Saundatti reminds us of the beautiful and ancient temple of Goddesss Renuka (also known as the Yellamma Temple). It is at a distance of 70 Kms from Belgaum and the place can be reached from all the other places by road. At a distance of 5 Kms from the city, there is a big Mountain on which the temple is situated. The mounatain was earlier known as Siddhachal Parvat. The temple is built in the Chalukyan and Rashtrakuta Style and the Carvings reflect the Jain architecture. The temple was constructed by Bomappa Naik of Raybag in the year 1514. There are temples of Lord Ganesh, Mallikarjun, Parshuram, Eknath, Siddeshwar etc in the temple premises. Devotees from Maharastra, Goa and Andhra Pradesh also come here especially during the time of Jatras which are held twice in a year. The management of the temple has been handed over to the Government in 1975 and the government has made provisions such as Dharmashalas, Health Centres and other facilities to make the devotees feel at home.
History:Godess Yellamma (Shri Renuka devi ), was the daughter of the king Renuka raja. Renuka raja performed an “yagna” (Ritual performed to maintain peace and good health”).
It is being said that impressed with this god blessed him a daughter,who originated from the fire of this “yagna”. Renuka was a bright and active child and had became the most beloved child of her parents.
At age of 8 years, of the advise of Agastya Saint who was the guru as well as the adviser of the Renuka Raja advised him to have his daughter Renuka Devi married to Jamdagni. He was son of Ruchik Muni and Satyavath. He had obtained the blessings of the anger gods by performing severe penance. Renukadevi and Jamdagni Muni lived in the “ramshrung” Mountains. Renukadevi co-operated with the jamdagni muni in all his tasks of performing various rituals and Pooja. Gradually she became close and near to Jamdagni.
Renuka used to wake up early in the morning to Malapahari (Malaprabha) river to have bath after having bath in the holy river with complete concentration and devotion to fill the pot which she used to prepare out of the sand on the bank of the river and would hold the snake which was around there and turn it into a convolution and place it on head so that it supported to the pot. She bought the pot to Jamdagni for performance of rituals.
She gave birth to five sons Vasu , Viswa Vasu, Brihudyanu , Brutwakanwa and Ram bhadra . Ram bhadra was the youngest and most loved son . He gained the mercy of lord shiva and parvathi he was also blessed with “Ambikashtra” from Parvathi and lord Shiva and hence he was called Parushram. He destroyed evil Kshatruiyas who were troubling the innocent saints.
As this was the case when Renuka devi went to malaphari river to have bath there she saw “Gandhrva Angels” playing in the river. For a moment she lost her concentration and devotion imagined herself playing in the river with her husband. after sometimes she came to the conscious and cursed herself for her ignorance. She soon had bath and tried to make the pot but couldn’t do so. As she lost both her concentration and devotion she even tried to catch the snake but it disappeared. Dissappointed by this she came to ashram. Seeing renuka devi returning empty handed, Jamdagni got furious and cursed her . He angrily ordered her to get away from his site.
After being cursed by the Jamdagni Muni Renuka move towards to east and sat in the forest for meditation. In her dream she met with the saints Eknath and Joginath she prayed them and asked for the way to gain mercy of her husband the first consoled her and asked her to follow what they said for three days. They said her to first have bath in the lake near by , and worship “Shivalinga” which they had given to her. And then go to the city and collect the rice from the houses there. After collecting the rice, they said her to give the half the rice to them and cook the remaining half adding jagriey to eat and consumed the cooked rice with full devotion. They said if she performs this for three days she can go to her husband on the fourth day. And even warned her that she will not be excused fully that she will have to go through the widow life for three minutes after that they said “ You will be eternal and will be blessed with your husband. You will be worshiped by the all the people henceforth by saying this they disappear”.Renuka devi followed these steps and worshiped “Shivlinga” with full devotion and completed three days and fourth day she went to meet her husband.
At the fourth Day, when she met the Jamdagni, He angrily ordered his sons one by one to punish their mother but four of them refused on one pretext or the other. The sage cursed them to become eunuchs and got her beheaded by his fifth son, Parusharama. To everybody's astonishment, Renuka's head multiplied by tens and hundreds and moved to different regions. This miracle made her four eunuch sons and others to become her followers, and worship her head.
Saundatti - Jain Stone with inscription:
Photograph of an Jain inscribed stone slab from Saundatti in Karnataka, taken by William Henry Pigou in 1856, from Taylor and Fergusson's 'Architecture in Dharwar and Mysore'. Saundatti, near Belgaum in Karnataka, was once The capital of the Rattas, before they shifted to Belgaum in the 12th century. The town is one of Karnataka's most famous pilgrimage sites because of its temple to the powerful goddess Yellamma. A form of Devi, the mother goddess, Yellamma is particularly known for the cult of the devadasi associated with her temples. Devadasis, 'female servants of the god', were young girls dedicated to temples in India, the custom being particularly prevalent in the south. The custom led to many practices which devalued the girls until they were reduced to the role of prostitute to the devotees, and efforts are being made in modern India to eradicate it. The image is described as 'the Sanskrit and Kanarese inscription slab of Krishna Rastrakuta, Shaka 797(c. 875), and Vikramaditya, Shaka 1017 (c. 1095 A.D).'
Yellamma Devi FairThe Yellamma Devi fair is held at the Yellamma temple located in Saundatti of Belgaum district. The Yellamma temple is the shrine of Yellamma Devi or Renuka, wife of Sage Jamadagni. The temple is located atop a hill known as Yellammagudda.
Even though the Yellamma Devi fair is held on many occasions between October and February, the biggest celebration takes place on the full moon day of Margasira. On this auspicious day known as the Bharat Hunnime, the famous Neeramanavi Yellamma jatra is taken out. On this occasion, the goddess Yellamma is worshipped in the manner of Shakti Puja, complete with all its attendant rituals.
During the Yellamma Devi fair, women become Devadasis or slaves of God. This age-old practice has been dubbed as religious prostitution by NGOs and other social organizations. More than 30 thousand devotees from Raichur, Bellary, Bagalkot, Bijapur, Gulbarga, Bidar, Belgaum and various districts of Maharashtra, Andhra, Madhya Pradesh and Goa participate in the Yelamma fair and the car festival
How to Reach:Saundatti is 37 km from Dharwad and 85 km from Belgaum. KSRTC buses and private taxis operate regularly in this route.
Bangalore to Dhavangere - > Hubli - > Saundatti to Yallammagudda 490 KM.