Sometimes, the most unrelated events can together lead to results that are truly breathtaking. Just like that, two different construction projects – a century apart – have come together to create a truly unforgettable experience, at the Shettihalli Rosary Church.
Consider a church built by French Missionaries in the 1860s, and a reservoir built by the government in the 1960s. If you are thinking how these two totally unrelated acts and timelines could cause awe and amazement for an offbeat traveler, you are just about to know that!
The Rosary Church was built on the banks of the Hemavathi River near Hassan, where an erstwhile village existed long ago. When the government decided the flowing river water had to be put to better use, Gorur dam was built, which floods the Hemavathi Reservoir. As with any dam, the collateral damage was relocation of the villages upstream. This village was no different, and the villagers were relocated to nearby villages, but the church was left behind. It has stood there since, bearing the test of time and the wrath of monsoons. It has been more than 200 years since it was built, and more than 25 years since the dam waters started flooding and submerging the church.
Yet these walls bear the brunt with such understated charm and grit that it is hard not to let your jaw drop at the first glimpse.
Every year, as the monsoons fill up the reservoir, the church retires to the submerged world, and as the water level recedes, it emerges in all its glory. The ruins have a mysterious charm to them. The church as such is relatively huge, with nothing but the skeleton of the structure in place. The columns, the architecture, and few walls are preserved just so much so that one can fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle to imagine what it would’ve looked like. The architecture looks very European, which adds all the more charm to the setting.
When the sky is blue, the waters reflect the exact serenity of open skies, and the lovely countryside greenery dots the far shores of the river while the ruins stand tall amidst the blue waters. The church plays its part as the graceful host to the many water birds waiting to catch fish. As the winged creatures fly across the ruins, you may feel left behind. A ride in a coracle can be the next best thing. As the flat-bottomed, round, bowl-shaped boat circled the church and went through the ruins, words failed me. I have seen ruins many times, and I have seen beautiful water bodies way too often, but I have never sailed through ruins. Sailing through history, it seemed surreal and very enchanting. Who knew what lay beneath?
No one would know what would happen to the fallen ruins until the water receded next season.
The location is amazing beautiful, with landscape photographers and light stalkers alike spoiled for choice. We waited for many blissful hours by the river side, till the evening sun cast golden light on the mossy remains as we floated between the standing walls. The pictures are proof of the amazing visual this magical moment conjured up.
With so many shutterbugs flocking to the destination to capture the mysterious church, the place is just short of becoming a popular tourist destination. While I do not believe in holding back information, I do hope if you are headed there, you will maintain the sanctity of the place, and will not litter the place with broken beer bottles and plastic. Such beautiful places are hard to come by, and I hope this one stays pristine for years to come.
The author, Neelima Vallangi, writes about her travel experiences and excursions on her blog.
Find out more about how organisations like INTACH are working to conserve such monuments, on their website.