Shravanabelagola is a city that comes under the Hassan district of Karnataka. It is situated at a height of about 3350m above sea level, between the two rocky hills of Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri and is about 158 km away from Bangalore. The name of the place is derived from the words 'shravan' which means monk and 'belagola' that comes from two words of Kannada viz., 'Bel' meaning white and 'Kola' meaning pond in reference to the beautiful pond in the center of the city. The huge rock statue of Bahubali or Gomateshwar is amongst the most famous and important sacred places of Jainism. Shravanabelagola also hosts a very famous 12-day festive celebration called the Mahamastakabhisheka once in every twelve years. During this festival, the statue of the Bahubali is bathed with milk, curd, ghee, sugarcane juice and saffron water while devotees make offerings of turmeric powder, coconuts, flower petals and sandalwood powder. To commemorate the end of this celebration, flower petals are showered on the statute by helicopters. Special platforms are made during this celebration for devotees to climb up and pour the holy liquids using 'Kalasas' (Holy pitchers) on the statue of Bahubali. Distinctive bidding process is held for these Kalasas, and the collected amount is used for the development of different sections of the society. The ceremony begins with the priests pouring 1008 Kalasas over the statue.
Bahubali or Gomateshwar was the second son of the first Tirthankara of Jains, Rishabdev or Adinath. It is said that Rishabdev had ninety nine other sons and when he left his kingdom, a big fight took place among the two of his sons, Bahubali and Bharatha for the empire. After a long fight, Bahubali defeated Bharatha but was not happy at the sourness that had come between him and his brother. Thus disenthralled, Bahubali gave the kingdom to Bharatha and went to achieve Kevala Jnana (Absolute Knowledge). The statue of Bahubali is made of a single rock 57 ft. high with seven hundred vertical granite steps reaching towards it. Ranked first in the "Seven Wonders of India" survey, the statue is believed to have been ordered in 988 A.D. by Chavundaraya, a minister of the Ganga dynasty.
The biggest attraction of this shrine is obviously the statue of Bahubali. Open eyes denote that his detachment from the material world and the anthill in the background indicates the never ending self-punishment of Bahubali. Engraved in this anthill are a snake and a creeper which wrap around the hands and legs of the statue. This structure stands on an open lotus portraying its completeness.
Apart from the statue, there are fourteen other Jainism shrines on the hills of Chandragiri. There are statues of all the twenty-four Tirthankaras of Jains along with the great king, Chandragupta Maurya, who was also buried here. The best time to visit this temple is during the Mahamastakabhisheka festival.
How To Reach Shravanabelagola
Shravanabelagola is 146 km away from Bangalore, 83 km from Mysore, 63 km from Arasikere, 57 km from Hassan and 11 km from Channarayapatna.
Bangalore is the nearest airport and flights from all over the country (and even world) are available to Bangalore from where you can take a taxi or a bus to the shrine.
The railway station of Hassan is quite close to Shravanbelagola while the Bangalore railway station about 157 km away. After reaching either of these stations, you can hire a taxi or board a private or public bus.
This place is connected by road from all the important towns of Karnataka. There are buses available from Bangalore, Hassan and Mysore but they are not direct. If you are coming from Hassan, then after reaching Channarayapatna, you will have to take auto-rickshaw, public bus or private taxi. From Bangalore, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach directly to the shrine.
In Jainism, Bahubali represents great strength, power and sacrifice. This statue is amongst the tallest and most popular in the world and people from across the globe come to visit it. In the Jain community, Bahubali is not just a figure; he is regarded as a great saint.