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A church peeps out of the blue
Deccan Herald - Metro Life, January 2004

The ruins of the church near Hassan stand in testimony to a bygone era. There are no documented records of the church’s name in the pages of history, though a church peeps out of the blue.

Nearly 13 kms. out of Hassan amid sunflower fields emerges a church spire. The church has no stained glass windows or pews. A part of the altar and central nave still stand.

:You must go and see the ruins of a church which was submerged for decades and has now emerged from the waters of a dammed up river in Hassan,” we were told by Thomas, Marketing Manager of Hoysala Village, a resort in Hassan. “Base yourself at our resort and take a taxi down to see the ruins of this church which is as large as St. Patrick’s Church in Bangalore,” he suggested.

So early one Saturday morning, we piled into a taxi and drove down to Hassan for the weekend. We drove out of the City at 6:30 am, with an overnight case of clothes, to some racy Hindi pop tunes playing on the car radio. The young driver, a great fan of this remix kind of music kept everyone’s spirits high.

Once out of Bangalore, the road opened out and lush fields of cane and sunflower spread out on either side. There was a nip in the air and the driver stepped on the accelerator enjoying the unusual smoothness of a well-trained road. After a while, all thoughts were diverted towards breakfast and the taxi ground to a halt at a little roadside eatery.

Fresh, plate-sized idlis/vadas and piping hot filter coffee brought smiles of gratitude to the delight of the restaurant owner. Batteries recharged, we started out refreshed and reached the resort in two and a half hours.

As many as 33 large and comfortable rooms await the visitor at the Hoysala Resort and after a welcome drink we were taken to our cottages in a quaint and rustic setting. The cottages have earthy terracotta colours with tiled roofs but the rusticity ends just there.

Once inside, top of the line facilities greet the visitor from fresh king sized towels to cable TV and running hot and cold water. We all trooped in for Lunch to ‘Belur,’ the restaurant and ordereda la carte from a choice of Indian, Continental and Tandoor cuisine. We then headed for Hassan hoping to see the church that we had come to visit.

The driver did not know the directions he just knew there were in Hassan. The traffic policeman in the center of the town guided us to the local city church. Our guide in typical gracious Indian fashion accompanied us to the road leading to Shettyhalli. We left the city far behind and kept driving through fields on unevenly tarred roads. Through fields of sunflower and castor, the car wended its way 13 kms. out of Hassan when suddenly the church came into view to the left of the road.

Stopping the car by the road side, we made our way through fields of sunflower towards the church, which stands in the dried-up river bed. Made of mortar and bricks the spire stands tall and strong against the blue sky. Only the tip of spire was visible when the dam was full, say the villagers. It was such an eerie feeling walking through this enormous crumbling edifice which obviously from its size held a huge congregation in days gone by.

The entire roof had caved in probably with the pressure of the water. Part of the altar and the central nave still stand but there were no stained glass windows or pews or even windows left in the church. Just flocks of pigeons that whirred off into the heavens at our intrusion. What a weird feeling it was to see this silent empty church standing in the middle of nowhere and a couple of furlongs away women sitting busily washing and beating their clothes clean on the rocks, in what was left of the river.

As noisy as we were while coming in search of the church, we were quiet, while returning. Quiet with thoughts of what we had just see. No one could tell us the name of the church or any of its history. There were no clues found in the church itself as to dates, brass plaques, etc. We left slightly disappointed but convinced of learning more about the building’s history. Not easily fobbed off, we put the question up on the world wide genealogy list that we belong to and overnight there was a point raised by a list member from New Zealand to our query. “The 1911 Encyclopaedia Britanninca has an entry for the Hassan district and town. It does not say that this town was a cantonment or that troops were stationed there.

The only European influence it mentions is: “Coffee cultivation has been on the increase of late. The first plantation was opened in 1843, and now there are many coffee estates owned by Europeans and also native holdings,” and one of my guidebooks states there were coffee and cardamom estates between Hassan and Sakleshpur.

Possibly these coffee planters had constructed this church?” he asks. Possibly! It’s worth taking a trip to Hassan and including the Halebid and Belur temples too in your visit. Bookings for the Hoysala Resort can be made at: Trails, 2nd Floor, St. Patrick’s Business Complex, 21, Museum, Road, Bangalore-560 025. Ph: 5325302/ 51126013/ 5582525.

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