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  Sravanabelagola

 

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.
The Holy Feet of the Sri Gomatheswar statue, Sravanabelagola
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 early.

History
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 head.

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 worth it.

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 tiniest detail.

    Hoysaleswara Temple, HalebidThe 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 at Halebid.
  • Belur
    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 profession.

    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.
 
 
 
Jain Tithrankar, Sravanabelagola, Karnataka
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