Nellitheertha – A Dharmika Kshetra

Author: N.V.Sripathi Bhat, Bengaluru

Ph: 9900265060 Email:


The coastal belt of Karnataka, the Dakshina Kannada & Udupi Districts are full of famous temples & pilgrimage centres. While there are number of famous temples like Dharmasthala, Subramanya, Udupi, Kateel, Kadri etc. there are also many historical temples which are having subdued existence and Shree Kshetra Nellitheertha Somanatheshwara Guhalaya (temple) is one among them.

Sri Jabaleshwara Sannidhana inside the cave

The unique feature of this temple is that it exists beside a very astonishing and picturesque cave having inside it a historical Shivalinga called ‘Jabaleshwara’ and a pond called ‘Nellitheertha’. Exploring this cave and taking bath in the holy pond is a feast to nature lovers and devotees.

In our entire Karnataka and even in our country’s environmental and cultural history, this cave temple has earned its name as one of the most astonishing cave temple. This place is just 30km. away from the famous city of Mangalore, and situated in Neerude of Kompadavu village. But due to the neglect of government and people representatives, this place has not earned its place of worth as a famous tourist centre.


The oldest and historical Shree Somanatheshwara Temple here was established by the renowned Rishi Jabali. Even during the kingdom of ‘Puttige Chowtas’ this temple was having its name and fame. There are many symbols of king’s patronage to this temple, particularly the big stone slab called ‘King’s Seat’, the king’s mantap, and the ‘Jain idol’ to be seen here. The Shivalinga inside the temple is of pure Saligrama Stone, depicting its historical value and is the main attraction to the devotees.

Sri Somanatheshwara

The history says that, inside the nearby cave, the saint Jabali did tapas for the good of the people, and became the cause for the destruction of the notorious demon called ‘Arunasura’, by praying to goddess Adhishakthi, who appeared on the earth as ‘Bhramarambika’ and killed the demon. After that, she is being worshipped as Shri Durgaparameshwari in the nearby famous Kateel Temple.

Shri Somanatheshwara, in the form of Saligrama Shivalinga, is the presiding deity of Nellitheertha temple attracting thousands of devotees. In addition to it, Shri Mahaganapathi and the Vyagra Chamundi are the other deities inside the temple having prominence here. Recently, as a mark or respect to the saint Jabali, the founder of this temple, a beautiful Brindavan has been constructed and sanctified in the temple complex.


The specialty & attraction of Nellitheertha is the existence of ancient & historical cave, which does not have a parallel anywhere in the country. It is just to the right side of the temple, and the outer extension of the cave is almost touching the ceiling of the temple. Standing in front of the cave and looking at its gigantic appearance, which resembles the face of a five headed big cobra, bring thrill to one’s body & mind.

The sacred pond inside the cave

Inside this temple exists the holy pond ‘NELLITHEERTHA’ and to reach it, one has to move about 200 meters inside the cave. It is certainly not a cake walk, but a tough cave walk memorable in one’s life time. The height of the passage is less but it is wide enough. As a result, the movement inside is possible by bending, ducking or sometimes even by crawling, minding one’s head.

There is pitch darkness inside, hence torch light is essential. Throughout the passage, there are streams of water, and there is no dearth for fresh air. Chanting holy names of God precedes ones steps inside the difficult terrain. Moving further in the cave, it opens up and gradually expands, allowing free movements. At the end, it leads to the famous “Theertha sarovar” called ‘Nelli theertha’ the holy pond. The atmosphere inside the cave is very pleasing & enchanting. The height of the cave near the pond is about 20-25 feet, where hundreds of people can stand and assemble. The inside walls of the cave is smouldered with red soil paste, which the devotees carry as ‘Prasadam’.

Devotees inside the cave

A look further to the other side of the pond indicates existence of openings for another cave, which is some 8 feet above the ground level. In the entrance of this cave, there exists the-famous ‘JABALESHWARA’ Shivalinga embedded to the earth. The height of this Shivalinga is about 3 feet above the ground level. A stream of fresh water flows down to the pond encircling this shivalinga. Devotees after taking bath in the pond, moves towards this shivalinga and offers holy water as Abhishekam, which is very rare opportunity.
History tells that, there are five more shivalingas, inside this cave, but its visit is not possible to ordinary mortals, because of difficult terrain. Just before entrance to the pond, on the right side there is a sanctified space said to be the seat of Maharshi Jabali, who did his tapas here. There are many more diversions inside this cave towards other small caves, but they are all barred for entry because of safety reasons.


The holy bath, or the ‘Theertha Snana’ in the Nellitheertha pond has got its own rules and regulations. One has to enter the cave only in wet clothes, after taking bath outside, preferably in the nearby ‘Nagappa kere’ – the temple’s beautiful pond. Entry to the cave is permitted only for a period of about six months in a year, that too till the afternoon Mahapuja only. That is, from Tula Sankramana in October to Mesha Sankramana in April every year. Entry is not allowed after the noon. There are facilities for changing the dress, with separate enclosures for ladies. Devotees interested in taking holy bath, better to carry spare cloths/dress.

Nagappa Kere

However, main temple outside the cave is open throughout the year, with the routine Pooja, 3 times a day, and other periodical rituals & annual Utsava to the presiding deity / Maha Ganapathi & other deities as per Agama Sashtra


The Nellitheertha, in addition to being a pilgrimage centre is also a tourist and religious centre. But, has not secured its due prominence, because of neglect on one side, and lack of infrastructural facilities on the other side. This beautiful nature spot however has got its own visitors and devotees, who throng this place during annual festivities and other important days. On the day of Sankramana every month, and other important religious days, special pooja and festivities are conducted. The annual six days grand festival of this temple falls normally at the end of December, or early January every year. To be precise, it starts on the previous day of full moon day of Dhanurmasa, and continues for 6 days.

The last day of theertha snanam is on Mesha Sankramana day in April. Large number of devotees visit this temple, to seek blessings of Lord Shiva.

There are four different routes to reach Nellitheertha. It is 30 Km. away from Mangalore city on the Karkala route, via Gurpur, Kaikamba. Take a left turn after Ganjimutt village, and proceed for about 10 Kms, you will be at the temple. From Kinnigoli, proceed on the Moodbidri route Nagappa kere for 8 Kms. and at ‘Niddodi’ take a right turn, and after about 6 Kms. journey, take another right turn at Muchur village, to reach the temple. The third and short route is only 6 Kms. from the famous Kateel Temple.
In all the above mentioned routes, bus facility is available, and one has to walk about 0.5 Kms. from the alighting bus stop. But with own vehicle arrangement, one can proceed up to the temple site.

The fourth route is from Bajpe Airport, just about 6 Kms. away. Good motor able road is available.
Nearest Railway Station is Mangalore – 30Kms.
Nearest Airport is Bajpe – Just 6 Kms. away.
This year’s Theertha Snana commences from 17th Oct 2021 and continues till 14th April 2022. For any information, temple authorities can be contacted at 080-2299142 / Mob: 8088708914.

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