South Kanara heritage and culture. Festivities and functions are planned keeping in mind the temple calendar of events. Partake of certain foods is restricted during monsoons, fasting is observed most often in the community near temples and faith has seeped itself in to the daily activities of the South Kanara People. Here temples are not just inanimate structures but represent faith and hope of the Tuluvas community.