Rosary Church, Shettihalli - As it submerges and emerges

Consider a church built by French Missionaries in the 1860s.

Consider a reservoir built by government in the 1960s.

If you are thinking how these two totally unrelated acts and timelines could cause such awe and amazement to the offbeat traveler, you are just about to know that!

The thing is, the church was built on the banks of 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 the nearby villages but the church was left behind. It stood still standing 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.

Half submerged Shettihalli Church near Hassan

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 puzzle to imagine what it would’ve looked like. The architecture looks very European which adds all the more charm to the setting.

Well, to talk about the setting, there couldn’t have been a perfect setting. When the sky is blue, the waters reflect the exact serenity of open skies and lovely countryside greenery dots the far shores of the river while she stands 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 are not so 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 would’ve seen ruins many times and I have seen beautiful water bodies way too many times but never did I ever sail 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.

Me being a landscape photographer, I turned into a light stalker. We waited for many blissful hours by the river side till the evening sun was casting the golden light on the mossy remains as we floated between the standing walls. What happened next was another completely crazy drive story keeping up with the tradition of my crazy road trips over the last year. But we’ll save it for another day while you enjoy the pictures.

With many shutterbugs capturing 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 amongst many. With little luck we’d find such places, I hope it stays pristine for years to come.

Fact File :

Driving Directions – Bangalore – Hassan – Hanumanthapura – Shettyhalli.

Best time – Any time is a good time. When the water recedes, the church can be fully seen and the submerged church has an altogether different charm to it.

Camping options – You can stay by the river side if you have your own tents. There is Rappa island resort close by. Next best option for overnight stay could be Hassan.

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