Saturday, October 27, 2012

Marikamba Temple, Sirsi

A trip to Sirsi has been in the offing for quite a while. The plan was made at least 2 years ago. The idea was simple – cover as many waterfalls as possible in given time between August and October. The timing was important because this was the time when the monsoons would have abated leaving the waterfalls packed to capacity. But as the plans got serious and looked on the verge of being conquered thanks to a few enthusiastic co-travelers cum nature lovers cum awesome friends, the plan started taking a different shape and dimension.  My biggest learning before and during this trip was that Sirsi was not all about waterfalls. This sleepy little town is rich in cultural, linguistical and mythological heritage. Sirsi is as much about the cultural heritage of Karnataka as it is about the waterfalls. Add to that, there are so many places of mythological significance that it is difficult to cover Sirsi in a weekend. You definitely have to devote at least a couple more weekends to experiencing Sirsi.

After Alemarigalu’s planned Sirsi trip got cancelled because of drop-outs this time we fixed a quorum of 5 members to make a trip out of it. And 5 we were to explore the wonderful land of Sirsi. Our first stop after freezing bath in a canal was Sri Marikamba Temple.

Sri Marikamba Temple is a 17th Century temple located at Sirsi in Uttara Kannada. Marikamba is believed to be the Goddess of Power by Her devotees.  The seven foot tall wooden idol of the deity was resurrected from a tank near Hangal and a temple built for Her in the year 1689. Local puranas mention the deity as Renuka or Yellamma. She is also referred to as Doddamma – elder sister to all younger Mariammas installed in different villages and towns. She is believed to control evil spirits and epidemics. So in order to appease Her, devotees used to offer animal sacrifice. But all that changed in 1933 when Gandhiji  visited Sirsi but refused to enter the temple considering the brutal animal sacrifices that were performed here. Distinguished citizens like SN Keshwain and Vitthal Rao Hodike started educating the masses against this inhuman practice. They even went to the extent of kidnapping the buffalo the night before the sacrifice and have the courage to face an angry mob. Eventually the masses relented and the practice of animal sacrifice was finally banned.

The Marikamba Temple is also famous for its Kavi art. The temple walls are adorned with artwork from famous local artists. These wall murals depict episodes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The first impression of the temple is that it looks nothing like a South Indian temple and that impression stays throughout, thanks to the wall murals. It is unlike any temple you will ever see in South India. Here’s why you should you visit Marikamba Temple:

1.       It’s bang in the middle of Sirsi town

2.       The wall murals on the temple depicting episodes from our epics

3.       Take inspiration from the fact that God will be appeased even if animal sacrifices aren’t done

4.       Learn about how the courage of two brave and educated men can change age-old customs for the better.

5.       It is en route Banavasi Madhukeshava Temple.

6.       Because 5 reasons are good enough to go there!

Getting-there: Right in the heart of the town.
Must-Do: Check out the murals adorning the temple
Must-Don’t: Animal sacrifice of course. Photography of the deity.
My Rating: 7/10

Information Credits: Kamat's Potpourri


  1. The five reasons are enough to visit this place of interest. Whether it is devotion or historical or mythological significance, this temple scores maximum in all. A relatively unfamiliar look of the temple started churning the interest to visit this temple. You have given a apt write up for this temple.

  2. Nice post.