Shravanabelagola – Home Of The World’s Largest Monolithic Stone Statue
Shravanabelagola, an anticipated heritage and an important pilgrim spot for the Jains, is situated in the Hassan district of the Karnataka state in South India. Crowned amidst two hills namely Chandragiri and Vindyagiri and a white pond named Kalyani, the place is famous for its architectural and sculptural artwork of the Hoysala reign. At the foot of the two hills, there is a Mutt, the abode of Jain Munis (sages) and a Sanskrit school for teaching the Sanskrit language and imparting the knowledge of a set of holy books, Shastras.
The term ‘Belagola’ in Kannada language means white (bel) pond (goda), which is the part of the town name. Further, in ancient days, Shramana or Shravana resided in this town. Due to this combination, the town got its full name as Shravanabelagola.
Considered as the first among the seven wonders of India, the monolithic stone statue of 57 feet of the Lord Gomateshwara Bahubali is located on the Vindyagiri hills. Built by Chamundaraya who was a general of King Gangaraya, its base offer inscriptions written in different languages such as Kannada, Tamil, Sanskrit, and Marathi. These inscriptions admire the Ganga king for providing financial assistance and his general Chamundaraya for erecting the statue for his mother. Overall, there are more than 800 inscriptions in Shravanabelagola, which are considered the largest of its kind in India.
Lord Rishabh Dev Swami or Shree Adinath, the first Tirthankara (apostle) and father of Bahubali, delegated the kingdom of Ayodhya to his son Bharat and Paudanapura to Bahubali before leaving behind everything in his spiritual quest. Bharat had a strong desire to become the emperor of the Indian continent, also called as Chakravarthi. However, Bahubali did not give up his kingdom that leaded to the situation of war. However, both of them did not favor violence and bloodshed. Therefore, an alternate way was though and agreed, which was a dual battle of three types namely:
A race of staring at each other uninterruptedly without moving or closing the eyelids
A contest of splashing water on each other until the face is turned away
A contest of wrestling spell
Bahubali won all the three contests; while Bharat was angry at this. Then, Bharat attacked Bahubali with his chakra, a divine wheel. However, the chakra just circled around him and could not do any harm. At this time, Bahubali was totally disappointed with the vainness of the material world and realized that it is anger, greed, and pride that can result in fraternal quarrels. Not being hesitated for a second, Bahubali renounced his materialistic life and took sanyasa and penance for purification.
He stood in Kayotsarga (standing) pose contemplating totally until a year without taking food and water. Meanwhile, anthills grew around his leg side, serpents crawled near these hills, and creepers grew up interweaving his legs, arms, and shoulders. Not being disturbed by all this, finally, he attained Kevalgnan meaning only knowledge – a perfect inner state of being in the manifested soul and observing the universe as it is.
Bharata built his brother’s image in Paudanapura. However, as the time passed by, anthills and serpents covered the hill and now only the moral one can see the image. Chavundaraya had heard of the story and decided to have the same image on the hill at Shravanabelagola. Therefore, he threw an arrow atop Indragiri and the figure of Gomateshwara sparkled. The carving of the image was monitored by a sage named Arishtanemi in 981 A.D.
Due to this unique human achievement, he was entitled as Bahubali, the Kevali and Gommateshwara meaning the huge in Kannada. The smiling face of the current statue is the symbol of this experienced joy and bliss.
The last shruta-kevali, Bhadrabahu Swami and his pupil, King Chandragupta Maurya had contemplated here. Chandragiri houses the cenotaph to many monks and shravakas (Jain followers practicing 12 rules), who have meditated there since 5th century AD. According to the Jain Bhadrabahu, Sritakavalli, a successor of Lord Mahavir (The Last Tirthankara) leaved his mortal body here in a cave on Chandrabetta.
There are historic monuments carved by the devoted empires, the Gangas and Hoysalas. Being of rare quality, they are taken care of by the state Government. The prominent monuments lie in the two sacred hills.
Vindyagiri/ Doddabetta / Indragiri
Situated at about 470 feet above the sea level, it is just a single solid rock wherein 500 steps have been created, which is simply incredible. The monuments here worth seeing are listed below:
- Bhagwan Gomateshwara or Sri Bahubali statue
- Brahma Devaru temple on the hilltop
- Chowwisa Tirthankara Basadi (24 tirthankaras)
- Chennana Basadi
- Odegal Basadi
- Tyagada Brahma Devaru Kambha
- Akhanda Bagilu
This small sacred hill is opposite to Vindyagiri and even here, steps are carved to view the different monuments.
The Cave of Bhadrabahu
Houses the sacred feet of Sritakavalli for worship. It is believed that Chandragupta Maurya revered it until his last days.
Kuge Brahmadevara Kambha
This is a pillar on whose top Lord Brahma, the Creator of Universe, is seated.
This is dedicated to the Jain Tirthankara, Shree Shantinatha swami.
This is to the north of Shantinatha Basadi.
This is dedicated to the Jain Tirthankara, Shree Parshwanath swami.
This is an eye-catching pillar with a Jain in sitting pose in a small mantap with Gopuram. A Jain merchant name Puttaiah had constructed it in 17th century.
Located to the left of Parshvanatha Basadi, this is the biggest Basadi on Chandragiri. It houses the images of Shree Adinath Tirthankara and Shree Pampavathi.
Located to the north of Kattalai Basadi, this is the smallest Basadi. It houses stunning architectural works performed in the 12th century. Originally being dedicated to Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, it was erected by Emperor Ashoka in the third century B.C.
This has received the so-called name form the façade inscription. It houses a sanctum (Garbhagriha), Sukhanasi, and Navrang that are devoted for the worship of Adinath and his celestial protectors, Gomukha – the Yaksha Dev and Chakreshwari -the Yakshini Devi.
This is devoted for worshipping the 14th Tirthankara, Shree Ananthanath.
This is devoted to the worship of the 8th Tirthankara – Shree Chandraprabhu Swami and his celestial protectors, Shyama – the Yaksha Dev and Jwalamalini – the Yakshini Devi. It is situated to the west of Shasana Basadi.
This is again dedicated for worshipping Lord Parshwanath, but with a seven-headed serpent over the head of the image. This serpent is the symbol of his male celestial protector – Dharnendra, the Yaksha dev.
According to its inscription, it was erected in 982 A.D. by Chavundaraya and is dedicated for worshipping Shree Neminath Swami, the 22nd Tirthankara. This is considered as the most amazing work of the Ganga and the Hoysala periods.
Situated opposite to the Chavundaraya Basadi, it houses the image of Adinath and his celestial protectors.
This is for the worship of Shree Shanthinath swami, the 16th Tirthankara. As per the inscription on the pedestal of the image, this Basadi was erected by Shanthala Devi who was the queen of Vishnuvardhana in 1123 A.D.
This is famous for its replica of a Ratha (chariot).
The Bhandara Basadi
This is dedicated to all 24 Tirthankaras and has received its name from the treasure of Hoysala king, Narasimha. It houses Garbhagriha, Sukanasi, and Navrang.
Iruve Brahmadevara Temple
Here in, the status of Lord Brahma is made from a solid rock.
Kanchina and Lakki Ponds
These are ponds in the hills.
Built in the Hoysala style, this is dedicated to Shree Parshvanatha swami.
Jinanathapura and Kambadahalli
These nearby towns houses beautiful monuments of Hoysala style.
The Festival of Maha Masthakabhisheka
This festival is the head anointing and sacred bathing ceremony of Bahubali statue atop the Vindyagiri hill. Held once every 12 years, the next being in 2018, it is a rare scene to the eyes and religious opportunity to the devotees and visitors. This ritual commemorates the first sacred bath, Prathista Abhisheka, performed by the Ganga Prime Minister Chavundaraya and his guru, Acharya Sri Nemichandra Siddhantha Chakravarthi.
In the ceremony, the showers of the following offerings (abhishek) are made from a helicopter and are poured from above the statue’s head too.
- Fresh and pure tender coconut
- Sugarcane juice
- Rice flour
- Turmeric paste
- Kashaya (herbal mixture)
- Shrigandha (sandal paste)
- Chandan (colored sandal paste)
- Ashtagandha (eight kinds of sandal paste)
- Gold and silver flowers
- Gold coins
- Precious stones
- Poppy seeds
A Ratha Yatra, chariot festival, is organized on special other occasions such as setting of a new idol, the end of long penance, the anniversaries of Tirthankaras’ life events, or on its nirvana (demise after enlightenment of soul), and annual Paryushan festival.
Best Visiting Time
October – March
By air, the closest airport is at Bangalore at a distance of 145 km. By rail, the nearest station is Hassan at 53 km that is linked to Bangalore and Mysore. By road, it is well linked to Bangalore, Mysore, and Hassan from where you can catch buses.