Sravanabelagola, a great centre
for Jain culture is situated at a distance of about 100 kms from Mysore and
is famous for its colossal statue of Gomateshwara who is also referred to as
Lord Bahubali. Carved out of monolithic stone, the imposing 17 metre high
statue of Gomata towers stands in majestic splendour and is visible even
from a distance of 20 kms. Starkly simple, the beautifully chiselled
features of the statue embody serenity. His perfect lips are turned out at
the corners with a hint of a smile, viewing the world with detachment.
Sravanabelagola means 'the monk on the top of the hill' and hermits,
mystics and ascetics have journeyed and lived there since at least the third
century BC. In those early times the hill was thickly wooded and hermits
could feed themselves from the forest. In the mid-tenth century AD temples
began to be built and the site grew to be one of the most important
pilgrimage sites of the Jain religion.
The hill of Sravanabelagola, (also called Vindhyagiri or Per-kalbappu),
looms majestically at 3347 feet above sea level. From the base a flight of
614 steps, finely carved from the granite of the mountain, leads to the
summit, where a great statue of Sri Gomatheswar stands. At 58 feet 8 inches
high, it is the tallest free-standing statue in the world. You must climb
barefoot, which poses a problem when the granite heats up, so get there
Sri Gomatheswar was the son of the legendary first Tirthankara (a mythical,
enlightened sage of Jainism). The chief festival of Sravanabelagola is
called Maha Masthaka Abhisheka, or the 'Head Anointing Ceremony'. During
this incredible event a scaffolding structure is built around the statue and
over a million devotees make a pilgrimage to its base to chant holy mantras
and pour thousands of gallons of milk, honey and precious herbs over the
While flowing downwards over the body, these offerings are believed to
acquire a powerful charge of spiritual energy. They are collected at the
feet and distributed to those who believe that the gift will assist their
quest for enlightenment. The festival is performed only once every 12 to 14
years during periods of rare astrological significance. The next one will be
held in 2005, so you've got plenty of time to organise a trip. It'll be
Pilgriamge Attractions of Sravanabelagola
In addition to this statue, there are several Jain bastis (temples) and
monasteries in Sravanabelagola and also on the nearby Chandragiri Hill. Of
these, Chavundaraya Basti is of historical significance.
- Belur and Halebid
The Hoysalas who ruled southern parts of Karnataka from the 11th to
the 14th century have built more than 150 temples, each a
masterpiece of creation and the temples of Belur, Halebid and
Somanatha-pura are the pinnacle of this exuberant activity. Hailed
as `nectar in stone' they are a tribute to that era. The Hoysala
temples are built on a star-shaped pedestal and are centred around a
pillared hall. The precise carving of the rounded surface of the
pillars are so smooth they appear as if they are `lathe turned'.
Every nook and corner of the temples pay delicate attention to the
Hoysaleshwara Temple at Halebid is one of the finest specimens of
Hoysala creativity. Practically encyclopaedic in its sheer volume of
carved pageantry, the temple has representations of Hindu deities,
sages, birds, animals, hunting, agriculture, dance and music besides
scenes of war. Two open-pillared Nandi Mandapas are situated in
front of the temple. There is also a smaller temple, the Kedareswara
The Channakeshava temple at Belur which was built by the famous
Hoysala ruler Vishnuvardhana in 1117 A.D. is dedicated to Lord
Vishnu. This temple was built to commemorate the king's conversion
from Jainism to Vaishnava faith under the influence of Saint
Ramanuja. The Gopuram of this temple is a later addition probably
made by Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagar. The most remarkable feature
of this temple is the presence of 38 bracket figures of `Madanikas'.
Beautiful, pensive, playful and amorous each figure is full of
feminine grace and charm. One sculpted beauty wrings water from her
long tresses and the drops of water are collected on hair ends. A
thread inserted into the pupil of the eye emerges through the nose.
The figures are so heavily ornamented they make us feel that perhaps
the architects of the temple were originally jewellers by
Halebid and Belur are only 16 kms apart and Hassan is the most
convenient base to visit these places, as well as Sravanabelagola.
Hassan is linked by road to Bangalore and Mysore and the KSTDC runs
conducted tours from Bangalore and Mysore to all the three places.
Arasikere is yet another base to reach Belur and Halebid.