Shravanabelagola (shravaNabeLagoLa) (ಶ್ರವಣಬೆಳಗೊಳ) is one of the most ancient and renowned places in Karnataka. This is not merely a pilgrimage centre for the Jainas. On the contrary it is virtually a goldmine for students of history, architecture, epigraphy, art and religion. Shravanabelagola is located in Channarayapattana talluk of Haasana district. It is at a distance of 140 kilometers from Bangalore and 50 kilometers from Haasana. This place nestles between two hills known respectively as Chandragiri (cikka bTTa) and Indragiri. (doDDa beTTa) The name ‘beLagoLa’ meaning, literally ’white pond’ is derived from the beautiful pond present in the center of the town. ‘shravaNa’ is a reference to a Jaina ascetic. Appropriately Shravanabelagola has been an abode of Jaina monks, monasteries and temples for more than two milleniums. But many ancient inscriptions found here and else where have used names such as kaTavapra, kaTapra, kaTvappa, kaLvappu, etc to describe this place. ‘vapra’ in Sanskrit means a hill and the word; ‘kaTa’ denotes a cave or place suitable for burials. hence ‘kaTavapra’ means a place fit for/ meant for burials of ascetics. The antiquity of this place dates back to the period when Chandragupta Maurya the emperor belonging to the Maurya dynasty arrived here accompanied by his guru Bhadrabaahu BhaTaaraka. The temple, Chandragupta basadi, present on the hill Chandragiri was built by the emperor Ashoka in 300 B.C. They are supposed to have relinquished their lives in a cave on the Chandragiri hill. J.F. Fleet contends this view accepted by most other scholars and insists that this pair of Chandragupta and Bhadrabahu is different from the Maurya king and his master However the fact that Shravanabelagola is more than 2000 years old is beyond dispute. Brief accounts of cikkabetta, doDda beTTa and the Shravanabelagola are presented separately in this short essay. Shravanabelagola has seen many a ruler during its long history. Gangas, Hoyasalas, Vijayanagara Empire, Odeyar dynasty of Mysore are some of them. Most of these dynasties have consistently encouraged scholastic, religious and artistic activities that were taking place in this place. Their deeds are well documented in the inscriptions that are found here.

Chikkabetta or Chandragiri pre dates the statue of Lord Bahubali. A majority of about 800 inscriptions of Shravanabelagola were found in Chandragiri. They date back from the sixth century A.D. right up to the end of nineteenth century. Chandragiri contains inscriptions that are relatively more ancient. An entire volume of Epigraphia Carnatica edited by B.L. Rice is dedicated to the inscriptions found in and around Shrvanabelagola. They have rendered invaluable help in reconstructing the political and cultural history of Karnataka. There are many inscriptions installed during the regime of Gangaas, Hoysalas, Rashtrkutas and the kings of Vijayanagara. The evolution of the Kannada language and script can be traced by making diligent use of this inscription. Many of them have literary value also. These inscriptions have documented the noble deeds of many a Jaina saint.

In addition to inscriptions, Chandragiri contains many Jaina temples and monasteries. Shantinatha Basadi, Parshvanatha Basadi, Padmavati Basadi, Chandragupta Basadi, Chavundaraya Basadi and Savati Gandhvarana Basadi built by the Hoysala queen Shantala are among the more important ones. Mahanavami mantapa and the Bhadrbahu cave are also counted among important relics.

Indragiri (Vindhyagiri) which is popularly known as ‘doDDa beTTa’ is famous for harboring the tallest monolithic statue in the world, of Lord Bahubali (Gommateshvara) which is 57 feet tall. This was built by Chavundaraya a minister and a warrior during the regime of Immadi Rachamalla a king who comes under the Ganga dynasty in the year 983 A.D. This serene statue has become a symbol of valour, beauty and renunciation. The culture of Karnataka has taken Lord Gommateshvara to its bosom and responded to it in myriad ways. Mahamstakabhisheka of the Lord performed once in twelve years has become an event celebrated with huge enthusiasm. Brahmadevara stambha and the statue of an old woman called ‘guLLakaayajji’ are important land marks in oDDA beTTa. Indragiri is at a height of about 3400 ft. above sea level. 700 steps lead to the statue of Lord Bahubali.

There is a ‘mantap’ with beautiful carvings in front of the statue. Sidhdhara Basadi, Chandranatha Basadi, and Trikuta Basadi, (odegal basadi) are the most important Jaina temples on doDDabeTTa. Among these, Trikuta basadi contains the statues of AdinAtha, Shanthinatha and Neminatha. This basadi has three temples facing three directions.

Shravanabelagola town stands between cikka beTta and doDda beTTa. The ancient pond that has given the town its name is renovated by Chikkadevaraaya of ODeyar dynasty. Stone walls are built around this pond with towers in the appropriate places. Four doors also of stone provide an entry to the pond.

Bhandari basadi is the largest temple seen in the town and it is built in different styles at different times. It was built by HuLLarasa who was a treasurer in the royal court of Narasimha-1, a Hoysala king. It contains the icons of Brahma and Padmavati Yakshi. The door that gives an entry in to this basadi has intricate carvings of a twelve armed dancing Indra and a number of musicians. There is a long row of 24 Teerthankars of three feet in height, in Kadgasana filling the Garbhagriha and the images are installed on the ornamental pedestal. This place flourished well during the days of Vijayanagara Empire. This houses the famous Immadi Bukkaraja Inscription which was supposedly a symbol of religious harmony during those days.

Akkana Basadi, Nagara Jinalaya, Sidhdhantha Basadi which was used to store a number of theological texts related to Jainism, mangaLa basadi and Pancha Parameshti basadi are other important basadis in the town.

Charukeerthi Peetha located in the middle of the town is an important land mark in Shravanabelagoala. This also was purportedly founded by Chavundaraya in the eleventh century. This mutt is mentioned in many inscriptions and literary texts. This contains a number of exquisite statues of Gods and Goddesses such as Chandranatha, Parshvanatha, Saraswathi, Jwalamalini, Nava Devataa idols and Kushmandinii dEvi. This mutt is better known for its wall paintings. (Murals) The walls are decorated with many paintings delineating the lives of Jinas and Jaina kings. “The right panel of the middle cell shows the Dasara durbar of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. The left one has the figures of Panchaparameshtis, Neminatha with his yaksha and Yakshi and a Jain Guru. The north mural has the picture of Parshwanath's Samavasarana. The south wall has the scenes from the life of Bharatha Chakravarthi. The other paintings include the life of prince Nagakumar, Shadleshya, Parshwanatha and 24 Prophets.”

Shravanabelagola is thus one of the most important shrines and cultural centres of Karanataka.



Further Readings and Links:

1.      Shravanabelagola Ondhu Samikshe Ed, by Dr G.S. Shivarudrappa, 1983, Bangalore University .

2.      Gommateshvara Commemoration Volume: Ed. by Dr T.G. Kalaghatagai, 1981, S.D.J.M.I. Managing Committee, Shravanabelagola.

3.      Bahubali of Jainbadri (Shravanabelagola) and Other Jaina Shrines of Deccan by Surendranatha Sripadaji Jain and Sarojini Surendranatha Jain, 2005, Shravanabelagola.

4.      ‘Shravana Belagola- An Illustrated Study’ by S. Settar, 1981, Dharwar

5.      ‘Pusuing Death: Philosophy and Practice of Voluntary Termination of Life’ by S.Settar, 1990, Dharwar.

6.      ‘The Sacred Shravanabelagola: A Socio religious Study’ by V.A. Sangve, 1981, Bharateeya Jnanapith.

7. (Lord Bahubali)

8. (Chavundaraya Basadi)

9. (Chandragupta Basadi)


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