The smaller hill known locally as Chikkabetta rises about 175 feet above the plain and is 3,052 ft above the level of the sea. In the old inscriptions it is designated as Katavapra in Sanskrit and as Kalvappu or Kalbappu in Kannada. A portion of this hill is known as Tirthagiri and Rishigiri. With the exception of one shrine, all the basadis on the hill are enclosed in a walled fort area. Almost all the temples are built in the Dravidian style of architecture, the oldest of them going back probably to the eighth century A.D. Altogether the number of the temples in the walled fort area is fourteen and their plans are mostly similar to one another.
The history of this hillock dates back to 2nd Century B.C. and has a history that is 1000 years older than that of Indragiri. We can find many inscriptions spread across the hillock. These inscriptions help us understand the antiquity of Jainism and Shravanabelagola.
Timings – 6.30 am to 5.30 pm (entrance at the steps)
Outside the fort enclosure, on the south-east, there is a cave with a recently erected portico known as the Bhadrabahucave. According to tradition the Srutakevali Bhadrabahu came to Shravanabelagola and lived in the cave. The cave enshrines the engraved foot-prints of this Srutakevali who died here. The foot-prints are worshipped even now. It is also stated that the Maurya Emperor Chandragupta came here on a pilgrimage and having received diksha or initiation from Acharya Badrabahu, was worshipping the footprints until his death. The tradition regarding the migration of Srutakevali Bhadrabahu to Shravanabelagola along with his disciple Chandragupta, the Maurya Emperor, briefly runs thus:
Bhadrabahu, the last Srutakevali, predicted at Ujjain a twelve years drought and famine in the north, where upon the Jaina community migrated to the south under his leadership. Chandragupta abdicated and accompanied Bhadrabahu. On reaching Shravanabelagola, Bhadrabahu perceived the approach of his last moments, ordered the community to proceed on their journey and remained there until his death with his disciple Chandragupta. Chandragupta also lived there for some years as an ascetic, wroshipping the foot prints of his guru and ultimately died by the Jaina rite of sallekhana or starvation.
The evidence of local history, literature and inscriptions of about the 7th century A.D. and later supports this tradition. The literary works which give varying accounts of it are the Sanskrit works Bhihatkathakosa of 931 A.D., Bhadrabahucharita of the 15th century, the Kannada works Munivamsabhyudaya of circa 1680 A.D. and the Rajavalikathe of Devachandra. In front of the cave there is another pair of foot prints and on a large boulder behind these foot prints are engraved some relievo images of tirthankaras with a guru and his disciple. The inscription found below the imagers is an epitaph of Mallishenadeva.
Kuge Brahmadeva Pillar
The lofty pillar standing at the south entrance of the enclosure with a small seated figure of Brahmadeva on the top is called the Kuge-Brahmadeva pillar or Marasimhana Manasthambha. The figure of Brahmadeva is facing east. The pillar originally appears to have had eight directions, but only a few of them are now left. An inscription on the pillar commemorates the death of the Ganga king Marasimha II which took place in 974 A.D. and the period of the pillar cannot therefore be much later than that date.
To the west of the Kuge-Brahmadeva pillar is a small temple dedicated to Shanthinatha, the sixteenth of the twenty four tirthankaras which consists of a garbhagriha, a sukhanasi and a porch. The pillars in the porch probably belong to the late Ganga period. The image of Shanthinatha is a standing figure, about 12′ 10″ high, and is made of potstone. This is the second tallest of all the Jain idols installed on Chandragiri. Probably it is an image belonging to the Hoysala or even of an earlier period. The walls and ceilings of this temple were once adorned with paintings of which only a few traces are now left, e.g., the figures of dancers and standing Tirthankaras. These fragmentary paintings deserve to be studied.
To the north of Shanthinatha Basadi is the image of Bharateshwara, the brother of Bahubali. It is five feet high and carved out of a soft soap-stone. It is left in an unfinished condition being complete only to the knees. The idol might have been carved during the 10th century A.D. The pitted marks on several parts of the figure is due to the curiosity of the ignorant visitors to hear the metallic sound caused by hitting the image with stones which is really a sign of vandalism.
To the north of the Bharateshwara image stand two mantapas, side by side, which are called the Mahanavami mantapas. The four pillars of each mantapa are cylindrical in shape and are of granite. The inscribed pillars set up in the middle of these mantapas are beautifully executed with elegant towers at their tops. They are square in section, inscribed on all the four faces and are of pot-stone. The inscription on one of the pillars are epitaph of Jain teachers Devakeerthi (1163 A.D.) and Nayakirti, who died in (1176 A.D.). These were set up by the minister Nagadeva and his disciples.
To the north-west of the fort enclosure is the Suparshwanath basadi. It is similar in plan to the Shanthinatha basadi. The image of Suparshwanatha is generally copied by a hooded serpent. The only other image among the tirthankaras canopied by a serpent is the Parshwanatha image. The hoods of the serpent are generally three or five or seven in number. The image here is a seated figure, canopied by a seven hooded serpent and flanked by male chamara bearers. No information is available as to when or by whom this shrine was founded.
The Chandraprabha basadi which is to the west of Shasanabasadi consists of an open Garbagriha, a sukhanasi, a navaranga and a porch and enshrines a seated figure of Chandraprabha, the eighth tirthankara. In the sukhanasi are placed the images of Sarvahna Yaksha and Kushmandini Yakshi. The pedestal of Kushmandini Yakshi shows a lion with two riders seated one behind the other. The imagers have no prabhavali and appear to be earlier than the Hoysala period. The inscription on the rock close to the outer wall of the navaranga states that a basadi was built by Shivamara and it may be concluded from its paleography that it refers to the Ganga king Shivamara II. This temple might be one of the oldest on the hill and its date would be about 800 A.D. But the temple appears to have been rebuilt at a much later date with brick and mortar probably over the original plinth. The inscription got in the 1970s from the pedestal of the Tirthankara idol calls this temple as “Sri Mula Sangha’s Desi Gana’s Vakra Gachcha Basadi”. Hence this temple can also be called as “Vakra Gachcha Basadi”.
This is a small mantapa found in between the Shasana Basadi and Chavundaraya Basadi. This was erected by king Gangaraja in the period 1120-23 A.D.. He installed this in memory of his mother ‘Pochikabbe’. After three years in 1123 A.D. he installed another inscription in honour of Shubachandra Siddantha Deva.
The Chamundarayaraya basadi is the finest and one of the largest temples on the hill. It is a homogeneous structure consisting of a garbhagriha with an upper storey and a tower over it, an open sukhanasi, a navaranga and a porch with verandahs at the sides, all built of fine grained hard granite.
It is dedicated to Neminatha, the twenty second tirthankara. The sukhanasi consists of good figures of Sarvahna and Kushmandini, the yaksha and yakshi of Neminatha.
The basement consists of three cornices and the outer walls are decorated with right angled pilasters at intervals. There is a deep niche at the centre on each side of the outer walls of the garbhagriha and the navaranga. On the top of these pilasters is a row of hamsas or swans under the sharp curved caves above which is another row oe yalis mostly in pairs facing each other. Above this frieze is a row of fine seated figures of tirthankaras and other male and female figures under arches. The walls of the upper storey are also similarly ornamented.
The inscription regarding the construction of this temple clearly states that it was caused to be constructed by Chamundaraya and hence its date may probably be 982 A.D. But the inscription on the pedestal of the image of Neminatha in the garbhagriha of about 1138 A.D. says that Echana, son of the general Ganga Raja, caused to be built the Jina temple Trailokyaranjana which was also known as Boppana Chaityalaya. It is therefore clear that the image of Neminatha or at least its pedestal did not originally belong to this basadi and must have been brought here at some subsequent period from the temple founded by Echana which may have gone to ruin.
The upper storey of Chamundaraya Basadi is called as ‘Megala Basadi’. It enshrines a four feet high black coloured granite idol of Lord Parshwanatha in kayotsarga. An inscription on its pedestal says that Jina-deva, son of the minister Chamundaraya, caused to be made a Jina temple at Belagola. The temple referred to is probably this upper storey and its period may be about 995 A.D. It is highly probable that the building which was commenced in about 982 A.D. was perhaps completed in 995 A.D. The porch appears to be a later addition and perhaps belongs to the days of Vishnuvardhana Hoysala.
Since this temple is found in the upper storey of Chamundaraya Basadi it is called as Megala (‘Megala’ means ‘Upper’ in Kannada) Basadi.
Eradu Katte Basadi
The temple to the east of Chamundarya basadi is dedicated to Lord Adinatha (blakc coloured stone idol in padmasana, 3 feet 2 inches). It is called Eradukatte Basadi on account of the two stairs on the east and the west of the approach to it. The main image has a prabhavali and has male chamara bearers at its sides. The figures of the yaksha and yakshi of this Jina are found in the sukhanasi. The inscription on the pedestal of the image states that the temple was caused to be built by Lakshmi, wife of the Hoysala general Ganga Raja. Its date may be about 1118 A.D.
Savati Gandhavarana Basadi
The Savatigandgavarana basadi ussually known as the Gandhavarana basadi is to the right of the Eradukatte basadi. It is a fairly large structure consisting of a garbhagriha, a sukhanasi and a navaranga. The temple is so named after the epithet Savatigandhavarana, a rutting elephant to co-wives, a peculiar title of Shantaladevi, the Piriyarasi or chief queen of the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. The temple dedicated to Shanthinatha (in pamdmasana, 3 feet 4 inches), the sixteenth tirthankara, whose image has an ornamental prabhavali and is flanked by male chamara bearers. The figures of Kimpurusha and Maha-manasi, the yaksha and yakshi of this Jina, are placed in the vestibule. The outer walls are decorated with pilasters and the garbhagriha is surmounted by a large tower. This tower is an interesting example of a Hoysala brick tower constructed in imitation of Ganga towers. Octagonal and sixteen sided fluted pillars appear in the navaranga. From the inscriptions near the entrance and on the pedestal of Shantinatha we learnt that the temple was caused to be built by Shantaladevi in 1123 A.D.
On account of the car-like structure standing in front of it, the next temple is called Terina basadi. It is also known as Bahubali basadi from the image of Bahubali or Gommata enshrined in it. The car like structure known as Mandara, is sculpturer on all the four sides that Machikabbe and Santikabbe, mothers, respectively, of Poysalasetti and Nemisetti the royal merchants of the king Vishnuvardhana, caused the temple and the Mandara to be erected in 1117 A.D.
Kade Shanthishwara Basadi
The Shanthishvara Basadi or Shanthinatha basadi is another Hoysala brick structure on the hill with round pillars in the navaranga. The temple stands on a high platform and has an ornamental masonary tower. It was built by Hiri Eachimaiah son of Bommanna the elder brother of Gangaraja in 1117 A.D.. It has a 5’2″ high black coloured idol of Lord Shanthinatha in kayotsarga as the main deity. The idol is flanked by Chamaradhari’s on either side. Have a look at it we can clearly say that they might have been installed at a later date after installing the main deity.
Since the temple is found at the extreme corner and to the end of the group of temples it is called Kade (‘Kade’ in Kannada means ‘end’ or ‘last’) Shanthishawara Basadi.
Iruve Brahmadeva Temple
To the north of the north entrance to the enclosure is a solitary shrine known as the Iruve Brahmadeva temple consisting only of a garbhagriha enshrining a low relief figure of Brahmadeva. The inscription on the doorway of this temple ascribes it to about 950 A.D.
The people of Shravanabelagola and the surrounding villages are of the belief that offering sugar to Brahma yaksha over here will result in combating the ants (Iruve) menace at their homes. Hence the name Iruve Brahmadeva temple.
Kanchina donne or bell metal pond is found to the north west of the last named temple and adjascent to Iruve Brahmadeva temple. It is not known as to why this pond is known as Kanchina donne. One of the inscriptions found there says that the pond was caused to be made by Manabha probably the year 1194 A.D.
The different mantapas found across the Chandragiri hillock with ceiling are called as Nishadi Mantapas. Many inscriptions have been installed in these mantapas called as relief stones or Nishadi Smarakagalu. These inscriptions have been installed in honour of different people. Among these the mantapa found to the north east of Savatigandavarana Basadi is very important. This is called as Nalmadi Indra (982 A.D.) memorial mantapa. The inscription here contains some very interesting information. The details of the game ‘Polo’ given over here is very interesting and is the first of its kind on this game. To the south of this mantapa are found the twin mantapas are called as Lakshmidevi’s Nishadi Mantapas.
On the other hand the twin mantapas found to the right of Chamundaraya Mantapa is called as Machikabbe’s Nishadi Mantapa. One of the mantapas having a single relief stone speaks about Sri Prabhachandra Siddanthadeva the guru of Machikabbe who died in 1145 A.D.. The other mantapa contains three relief stones and they speak about Machikabbe (Death – 1131 A.D.), her nephew Baladeva (Death – 1139 A.D.) and her brother Singimaiah (Death – 1139 A.D.).
The temple opposite to Kattale Basadi is the Majjiganna Basadi. This temple has a three feet eight inches high black coloured idol of Lord Ananthanatha in kayotsarga as the main deity. Not much information is available about the construction of this temple or about the installation of the idol. However, by virtue of its name in can be concluded that this temple might have been built by a person called Majjiganna Basadi or he might have helped in the rennovation of the temple.
This temple is found to the west of Majjiganna Basadi. It is caled so because of the inscription (‘Shasana’ in Kannada means an ‘Inscription’) found at its entrance. The temple was built by the mother and wife of Gangaraja in 1118 A.D. The temple has a black coloured 4′ 6″ high stone idol of Lord Adinath in padmasana as the main deity. Idols of Sarvahna Yaksha and Ambika Yakshi can be found in the antarala (hall before the garbagriha).
The smallest basadi on the Chandragiri, which originally consisted of three cells standing in a line and opening into a narrow passage is the Chandragupta basadi. It faces south. The cells on either side have small towers over them resembling the chola type. To this was subsequently added an ornamental doorway in front with perforated stone screens at the sides. The doorway consisting of five fascias of elegant workmanship is beautifully executed. The screens are pierced with square openings are are carved with minute sculptures, interpreted, in the light of Jaina tradition, as the scenes from the lives of the Srutakevali Bhadrabahu and the Maurya Emperor Chandragupta. Some irregularity is observed in the alternate rows of the eastern screens owing to some misplacement at some time. By replacing the topmost stone at the bottom and the bottom one at the top the rows regularity correspond with those of the western screen. The middle cell of this temple has the figure of Parshwanatha, the one to the right the figure of Padmavathi and the one to the left the figure of Kushmandini, all in a seated posture. In the verandah there are standing figures of Dharanendra yaksha at the right end and Sarvahna yaksha at the left. The temple now opens into the front hall which also forms the entrance to the Kattale basadi.
In this hall stands a figure of Kshetrapala opposite to the middle cell of the Chandragupta basadi. The outer walls are decorated with pilasters, friezes, niches, the heads and trunks of lions mostly in pairs facing each other. Tradition says that this temple was caused to be erected by the Maurya emperor Chandragupta. The label dasoja occurring on one of the screens is undoubtedly the name of the sculptor who made the screens and the doorway. He is very probably identical with the sculptor who carved some of the fine bracket images of the Chennakasava temple at Belur and therefore the period of the screens and the doorway would be ablut the middle of the 12th century A.D. The other parts of the building are some of the oldest on the hill, probably going back to the ninth or tenth century A.D.
The idols of Goddess Padmavathi in this temple and of Lord Parshwanatha in Parshwanatha Basadi has a huge followership across south Karnataka. Prabably these two deities can be said to be having a very high followership next only to Lord Bahubali on the Indragiri hillock amongst all the Jain temples in Shravanabelagola.
The largest of the temples and the only one possessing a circumambulatory passage around it, an open sukhanasi and a navaranga. To this was added perhaps, at a later date a mukhamantapa and a verandah. The granite pillars of the navaranga are of different varieties. Only the central ceiling of the navaranga has in bold relief a padma medallion encircled by scroll ornamentation while the other ceilings which which are flat have decorative paintings. It was called Kattle-basadi or the temple of darkness since all access to light was prevented by the large enclosed front hall. Recently, however, when the walls were rebuilt, some perforated screens have been inserted to let the light and air in. It is also called Padmavathi basadi probably from the image of the Goddess Padmavathi which is a part of the Chandragupta Basadi found in the verandah. The temple is dedicated to Adinatha, the first tirthankara. It was constructed by Ganga Raja, the general of Vishnuvardhana. Since it was in a dilapidated condition it was repaired by the Government of Karnataka.
The manastambha in front of the Parshwanatha basadi has a pavilion on the top containing standing Jina figures facing four directions. A manastambha differes from a Brahmadeva pillar which has a seated figure of Brahma yaksha at the top. This pillar is sculptured on all the four sides of the base and contains the figure of Padmavathi on the south, Yaksha on the east, seated Kushmandini on the north and a galloping horseman (the emblem of Brahmadeva) on the west. It was set up by a Jaina merchant Puttaiah, during the rule of the Mysore King Chikka Deva Raja Wodeyar (1672-1704 A.D.), who is also stated to have erected the enclosing wall of the temple area.
To the east of the mantapas is the parshwanatha basadi which is a large structure in front of which stands a manastambha. The basadi contains a garbagriha, a sukhanasi a navaranga and a porch. This is a pretty structure of some architectural merit with its outer walls decorated with pilasters and miniature turrets. The doorways are lofty and the navaranga as well as the porch have verandhas at their sides. The pillars in the navaranga are of round Ganga type with bell, vase and wheel mouldings. The image of Parshwanatha is the tallest on the hill which is 18 feet in height.
The idol of Lord Parshwanatha in this temple and of Goddess Padmavathi in Chandragupta Basadi has a huge followership across south Karnataka. Prabably these two deities can be said to be having a very high followership next only to Lord Bahubali on the Indragiri hillock amongst all the Jain temples in Shravanabelagola.
Between the Kuge-Bradhadeva pillar and the Parshwanatha Basadi and inside a stone railing are to be found on the rock quite a large number of interesting ancient inscriptions. Most of these are in old Kannada characters, the language being old Kannada or Sanskrit. A number of the records are epitaphs of Jain monks who passed away by sallekhana or starvation. A few bear witness to the use of a high classical style in Kannada poetry in the seventh and eighth centuries A.D. Of the records the most important is the inscription (Epigraphia Carnatica Vol. II, No. 1) that refers to the migration of the Jains to South India at the instance of the Srutakevali Bhadrabahu, who predicted predicted a twelve years drought and famine and the other inscription (Epigraphia Carnatica Vol. II, No. 31) belonging to about 650 A.D., which runs thus: “The Jaina religion greatly prospered at the time when the pair of great sages Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta shed lustre on it”. Such epitaphs and and other inscriptions are also found on the rock in front of the Sasana basadi and the Chamundaraya basadi.
There is another natural pond to the east of the walled area known as Lakki Donne which name probably indicates that the donor was a woman by name Lakki. The rock to the west of this pond contains several epigraphs of about the ninth and tenth centuries. A.D.
Copyright permission mandatory to republish this article.