Shettihalli – a church submerged in the waters

My weekend getaway was quite a different experience. A visit to a coffee plantation( No-Not Coorg) was not just about long walks in the estate, or watching picking and pulping of coffee seeds or even getting lost in the many species of birds that were fluttering high. It promised to be a discovery of sorts.

Blended with history and spirituality, the aroma was stronger. We started the weekend with a visit to a small hamlet , Shettihalli.

We were cruising down from Bangalore towards Hassan on the bypass road and the milestone read 2 kms to Hassan- a town steeped in history (found in 11th century ) and the headquarters of the Malnad region in Karnataka .

My uncle had read that there was a ruins of a church in a hamlet close by and we decided to ask. Many fingers pointed left towards Shettihalli, some said 10 kms, some said 6 kms and we drove till we saw a dry field (probably sunflower )around us and then came a vast expanse of water . Standing tall in the water was the ruins of an ancient church, home to a few birds .

There was not a soul in sight and there were no roads leading to the church. We took a small detour from the road and parked the car and started walking , across what looked like a dry field filled with thorny bushes and a few trees.

It was the backwaters of the Hemavathy Reservoir and the monument was the Holy Rosary Church built by French Missionaries around 1860. We met a few villagers on our return who told us that this village was once a lush hamlet where the River Hemavathy flowed watering fields of sunflower.

An idyllic village lost to development when the reservoir was built at Gorur to develop agriculture around the neighboring towns. No one there knew the name of the church and I tried googling it to find out. A couple of newspaper articles from The Hindu gave me the name and the rest tallied with what the villagers had told us .

The church was reportedly built with mortar and bricks and a mixture of jaggery and eggs.During monsoons, the water level rises submerging the entire church apparently, when only the spire is seen at times. The entire roof had caved in while 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.

We had loads of birds , cattle and reptiles for company , but not a person around . We chanced on it by serendipity, but discoveries like this make a weekend getaway special .


  • nandanjha says:

    I read this again here and it was more fun. More intriguing, it starts to get eerie as you try to imagine the life which must have been in/around the church at some time.

    150 years is not a long time though but probably it lost its charm against more basic needs of water. Typically places of worship have a better chance of surviving because of faith, may be there were some more reasons here.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Very interesting. One thing is not clear: Was this church submerged even before the reservoir was built or only afterwards? At the time of photograph half portion of it seems in water and half on land.

    To me the beauty of it is that its submerged and also little forgotton. It adds to its attraction. A beautiful church submerged in water in rural india. Beautiful !

  • Ram Dhall says:


    What a strange coincidence !!!. A chance detour took you to Shettihalli and you came across one of the priceless treasures of Gothic architechture. This abandoned church has made me curious to know a few things, which you can possibly help us all in uncovering.

    From your writings, I can presume that you are stationed in or around Bangalore. In that case, would you please make it convenient to call the office of the Roman Catholioc Bishop of Bangalore or the office of the Diocease of Bangalore, who might be in a position to provide you the detailed information or direct you to a knowleggable person of authority on the subject , i.e. :

    1. Who was the architect of the structure.
    2. Year of construction
    3. Year in which the first religious service was held.
    4. Participating dignitaries who attended the opening (may be the Governor or the Raja of the state)
    5. Who were the regular worshippers then or for whose benefit the church was constructed.
    6. When was the last ser4vice held and the reasons foe abandonment (may not necessarily the waterreservoir).
    7. Plans for any restoration.

    Needless to say that the information generated by you will throw further light on your very beatifully written article.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    I was thinking that its a GOTHIC architecture, thanks Ram Sir for confirming it.

    It does not seems like a small church, so its surprising that its forgotton.

  • backpakker says:

    Thanks everyone..Ive already initiated the process of getting information and thanks for showing me more options..It may take time as Im caught up in a couple of things..but will update once I get them

    my understanding is that the church was built primarily for the coffee estate owners in that area, and at that time, most owners were british ..the church is gothic architecture. and were supposedly built by French missionaries …but there seems to be nothg written abt it ..I spoke to a couple of estate owners and they feel that the church is not patronised anymore..With the dam construction , and the heavy monsoons, the church remains partially submerged ..this pic was taken now and I have seen pics during monsoons when the fields are filled with water ..
    Incidentally this is the area which is known for ancient Hindu and jain temples and the dynasties like Hoysalas who ruled here in the 12th century

  • Celine says:

    We all do need those escapades on and off away from the noise and din of the cities.

    It’s the search for the unexpected and discovering what satisfies the exploring mind that makes travels so interesting.

  • backpakker says:

    Very true celine..sometimes the most satisfying trip is the least expected

  • David Kumar says:

    It reminded me of my childhood days. I was born just 1.5 Kms away from from the church and was baptized in this very Holy church. I carry lots of memories of this place.

  • bikerdude says:

    “If it is fated to happen, it will happen…” – Optimistic & Twisted form of Murphy’s law :-)

    sums up the experience right I guess. I wonder about the odds of you taking the road to this awesome location?

  • B N Mohan says:

    My wife is from Goroor, and I am from nearby: and we did not know of this. I must ask her why.

  • backpakker says:

    David -is there an email id to reach you ? I would like more details on the place pls

    Bikerdude – so true..fate chooses the destination for us many times

    Mohan – Pls do share any info you get to know abt this church

  • Skyflash says:

    I’am from Mysore and a classmate of mine in college was from Hassan and had told me about this church, later another friend’s father was one of the engineers involved in the dam construction and so we rode up to Gorur on 1st feb 2006 to take a look at the dam, there the dept people pointed out to the ruins of the church and then i remembered what my old classmate had told me and so we rode up to shettihalli and there it was, much to my awe it was not as small as i tot i mite be. Its maginificiant!
    They also told me that the church was shifted to a nearby hill called Katayabetta near a village called Kataya on the Hassan-Gorur road, so i decided to check if there was a route, however found no road or steps to the top of the hill, but there is a structure at the top that looks like a church, i idint have time to cilmb the hill to check it out, will do it sometime soon.

  • srinivas says:

    it’s my native
    thanks for putting here this blog

  • I went here looking for goths! This post for sure has a good visibility on bing also if it wasn’t definetly the things I was looking about

  • Charo says:

    I certainly assume damaging to the several bad men and women who reject to work out for Christ Christ

  • Arvind says:

    Looks like a medium-sized church. The octagonal gabled tower looks interesting and wooden vaulting inside it might have been in an intricate design.

  • msn says:

    Holy Rosary Church at Shettihalli is home to the famous Drowning church which looks like a stranded ship, was built by French missionaries in 1860 for the wealthy British estate owners. It was built on the backwaters of Hemavathy Reservoir. The ruins of the church disappear under water during monsoon and resurface with the changing season. The back waters also provide spectacular sunset view.
    Shettyhalli is a very famous weekend picnic spot among the local people of district Hassan & other parts of the Karnataka state mainly among youth. But due to the less publicity, tourists coming from other states & foreign countries do not visit this spot. Shettyhalli is also famous in Karnataka film industry for its scenic beauty and many Kannada movies have been filmed here. The issue of developing Shettyhalli as a tourist destination has been raised many times by one of the countrys leading newspaper Deccan Herald in its special edition spectrum (Tuesday, Nov.2, 2004 & 3 June 2008) and many other local news papers. The issue has also been raised by Ndtv news channel through a documentary which describes the importance of this Natural & Heritage site both at local & national level.

  • kaleem says:

    Hi.very good info.As.a motorcycle rider at 66 I still ride extensivel
    y n wish to visit. This place disduring May 13.

  • Divya gowda says:

    HI thanks for d=good saying

    iam from there place only i happy to hear

  • Nithin says:

    Nice post with all the required details and good photos. Awesome place. Been there recently. Spent a good part of my evening at this place –

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