Northwest of Bangalore, the Capital of Karnataka. The town is a prominent center for Jaina Art, Architecture, religion and culture for over 2,300 years. It is a town of ponds and temples. The name of this holy center is derived from the pond called ‘bili-gola’ (white pond) between two hills. The largest number of Digamber jam Basadis in India is found at Shravanabelagola. This apart, largest number of rock inscriptions, concentrated at a single center is found here. The temple on the Chikkabetta – Chandragiri, is known as Chandragupta Basadi dedicated to Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. This was originally built by Emperor Ashoka in the 3 Century B.C..
The 57 ft. (17.5 mtr.) tall magnificient monolithic statue of Gommateshwara Bhagawan Bahubali was consecrated by Chavundaraya, the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief in the Talakad Ganga Kingdom in 981 A.D.
Shravanabelagola is a historical temple town and pilgrimage centre in Karnataka, located in South India. This small town boasts of the largest number of Digambara temples as well as the largest number of inscriptions in the country.The cynosure of the centuries, Gommateshwara towers in his 57 feet solitary serene splendour, over the surrounding countryside. This freestanding monolithic statue, which crowns the 438 feet high present- day Indragiri or Vindhyagiri, hewn out of granite is the largest of its kind in the world. Majority scholastic opinion dates its consecration by Chavundaraya, a general of the Ganga dynasty, to 981 A.D. He was inspired by his mother Kalala Devi. The statue was executed in 12 years by Mahashilpi Arishtanemi. Earlier Indragiri, with 647 steps, was called ‘Per-Kalbappu’ (Large-Kalbappu) or Dodda Betta. There are 7 types of monuments – eight small and large temples, four mantaps, two ponds, five gateways or fortresses, three pillars, two arches and 172 inscriptions. These, in Kannada, Sanskrti, Marvadi Mahajani, Tamil and Marathi, date from the late 10th to 19th cent A.D.
Bahubali was the son of Adinatha, the first in the line of the 24 Jam threerthankaras. Rishaba Adinatha, on embarking on his spiritual quest, bequeathed his capital city of Ayodhya to his eldest son Bharata. Paudanapura went to Bahubali, the younger son. Bharata ventured on an ambitious course of annexation, in his desire to don the mantle of the paramount emperor of his age.
Bahubali refused to accept his elder brother’s suzerainty. Wiser counsel of elder ministers averted a battle between the kingdoms, which would have let to colossal loss of lives. Instead, Bharata and Bahubali were to engage in a duel. This probably was the first instance in human history of voluntary disarmament, avoiding unnecessary bloodshed. In all three different types of fight (drishti yuddha, malla yuddb) hubali was the victor. As a last resort Bharata unleashed his lethal weapon – the chakra. To the amazement of the entire assemblage, the chakra circled Bahubali and settled at his right side.
In this moment of supreme victory, Bahubali was struck by the frailty of fortune and the hollowness of desires, which even led to fraternal conflicts over mere worldly possessions. In an act of unsurpassed renunciation he abandoned everything but his soul. Observing the severest of austerities, he stood in meditation in Kayotsarga pose for one full year, forsaking food and water. Such was his penance that anthills grew at his feet and as sculpted in the statue, tendrils – madhava latha – twirled around his arms. Thus he attained the state of Kevali Arihantha – perfect and complete knowledge about the universe, without undergoing any preparatory stages in previous lives, which is mandatory for attaining such transcendent realisation. The acme of manly perfection in physique, had now sublimated into godhood. ‘Gommata’ in Kannada, which means ‘huge’ thus gave birth to Gommateshwara Bhagawan or Sri Bahubali Swami.
Opposite Indragiri is the Chikka Betta (small hill) or Kalbappu, now called Chandragiri, the abode to the historic Bhadrabahu Basadi and Chandragupta Basadi. This 200 feet high hill with 192 steps also treasures the imprint of Bhadrabahu’s feet, the revered jam monk, who was the teacher and spiritual guid of the Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta. There was 18 temples dating from 9th cent. A.D. to as recent as the bearing Dravidian architectural features. A historic inscription dated circa 600 the earliest in the country to refer to the migration of Jams to the south, the famine in Ujjain, to the role of Bhadrabahu in safeguarding the Sangha. Wri Sanskrit, another of the earliest, refers to Chandragupta. It also has the records of 92 deaths by Samadhi of Jam monks..
‘Bili-gola’ (white pond) nestling between the two hills, became Belgola, and consistently used between 650 A.D. and 1889 A.D. Shramana or Shravana after Digambar (naked) monks used this place, was added to form Shravanabelagola. Apart froe there are two ponds on Vindhyagiri, three on Chandragiri, there are ponds or tanks near almost every monument. There is no record of construction of ponds before time of Gangaraja (early 12th cent.). There are 7 temples in the town and — more in Jinanathapura and surrounding areas. The foundation of Jmnanathapura a northern foot of Chandragiri was undertaken by Gangaraja in 1117. The Santivara Basadi located here, is the most ornate of the Hoysala Basadis in Karnataka..
Story behind the Shravanabelagola.
Rishaba – Admatha, father of Bahubali, before embarking on his spiritual quest, appointed his son Bharata as the ruler of Ayodhya and Bahubali as the ruler of Paudanapura. Bharata wanted to become the chakravarthi – emperor. But Bahubali did not prefer to surrender before Bharata, as he did not recognize Bharata as Chakravarthi. As such, a war was imminent. The elder statesmen of both sides did not want the war and bloodshed. Hence disarmament was proclaimed. An alternative way of war was evolved and suggested to both the brothers who readily agreed. Accordingly, the two royal brothers went for a dual battle involving three forms dristi yuddha – a contest of staring at each other without closing the eyelids ,jala yuddha – splashing water on each other till one turns his face away and malla yuddha – a wrestling bout. Bahubali overpowered Bharata by winning in all the above forms of battle. Bharata was disappointed and was ffiming with anger. Finally Bharata orders his chakra – a divine wheel – a super weapon to attack Bahubali. The chakra, however circled around Bahubali thrice and stood suspended. It could not do any harm to him!This was the moment of total disillusionment with the futility of material world.
Bahubali was disgusted and realized that anger, greed and pride could lead to such fraternal conflicts. At that stage, without even a moment hesitation renounced his kingdom and all other worldly pleasures and decided to take sanyasa and undertake penance. Bahubali left for meditation and purification of his soul.
Bahubali stood in Kayotsarga (standing) posture in total meditatioti continuously for one year, without food and water. Ant – hills grew by the side of hislegs and serpents made these ant hills as their abode and were moving around Creepers grew up entwining his legs and arms up to his shoulders He attained Kevaljnan – a perfect and complete knowledge about the Universe. Thus, he was called as Bahubali – Kevali. Gommateshwara is another name popularly in use. The joy and bliss he attained is manifested in the benign smile on the face of the colossal image consecrated by Chavundaraya.