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This town has got some historical references, which add to the importance of this place.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. Drive from Bangalore towards Hassan city via Nelamangala. After Nelamangala, you have to take an 18 kms detour towards a small village on the left 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
The hill is about 470 feet above the ground and is one solid rock accessible through a flight of about 660 steps to the top, cutout in the rock. People of all ages climb these steps. However make no mistake, these rough rock cut steps are steep and it is a hard climb up this hill by foot and you have to do it barefoot. As you go higher, you tend to get tired. The rock gets hot, you are advised to carry two pairs of socks per person to be worne one on another so that you can walk and climb comfortably. There are two sets of steps– 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 enought 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.
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.
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.
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, 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:-