It is one of the divine destinations of Karnataka. There are total five monoliths of Gomteshwara – the son of the first Jain tirthankar(Rishabhnath Swami) in the state, the tallest one(58 ft) of which is located in Shravanbelagola making it a tourist hot-spot. It is also considered to be the tallest monolith in the world. Chandragupta Maurya is said to have died here after he assumed the life of an ascetic. Fascinated by these facts and the craze for the fictional character of Bahubali, I planned a day trip from Mysore to this divine place that led to the creation of a blockbuster movie.
Shravan Belagola – The Town
As the name suggests “The white Pond of Shravan(the nakshtra)”. The town is beautifully decorated with flower plants on the streets and a water tank at the base of the Vindhyagiri Hills (the hill on which the temple is located) makes its name relevant.
The town is quite clean and calm apart from some illiterate tourists throwing wrappers around. It is much frequented by jains and the other tourists from all over India. Even the number of foreign tourists visiting this place is quite huge.
The Jain Temple – A Divine Shrine
Reaching the temple located on a hill called Vindhyagiri by climbing the stairs is quite a task. But for those who cannot climb, there is special service of a seat carried by townspeople up to the temple.
You can take rest on the way for a while to see the breath-taking view of the Chandragiri hill (the smaller hill across the town and a Kalyani a traditional water tank construction with gates on its four sides. On the extreme north you can see a small cluster which is the town of Hassan.
The construction of temples and pillars ages back to the reign Chandragupta Maurya. Many kings of other dynasties are supposed to have constructed few temples on the hill. While moving up to the temple you can see a few of the inscription of that time, written in ancient Kannada, giving the information about the temple. The rocks of Vindhyagiri hills have been well used in the construction of the temples. The creepers form the main design of most of the pillars.
Apart from the main temple of Gomteshwara, the complex also includes the small idols and temples of all 24 Tirthankaras (Gods). Outside the main temple there is a small separate temple called Akkana Basadi, dedicated to the 23rd tirthankar, Lord Parshwanath. It has four Pillars around it with an image carved on each of it depicting the symbols of Jainism. Similarly there are many other Basadis dedicated to different Gods and kings.
The statue is one the tallest monolith standing freely on the land. As per the stories, the statue was sculptured at the town and then was taken all the way on the hill and was erected with the help of thousands of man. (And this makes me remember the people in the movie carrying a huge statue) The standing posture of the monk suggests his meditating position. It is believed that Bahubali (Who assumed the name Gomteshwar after he became a monk) mediated for years in the same position, due to which creepers grew around him and thus even on the statue, the creepers have been craved.
The Prakrit inscriptions at the feet of the statue describes the glory of the king.It was built by the minister Chavundaraya for his mother who venerated him a lot. A temple is also built by him on Chandragiri hill (the smaller hill).
The Fascinating Story of Bahubali
It is said that among the sons of Rishabhnath all turned monks except Bharat and Bahubali. Bharat conquered all the areas distributed to his brothers by their father. But could not conquer the land of Bahubali and could not win over his people. The war was then inevitable. But the smart ministers of both the kings avoided the war by saying that both of kings are the supreme incarnations and cannot kill each other by any means. Thus, three competitions were held between the two, namely – wrestling, water fight and the eye war. All the three of them were won by Bahubali. But, disgusted by such fight with his own brother, he renounced his kingdom, possession, wealth and belongings including his clothes. And thus he became a Digambara Monk (the monk who doesn’t wear anything but the sky)
He said to have attained moksha with meditation.
Now… get up. Take your calendar and plan the visit to this spectacular destination and witness the king’s statue and the fascinating story connected to it, while you keep Mysore as your base city.
How to reach:
By Road: It is easily reachable by road that connects Bangalore- Mysore – Mangalore(NH48). Regular bus service is available from Mysore Bus Stop to Shravanbelagola (Channaraypattana).
By Air: The nearest airport is Bangalore international Airport (- city bus to a depot à State Transport bus to Mysore àbus to Sravanbelagola)
Where to Stay:
A number of reasonable hotels and dharmshalas are available at Shravanbelagola. But, there is hardly any need of stay as you can make a one day trip to a few of the nearby destinations including this place from Mysore.
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