There are no bells tolling here, nor are there any churchgoers visible through the stained glass. This lonesome church, some 200 km from Bengaluru, remains half-submerged in water come the monsoons. Karnataka's eerily captivating Shettihalli Church, also known as the Rosary Church, is so isolated that even Google cannot detect it on its maps. This roofless church lets water fill inside from the top as the rains pick up, with the waves lapping up its moss-covered walls on the outside. When you see pictures of this church, a sense of dystopia will surround you. Due to its eerie ambience, the Shettihalli Church has become a go-to spot for people seeking a thrilling getaway.
In the waters of the Hemavathi River, this dilapidated 19th-century monument is an architectural wonder nestled in the Shettihalli village of Hassan district, which is a little over an hour from the Bengaluru International Airport. The Rosary Church is an excellent example of classic Gothic architecture and attests to the village's past. French missionary Abbe J A Dubois is believed to have helmed the construction of the structure in 1860 using ordinary brick and mortar and raw materials, along with jaggery, eggshells, Egyptian gypsum and some glass from Belgium.
The downfall happened in 1960 when the Gorur-Hemavathi dam was constructed over the river, leading to the uprooting of all the surrounding villages in the church's perimeter. Due to the construction of the dam and the following upending of the nearby hamlets, every year during the peak of monsoon, the Shettihalli church gets semi-flooded with water. Between June and October, only one-third of the structure is above the water's surface.
In recent years, this church has earned nicknames such as the 'Floating Church' and the 'Submerged Church.' When tourists come to the nearby Gorur dam to witness the water flow through its gates, they often rent boats for a brief excursion to explore the remains. Additionally, local fishermen from the surrounding areas are available to guide visitors on a tour of this intriguing historical site.
Between September and February is the ideal time to visit this hidden gem as it is the post-monsoon window where travellers can witness the half-submerged church and admire its enigmatic ambience. The water levels are manageable during this time, so you can see more of the church's architecture. The weather is also ideal, so it makes for a more comfortable experience for travellers overall.
Reaching the Shettihalli Church is a long route. Start your journey by getting to the well-connected town of Hassan. To reach Hassan, you can travel via road, rail, or air, after which hire a local taxi or take a picturesque bus journey to reach the church, where you'll traverse through charming countryside and lush paddy fields along the way.