Exploring Shravanabelagola: The Ultimate Guide

The clock was about to strike 5 PM. Our car ran like the wind, as we stole glances at our watch. As if, that would stop time in its track! Earlier that day, we got so immersed in the riveting beauty of Belur and Halebidu’s temples that we completely lost track of time ourselves. It was around 3-30 in the afternoon when we started from Halebidu and our driver expressed serious doubt about whether we will reach Shravanabelagola within time. The gates get closed at 5-30 sharp, and it takes 2 hours to reach there from Halebidu. And, thus began our ordeal.

After endless fidgety moments (which even included driving in the wrong direction), the road took a decisive turn. And there it was! The Gomateswara statue stands tall at the top of Vindhyagiri hill. We had reached Shravanabelagola.

The resplendent Gomateswara statue will captivate you beyond words.

About Shravanabelagola:

Shravanabelagola is one of the holiest pilgrimage centers of Jainas in India. The word ‘Shravanabelagola’ signifies the white pond of the Shravana or monk. At the heart of this small town lies a beautiful pond, from which its name has been derived.

On either side of the pond stands two hills, Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri. After renouncing his throne, Chandragupta Maurya spent his last years here at Chandragiri along with his guru, Bhadrabahu. It was here that the founder of the Mauryan dynasty had performed ‘sallekhana’ or Jaina practice of fasting unto death. The Chandragupta basadi was built here by Ashoka in the 3rd BCE to commemorate Chandragupta Maurya.

Chandragiri, as seen from Vindhyagiri.

Chandragiri houses memorials and basadis of various other Jaina sramanas or monks who meditated and lived here, including the last Rashtrakuta king, Manyakheta.

The Vindhyagiri hill has the epic Gomateswara statue. There are also countless inscriptions on this hill, along with a few basadis such as Odegal basadi.

The Gomateswara Monolith:

The terms Shravanabelagola and Gomateswara have become sort of synonymous with one another. The mere mention of Shravanabelagola evokes the grand image of the Gomateswara statue.

The eponymous statue depicts Bahubali, one of the sons of Rishavanath, the first Jaina Tirthankara. He was also the younger brother of Bharata Chakravartin (after whom ‘Bharata’ or India is named).

Gomateswara Statue
The magnificent statue of Bahubali.

Bahubali did meditation for a year motionlessly in a standing posture. It is said that, during this time, plants and climbers grew along his legs. After one year of meditation, he attained Kevala Gyana and thus became a revered figure among the Jainas.

The colossal statue of Bahubali was commissioned in 981 CE by Chamundaraya, a Ganga minister and commander. The statue is carved out of a single piece of granite and stands at 57 feet. It is regarded as one of the largest free-standing statues in the world. In addition, it is also known as one of the wonders of India.

Statue of Bahubali in Shravanabelagola
The statue of Gomateswara is a must-visit in Karnataka.

Our experience:

It was almost 5-30 when we reached the foothill of Vindhyagiri. Before us awaited 671 steps to reach the summit. After depositing our shoes and refilling our water bottles, we started our climb. The steps were uneven, supported by rickety iron railings. Apart from us, there was only a group of spirited ‘ajjis’ and a gang of schoolboys climbing the Vindhyagiri.

The climb was quite comfortable (as compared to what we experienced at Anjanadri and Matanga Hills in Hampi). We took two or three breaks on the way up to catch our breath and admired the view down below. The town glistened under the rays of the setting sun. The pond’s water shined a shade of turquoise blue, while Chandragiri looked serene.

Climbing up the Vindhyagiri Hill.

It took us around 30 minutes to reach the top. On the way, we saw the Odegal basadi and checked out the innumerable inscriptions scattered all around.

We crossed the main gate and a circumambulation later, we were standing agape in front of the enormous Gomateswara statue.

The grandeur of Gomateswara monolith can hardly be described in words. It has been carved with finesse, depicting the motionless meditation of Bahubali. It symbolizes the Jaina ideals of peace, non-violence, and renunciation of the world. As we laid our eyes on the pleasant face of Bahubali, we felt at ease. Standing at his feet, we sensed serenity seeping into our hearts and thus making us forget about worldly affairs, even if for a fleeting moment. The faint hint of a smile on Bahubali’s calm face reminded us that, what matters most is inner peace. Time seemed to have stopped while we continued admiring the splendid statue.

Odegal Basadi
The Odegal ‘Basadi’.

While climbing down the stairs, Shravanabelagola continued to look magical during the blue hour. The shops and houses had lit up. The melody of ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ from a temple nearby permeated the place. A train whistled its way through the green pastures. And behind us, Bahubali stands and continues his watch, as he has been doing for the last thousand years.

Things to remember:

1. Shravanabelagola is located near Channarayapatna, in the Hassan district of Karnataka.

2. Shravanabelagola is

-144 km from Bengaluru

-83 km from Mysuru

-89 km from Belur

-78 km from Halebidu

3. It can be reached easily by road from Mysuru. BelurHalebidu-Shravanabelagola is a popular daytrip option from Mysuru.

4. There is no entry fee for Vindhyagiri. However, a nominal fee is required for depositing shoes.

5. The gates at the entrance of the Gomateswara statue open at 6 AM and close at 6 PM.

6. One of the most important events here is Mahamastakabhisheka. This occurs every twelve years when the statue of Bahubali is anointed with water, turmeric, rice flour, sandalwood paste, saffron, sugarcane juice, and gold and silver flowers. This is an amazing spectacle, attracting thousands of tourists and pilgrims to Shravanabelgola. The next Mahamastakabhisheka is scheduled for 2030.

7. The Vindhyagiri is a revered place for Jainas. You can see many people praying and chanting at the feet of Gomateswara. Hence, it is advisable to dress modestly and maintain silence.

The Floating Pebbles