Shravanabelagola is a town, located near Channarayapatna of Hassan district, in Karnataka and is about 158 km from the city of Bengaluru. Shravanabelagola in translation means 'White Pond of Shravana', which was named after the image of Gommata. Belagola means 'white pond' and is an allusion to the pond found in the middle of the town.
The Gommateshwara statue at Shravanabelagola is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations for the followers of Jainism. The place had reached its peak in architectural and sculptural activities under the patronage of the Western Ganga dynasty of Talakadu. Chandragupta Maurya is said to have died here in the year 298 BC, after he converted himself into a Jain monk and started following the life of an ascetic.
The statue of Gommateshwara is dedicated to the Jain deity of Bahubali. The idol is believed to be constructed around 983 AD and it is one of the largest free-standing statues in the world. The construction of the statue was commissioned by the Ganga dynasty minister and commander Chavundaraya. The statue depicts the prolonged meditation of Bahubali. The deity stands motionless in a stand-still posture, which led to the growth of climbing vines around his legs.
Best Time To Visit Shravanabelagola
Shravanabelagola can be visited anytime throughout the year, although many people prefer to visit the place during the winter season. The best months to visit the place is from October to May and during the Mahamasthabhisheka period, which is held once in 12 years.
History Of The Place
Shravanabelagola has two hills, which are Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri. Acharya Bhadrabahu and his disciple Chandragupta Maurya are believed to have meditated here. The Chandragupta Basadi here is dedicated to Chandragupta Maurya and was originally constructed by Ashoka - the great in the 3rd century BC.
Chandragiri also has many memorials that are dedicated to various other monks and Sravaka (Jain laity) who have meditated here since the 5th century AD, which also includes the last king of the Rashtrakuta dynasty. Chandragiri has a well-known temple, which was built by Chamundaraya of the Western Ganga dynasty.
The 58-feet tall monolithic statue of Gommateshwara or Bahubali is located atop the Vindyagiri Hill. The base of the statue has inscriptions in the Devanagari script, which dates back to 981 AD. The inscription praises a king and his general, Chamundaraya who erected the statue for his mother. The idol is called Gommateshwara by the locals and as Bahubali by the Jains.
Who Was Bahubali?
Bahubali was the son of Rishabhanatha, the first of the 24 Tirthankaras in Jainism, who was also known as Gommatesha. According to a 9th century Sanskrit poem written by Jinasena, Bahubali was born in the Ishvaku Dynasty in Ayodhya. He is said to have challenged the supremacy of his elder brother Bharata, who had won over the submission of rulers from the six divisions of the earth.
Bahubali won three contests against Bharat, but was disgusted by the violence that entails being a king and therefore he abandoned his kingdom, family, along with other worldly attachments to become a Digambara monk.
Details Of Mahamastakabhisheka At Shravanabelagola
The Mahamastakabhisheka, or the grand consecration, is one of the main events that is held here once in every twelve years. The festival is held in the worship of the 57-feet-high statue of Bahubali. The Mahamastakabhisheka begins with consecrated water being sprinkled onto the statue by the devotees who carry 1008 specially designed vessels.
The statue is then bathed with milk, sugarcane juice, saffron paste and in addition is sprinkled with powders of sandalwood, turmeric and vermilion along with offerings of flower petals, gold and silver coins and precious stones that are offered to the deity.
The last Mahamastakabhisheka took place in the year 2006 and the next ceremony is scheduled to take place in the year 2018.
PC: Matt Logelin
The Monolithic Statue
The stone sculpture of Gommateshwara faces the North direction and is depicted in the upright posture of meditation known as Kayotsarga, which is practiced to attain salvation by renunciation, self-restraint and complete dominance over one's ego. The Digambara form, which is typical of the Jain traditions, symbolizes one's victory over the earthly attachments and desires that otherwise are known to hamper their spiritual ascent towards divinity.
The statue has ringlets of curly hair and large elongated ears along with wide open eyes and sports a faint smile. The face, smile and posture is a fine example to show the calm vitality of the ascetic detachment. The statue has broad shoulders with arms stretched straight down.
At the base of the statue, one can find an anthill and a creeper which is twined around both the legs and arms with blossoming flowers and berries on the upper arms. The statue stands on a carved lotus, which is considered to be the symbol of sainthood and divinity. The monolith also has a linguistic significance with carved inscriptions in Kannada and Tamil, which date back to 981 AD.