We left Belur early in the morning and started our return journey to Bangaluru via Shravanbelagola. Yes, the well known Jain Teerth was in our itinerary of the last day of the trip.

We reached there at about quarter to nine. Most of the shops were not open but the streets were full of sounds of waking morning. The tea shops and small eateries were ready with breakfast options.

We knew that to reach the magnificent monolith of Bahubali, atop Vindhyagiri hills, we needed to climb about 620 stairs and we were a bit apprehensive about that. I mean it is quite a flight and I was thinking whether I would be able to traverse that height easily. But all my apprehensions proved to be futile; we could reach the top without much difficulty.  It was morning time and that too in the month of December hence climbing bare footed was no problem at all rather the soft warmth of the rock gave a comforting feeling to soles. There is no shade over the steps hence morning is the best time to scale the hill. The steps are quite rudimentary and are cut on the rock with metal rods running along the steps.

walking towards main gate, in the background are the pond and Chandragiri hills.

We reached the main gate and sat there to rest for few minutes. The view of the town below was mesmerizing. The pond, Belagola shone like an emerald stud midst the surrounding structures. Chandragiri hills across beckoned to its arms to explore more of history and the breeze were soothing and exhilarating. Whenever I climb a hill to visit any Buddhist cave, a sacred Jain shrine or a Hindu temple, I thank my ancestors who built these sacred places at a point which is high and not easily accessible. The feeling which I have after reaching there is beyond words. Atop there I feel detached from all the worldly tentacles of day to day routine, a serene calm dawns upon me and I feel my mind purified enough to surrender to the divine powers with all the humility.

The view from the top.
Mesmerizing view of the pond and birds.

After walking further the first structure we came across was Vadegal Basadi. This is a trikuta Jain chaitalaya having shrines of three Jain teerthankaras. The dimly lit chaitalaya was cool and quiet. The idols of three thirathankaras Adinath, Shantinath and Neminath are made of shining black stone and they sparkled with all their serenity even in the semi dark of the hall. This chaitalaya too is said to be erected in 10th century by the military commander Chavundaraya.

inside vadegal basadi.

Outside vadegal vasidi. Ah! the bliss of breeze and peace.

front exterior of vadegal vasidi. To feel the wind was such a liberating experience.

Walking towards main enclosure from Vadegal Basidi.

Walking a bit more towards the enclosure around Gomateshwara we found the Tyagada Khamba, a beautifully carved pillar with reliefs of creepers and flowers. It is said that the pavilion which supports the pillar presently was erected on much later date while the erection of the pillar is attributed to the times of Chavundaraya only. The inscription put up by the archeological department was faded hence could not gather much detail about it but read somewhere that this was the pavilion where commander Chavndaraya used to distribute gifts to poor.

The Tyagada Khamba

Another remarkable structure on the way to reach the main enclosure around Gomateshwara is this big rock. The rock is on the side of the way leading to main shrine. Intricately carved rows of tiny figures make the rock a valuable monument in itself. Captivated by the beauty I marvelled whether it was a planned work in total scheme of things or some passionate sculptor found this rock to be a perfect canvas to carve his art. I was inclined to go for the second option and was happy to imagine the times when people, nature and arts survived in harmony.

The Rock

Entering the enclosure we straight way headed to have darshana of the magnificent monolith. To have a close up view of colossal statue is awe inspiring. Standing erect under the open sky more than 58 ft high monolith carved out of single granite rock spells the concept of inner strength, the courage, the power possesssed when one is at peace with oneself. It reflects serenity, calm, and reliquishment without any anger or rage. I mean it’s an experience to feel. Words miserably fall short in capturing the massive impact the world’s highest free standing monolith has on you. This massive monolithic statue of Lord Gomateshwara aka Bahubali aptly conveys the enriching principles and ideals lived by him.

Lord Bahubali

The story of life of Bahubali goes like this – Bahubali and Bharata were the sons of first jain Tiranthakara Rishabhnatha. They were the descendants of famous Ikshavaku dynasty of Ayodhya, the dynasty to which Lord Rama belong. Rishabhnatha was king of Ayodhya but he reliquished his kingdom to become a Jain monk. He handed over his kingdom to his sons. Bharata got Ayodhya and Bahubali got Asmaka, comprising southern part of India. However Bahubali challanged his elder brother to a fight to claim his supramacy. Both of them were great warriors but ultimately Bahubali defeated his elder brother Bharata, But the fight and the materialistic concerns goading him to have this fight with his own elder brother somehow disgusted him. He was full of remorse to be a cause of insult to his brother. He renounced not only the kingdom but cut himself from all worldly and materialistic ties and started performing penance. He is said to be in the posture of Kayotsarga, standing immobile, oblvious to one’s own body. During the period of penance many creepers grew on his body and ant hills too developed around him. The creepers are carved on the statue too. The feeling of absolute peace which is achieved after renunciation is aptly displayed on the countenance of the statue.

The courtyard from three sides is surrounded by covered verandah .Statues of many Jain Tirthankaras are installed in the verandah.

Sitting quietly in the verandah, looking at the tall statue of Lord Gomateshwara fills heart with unexplicable peace.

The Vindhyagiri hills has a lot to offer. The outer walls also have many beautiful carvings. There are other Basadis too.

The gigantic statue was specially made to fulfill the wish of Kalala Devi, mother of a 10th century military commandar, Chavundaraya of Ganga dynasty. Every 12 year Mahamastakabhishekam festival, in which the statue is anointed with milk, curd, ghee, coconut water, saffron water, flower petals, turmeric, sandalwood powder and this grand jain festival is being continued since 981 A.D. It appears mahamastakabhishekam was initiated during the time of Chavundaraya.

We can Darshana of lord Bahubali from about 30 ft away.

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.