Shravanabelagola and Chennakesava

A day-trip to visit two historic temples.

We joined a group from IISc on a day-long chartered bus journey out of Bangalore, to visit Shravanabelagola and Chennakesava.  This marathon day began at 6:30am and lasted until 11:30pm, but it was worth it!  Shravanabelagola is a Jain temple, over 1,000 years old and hosting the world’s tallest monolithic stone statue.  Chennakesava is over 900 years old and is a Hindu temple with incredibly ornate stone carvings.  Both are practicing temples, with hundreds of devotees visiting daily. Read on!

Shravanabelagola: the statue of Bahubali, 17.8m high.

Shravanabelagola is an important Jain pilgrimage, a tiny town containing two rocky hillocks. One is the site of Chandragiri, a Jain temple; we visited the other hill, Vindhyagiri, by climbing 614 steps hewn into the smooth rock of the hill.  Passing a small Jain temple along the way, our visit culminated in the main temple at the summit.  Inside, we visited the incredible 17-meter statue.  Keep in mind that this stone statue was carved from a single rock, in 981 A.D., was somehow erected on the summit of this small peak, and is still standing.  Wow.  Every 12 years, Jains gather for the Mahamastakabhisheka ceremony, in which they cover the statue in milk, ghee, saffron, and gold.  The statue and temple have many inscriptions, some in old forms of the local Kannada language.  The rocky hillside itself also has numerous inscriptions, which date over several centuries and are notes by pilgrims (in effect, “I was here”) who wanted to commemorate their visit.  [See my photos.] [see location]

Shravanabelagola: that copper disk is about 15” across.

‘Chennakesava’ is a form of lord Vishnu, and his temple is decorated outside and inside with hundreds of carvings reflecting the many legends of Vishnu and related gods and goddesses.  The temple was constructed in 1117 A.D., during the Hoysala dynasty, but required three generations of carvers (over 100 years) to complete!  It is made entirely of soapstone, which allows for the intricate detail of the carvings. Our guide told us many colorful stories about the carvings, which my memory is too limited to remember, and then took us inside. There, 48 pillars support the ceiling, and each is intricately carved. [See my photos.] [see location]

Chennakesava temple: standing back a bit, here are the outside walls.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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