Friday, 9 August 2013

Visit to Shravanabelagola, Karnataka

Lord Bahubali
Shravanabelagola is located in Hassan district of Karnataka. It is 160 km from Bangalore & about 90 km from Mysore by road. Nearest rail head is Srirangapatan & airport Bangalore. Roads are good for self driving.

It is situated on a height of 3350 feet above sea level The weather here remains cool & breezy similar to that of Bangalore throughout the year. Approx range of temperature is 18 to 30 Celsius  With coconut trees swaying in the breeze, hills in the background & lush green surroundings make Shravanebelagola a tranquil & charming place.

This beautiful town is situated in between two hills Vindhyagiri & Chandragiri with a pond in between the hills called Shravanabelagola. Vindhyagiri is the larger hill & looks like one huge single piece of rock rising 470 feet above the ground. On summit of this hill is 57 feet tall statue of Bahubali carved out of a single rock and is considered to be tallest monolith stone statue in the world. There are two sets of 660 steps carved in the rock to climb up & down the hill barefoot which may be a challenge as steps are uneven.

The name Shravana-bela-gola can be translated as Shravana-white-pond with the word Shravana as a respectful reference to Bahubali & to distinguish this pond from other belagolas such as Halebelagola or Kodibelagola.

Starting point - Journey of a thousand miles starts with a small step!

Stairs & more stairs!

Keep climbing!
Keep climbing! 
Last flight of stairs. See the rocks butting into the courtyard
There are over 800 inscriptions on the rocks dating back to years from 600 to 1830. In some of these the town has been referred to as Belgula, Devera Belagola, Gommantpuram or Dakshinakasi also. They are inscribed in Sanskrit, Old Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Marwari & Mahajani languages. The inscriptions on the base of statue are in Tamil & Kannada praise Ganga King Rachamalla for providing funds & his Minister Chavundaraya for getting it erected for his mother.

Trying to preserve centuries old inscriptions on rocks which are exposed to the elements. 
It is said that Chandragupta Maurya along with his guru Acharya Bhadrabahu  had meditated here. King Ashoka built Chandragupta Basadi here in third century BC. The smaller hill Chandragiri has been  dedicated to Chandragupta Maurya.
View from the steps of Vindhyagiri. Shravanabelagola is in the middle of the town & Chandragiri hill on the other side. Some ancient temples are also there on Chandragiri.
The statue of Bahubali also called as Gommateswara, (‘gommata’ means huge in Kannada ) was erected in 981 AD by Chavundaraya, Minister of Ganga Kingdom. Beautifully carved statue shows Bahubali in meditation ‘kayotsarga’ pose with calm & tranquil face. The statue was executed in 12 years by Arishtanemi referred to as Mahashilpi or the master sculptor. Statue gets anointed every 12 years & this function is known as Mahamastakabhisheka.

The next Mahamastakabhisheka  shall be held in 2018 which shall be 88th such event. On such occasions the Bahubali is anointed with turmeric, coconut water, sandal paste, milk, curd, ghee, water from all rivers & even gold ornaments. Grand finale is of rose petals showered by helicopter.

Story of Bahubali goes like this. Prince Bahubali was second son of first Jain Tirthankar Adinath Rishabh who was king of Ayodhya. Before embarking upon a spiritual journey Adinath Rishabh bequeathed his capital city of Ayodhya to his elder son Bharata from his first wife Sumangla & Paudanapura to his second son Bahubali from his second wife Sunanda. King Bharata was ambitious & wanted to become emperor- Chakravarty Raja. He expanded his kingdom by defeating many kings & then wanted to annex Paudanapura also. He challenged brother Bahubali as well to fight or surrender.

Bahubali remained adamant  On the intervention of elders the fight between the armies of the two brothers was averted & bloodshed avoided. Both then agreed to settle the matter with a duel of three stages - (a) Drishtiyudha in which both brothers stared at each other till one lost out due to blinking, (b) Mallayudha in which both wrestled & (c) jalayudha in which they threw water at each other’s face till one turned his face away. Bahubali won all three. As a last resort Bharata unexpectedly threw a Chakra which circled Bahubli & fell on his right side to the amazement of all present. Bahubali was struck by these events & despite being the victor he abandoned his kingdom & all worldly possessions & left for penance.

He stood in meditation in ‘kayotserg’ pose for twelve months unmindful of dust, anthills & creepers coming up & encircling him. Meanwhile his sisters Brahmi & Sundari enquired about him from Tirthanker Adinath Rishabh. He informed that enlightenment had eluded Bahubli by a few  moments as ‘he was standing on an elephant’- that is his pride & ego were obstruction on way to salvation. As Bahubali was a king, he did not want to & had never bowed to anyone. Sisters approached him & said ‘O more bhai, ave to gaj ti utro’ (O my brother now climb down from the elephant). These words made him think & realisation dawned. He shed his pride & ego, went to his father & bowed to him.

He became a teacher thereafter.

He could have been an emperor but instead chose to conquer anger, selfishness, jealousy & pride.
Perfectly chiseled fingers, knuckles, nails, leaves & fine capillaries in leaves.
Creeper 'Madhav Lata' entwines the legs. The rocks on either side represent the anthills.  Other than this there is no support to this massive statue. 

Abhishek in progress

Abhishek being performed by men. On the left side there is an inscription & over it is a snake

Anthills are touching the legs & a creeper has entwined the legs & arms of  Bahubali. Snakes  
carved in stone are seen on the left over boy's head & on right near near small black statue

Statue of an old Adivasi women Gulkeyi Ajji. Chavundaraya while anointing the statue found that the water will not go beneath the navel. This lady offered milk of Gulkeyi & said that it would help the water flow down to the feet. At first he ignored but was requested again & finally he accepted the milk & his mistake of being proud. He ordered an idol of the lady to be made.
Statues of three Tirthankars are seen in the complex-Tirthankar Shantinath

Tirthankara Neminath

Tirthankar Adinath

The Tyagda Kamba - inner pillar has beautiful carvings & is said to be erected in tenth century. Minister Chavundaraya distributed gifts to the needy here. Another version is that he renounced his all worldly possessions here & distributed them. Upper story has been subsequently added 
Mantapam on top right side is in need of attention. Their method of saving the building from damage seems unpleasant to the eye compared to other parts of the temple in existence since 981 AD.
Ugly plastic water tank, loose electrical wires & shaky electric poles spoil the serenity & grandeur of the site. These things should be placed in such a manner so as not deface the beauty.

Entrance gate & Vindhyagiri in the background. Faint line going up is in fact stair. The road in front of the gate is cluttered with cheap eateries, stray dogs, beggars, vendors, two wheeler & car parking etc.  
The statue of Bahubali was voted as topper of seven wonders of India in TOI survey. The temple is quiet, peaceful, neat & clean. Unlike many Hindu temples nobody pesters you here for shelling out money one way or the other. Cameras are allowed. But we see here that one whole wall has been vandalised. So sad.
View of the town from steps of Vindhyagiri
Another thing. Facts need to be displayed prominently on entry point etc. People mentioned varied heights of Bahubali statue – 57 feet, 57.77 feet, over 58 feet and 60 feet. About the stairs also some said steps are over 500, some mentioned 665 & some said 650. Websites also give varied figures. 

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