Shri Kshetra Dharmasthala Sri Manjunatha Swamy Temple, the land of righteousness and piety, is one of south India’s most popular religious pilgrimage centres with a history as old as 800 years. It is located on the banks of river Nethravathi, in the village of Dharmasthala, in Belthangady Taluk of South Kanara district about 75 kms from Mangalore. Dharmasthala”, the abode of dharma, is the quintessence of humanity and faith. In Dharmasthala, charity is a way of life which is extended to all without any discrimination. The temple is regarded as unique since it belongs to the Shaivite sect of Hinduism. The priests are Shivalli Brahmins who belong to the Vaishnava sect of Hinduism and the administration is run by a Jain family called the Pergades. The deities of the temple are Shiva who is referred to as Manjunatha, Ammanavaru, Chandranath and the Dharma Daivas (guardian spirits of Dharma) namely Kalarahu, Kalarkayi, Kumaraswamy and Kanyakumari.
According to the Legend, 800 years ago, Dharmasthala was known as Kuduma in Mallarmadi, then a village in Belthangady. There lived the Jain Bunt chieftain Birmanna Pergade and his wife Ammu Ballalthi in a house called Nelliadi Beedu. Legend says that the guardian angels of Dharma assumed human forms and arrived at Pergades abode in search of a place where Dharma was being practised and could be continued and propagated. As was their habit, the couple hosted these illustrious visitors with all their wherewithal and great respect. Pleased by their sincerity and generosity, that night the Dharma Daivas appeared in the dreams of Pergade. They explained the purpose of their visit to him and instructed him to vacate his house for the worship of the Daivas and dedicate his life to the propagation of Dharma. Asking no questions, the Pergade built himself another house and began worshiping the Daivas at Nelliadi Beedu.
Ganesha festival, Navratri and Deepavali festivals are celebrated with grandeur at Dharmasthala. The carnival or the annual festival called Pattanajae Jatre is held in April every year before the onset of monsoon. People flock from far and near during these times. Laksha Deepotsava i.e. the festival of lights and grand illumination is celebrated for five days in the month of Kartika (November – December). During this festival, there are alot cultural activities, Sahithya Sammelana and Sarva-Dharma held with great zest.