Thursday, November 26, 2009


Shravanabelagola is a town in the Hassan district in Karnataka. It is one of the most important Jain pilgrim centers. It reached a peak in architectural and sculptural activity under the patronage of Ganga dynasty of Talakad (near Mysore, Karnataka).

In Kannada language, "Bel" means white while "kola", the pond, is an allusion to the pond in the middle of the town It is easily accessible through Bangalore. The distance from Bangalore to Shravanbelagola is about 150 KMs.

The route is Bangalore-Nelamangala-Kunigal- Hirisave- Shravanbelagola.

I have got the opportunity to visit Shravanbelagaola twice. As far as I remember, first time I visited this sacred place on 31st December, 2004 along with friend Anil MS. We took a KSRTC Bus from Majestic Bus Stand, Bangalore.

Second time I visited along with friend Nitin Agarwal on 26th January, 2006. We went by Nitin's new Hyundai Accent. It was the time of Mahamastakabhisheka of Lord Gommateswar. So I am blessed to have visited that time.

We crossed Yaswantpur, Peenya and reach Nelamangala junction. From here take left turn to take NH48 (towards Hassan). After taking left on NH48, there is almost straight road till Hirisave. A lot of Tourism boards will be there to guide you.

Road is fine, though from Nelmangala, it is not as wide as Mysore road. As far as I remember, it is a single road.

Many people on two wheelers drive on these highways. I feel it is a little risky.

At Shravanbelagola, there is a pond and two stony hills, called Vindhyagiri (Indragiri) and Chandragiri.

Chandragiri has the Chandragupta basadi (Jain Temple). It was here Chandragupta Maurya lived in his last days. It was said to be originally built there by Emperor Ashoka in the third century BC. It also has memorials to numerous monks and shravakas, who have meditated there since the fifth century AD, including the last King of the Rashtrakuta dynasty of Manyakheta. Chandragiri also has a famous temple built by Chamundaraya, who was a disciple of Acharya Nemichandra Siddhanta-chakravarti.

The 57 feet monolithic statue of the Bhagavan Gomateshwara Bahubali is located on the Vindhyagiri (Indragiri). It is considered to be the world's largest monolithic stone statue and was erected by Chamundaraya, a General of King Gangaraya. The base of the statue has an inscriptions in Kannada and Tamil, as well as the oldest evidence of written Marathi, dating from 981 AD. The inscription praises the Ganga king who funded the effort, and his general Chamundaraya, who erected the statue for his mother. Every twelve years, thousands of devotees congregate here to perform the Mahamastakabhisheka, a spectacular ceremony in which the statue is covered with milk, curds, ghee, saffron and gold coins. The next maha-mastakabhisheka will be held in 2018.

The hill is about 470 feet above the ground and is one solid rock. People have to take exterme caution here, these rough rock cut steps are steep and it is a hard climb up this hill by barefoot. As the Sun comes up, this rock gets hot making ascent a little tougher.

Lord Gommateswar has curly hairs and long ears. His facial features are with a faint smile. His shoulders are broad, his arms stretch straight down and the idol has no support from the thigh upwards.

There is an anthill in the background which signifies his penance. From this anthill emerges a snake and creepers which twine around both his legs and his arms culminating as a cluster of flowers and berries at the upper portion of the arms.

The nude north facing, stand upright stone sculpture of Bahubali (Lord Gommateshwar) in the posture of meditation known as Kayotsarga, symbolizing renunciation, self-control and subjugation of ego as the first steps towards salvation. The digambara (nude) form of Bahubali represents the complete victory over earthly desires and needs that hamper spiritual ascent towards divinity.

On either side of Lord Gommateswar stand two tall and majestic chauri bearers in the service of the Lord. They are yaksha and yakshi. These richly ornamented and beautifully carved figures complement the main figure.

Carved on the rear side of the anthill is also a trough for collecting water and other ritual ingredients used for the sacred bath. Around the statue is an enclosure of a pillared hall where one can find 43 images of Thirthankaras in different cloisters.

There is also a figure of a woman called Gullakayajji sculpted with a good built and wearing exquisite ornamentation, typical of the sculptures of the Ganga period.

More than 800 inscriptions have been found at Shravanabelagola, dating to various times from 600 to 1830. Most of the inscriptions date back before the 10th century. These inscriptions include texts in the Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, Marathi languages. The second volume of Epigraphia Carnatica, written by Benjamin L. Rice, is dedicated to the inscriptions found here.

Try to start early in the morning, to avoid traffic till Nelamangala.

Rock hills becomes very hot in noon time and you have to ascend it barefooted. Last time when I visited they had put one carpet on the stairs, so it was better.

While climbing up, take care and go up with the support of railing. Vindhyagari has about 600 steps and Chandragiri about 150. (my guess, I am not sure about exact numbers.)

Carry plenty of water with you. Uphill you may not get it. It is also difficult to go up with kids in your lap. There are a few porters who carry kids and elderly uphill.

Take care of kids uphill, they should not run here and there.

First climb Vindhyagiri and after darshan have a good view of surroundings. Then come down, take some refreshment and climb up to Chandragiri.

There are only a few small restaurants here.

The monuments of Shravanabelagola are a display of artistic excellence, architectural genius and intense devotion to religion. A visit to Shravanabelagola will reveal the grandeur and beauty of art and architecture of the distant past.

These monuments are living testimonies symbolizing the greatness of our nation in the fields of art, architecture and administration.

From Bangalore, it is a one day trip.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the information about the trip. I am surely going to visit soon as it is one of the beautiful place on earth. Gomateshwara is the tallest statue in the world. Dedicated to Lord Bahubali, located in Shravanabelagola. Shravanabelagola is a very important for pilgrimage and religion for centuries. Very nice view of the statue during the festival of Mahamastakabhishekam which is held once in 12 years. For more details refer Gomateshwara