The Holy Rosary Church at Gorur Dam
If you visit Gorur Dam in the monsoon months, you might just miss this church unless you go up close. But visit in the dry summer and you will see it in all its Gothic glory. Located some distance away from Bengaluru, in Shettihalli, the Holy Rosary Church is submerged by the Gorur Dam reservoir in the monsoon season and then stands tall for all to see when the water recedes in summer.
Whatever little I had read about this church had piqued my curiosity and we finally decided to see it for ourselves. As we drove along the narrow, pothole-ridden road, wild yet dry foliage stood taller than the car on all sides. Villagers we met along the way gestured forward when we asked them for the church. I literally hung out of the window, straining hard to see through the yellow plants for any sign of the church.
And then its turrets appeared, almost out of nowhere, peeping up against the wall of tall grass that attempted to hide it from passing traffic. By the time I yelled out, we had crossed our destination by a bit. We threw the car in reverse and looked for a way to get through to the church. A narrow path emerged, seemingly out of thin air. People and vehicles that had come before us had flattened out an approach road to the church. As we drove down this path, every twist and turn heightened our anticipation.
The majestic turret of the church
And slowly, it appeared... a majestic structure, albeit in ruins. Greying with age, yet divine in appearance despite the graffiti marring its walls (why oh why do people do things for vanity that earn them nothing but contempt in the eyes of beholders?).
The church was partially submerged when we visited it due to the recent rains and the opening of the dam. The coracles that supposedly take you through the church in such cases lay overturned with no soul in sight with whom we could negotiate a tour. Nevertheless, the structure still stood mighty and magnificent.
Now that I was looking at the church, the little I read about its history all came back to me and seemed to fall in place...
The Rosary Church was built by the French Missionaries sometime in the 1860s. This was in the midst of villages that made up in the area. In 1960, the Government decided to build the Gorur Dam to channel the waters of the Hemavathi River which flowed close to Hassan and this church. Twenty-eight villages were relocated for the making of this dam... civilisation often being the first casualty in something being done for its own good. Scores of homes now lay vacant and the church bells of the Rosary Church fell silent too.
The Rosary Church made for a beautiful pit-stop on the way to a homestay in Saklespur. We spent a little more than an hour on the banks of the church-- its serenity enhanced by the blue skies and low-lying white clouds. As we turned on the engine and made our way back up the small path, the church receded into the grass wall, much the way it does perhaps into the waters that envelope it.
Driving Directions: Bangalore - Hassan - Shettihalli - Gorur Dam (Google Maps on your GPS will help)
Time taken from Bangalore: 3.5 to 4 hours.
Best time to visit: Time one visit in summer months when you will be able to walk through the church and another right after the rains to watch it in its half-submerged state.