Shravanabelagola Temple is a testimony to the religious beliefs of the Jains. This religion is believed to have come into existence from 7th-5th century BCE along the eastern India. It laid the importance of world renunciation and played a significant role in rejecting the religious culture of the Brahman or priestly class in society.
With time, Jainism spread across the globe and it became a prominent path to attain salvation for a large number of people. Shravanabelagola Temple is a sacred Jain pilgrimage destination which is located towards the north-west of Bangalore in the Indian state of Karnataka. It is a famous place for people who want to experience and learn more about Jain culture, beliefs, and traditions.
This place derives its name from a pond called ‘bili-gola’ or white pond which is located between two hills. People from all over the world gather here all around the year to attain spiritual bliss and enlightenment.
History & Legend of Shravanabelagola Temple
- Legends say that Rishaba-Admatha had two sons namely, Bharata and Bahubali. While the former was the king of Ayodhya, the latter was the ruler of Paudanapura. Bharata wanted to become the Chakravarthi emperor and hence decided to attack Paudanapura. Bahubali refused to surrender and proclaimed war. In this situation, the elder statesmen of both the sides decided to avoid bloodshed by arranging for a dual battle between the two brothers. The battle consisted of three parts namely, the Dristi Yuddha where the person needs to stare at another individual without closing the eyelids, the Jala Yuddha where water is splashed on a person till he turns his face away and finally, the Malla Yuddha which symbolizes wrestling. Bahubali emerged as the winner in all the three forms and this angered Bharata. He then decided to attack Bahubali with his chakra but it just circled him thrice and failed to attack him. Bahubali felt disgusted and decided to leave worldly pleasures and walk on the path of purification of his soul. He stood in the Kayotsarga or standing posture for about a year without any food or water. From ant hills to snakes, his legs were covered with dangerous creatures and later he was successful in attaining the knowledge about the universe or Kevaljnan. From then on, he is called as Bahubali-Kevali or Gommateshwara.
- There are many historical references that are associated with Shravanabelagola. As per to the Jain Bhadrabahu tradition, one of the successors of Mahaveera breathed his last in a cave here while leading a migration from Ujjain to South India owing to a 12-year-old famine.
- Additionally, there are many monuments that are formed by the Gangas and Hoysalas who were ardent followers of the religion. These shrines can be spotted in the hills of Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri.
Significance of Shravanabelagola Temple
- Shravanabelagola Temple is a famous holy place for the Jains. The followers believe that their Guru resides here in a Mutt.
- There is also a Sanskrit Patashala for interested candidates to study Sanskrit and Shastras.
- Vindhyagiri is the hill which is 470 feet high and located on solid rock. There are about 660 steps to climb barefoot in order to reach the top of the hill. While youngsters can climb the hill, old people can avail of the palanquin service.
- There is 58 feet high monolithic statue of Lord Gommateshwara situated atop the Vindhyagiri hill. It is said to be constructed by Chavundaraya, the Prime Minister and the Commander-in-Chief of the Talakad Ganga Kingdom in 981 A.D. This monolithic statue is made of granite and stands tall over the adjacent countryside.
- Vindhyagiri or Indragiri, as it is also known was called as Dodda Betta. There are 7 types of monuments, eight temples of varied sizes, four mandapas, two ponds, five gateways, three pillars, two arches and 172 inscriptions found in this place. The inscriptions belong to the late 10th to 19th centuries A.D. and are inscribed in languages like Kannada, Sanskrit, and Tamil, etc.
- Chandragiri also called as Chikka Betta or Kalbappu is the home to notable Bhadrabahu Basadi and Chandragupta Basadi. The hill is 200 feet in height and consists of 192 steps. The imprint of the revered saint Bhadrabahu’s feet can be found here. Emperor Ashoka had built a basadi for Chandragupta Maurya in the 3rd century B.C. The great emperor had spent his days at this place.
- While tourists and pilgrims visit this shrine throughout the year but it is best to pay a visit during the months of September to March.
- While people from the southern state of Kannada refer to this icon as the Gommateshwara statue, the Jains refer to it as Bahubali.
Shravanabelagola Temple Timings
- Shravanabelagola Temple opens its gates at 6 A.M. and closes at 6:30 P.M.
- However, it remains closed from 11:30 A.M. to 3:30 P.M.
Shravanabelagola Temple Food Timings
- Prasad is offered to all the devotees from 12 noon.
- Pilgrims can offer dry fruits as Prasad to the Lord.
Festivals celebrated at Shravanabelagola Temple
- The Mahamasthakabhisheka or popularly referred to as the head anointing ceremony of the Lord Gommateshwara Sri Bahubali is the most special festival which is observed once in every 12 years. It marks a significant event in the Jain religious calendar. There are many pilgrims who visit this auspicious shrine from various corners of the world. The festival is celebrated here for over 12 days and people throng this religious destination in large numbers.
Poojas and Rituals at Shravanabelagola Temple
- There is a special ritual that needs to be observed before the head anointing ceremony is held. This consists of a big wooden scaffolding that is constructed around the Lord Gommateshwara statue. Thousands of pilgrims arrive for this occasion. And, the most important part of this festival consists of chanting holy mantras and pouring gallons of milk, honey and precious herbs that are poured over the head of the statue. The devotees believe that while the offerings are poured over the icon, strong spiritual energy is passed from the auspicious deity. These offerings are made available to the people who stand in a queue and are believed to assist pilgrims in their search of enlightenment.
- And the ritual of the Mahamasthakabhisheka ceremony consists of a beautiful ceremony where the icon is anointed with a mixture comprising of water, turmeric, rice flour, sugarcane juice, sandalwood paste, saffron, gold and silver flowers. The next head anointing ceremony will be held in 2018.
How to Reach: Road, Rail, and Air
- By Air– As Shravanabelagola is an important international destination for the Jains, it is well connected and easily accessible for tourists by air as well. For people who are keen to travel by flight, the Bangalore International Airport is the nearest airport which is located at a distance of 158 km from this shrine. One can opt for buses or private cab services to reach the temple from the airport.
- By Train– Train serves as a crucial and most preferred form of transportation for thousands of devotees. In order to reach the temple, the nearest railway station comprises of Hassan Railway Station which is located at a distance of 57 km. The Mysore Railway Station is also located at a close distance of 85 km.
- By Road– Shravanabelagola is well-connected with almost every part of Southern India. The national highways are also well-linked with this shrine. This auspicious place is 51 km from Hassan, 85 km from Mysore, 158 km from Bangalore and 233 km from Mangalore. However, there are few direct buses from Mysore to Shravanabelagola. Channarayapatna is the nearby town which has direct buses and private vehicles that fly to and fro from the shrine.
Hotels in Karnataka: Where to stay
Karnataka is an important destination for both religious and business reasons. There are many important religious shrines that are located in this southern state. So, if you are on a tight budget or a traveler with moderate to luxury choices, there are ample opportunities available for tourists of all kinds. Choose from a double bed to triple and four-bedded rooms with private balconies if you are traveling with your family and elderly people. And for single travelers, sharing accommodation is also offered by major lodging providers. The rooms are often found clean and are equipped with basic furniture’s. They also come with attached bathrooms as well. The price of these rooms depends on the kind of services one avails from the hotel.
The hotels also come with complimentary breakfast options as well. All leading places of accommodation accept all kinds of credit and debit cards and rooms remain occupied throughout the year. It is advisable to book your rooms in advance in order to avoid any kind of last-minute disappointment. Some accommodation providers also arrange for pick up and drop services for its clients as well. And for individuals who are looking to pamper themselves, the hotels also come with their private spa and salon services. Choose from deep tissue massage to attending workshops on beauty and fitness to indulge your senses.
Where to eat
The southern state of Karnataka is famous for its regional and contemporary cuisines. From its traditional breakfast options like dosa, idli, medu vada to upma and bisibele bath, there are a lot of options available for people who love gorging on new delicacies. Karnataka is also famous for its leading eatery joints like Udipi, which serves delicious vegetarian food. Since the weather is primarily hot and humid, people here generally prefer rice over wheat products. And if you like to experiment with your taste buds, do not forget to taste the unique chutneys, sambhar, and rasam that are sure to delight your senses. In addition, there are also various international cuisines that are available as your alternative option. From Chinese to the Mediterranean to Thai and Italian, choose the one as per your mood. The leading restaurants also pave the way for a complete dining experience by including live performances of local singers and bands. And if you want to host dinner for your guest or special one, book your table in advance in order to plan your occasion aptly. So, whatever your choice of cuisine is, this place will never leave you disappointed.
- Halebid Temple – Halebid also called as the town of Dwara Samudra is a conventional temple complex. It is home to two Jain temples which are made from traditional soapstones. There are many sculptures of dancers, birds, and animals that are still prevalent in the carvings.
- Chennakesava temple – One can visit this temple on the same day while paying a visit to the famous Shravanabelagola shrine. The Chennakesava temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and had been constructed by King Vishnuvardhana. There is another temple named as Kappe Chennigraya shrine that was built by Queen Shantaladevi. There are many people who believe that the temple was built over a period of 100 years. One of the major attractions in the temple consists of Darpana Sundari or a beautiful lady with a mirror. From architectural students to pilgrims, every person admires the beauty of these sculptures.
- Kali Temple – The Kali Temple was built at the edge of a lake off the main highway that connects Hassan with Halebidu. In addition, there are many beautiful carvings that are engraved on the walls of the auspicious shrine. There are many tourists who plan a visit to this sacred place of worship all around the year.