India is a magical place. Most tourists believe that the best places to visit in India are in the north. But the very best India has to offer actually lays deep in the south. Phenomenal places rich in history can be uncovered and experienced. Here is one of those.
Shravanabelagola is a Jain pilgrim destination located in the Hassan district of Karnataka state, Southern India, at an altitude of about 3350 feet above sea level. The town is wedged between two rocky hills- Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri. It is at a distance of It is 11 Km from Channarayapatna, 52 Km from Hassan town, the headquarters of the Hassan district and 157 Kms from Bangalore. There are good roads from Bangalore and Mysore to Shravanabelgola. The town's Municipality has existed for the past 70 years.
There is a tank in the midst of this town called "Belagola" In Kannada (the state language), 'Bela' means white and 'kola' means the pond, an allusion to the beautiful pond in the middle of the town. Shravanabelagola is a holy place for Jains. Their Guru is residing here in a Mutt. There is a Sanskrit Patashala to study Sanskrit and Shastras.
This town has got some historical references, which add to the importance of this place. According to the tradition of the Jain Bhadrabahu, one of the Sritakavalli as the successor of Vardhamana (Mahaveera) passed away here in a cave on Chandrabetta or Chandragiri hill, while leading a migration to the South from Ujjain due to a 12-year famine, which he had predicted.
There are ancient monuments in and around Shravanabelagola. There are monuments of rare excellence and skill got executed by the illustrious Gangas and Hoysalas who had profound sense of duty and ardent devotion to religion. The finest monuments are found in two sacred hills, Vindhyagiri and the Chandragiri.
A number of languages are spoken around here that reflects the cultural diversity of Karnataka. Kannada is the official state language but English and Hindi are also widely spoken, so communication shouldn't be much of a problem.
Shravanabelagola is 146 km from Bangalore and 11 km from Channarayapatna. Hassan 57 km, Mysore 83 km, Arasikere 63 km.
The nearest airport is at Bangalore (157 kms), regular flights of Indian and Jet Air connect Bangalore to the main areas of the country
Nearest station is Hassan (57 Km) and Bangalore is (157 Km away). Taxi or cars are the other options from here.
Shravanabelagola is well connected by road from all important towns in Karnataka. You can get here from Mysore, Bangalore or Hassan. Buses from Hassan are frequent. But there are no direct buses to Shravanabelagola. You have to change over at Channarayapatna. Local transport from Channarayapatna includes auto rickshaws, private cars and buses. From Bangalore you can hire a taxi or bus to reach the main town, the route is simple. After taking NH-4 from Bangalore, once you cross Nelamangala, take a deviation towards Mangalore on Mangalore-Bangalore highway (NH48). Just follow this road until Hirisave from where you will see router marking which leads to Shravanabelagola. Hirisave is 18KM from Sharavanabelagola, if you are using Google maps for navigation, then it will ask you to go further from Hirisave and then take a left: This route is not good. It is recommended to take deviation from Hirisave to reach Shravanabelagola.
Private vehicles are also available to go to Shravanabelagola from Channarayapatna. It is advisable to visit Shravanabelagola through Channarayapatna only, because of the lack of direct buses to Shravanabelagola from Hassan city.
There are KRSTC buses from
Autorickshaws to travel from one place to another.
“Dolis” built of a comfortable cane chair carried by four men for a tour over the hills.
The town is small and you can easily walk between the major attractions. The biggest question is how much time you have, and how interested you are in history, the Jain religion, wandering or relaxing in nature. Many people seem to visit and only see Vindhyagiri, however Chandragiri is just as if not more interesting save the lack of a statue. For groups with older or younger members, it may be worth counting on one day for Vindhyagiri, one day for Chandragiri, and one day for the other temples and departure.
Attractions in town
The temples in the town itself are inferior by comparison to those on the mountains, but probably worth seeing regardless. They are all located on a north/south road one block east of the pond that dominates the town. If you are unclear how to get there, just turn left at the bottom of the main steps to Vindhyagiri or ask a local for 'Jain Math' which will take you to one end.
The hill is about 470 feet above the ground and is one solid rock. It must be climbed barefoot. Most tourists use the 'main steps' from the town consisting of a dual flights of about 660 steps to the top, cutout in the rock. People of all ages climb these steps however they are steep and it cam be a hard climb. As you go higher, you tend to get tired. In summer the rock can get hot, so you may wish to carry two pairs of socks per person to be worn one on another so that you can walk and climb comfortably. In the monsoon this is not a problem. There are two sets of steps at this main stairway: one set to go up, and one set to come down. The climb is very steep so please be careful, elders are advised not to venture unless they are fit enough to climb. Old people who cannot climb or If you have a history of cardiac disease/blood pressure don’t attempt to climb it by foot, use the palanquin service available down hill. Palanquin bearers, carry you up on a chair for Rs. 150 (one way). Old people use this service. It will take about 2 hours to finish darshan and get come back downhill.
The second, equally good but much less used set of stairs are on the western side of the hill (ie: if facing the main stairs, turn right and walk around the hill 1/4 of the way, until you see the second set of stairs). These are recommended if you would like to enjoy the scenery in peace and don't want to be surrounded by yelling tourists. Another option is to circumambulate the hill prior to climbing, if you do this then the suggested direction is clockwise. It is easy to find the road and impossible to get lost.
The 17.38 meter (58 ft) high monolithic stone statue of the Lord Gommateshwara, also referred to as Bahubali is located above this hill which is called Vindhyagiri or Doddabetta or Indragiri hill. It is estimated to weigh approximately 80 tons. The stone statue was installed and consecrated by Chavundaraya, the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief who served under the successive rulers- King Marasimha II, Rachamalla IV and Rachamalla V of the Talakad Ganga Kingdom in 981 A.D. The base of the statue has inscriptions in Kannada and Tamil, as well as the oldest evidence of written Marathi, dating back to 981 AD. The inscription praises the Ganga king who funded the effort, and his general Chavundaraya, who erected the statue for his mother.
This statue is considered to be the world's largest monolithic stone statue. It is carved beautifully from a single block of rock with accurate sense proportion and expression. Gommata has curly really nice hair in ringlets on the head and long, large ears. His eyes are open as if viewing the world with detachment. His facial features are perfectly chiseled with a faint touch of a smile at the corner of his lips and embody calm vitality. His shoulders are broad, his arms stretch straight down and the figure has no support from the thigh upwards.
There is an anthill in the background which signifies his incessant penance. From this anthill emerge 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 creepers encircling the arms and legs are artistic and beautiful.
The nude north facing, stand upright stone sculpture of Bahubali (Lord Gommateshwara) 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. The entire figure stands on an open lotus signifying the totality attained in installing this unique statue. The statue is simple, stylish and splendid. In the opinion of Ferguson "Nothing grander or more imposing exists anywhere out of Egypt and even there no known statue surpasses its height".
On either side of Gommata stand two tall and majestic chauri bearers in the service of the Lord. One of them is a yaksha and the other one is a 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 of the image. 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.
There 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.
Odegal Basti- (Trikuta Basti)
The Odegal Basti 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 Basti” It’s the only Trikutachala (triple shrine) at Shravanabelagola. This Basti or temple is also known as Trikuta Basti because it has three cells facing different directions. It has a fine granite structure of the Hoysala period with a plain exterior. It consists of three cells and three open sukhanasi with a common navaranga and a mukha mantapa.
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.
(This is a long story—so has been heavily clipped and made crisp)
According to Jaina 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 supposed to be 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.
A note about the name
It is conjectured by most people that Gommata was the other name of Chavundaraya, his deity or master (Eswara) was Bahubali. Therefore Gommateshwara means Gommata’s master (Gommata’s Eswara).
Indragiri Mahamasthakabhisheka Jain Mutt Pooja
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 and Indian 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, dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization. The next Mahamasthakabhisheka will be held in 2018 A.D.
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.
Shravanabelagola 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. Chandragiri also has the tomb of Chandragupta Maurya.
Steps have been cut out in this hill and the ascent is not different from Vindhyagiri. It is steep and hard to climb.
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.
To the north of Shantinatha Basadi.
A beautiful pillar with image of Jain seated in a small mantap with Gopuram. It is believed that this pillar was constructed in the 17th century by a Jain merchant by name Puttaiah.
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.
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.
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.
Dedicated to worship of Ananthanatha, the 14th Thirthankara.
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.
Seven headed serpent is carved over the head of the image.
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.
It is located opposite to the Chavundaraya Basadi. The image of Adinatha is found inside with Yaksha and Yakshi.
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.
Tyerina Basadi: Resembling a Ratha.
Iruve Brahmadevara Temple:
The image of Brahma is carved out of a solid rock on a miniature scale.
Kanchina Pond and Lakki Pond: These are ponds.
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.
Dedicated to the worship of Parshwanatha, it is constructed in Hoysala style. There is beautiful architecture inside the temple.
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.
It is interesting to note that round about Shravanabelagola there are beautiful monuments of Hoysala style particularly in Jinanathapura and Kambadahalli.
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. They stand prominent as ennobling edifices and enliven the career of the artist, the devotee and the historian, who will grudge acknowledging that these monuments are living testimonies symbolizing the neatness of our nation in the fields of art, architecture and administration.
Main thing to see are the temples. No other major activity to do here though. The temple it self takes up most of your time.
Make sure you take a camera along, these historic monuments and sculptures make interesting visual delights and are worth capturing. The guides that you get at Belur and Halibidu are ok. Some part of what they tell you is made up but the other part is actual history.
The local market at Shravanabelagola is quite colourful with its collection of restaurants, bakeries, ATM centers, fruit and vegetable vendors, stationary shops, curio shops, medical store etc. All in all, the market is well established and provides everything that is essential.
There is very tasty and homely Marwari / Jain food is available in the nearby mess, I strongly suggest you plan your lunch here in one of these since its a different experience.
Hotel Raghu has a restaurant in the ground floor, its fairly good place to eat. They serve most South Indian dishes including Idli and masala dosa for breakfast and Kanadiga Oota during lunch time.
The delectable southern Karnataka cuisine is an inseparable part of the state. The oouthern Karnataka plateau covers the districts of Bangalore, Rural Bangalore, Hassan, Kodagu, Kolar, Mandya, Mysore and Tumkur. Here, the range of cuisine is quite varied. The ingredients, flavors and the tastes of its cuisines are distinctive and versatile.
Some typical dishes include Bisi bele bath, piping hot rava idlis, dosas, sheera, Jolada rotti, Chapati, Ragi rotti, Akki rotti, Saaru, Huli, Vangi Bath, Khara Bath, Kesari Bath, Davanagere Benne Dosa, Ragi mudde, and Uppittu.
A typical Kannadiga Oota (Kannadiga meal) includes the following dishes in the order specified and is served on a banana leaf: Uppu(salt), Kosambari, Pickle, Palya, Gojju, Raita, Dessert (Yes, it is a tradition to start your meal with a dessert - Paaysa), Thovve, Chitranna, Rice and Ghee.
Water in India:
Most of India's tap water is unhealthy for consumption. Restaurants will offer treated drinking water, but it’s advisable for visitors to always drink bottled and packaged water. Bottled water in India comes in two types- packaged drinking water (Bisleri/kinley brands), and pure mineral water such as the (Bisleri Himalaya). There is a difference between them. Packaged drinking water ( is water that has been treated and made healthy for consumption, while mineral water has been obtained from its natural underground or pristine river sources and hygienically bottled. Natural mineral water is expensive and costs twice as much as packaged water. Both are safe to drink, although mineral water is better as it is chemical free.
In Shravanabelagola's context it is better you carry a small bottle of water while you do the climb. There are no shops up the hill.
Tender Coconut Water:
Coconut water is the clear liquid inside young coconuts (fruits of the coconut palm). A very young coconut has very little meat, and the meat is very tender, almost a gel. Coconut water has long been a popular drink in the in south India.
Freshly harevested tender coconut is sold in stalls at the foot of the hill. Drink refreshing “Tender Coconut Water” after the decent to rejuvenate.
If you plan to stay overnight at Shravanabelagola, you can stay at:
Good Hotels are also available at Channarayapatna (13 km away) and at Hassan (52 km away)
At Hassan you can stay at any of the following Hotels:-