Nestled amidst the interiors of Karnataka, the old town of Sirsi is known for its hidden attractions apart from the famous cardamom plantations and beetle nuts. Though it doesn’t command the popularity of Karnataka’s other treasures, Sirsi is definitely an offbeat destination amidst the numerous ones in the state. Located in the outskirts of the town, one of the oldest temples at Banavasi, the natural rock formation at Yana and the numerous sculptures at Sahasralinga are the major attractions Sirsi.
Madhukeshwara temple in Banavasi is at the end of a long street lined with old houses built in traditional architecture. The temple belongs to the Kadamba period, but has undergone numerous renovations and alterations in its architecture as it was under the rule of Chalukyas and Sonda kings in the later years. Believed to have been built in the 9th century, the temple has a nice open courtyard, tall stambhas (poles) and a couple of shrines. Though the temple was dedicated to Vishnu when it was first built, the shrine now houses a linga with a huge nandi sculpture in front. The numerous ornate pillars are another highlight of this ancient temple. Despite being devoid of many sculptures on its exterior walls, the naga sculptures, the ornate stone cot and the inscriptions in Brahmi characters are quite an attraction. Kadambotsava is a major festival here held during the month of December.
Sahasralinga is in a different directon from Sirsi and a winding road leads to it. Here, river Shalmala flows past numerous shivlingas that have been chiseled on rocks in the river and its bank. Shivlingas and nandi (bulls) sculptures in various sizes and shapes are beautifully carved. Post the rains, when the water level goes down, one can have a closer look at these stone works. It is believed that there are about a thousand shivlingas in the surrounding area and were created by King Sadashivaraya.
Yana rocks are enroute Kumta from Sirsi and have a wonderful road that leads through a forest patch. From the base, it is a two kilometer walk to the huge rock formations called Bhairaveshwara shikhara and Jagamohini shikhara. Though the initial stretch is through a wooded path past tall trees and flowing waters, the last few meters require a steep climb of steps. The intimidating rocky outcrops stand a hundred feet tall and are the major ones of the numerous rock formations scattered around this jungle. At the base of Bhairaveshwara rock is a temple that shrines a shivlinga which is beleieved to be a natural formation. To the left of the rock, a fleet of steps lead up to a cave, a spacious one with a tall ceiling. As per legend, Lord Shiva hid here in the cave to escape the wrath of Bhasmasura, a demon. The cave enshrines the shivlinga below and one can walk around to exit the cave on the other side. The view of Jagmohini shikhara on the way out from the cave is beautiful, as it stands tall amidst the greenery. There are numerous bee hives clinging on to the external walls of the rocks. The place becomes a hub of celebrations during Shivaratri.
The colourful Marikamba temple is a popular one in Sirsi town. Unchalli falls, 30 Kms away from Sirsi is another major attraction during the monsoon.
- All the destinations are far from each other, please take into consideration the commutation time while planning your visit.
- It gets quite warm as the day progresses. Visit places such as Sahasrlinga and Banavasi early in the morning to avoid the heat.
Located in Uttara Kannada, Sirsi is 145 Kms from Shimoga, 62 Kms from Kumta and 80 Kms from Gokarna. The nearest railhead is at Talguppa (54 Kms from Sirsi) and the nearest airport is at Hubli (110 Kms from Sirsi). There are buses plying from Shimoga, Kumta And Davangere to Sirsi.
Food and Accommodation:
Apart from the food stalls at all the mentioned attractions, there are small basic restaurants in Sirsi town. Sirsi is a small town and it is ideal to make it as a day trip while visiting Kumta or Gokarna. Sirsi however does have basic stay options in its town limits.