Sravanabelagola Travel Guide
Sravanabelagola, a great
centre for Jain culture is situated at a distance of
about 100 kms from Mysore and is famous for its
colossal statue of Gomateshwara who is also referred
to as Lord Bahubali. Carved out of monolithic stone,
the imposing 17 metre high statue of Gomata towers
stands in majestic splendour and is visible even from
a distance of 20 kms. Starkly simple, the beautifully
chiselled features of the statue embody serenity. His
perfect lips are turned out at the corners with a hint
of a smile, viewing the world with detachment.
Sravanabelagola means 'the monk on the top of the
hill' and hermits, mystics and ascetics have journeyed
and lived there since at least the third century BC.
In those early times the hill was thickly wooded and
hermits could feed themselves from the forest. In the
mid-tenth century AD temples began to be built and the
site grew to be one of the most important pilgrimage
sites of the Jain religion.
The hill of Sravanabelagola, (also called Vindhyagiri
or Per-kalbappu), looms majestically at 3347 feet
above sea level. From the base a flight of 614 steps,
finely carved from the granite of the mountain, leads
to the summit, where a great statue of Sri Gomatheswar
stands. At 58 feet 8 inches high, it is the tallest
free-standing statue in the world. You must climb
barefoot, which poses a problem when the granite heats
up, so get there early.
Sri Gomatheswar was the son of the legendary first
Tirthankara (a mythical, enlightened sage of Jainism).
The chief festival of Sravanabelagola is called Maha
Masthaka Abhisheka, or the 'Head Anointing Ceremony'.
During this incredible event a scaffolding structure
is built around the statue and over a million devotees
make a pilgrimage to its base to chant holy mantras
and pour thousands of gallons of milk, honey and
precious herbs over the head.
While flowing downwards over the body, these offerings
are believed to acquire a powerful charge of spiritual
energy. They are collected at the feet and distributed
to those who believe that the gift will assist their
quest for enlightenment. The festival is performed
only once every 12 to 14 years during periods of rare
astrological significance. The next one will be held
in 2005, so you've got plenty of time to organise a
trip. It'll be worth it.