Belagavi is abode to quite a few deities, with the Shahapur Vitthaldev Galli being the Lords’ favourite. This street is home to Mahadev, Krishna, Vitthal, Balaji, Venkateshwara as also Hanuman ( within the precincts of the Vithoba temple). Built in stone, decked by the two Dwarpals( Jai- Vijay) painted on its façade is the old temple of Lord Venkateshwara which is 300 years old. The temple was restored by the Late Srinivasrao Swamirao Naik of Shahapur in 1922. The temple used to receive a grant of Rs. 150 every year from the first Adil Shah of Bijapur and the same continued even during the reign of the Bombay Presidency.
The temple has a spacious Mantap, followed by an inner area separated by an intricately carved ornate wooden arch. This then leads to the sanctum sanctorum ( Garbhagruha) where the idol of Lord Venkateshwar stands tall. The temple is known for its unique Navaratri festival which is celebrated on the lines of the one at Tirumala in Tirupati. Starting from the first day of navaratri, a palanquin of the Lord is ceremoniously carried within the temple for 2 days and then the third day, the elaborate ‘Vaahan’ is brought out. It carries the Utsav murtis which are carried by devotees on a special wooden palanquin, flaunted by the temple flags on both sides. Tiny kids hold and ring the gong with a wooden hammer. The ‘Vaahans’ or the vehicles of the Lord include the Tiger, Hanuman, Eagle, Peacock, Elephant and Horse. The ‘Vaahan’ moves through the key streets of Shahapur – Vitthaldev Galli, Acharya Galli, Saraf Galli, Dane Galli, Kacheri galli and back to the temple. The Basavaneppa Band is a regular fixture for this ceremony which involves the third generation of the band’s owners.
The last day of Navaratri is special, in that the temple’s wooden chariot is drawn through the streets of Shahapur, tugged by devotees all along. The carved wooden chariot is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship with two huge wheels, a rudder and two thick long ropes. The chariot used to be much taller, but has since been reduced in size keeping in view the electric wires overhead. Thousands of devotees visit the temple during the nine days and the last days witnesses the massive crowd of devotees.
The Chariot carries the Lord’s idols that are offered Aratis and coconuts as offerings at almost every household. Devotees feel blessed that the Lord has come out to offer them a glimpse and bless them. The Naik family of Shahapur has been involved in the activities of the temple and their fourth generation has enthusiastically taken up the mantle now. The temple has been video-graphed by numerous devotees including foreign tourists.