Exploring Hassan & Shettihalli
Updated: Aug 28
When I explore the small towns of Karnataka, I know what to expect from years of travelling in this area, but what I found on this particular journey surprised me beyond words, and how happy I was at that!
The Sunken Church
Hidden away in the tiny, almost deserted village of Shettihalli, 18km from Hassan (the nearest town), is the 18th century Holy Rosary Church. It is popularly known as ‘the floating church’ and ‘the sunken church’. The once thriving town of Shettihalli and the church built by French missionaries was abandoned due to the commencement of the Hemavati Dam.
During monsoons the church is submerged almost entirely in water, leaving only its spires above. Years of neglect and water logging have led to the destruction of its ceilings and windows, but what is left of the church gives it an eerie charm that people love to see.
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There was a presbytery as part of the church when it was built under the leadership of Father Dubois. Shettihalli was first mentioned in Jesuit records by the missionary Father Manuel de Almeyda in 1727, and it became a separate mission station in 1740. Missionaries Fr. Martins & Fr. Ramos took refuge in the church when they were attacked, but later fled to Coorg. When they returned to Shettihalli, they found the church and the presbytery plundered and destroyed to a large extent. It is assumed that they were attacked by the Marathas who were the ruling dynasty in Karnataka at the time.
How to best experience the Sunken Church
If you want to experience the church in all its glory, you have to visit more than once, as every time, it will be a different experience!
Monsoons- The church is completely submerged, and the only way to see it up close is to hire a bamboo coracle rowed by a local who will take you around the perimeter of the church.
Post monsoons- the water would have receded enough to enter the church via the coracle through its doorways.
Summer- Water would have receded completely, making it possible to walk to the church!
I hear that the local parish members hold a service in the church during the summer, for which the whole church is lit up in celebration!
Where to stay
The town of Hassan is where you can stay for the night, as there are no options for accommodation in Shettihalli. If you visit the Shettihalli church, do make it a point to visit a couple of Hoysala temples near Hassan.
Lakshmi Narasimha Temple
This Hoysala temple located 35 km from Hassan, was built in 1235 AD by king Vira Someshwara, as a dedication to Lord Vishnu. The architecture of this beautiful temple is typical of others of Hoysala architecture, with a raised platform and three shrines, where the middle shrine is the largest, and serves as the entrance to the temple.
Lakshmi Devi Temple in Doddagaddavalli
It is one of the oldest Hoysala temples built in 1114AD by King Vishnuvardhana at a distance of 16km from Hassan. It is en route Belur, home to the Sri Chennakesava temple. There are some noticeable differences between this temple and others of Hoysala architecture. This temple is not built on a raised platform (jagati). It has 4 shrines and towers built in perfect symmetry. Another important factor in this temple is the 3 foot sculpted image of goddess Lakshmi, which is depicted standing- this is a rarity, as the goddess is typically represented seated.
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Closest airport is Mysore Airport (MYQ), 99km away. Hire a taxi or rent a car from the airport.
Bajpe airport (IXE) in Mangalore is 136km away.
There are regular buses and rail connections from Bangalore which is 182km away.
Best time to visit
July to October when the church is submerged.
December - May the water will be receding, so you can see the building in all its glory.
Hassan is pleasant all year round, though during the summer in April & May, temperatures can go up to 33℃
Other sights to discover in the area
-The Hulikere Pond (a pond surrounded on all sides by stone steps, atop which are several shrines depicting constellations!)
-The Koravangala Temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva, and built to celebrate the coronation of Veer Balala II)
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.