Karkala is a small peaceful town in
, 53 km from Mangalore
. However, being a famous Hindu-Jain pilgrim center and the hub of sculpting in south-west Karnataka, Karkala bustles with brisk activity, especially from September to March.
Karkala is famous for its massive 12.8 m monolithic statue of Gomateshwara (Bahubali), believed to have been built in 1432. This is a naked male figure reached by a flight of rock-cut steps. Bahubali was a local prince who defeated his own brother in war to win the kingdom. Immediately afterwards he renounced worldly life and did such intense meditation for 12 years that climbing plants grew all over him. Veerapandya Bhairava Raja, the ruler at that time, built the Gomateshwara temple and statue in his honor. A stone pillar (Brahma Stambha), and holy stone (Kshetrapalaka) stand in front of the temple as protectors. A festival called Maha Masthakaabhisheka in Bahubaliís honor is held every 12 years.
Some of the other temples in Karkala, dating back to the 16th century, are Chaturmukha Basadi, Neminath Basadi at Hiriangadi, Ananthapadmanabha Temple dedicated to Vishnu, and Venkataramana temple. The Chaturmukha Basadi has four identical Jain Thirthankara images facing four directions. The festival of lights at the Venkataramana temple is a dazzling experience. All these temples have interesting histories and are renowned for architectural excellence.
The Jain temples at Moodabidri, about 16 km away, especially the renowned 100 pillared Jain shrine called
Chandranatha Basti, are equally famous. 8 km from Karkala is Attur, famous for the
St Lawrence Church, built in 1845. This church has a rich history and receives devotees from all over the world.
In recent years Ranjal Gopal Sharma, a famous sculptor, has initiated a tradition of sculpting at Karkala. Statues made here by numerous young sculptors are appreciated over the world.