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 oppertunity 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 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 downand 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 restaurents 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.

IndragiriThere is also the Brahmadevaru temple atop the hill. Besides these there are the Odegal Basadi, Chowwisa Thirthankara Basadi, Chennana Basadi, Tyagada Brahmadevaru Kambha, Akhanda Bagilu and Gullakayajji.

The Odegal Basadi is so called because of the odegal or stone props used for strengthening against its basement walls. In the literary works the temple is known as the “Trikuta Basadi”. This Basadi or temple is also known as Trikuta Basadi because it has three cells facing different directions. It has a fine granite structure of the Hoysala period with a plain exterior.

The navaranga pillars are cylindrical in shape and the central ceiling has a lotus pendant. The main cell contains a fine figure of Adinatha with a well carved prabhavali, flanked by male chamara bearers; the left cell has a figure of Neminatha and the right a figure of Shantinatha. Adinatha or Vrishabhanatha was the first among the twenty four Jinas. He is also known as Purudeva. He was the father of Gommata. In the three sanctums are beautiful images of Thirthankaras carved in schist. The Temple is datable to the 14th century.

According to Jain theology, there are period of happiness and peace called “Utsarpini”, during this period truth and ‘Dharma’ reign. Alternately, during ‘Avasarpini’, truth and goodness decline. During the period of deteriorations and decline the “Thirthankaras” (the realized souls) incarnate in this world and guide people to truth and the right path.

There were twenty four Thirthankaras, the first one is Purudeva. He is also called Vrishabhadeva or Adinatha. Vrishabhadeva had two wives. The elder queen was called Yashaswathi, she gave birth to Bharatha and other sons and a daughter called Brahma. The younger queen was Sunanda; she gave birth to a son called Bahubali and a daughter Sunadri.

Purudeva the first Thirthankara and renounced the world. His of his two sons Bharatha the elder was crowed The King and Bahubali was crowned as the Yuvaraj (heir apparent). But they squabbled between themselves for the kingdom. In the ensuing fight that happened Bahubali succeeded. However, he soon was overcome by grief and shame of seeing his defeated brother. His mind got transformed. He renounced the Kingdom to his brother and retreated to penance and attained Kevalagnana. His brother Bharatha got Bahubali’s statue erected in Paudanapura. After several years ant hills and mounds covered it. He came to be recognized as Kukkuteshwara. Only the devout could see the image.

The story goes thus Chavundaraya who had heard of the story narrated it to his mother- Shrimathi Kalala Devi. Kalala Devi wished to have a darshan of the golden statue at Paudanapura. The obedient son, seeing the intense spiritual favour of his mother, setout on a long pilgrimage to see the golden statue along with his mother and Guru Acharya Ajithasena, and spent a night at Shravanabelagola en-route to Paudanapura. In identical dreams to Chavundaraya and his mother, the Kushmandini Yakshi ordered Chavundaraya to erect a statue. The next morning, as directed in the dream, Chavundaraya shot his golden arrow at the first shaft of the rising sun from the top of Chandragiri hill to the top of the bigger Vindhyagiri hill on the opposite side. Immediately the prophecy came true and the image of Bahubali appeared. Chavundaraya resolved to have an image of the same description installed on the Vindhyagiri hill at Shravanabelagola. Bahubali was 525 arrows tall, that’s why the 57 feet tall statute got made. The sculpture was got carved out of a huge block of granite by the most skillful sculptors of the land under the guidance of Arishtanemi.

This statue is associated with a good deal of traditional sanctity and the
"Mahamasthakabhisheka" is performed. In later years, Chavundaraya, filled with the pride of achievement and arrogance, set out to perform the Mahamastaka Abhisheka. But, the anointing liquids – coconut, milk and the five nectars –would not descend down the navel. At that moment, legend goes, Gullikayajji, an old woman presented herself with a little milk in the shell of a white Gullikai fruit. Many derided her but Acharya Nemichandra advised Chavundaraya to invite her. As the humble devotee of Bahubali poured the milk in the shell, it instantly ran down the image, reaching the feet of the statue and covered the hill around.

A chastened Chavundaraya then made it mandatory that Mahamastaka Abhisheka be performed every 12 years for Lord Bahubali.

Mahamasthakabhisheka or the head anointing ceremony of the Lord Gommateshwara Bhagawan Bahubali have been ''performed once in every twelve years'' in Jain dharmic cycle is part of ancient tradition. Today the ritual Mahamasthakabhisheka of Gommateshwara statue at Shravanabelagola is in memory of the first consecratory bath prathista abhisheka performed to the statue by the Ganga Prime Minister Chavundaraya and his guru Achaiya Sri Nemichandra Siddhantha Chakravarthi, under the inspiration of Chavundaraya’s mother Kalala Devi. The ceremony last here in February 2006 is the 87 of the series that commenced in the year 981 AD.

Just on the eve of the event scaffolding is constructed to help the priests and devotees to go up and offer worship. Worship is done in accordance to Jain Agama. Hundreds of people and tourists participate in the rituals held over a period of twelve days. The statue of Lord Gommateshwara gets poured by 1008 kalashas (painted earthen pots- coloured colourfully in ceremonious style) of water, milk, butter, ghee, curd, sugar, almonds, tender coconut, sugarcane juice, rice flour, turmeric paste, jaggery, banana paste, kashaya (herbal concoction), shrigandha (sandal paste), chandana (coloured sandal paste), ashtagandha (8 varieties of sandal paste), saffron, marigold flowers, and precious stones, culminating in a spectacular shower of flowers from a helicopter. The wealthy devotees offer bids for the kalashas, to obtain them and perform Abhisheka.
It has become customary to offer the first opportunity of worship to the ruler of Mysore who is held in great reverence. This ritual is a rare and it is done for the peace and prosperity of mankind.

Chandragiri occupies a significant place in the Jain legacy of Karnataka, for being the place where Chandragupta, the founder of the Mauryan dynasty, became a Jain ascetic after relinquishing his throne. The place where Chandragupta breathed his last is named Chandragiri (Chikkabetta). It is a small hill is located just opposite to the Vindhyagiri hill. It has memorials to numerous monks and shravakas who have meditated there.

There are several monuments of interest. They are;

The Cave of Bhadrabahu:
The sacred feet of Sritakavalli are being worshipped even now. It is said that Chandragupta Maurya worshipped those sacred feet till his last days.

Kuge Brahmadevara Kambha:
At the top of the pillar is seated the image of Brahma over it.

Kattlae Basadi:
This is situated to the left of Parshwanatha Basadi and in fact this is the biggest of all the Basadis on this hill. Here one finds the image of Adinatha Thirthankara and also of Pampavathi in the Kaisale.

Chandragupta Basadi:
It is situated to the north of Kattalae Basadi. This is perhaps the smallest of all the Basadis. The beautiful workmanship of architecture found in this monument relates to the 12th century.

Shasana Basadi:
Because of the inscription in front of it, it is called like that. It has got a Garbhagruha, Sukhanasi and Navaranga. All are dedicated to the worship of Adinatha and Gomukha and Chakreshwari, the Yaksha and Yakshi.

Majjigana Basadi:
Dedicated to worship of Ananthanatha, the 14th Thirthankara.

Chandraprabha Basadi:
Located to the west of Shasana Basadi, it is dedicated to the worship of the Eighth Thirthankara, Chandraprabha. The images of Shyama and Jwalamalini, Yaksha and Yakshi are to be found.

Suparshwanatha Basadi:
Seven headed serpent is carved over the head of the image.

Chavundaraya Basadi:
This Basadi is said to have been got constructed in 982 A.D. by Chavundaraya as per inscription. It is dedicated to the worship of Neminatha Swamy, the 22nd Thirthankara. The monument reveals workmanship of the Ganga and the Hoysala periods. This is constructed as the most beautiful of all the Basadis.

Yeradukatte Basadi:
It is located opposite to the Chavundaraya Basadi. The image of Adinatha is found inside with Yaksha and Yakshi.

Savathigandharvana Basadi:
It is dedicated to the worship of Shanthinatha, the 16th Thirthankara. It is seen from the inscription on the pedestal of the image that this Basadi was got constructed by Shanthaladevi, the queen of Vishnuvardhana, in 1123 A.D.

Iruve Brahmadevara Temple:
The image of Brahma is carved out of a solid rock on a miniature scale.

The Bhandara Basadi:
Dedicated to the worship of 24 Thirthankaras. It is named after Treasure of Hoysala king Narasimha. It has got garbhagruha, Sukanasi and navaranga. The image in Indian dancing pose is beautifully carved.

Akkana Basadi:
Dedicated to the worship of Parshwanatha, it is constructed in Hoysala style. There is beautiful architecture inside the temple.

Sidhantha Basadi:
In this Basadi located to the west of the enclosure to Akkana Basadi were secured books relating to the Jain Sidhantha, in a dark room.

My Sincere thanks to Internet (Wikipedia) as well as different other books etc., from where I got the above material. It has been mentioned here just to help people know about our great culture.


  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

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