Karnataka, one of the southern states of India is a veritable treasure house of attractions that are bound to enthrall visitors with their everlasting charm. As the tag line of Karnataka Tourism states, Karnataka is, ” One State. Many worlds. On the one hand, the state’s coastline which includes the magical beaches of Gokarna and Karwar serenade your senses while on the other hand, the timeless beauty of heritage sites like Hampi and enigmas like the Gol Gumbaz will amaze you. If the coffee plantations of Coorg and its weather remind you of Scotland, the city of Mysore transports you into a royal era.
The dance of nature in Karnataka reaches a resplendent zenith in places like Bandipur, Jog Falls and Shivanasamudra where water falls merrily cascade to the eternal song of the divine and wildlife joyously rejoice in their natural environs. The state provides a window to history in places like Somanathapura where an ancient temple stands gloriously, a witness to the unending passage of history.
Indeed Karnataka is a state which is a mosaic embellished with many hued gems. One among these gems is a place which has a somewhat tongue twister of a name, Shravanabelagola.
Did you know Shravanabelagola has the World’s Largest Monolithic Statue?
Shravanabelagola is a small town in Karnataka and is situated at a distance of about 143 kilometers from its capital city of Bangalore. Shravanabelagola is quite near the famous temples of Belur and Halebid and can be included in an itinerary which takes in these temples as well.
Why visit Shravanabelagola?
A 58 feet tall monolithic statue standing tall on a hill overlooking the town and supposedly one of its kind in the World is indeed a magnet that draws visitors to Shravanabelagola. An arduous and steep climb across some 600 steps takes you to the feet of this amazing statue and as you gaze up towards the benign face of the mammoth statue, you realize that you are indeed looking up at a Lord of all he surveys!
What is the story of the Monolithic Statue of Shravanabelagola?
Bahubali was the name of a prince who was the finest among princes, excelling in archery, floriculture and the medicinal sciences and a real blue blooded warrior. A dispute over territories with his brother Bharata escalated into a full fledged war and the two brothers engaged in a one to one duel which included fights in the water and wrestling. Bahubali won all the duels, hands down. But the bitterness of war touched the core of Bahubali’s heart and he was a transformed man who now developed a disgust for the trivial and mundane things of the materialistic world. He renounced the world and trod the path of a Jain monk, in search of the divine truth. Such was his passion and perseverance that he is said to have meditated in a motionless state for a year. Plants and creepers grew from the earth around him and coiled over his body, but such was the depth of his meditation, that he continued his meditation, ignoring the onslaught of weather, vegetation, and insects. Finally, the penance of Bahubali paid off and he attained Moksha or became a liberated soul.
In the year 981 AD, a minister in the Ganga Dynasty named Chavundaraya had the statue built in honor of the great penance of Bahubali. The statue is also popularly known as Gommateshwara and is one of the tallest free standing statues in the world. The statue depicts the naked Bahubali meditating in a standing position with creepers coiled around his legs.
Shravanabelagola is a very important place of Pilgrimage for the Jains who are followers of Jainism, an ancient religion of India. Once in every twelve years, the place sees millions of pilgrims and tourists descend on it. This is to witness or participate in what is called the Mahamastabhisheka. The statue is given a ritualistic bath with water, milk, sugarcane juice and saffron paste and sprinkled with turmeric and vermilion powder. It is indeed a spectacular sight to see milk and water cascade down the shoulders of the inscrutable statue of Bahubali. The next Mahamastabhisheka is now due in 2018.
Some Interesting Facts
Seven Wonders of India
Gomateshwara, the 58 feet tall monolithic statue of Bahubali is considered as one of the seven wonders of India.
Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of Mauryan empire renounced his power and relinquished his throne and became a Jain monk and assumed an ascetic life style. It is said that Acharya Bhadrabahu and his disciple Chandragupta Maurya meditated in Shravanabelagola. Chandragupta Maurya is believed to have died here in Shravanabelagola in 298 BCE.
If you thought that the Bahubali statue in Shravanabelagola was one of its kind, think again! Yes, the statue in Shravanabelagola is the tallest one, but there are 4 more such statues in Karnataka. There is a 42 feet tall statue in Karkala, a 39 feet tall statue in Dharmasthala, a 35 feet statue in Venur and a 20 feet tall statue in Gommatagiri in Mysore District.
How to Get to Shravanabelagola
Bangalore is the nearest airport to Shravanabelagola and it is well connected by road to all major cities of the state like Mangalore. One can take a bus or a taxi to Shravanabelagola from Bangalore and reach there in about three and a half hours.
Where to stay in Shravanabelagola
Shravanabelagola is a small town with limited options. One can choose to stay at Hassan which has a number of resorts and budget hotels. One can also choose to do a day trip while staying in Bangalore, which has plenty of accommodation options across all budget ranges. Karnataka State Tourism also has guided tours that cover Shravanabelagola and the temples of Belur and Halebid in a single day.
Where to eat in Shravanabelagola
If one is really hungry one can probably snack in one of the small restaurants in Shravanabelagola. Otherwise, if one is staying in Hassan or Bangalore, Hassan has wider options for dining. One can step into Beans N Brews Cafe for some invigorating choice of coffee or some thin crust pizzas.
Shravanabelagola is one of the most popular Jain pilgrimage centers in South India. Shravanabelagola is indeed a gem in the crust of the crown of Karnataka, a visit to the place and the climb of 600 steps to reach the 58 feet monolithic statue of Bahubali or Gommateshwara is a very satisfying experience. A visit during the Mahamastabhisheka ceremony is bound to guarantee an experience, the scale of which is comparable to the famous Kumbh Mela of India.
Video credit: Sukhnidhey Films
Have you visited Shravanabelagola? Do you know of any other monolithic statue as big as that of Bahubali in Shravanabelagola?
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