Learning about human history is a humbling experience. Not only because of the amazing things we uncover, but because we’re constantly confronted with how little we really know about foreign cultures.

Sahasralinga is a place of pilgrimage and worship located within Sirsi in the Indian state of Karnataka. One of its most attractive features is the Shalmala river, which, due to both drought and high water consumption, sometimes runs quite low.

And when it does… it reveals something incredible.

The Shalmala river, located in the Indian state of Karnataka, experiences frequent droughts. It also suffers from the overconsumption of water, and both conditions are known for causing it to run low at times.


When that happens, however, an amazing phenomenon occurs. As the river water recedes, these amazing formations are revealed. They almost look like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, don’t they?


What exactly are these formation, though? Are they ancient runes that tell of a long-forgotten civilization? Perhaps they’re parts of a physical map that will lead to a hidden society—something like an El Dorado?


In reality, these formations are something far more realistic, yet equally as exciting. They’re religious symbols! Most amazing, though, is just how long they’ve been sitting in the Shalmala River…


These carvings are actually called lingas, or lingams, which are powerful Hindu symbols. Found in many temples, the lingas represent the energy and potential of the god Shiva. Sahasralinga actually means “thousand lingas” in Sanskrit.


Did we mention that they’re pretty old? They are! These carvings are believed to be from the reign of Sadashiva Raya, the King of Sirsi, who ruled over Vijayanagar Kingdom for forty years from 1678 to 1718.


According to legend, the king commissioned the creation of the lingas. He did this with the hope that it would ultimately appease the god Shiva, whom he hoped would grant him an heir.


Similar carvings have been found at other locations all across India, but none of them feature as many carvings as the one in the Shalmala. It’s beautiful to look at when the tide is at its lowest.


The formations come in different sizes and are scattered across the riverbed. They feature all sorts of lovely markings, each pertaining to the lives of the people living in 17th- and 18th-century India.


There is no exact count of the number of these formations in India, but they are believed to be in the thousands. For a period of time, they were one of the most popular ways to honor the gods.


Thousands of people come to the Sahasralinga every year during Maha Shivaratri, the annual festival of Shiva to pray and to pay tribute. It’s also become quite the popular tourist attraction.


Learning about this culture will fill you with so much wonder and joy for the world. Hopefully we never stop discovering treasures like these!

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