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India has a rich cultural and historical heritage to offer, thanks to its glorious past and influence from different cultures. Each and every monument/heritage site has its own fascinating story to tell.
From past 2 months, my focus is on exploring the historical places in and around Bangalore and its amazing that there is so much to explore, which I never knew existed before or simply dint pay much attention to. So now we are trying to utilize weekends to explore heritage of Ancient India surrounding us.
Few weekends ago, we visited two beautiful temples in Kolar – Kotilingeshwara and Aavani. Last weekend, we decided to visit yet another popular destination around 144 kms from Bangalore – Shravanbelgola.
Shravanbelgola is a small town and an eminent heritage site located near Hassan district in Karnataka state. Shravanbelgola is the most renowned Jain pilgrimage in South India. Major attraction at Shravanbelgola is the 10th Century Bahubali or Gomateshwara statue, which is the world’s tallest monolithic statue made from single granite stone with the height of 58ft.
Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri are the two mountains that surround the entire town with a beautiful pond at the centre. Both the mountains enshrine beautiful temples at the top.
Famous Gomateshwara temple is located at the top of Vindhyagiri Mountain at an altitude of 3347 feet. You have to climb around 620 stairs to reach to the top but the splendid view makes the whole effort absolutely worth. Before I share our experience and other details. Here’s a bit of history about the temple.
Bahubali means ‘One with strong Arms’ was the son of first tirthankara of Jains, Adinath. A tussle took place between Bahubali and his brother Bharatha for the empire. Although Bahubali defeated his brother, he was not happy. Thus, he decided to give his kingdom to Bharatha and went to achieve moksha. He is said to have meditated motionless for one year in a standing posture and during this time, climbing plants grew around his legs. Bahubali is also called Gomateshwara. The Ganga dynasty minister and commander Chavundaraya built this statue in 983 AD
Our Day trip Experience
Our real plan was to start by 6 a.m. but we could hit the road only by 7 am, it’s always better to start as early as possible to avoid the heat and strong Sun. On the way, we stopped for breakfast at Kamat restaurant. Being a long weekend all the restaurants was very crowded and we had to wait for our turn to come.
However the roads throughout the journey were in good shape; we enjoyed the picturesque view of countryside during our drive. Sight of scattered green fields, ponds and palm trees on either side of the road under the clear blue sky was very relaxing and compels you to put the holiday cap on!
It took us around 4.5 hours to reach Shravanbelgola.We reached there around 11.30 a.m. In spite of it being the last week of December, it was quiet sunny and warm outside. Although clear blue skies offered a perfect set up for some amazing pictures but the thought of climbing, what looked like a steep flight of never-ending steps clouded our minds. And that too with a naughty toddler!
However since we were there already, there was no other way but to reach till the top.
Being a Holiday, entrance was very crowded especially with lot of school children. There was no entry fee. However once we reached near the stairs we realized that one has to climb the stairs without shoes (even for the kids). I panicked a little at this moment but then socks are available at the entrance for as less as INR 20.
Finally we gathered all the courage and started climbing, it was not very easy considering the steepness but not as difficult as we thought it would be. The only fact, which made it difficult for us, was that our 2-year-old decided to make it DIY experience and insisted on climbing on his own.
There are around 620 stairs, we stopped at couple of places to catch up some breath and enjoy the beautiful view of the city, the pond and Chandragiri hills. It took us around 20-25 mins to reach to the temple just below the main Gomateshwara temple. After visiting this temple, we reached an open area at the top of the mountain. Sitting here and admiring the spectacular view was one of the best parts of the trip. There are a couple of temples and structures on this mountain, along with the captivating view of the temples on the opposite hill.
After climbing the next set of steps, we reached the Gomateshwara temple entrance, but that’s still not the highest point. On either side of the entrance were two temples dedicated to Bahubali and his brother Bharatha. On one side there was an interesting rock carving depicting Jain saints with their followers.
As we followed our way further through some more stairs, the curiosity to see the world’s tallest Monolithic statue kept on growing. We still could not see it from the outside as the area was covered due to the preparations for Mahamastakabhishekam festival. A popular festival, which is held once in 12 years. The main attraction of this festival is the anointing of Lord Bahubali’s statue with milk, curd, ghee, sugar, almonds, kesar and flowers. The next Mahamastakabhisheka will be held in Feb 2018 and I could see that preparations were in full swing.
However once we entered the main temple, we could see the feet of Lord Bahubali statue. Moving a little further, there it was standing tall in the open sky.
The magnificent, 58 ft tall white statue had an anthill behind, Creeper emerging from the anthill adorning his legs and arms. The entire figure stands on an open lotus and it’s surrounded by a beautiful Mandapa. The fact that such a tall statue made of single granite stone during those times surely depicts the exemplary craftsmanship and architectural excellence.
After admiring the beauty of the temple and the view, it was time to return back. I would have definitely loved to sit there and spend some more time but our naughty little one was running around and we had to come down.
By the time we could come down it was already 2.30 p.m. Presence of strong sun exhausted us and we couldn’t muster courage to visit Chandragiri hills.
On our way back, we decided to visit yet another beautiful place called Shri Adi Chunchanagiri math. I will share the experience of the same in my next blog.
- Distance from Bangalore – 144 km
- Mode of travel – Buses, Cabs
- Temple timings – 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Best time to visit – November to January
- Entry fee – none, small fee to keep your shoes (you have to climb the mountain bare foot)
- Time required – A day trip is perfect
- What to carry – Since there is no shade, it’s better to carry hat, water bottle, socks, sunglasses, Camera
- What to see – Gomateshwara temple on Vindhyagirihill and Temples on Chandragiri hills. There are many other historical temples in the area that one can visit based on the time available.