Nestling on the sea-board of Karnataka State is the city of Mangalore, the headquarters of Dakshina Kannada, one of the two maritime districts of Karnataka. It has been described by the Indian Nightingale, Sarojini Naidu, as "a garden city hidden under coconut groves".
It is believed that the seeds of Christianity were sown in Canara by the Portuguese missionaries. After the martyrdom of Father Pedro Cabilioness, who accompanied Vasco da Gama, Franciscans and Dominicans arrived in Goa, the then headquarters of political and religious activity of the Portuguese. In 1521, Lopez de Sampio entered Canara with his soldiers and under his care Franciscan missionaries started to spread the Gospel. Three churches were built; one dedicated to Our Lady of Rosary at Mangalore; another to Our Lady of Mercy at Ullal Fajir and a third one to St. Francis of Assisi at Farangipet.
It is a fine stretch of land covering an area of 9,425 square kilometers beautifully sandwiched between the Arabian Sea in the West and the Western Ghats in the East and stretching from the Talpady River in the South to Shiroor Byndoor in the North. It is an area running all round the foot of the Ghats and sloping towards the Sea, the straight flight from the Ghats to the sea at the broadest part of the strip being about 80 kilometers. The coastal strip is flat but it is studded with hillocks of various heights ranging up to 180 meters above sea level. There are numerous rivers flowing from the Ghats which serve as a source of irrigation. South Karana can be said to be the belt of heavy rains.
The district is largely agricultural. Small holdings, frequent partition and fragmentation and wet fields do not easily permit mechanization of agriculture. What one finds deep-rooted is a thirst to possess a piece of ancestral land. The greater number of people were tenants. But the Land Reform Act changed the situation.
Today Christianity is strongly rooted in Mangalore, and has a great influence in the socio-cultural and religious life of people. Mangalore is a center of education and people of various faiths live in harmony. It has produced many zealous missionaries for the rest of the country and have provided 41 bishops and 10 archbishops to the rest of India and thousands of priests and religious in the past. Currently, the Indian Church has 29 Mangalorean bishops and 3 archbishops serving the country.
There is no one culture, or one caste or creed in South Kanara, but to a large extent there is a harmonious blending of people of different walks of life and beliefs. People mix together in social and religious activities, though they hold on to their own traditional worship and living. The breeze of modern, materialistic culture has paved the way to greater emotional integration.