Karkala situated about 35 kms. from Udupi, is the headquarters of the Karkala Taluk. About, 52 kms. north-east of Mangalore, is known primarily for the statue of Lord Bahubali (Gomateshwara). The 45-feet tall statue is estimated to weigh 80 tons. Besides its colossal size, the Karkala statue is rendered more striking by its situation on the top of a huge granite rock, 300 feet high, on the verge of a picturesque little lake. This image was erected by a Jain king in 1432, in memory of Bahubali (the first Tirthankara) who renounced the world at his most victorious moment. Just opposite to this image there is a Jain ‘Basadi’ known as ‘Chaturmukha Basadi’ which is built of granite. In front of this temple, there is a beautifully carved pillar called Manasthamhha which is nearly 50 feet high. It is the most beautiful and tallest of 11 Manasthambhas. Like Moodabidri, there are 18 temples at Karkala. The monolith of Gomateshwara formed the nucleus around which the Jain Math and Basadis sprang up. They draw 3 streams of devotees, lovers of art and students of history.
Revered by Jains the world over, the statue of Gomateshwara stands as a true symbol of their faith. Five such statues can be found in Karnataka, the most famous of which stands majestically in Shravanabelagola, (near Hassan, 230 kms from Mangalore). Installed in 981 A.D., it is 1000 years old. Karkala (400 years old), Venur (300 years old), Dharmasthala and Gomatagiri possess the other four. Though not as impressive in size or finish as the one in Shravanabelagola, they nevertheless exude an aura of their own. Apart from their size, the statues are remarkable for the values that they represent-the triumph of man over physical desires Bahubali symbolizes renunciation and peace. Though he could have remained a monarch with all wealth and enjoyments, he still chose to renounce everything and became an ascetic.
Describing the Gomateshwara, Walhouse writes in Frazer’s Magazine: “Upon the outskirts of the town…. the enchanted castles of fairy tales came back to mind, for on the top is seen a castle like wall pierced with a wide-arched entrance, and a dark gigantic form towering over it waist high…the image 45 feet in height. Nude, cut from a single mass of granite, darkened by the monsoons of centuries, the vast statue stands upright with hands hanging straight, in a posture of somewhat stiff but simple dignity. The hair grows in close crisp curls; the broad fleshy cheeks might make the face seem heavy. were it not for the marked and dignified expression conferred by calm, forward-gazing eyes and aquiline nose, somewhat pointed at tip…The arms which touch the body only at the hips are remarkably long, the large well-formed hands, and fingers reaching to knees.”
The Tourist Home in Karkala provides accommodation to the pilgrims.
The famous Venkatramana temple, the abode of Lord Srinivasa, is a place of pilgrimage for Gowda Saraswat Brahmins. This place is known as “Padu Tirupati”.
On the outskirts of the Karkala town, stands the shrine of St. Lawrenceat Attur. The St. Lawrence Church has remarkably rich history. It is said that the Attur-Karkala parish was founded even before 1759 A.D.
St. Lawrence of Attur being widely acclaimed as having the power to intercede with God, it is of little wonder that the shrine attracts not only the residents of Udupi District but also pilgrims from all parts of India.