Nestled among the majestic Western Ghats, on the banks of the Sharavati river, lie the ancient temple ruins of Gersoppa (Gerusoppa). Gersoppa is derived from two Kannada (locally spoken language) words. “Geeru” – a deciduous tree abundantly found in this region (also called the Marking Nut Tree as it was used by washer-men to mark clothes before washing), and “Soppu” – meaning leaves. Living up to its name what was once a part of the flourishing capital city of the Salva kings, with a thriving pepper trade, is today a moss covered wonder hidden among a thick and dense forest.
In the 16th Century, wars were fought over Gersoppa. For whoever had a stronghold over it had control over the 2 major ports of Kanataka, Bhatkal and Honnavar. The Portuguese, on their arrival to India, used Gersoppa as their base to conquer Goa and expand their empire. Gersoppa has had the unique honor of being ruled by 3 queens in its history. Most famous among them was queen Chennabhairadevi – The Pepper Queen, who managed to rule for 54 years despite constant threats from the neighboring kingdoms. Under her rule Gersoppa became a safe haven for craftsmen, fleeing the Portuguese rule from neighboring cities. As a result many Hindu and Jain temples were commissioned and built during this period.
Almost forgotten by time, the ancient temple ruins of Gersoppa comprising of Neminath Digamber Jain Basadi, Mahavir Digamber Basadi, Hire Digamber Jwalamalini Basadi and Chaturmukh Digambar Jain Basadi, would have at one time been a buzz with literary and cultural activities.
Getting here was literally like searching for a lost treasure. Despite being armed with Google Maps and our locally well versed cab driver we had hired from the neighboring town of Gokarn, we had to stop and ask for directions every few kms. While our driver knew of the Gersoppa town he didn’t know where the temples were situated.
Winding through the western Ghats, we reached a check-post with a menacing looking guard who didn’t allow us to go any further. Our driver spoke something to him in Kannada and just like that we were allowed entry.
Past the Massive Gersoppa dam (weren’t allowed to take pics of it), an area that looked right out of X- files with barbed wire and hundreds of warning signs, warning people to not enter the property and roads narrowing to the point where we wondered many a times if our car could even make it, we finally reached the ruins.
Camouflaged among their surroundings these beautiful temples with their carved statues and tablets have an eerie feel about them, almost as if haunted. You will have to keep reminding yourself that these were temples, once a place of worship. There is a small shack built for the government employees who maintain this place. Seeing more people will lessen the fear, but no matter what, the eerie feeling stays. However beautiful this place might be, its not a place I would like to stay after sun set. Then again maybe the warning signs on barbed wires, the check-post and the dam on our way is what freaks you out a bit. Or maybe they just help in building the story and mystery of this place.
On our way back, our driver took another route to show us what Gersoppa was really famous for, The Suspended Bridge. In stark contrast to the ruins, this place was overly crowded with the option of boating on the Sharavathi River. People were packed to the brim and when you thought the bridge couldn’t possible hold anymore people, a bike would pass through, making the bridge shake violently. This happens only in India!!
This place in its own way was a ruin as the overcrowding did ruin my experience, of what otherwise was an awesome view!
So if you want to go back in time and then be hit by the contrasting reality of today, within a matter of few hours, do visit the ruins of Gersoppa!
How To Get To The Temple Ruins:
- Its located in a very remote place and the nearest town with rail and bus connectivity is the town of Honnavar, a 1hr (36 kms) Drive away.
- Nearest airports with International connectivity are Goa and Mangalore (Mangaluru) both of which are 4hrs away from Honnavar.
I am not even able to locate the route we took to get there, on Google Maps. Hopefully this route is a faster and better way to get there.
But no matter how you get there, hire a driver with local knowledge (It realllllly helps!). My ever trusted Google Maps was useless most of the time due to bad network connectivity, especially once you move into the hilly region.