In a small village near Ujjire, Mangalore, there lived not more than a hundred families; all god-fearing, hardworking and simple people. Set between small hills and a few rivulets, the village was picturesque and a haven for the people who lived there. The village had a small temple that was looked after by a priest who was held in high esteem by the villagers. He was a pious man and would never eat until he had performed all the rituals twice daily, early morning before sunrise and after sunset.

One such day, just before the sunrise, a sadhu with a kamandalu (a small brass pot) filled with water from the Ganges, walked into this temple. The priest was pleased to see him and invited him to his house so that he could share a meal with his family. The sadhu accepted his invitation, but on one condition. He would not eat until he had prayed and performed all the attendant rituals in front of “lingam” with the sacred water that he had been carrying. Now the temple did not have a Shiva Lingam, but only a small figurine of a deity known to the villagers as the “the Protector of the Village”.

The priest was at a loss. He wept in front of the temple god and vowed to go without food until the sadhu’s wishes were fulfilled. Three days went by but the priest refused to get up for even a sip of water. The third day, just before sunrise, the priest opened his eyes to see a bright light emanating from the temple within which was a lingam. The sadhu was finally appeased and also highly impressed with the priest’s devotion. He blessed the priest and said that he would visit him every year to partake of the feast offered to the lingam.

Since then the village has been named “Dharmasthal” and every day at noon, the priest sets aside a portion of food prepared for the deity and the lingam after all his morning rituals. The practice continues till date and the food, it is said, disappears without fail, every day. None can explain this but some have said that a huge bird, resembling an eagle, visits this hill every noon to eat the offered food.

The devotees however strongly feel that the sadhu who visited the priest was Lord Shiva and that he is the one who comes every day, to keep his promise. And it is this faith that draws thousands of devotees here regularly. And, as per the high priest’s wishes (known as Hegde), free meals are offered to everybody who visits this place.

STORY COLLECTED BY: Anjali S. Pai Panandiker
STORY TOLD BY: Meera Balse
LOCATION: Karnataka
Artist . E. A. Rodrigues. From The complete pantheon comprising principal deities worshiped by the Natives of British India throughout Hindoostan
Image Source: wikipedia