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Home » Jainism in India » Karnataka » Shravanabelagola » Indragiri


    The larger hill known as Indragiri or Doddabetta rises about 470 feet above the plain at its foot and is 3,347 feet above the sea level. It is ovoid in shape, its long diameter being perhaps a quarter of a mile. It is also sometimes designated Vindhyagiri. A flight of about 800 steps cut in the granite rock leads up to the summit. The entire area of the Vindhyagiri hill has been divided into two parts by a heavy wall at some distance around The antiquities are described in this section in the order in which they occur as one goes up the hill.
    Timings – 6.30 am to 5.30 pm (entrance at the steps)

    Brahmadeva Temple
    Brahmadeva temple is a small shrine at the foot of the hill near the begining of the ascent containing a shapeless flat stoner daubed with red ochre Jaruguppe Appa or Brahmadeva. This idol is attributed to Brahma Yaksha, the yaksha of Lord Sheetalanatha. This temple was erected by Rangaiya, younger brother of Girigowda of Hirisave, probably in 1679 A.D.
    This shrine has an upper storey, evidently, a later addition called as the Jaraguppe Basadi.

    Jaraguppe Basadi
    This temple is the upper storey of the Brahmadeva temple and is a latter addition to it. It has a three feet high red coloured stone idol if Lord Parshwanath in Kayotsarga as the main deity. The idol is decorated around it by the 24 Tirthankaras. Looking at the temple architecture and the idol we can clearly say that this temple is a new structure, probably constructed during the early part of the last century.

    Belli Bagilu
    While we move up the Indragiri hillock we come across a fort enclosure with a gate. This gate is called as the ‘Bellibagilu’. This fort might have been built during the 18th century or might have been rennovated and rebuilt around this time. One of the literary works of 1780 A.D. mentions the gate as ‘Belli Bagilu’ (meaning ‘The Silver Gate’).

    Chavvisa Tirthankara Basadi
    The top of Indragiri has a defensive fort of stone, inside which are most of the ancient structures. The first object inside this is the Chauvisa Tirthankara basadi. It is a small shrine consisting of a garbhagriha, a sukhanasi and a porch. The object of worship consists of a slab on which three figures stand in a line at the bottom and above them, in the shape of a prabhavali, are arranged small seated figures numbering twenty one. This panel of the twenty four Tirthankaras (popularly called as Chavvisa Tirthankara) was set up in 1648 A.D. by Charukeerti Pandita, Dharmachandra and others.

    Odegal Basadi
    The temple which stands on a lofty terrace with a high flight of steps leading up to is called Odegal Basadi. It is called Odegal Basadi because of the odegals or stone props that have been used for strengthening the basement walls. This Basadi is also known as Trikuta basadi by reason of its having three cells or sanctum sanctorum facing different directions. It is a fine granite structure of the Hoysala period with a plain exterior. It consists of three cells and three open sukhanasis with a common navaranga and a mukhamantapa. The navaranga pillars are cylindrical in shape and the central ceiling has a lotus pendant. The main cell contains a fine figure of Adinatha with a well carved prabhavali, flanked by male chamara bearers, the left cell has a figure of Neminatha and the right a figure of Shantinatha. Adinatha or Vrishabhanatha was the first among the twenty four Jinas. He is also known as Purudeva. He was the father of Gommata.

    Chennanna Basadi
    At some distance to the west-south-west of Chavvisa Tirthankara basadi is a Donne or the natural pond. This Donne is the chief source of water supply on the hill at present. Near the Donne to its west stands a temple known as Chennanna basadi It consists of a garbhagriha, a porch and a verandah. Inscriptional references state that the the temple is built for Adinatha the first Tirthankara, however on examining the idol it can be found that the idol is of Lord Chandranatha (the eighth Tirthankara) whose seated image has been carved out in relief on a large boulder. A Manastambha or pillar stands in front of it. From an inscription discovered on the same boulder on which the image is carved it is gathered that this temple was built by two brothers Chikkanna and Chennanna in 1667 A.D. and the two figures, one male and the other female, facing each other with folded hands, carved on the pillars of the verandah, probably represent Puttasami Shetty and Deviramma, the parents of Chikkanna and Chennanna. A 30 feet high manasthambha structure with Tirthankara idols on it can be found in front of the temple.
    To the north-east of the basadi is a mantapa or a pillared hall situated between two Donnes or natural ponds. It can be surmised with the evidence of another inscription found near them that Chennanna might have consrcuted these Donnes.

    Tyagada Brahmadeva Pillar
    Opposite to Gommata and outside the enclosure around Gommata is a very elegantly carved pillar known as the Tyagada Brahmadeva pillar. On this pillar four creepers are shown in bold relief as emerging out from the top corners of the cubical base intertwining all round the cylindrical shaft and each convolution having a beautifully designed flower or leaf in the centre. This beautiful work of art is said to have been supported from above in such a way that a hand-kerchief could be passed under it. But the pavilion, which supports the pillar ar present, appears to have been put up at a much later date. The inscription on the north base which gives a glowing account of Chamundaraya’s expeditions confirms the traditional account of attributing the erection of this pillar to Chamundaraya himself. Unfortunately the inscription has been deffaced on the three sides of the base leaving only a portion on the fourth side intact. Among the figures sculptured on the south base of the pillar, the one flanked by chamara bearers is said to represent Chamundaraya. Another figure in the same group is said to represent his guru Nemichandra, who is said to be the author of the work Gommatasara, written by him for the instruction of his disciple, Chamundaraya, the great minister of the Ganga king Racahamalla. The name chagada Kamba or Tyagada pillar is accounted for by the statement that it was the place where gifts were distributed.

    Siddhara Gundu
    On moving further ahead of the Tyagada Kamba after receding around 30 steps we encounter a huge boulder on our left with some carvings/figures of Jain Munis/Tirthankaras. This is called as the Siddhara Gundu (‘Gunda’ means ’round’ in Kannada). The carved figures on the boulder are said to be of Lord Adinatha and his one hundred children. We can also find a figure of Lord Bahubali in padmasana which is very unique.

    The entrance to the court of the colossal image is called Akhanda-dvara or Akhanda-Bagilu since a good part of the doorway is carved out of a single rock. The well carved architecture consists of a seated figure of Lakshmi bathed by elephants standing on either side. This Gajalakshmi group is under an ornamental arch carved in low relief. On both sides of this entrance are two small shrines, the one to the right containing the figure of Bahubali and the left one enshrining a figure of his brother Bharata. Both figures are carved on a high relief out of the natural boulders. According to tradition this doorway was caused to be made by Chamundaraya. The images on either side of this entrance are also the flight of steps leading to this door way were caused to be made by the General Bharateshwara in about 1130 A.D.

    Kanchigubbi Bagilu
    To the left of the Akhanda Dwara doorway on receding around 30 Kms stands a big boulder with a door known as the Kanchagubbi Bagilu (Bagilu means door in Kannada). On entering this door we can find a small porch with six pillars. Carvings of many animals and ladies in dancing postures can be seen here.

    Gulakayajji Bagilu
    On receding further upwards on climbing around 12 steps to our right is found the main entrance to the outer enclosure to the Bahubali idol. This gate is called as Gullakayajji Bagilu.

    Outer Enclosure
    On entering the Gullakayajji Bagilu we reach an open space enclosed in between two walled structure. This is the outer prakara or Outer enclosure. On entering this area we can see the idol of Lord Bahubali above his bust and enclosed in a protected fort kind of structure. If we move further from the Gullakayaji Bagilu and move around the enclosure surrounding Lord Bahubali we can find many small carvings of female chouri bearers, warriors in action, Tirthankara figure and many more. Amongst these we can find the carvings of ‘Rama, Lakshmana, Seta and Hanuman’; ‘Krishna involved in Kalinga Mardhana and ‘Benne Krishna – Krishna busy in eating butter’. These can be found towards our left in the beginning. On moving further ahead on the walled enclosure just behind Lord Bahubali is found the figure of ‘Hanuman holding Sanjivini hill’. This presence of carvings of Hindu deities in a Jain place of worship in a way has paved the way for many historians to contemplate that there existed a sense of religous harmony.
    On the inner wall of the outer enclosure just behind the Bahubali idol can be found a small carving of Lord Bahubali and is very impressive. On completing a circle around the inner enclosure, if we stand facing the Bahubali idol we can find the Wodeyar Mantapa to our right, Siddhara Basadi to our left and the Gullakayajji Mantapa in the centre.

    Wodeyar Mantapa
    Wodeyar Mantap is found in the North West direction of the enclosure surrounding the Bahubali statue. This mantapa encloses in it a four sided, four faced inscription. The inscription speaks about the Shravanabelagola Jain muts being is debts and the contribution made by the Wodeyars (kings) of Mysore to save the Mutt. It also gives us information about the lands donated by the Wodeyars to the Jain Mutt for carrying out the day to day administration of the Mutt.

    Siddhara Basadi
    Immediately to the right of the entrance leading into the outer enclosure around the Gommateshwara image is a small shrine, facing west known as Siddhara Basadi. This shrine has only a Garbhagriha and a sukhanasi. It is enshrining a seated figure of a siddha. On both sides of the Garbhagriha doorway stand two fine inscribed pillars which show elegant workmanship. Their tops are in the form of beautiful towers. The inscriptions are the epitaphs of two Jaina teachers named Panditarya, who died in 1398 and Srutamuni, who died in 1432 A.D.

    Directly to the west of Siddhara basadi and opposite to Gommata is a Brahmadeva pillar with a pavilion at the top enshrining a seated figure of Brahmadeva. Below this pavilion stands the figure of a woman called Gullakayajji, about five feet high, facing Gommata and holding a Gullakayi in her hands. There is a tradition that when Chamundaraya made elaborate arrangements for performing the Abhisheka of Gommata, the milk did not descend lower than the thighs of Lord Bahubali. But when guru directed him to use for anointment the little milk brought by a pious old woman in a Gullakayi, it instantly ran down all over the statue in streams and covered the hill. It is said that Gullakayajji or the Granny holding the Gullakayi was the Goddess Padmavati who, in order to break the pride of Chamundaraya at his great accomplishment, appeared at the time of the anointment in the guise of a poor old woman. According to another tradition she was the mythological Kushmandini. It is said that Chamundaraya got this image of Gullakayajji erected here and as mentioned the origin of the name of the village is also attributed by some to this tradition.

    Gommateshwara Statue
    On the summit of the hill stands the image of Gommateshwara in an open court surrounded by a battlemented verandah enshrining images of Jaina ascetics. This enclosure is again surrounded at some distance by a heavy wall, a good part of which is picturesquely formed by boulders in their natural position.

    Erection of Gommata
    Inscriptions definitely state that the statue of Gommata was caused to be erected by Chamundaraya, the minister of the Ganga king Rajamalla Satyavakya or Rachamalla, whose reign began in 974 A.D. and ended about 984 A.D. since according to tradition the consecration took place during the reign of Rajamalla, the statue must have been erected between these two dates. But a Kannada work popularly known as ‘Chamundaraya Purana’ composed in 978 A.D. by Chamundaraya does not mention the erection of the statue in the long account it gives of the author’ achievements. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the image was setup after 978 A.D. In the absence of more precise information the date of completion of the colossus may be taken as 983 A.D. The traditional date of the consecration of Gommata by Chamundaraya, given in several literary works however is Sunday, the fifth lunar day of the bright fortnight of Chaitra of the cyclic year Vibhava, corresponding to the year 600 of the Kali or Kalki era, which might correspond to 1028 A.D.

    Description of Gommata

    The colossal image of Gommateshwara standing erect on the summit of the large hill faces north. The shoulders of the image are very broad and the arms hang straight down the sides with the thumbs turned outwards. The waist is small. From the knee downwards, the legs are rather short and thick. Thie figure has no support about the thighs. Upto that point it is represented as surrounded by ant hills from which emerge serpents and a climbing plant (Madhavi) twines itself round both the legs and arms terminating at the upper part of the arm in a cluster of berries or flowers. The pedestal is designed to represent an open lotus. The image is carved in fine-grained light-grey granite. It looks as bright and clean as if it had just come from the chisel of the artist. It is probable that this image was cut out of a great rock which stood on the spot as it would have been an impossible task to transport a granite mass of such huge size up the oval hill-side. The statue of Gommata is more impressive both on account of its position and size than the statues of Rameses in Egypt and is bigger than any other monolithic statue in the world. Five more Gommata images are known to exist. They are the ones at Karkala and Venoor, Dharmasthala in Mangalore district, Gommatagiri in Mysore district and Basthihalli in Mandya district.

    Measurements: The measurements of the different parts of the image which were taken by the department of archeology around 1980 are as follows:

    • Total height of the image – 58′-0″
    • Total height to the bottom of the ear – 51′-0″
    • From the bottom of the ear to the crown of the head (about) – 6′-6″
    • Length of the foot – 8′-3″
    • Length of the great toe – 2′-9″
    • Half girth of the thigh – 10′-0″
    • Breadth across the pelvis – 13′-0″
    • Breadth at the waist – 10′-0″
    • Breadth across the shoulders – 23′-7 1/2″
    • From the base of the neck to the ear – 2′-6″
    • Length of the fore finger – 3′-9″
    • Length of the middle finger – 5′-0″
    • Length of the third finger – 4′-8″
    • Length of the fourth finger – 3′-2″

    Art of Gommata
    The labour bestowed on this image is really astonishing and the image is on the whole a very successful master peice of sculpture. The best part of the image is its face with its wonderful contemplative expression touched with a faint smile with which Gommata gazes out on the struggling world. The spirit of Jaina renunciation is fully brought out in this statue. The nudity of the image indicates absolute renunciation, while its stiff and erect posture suggests perfect self-control. The benign smile on the face shows the inward bliss and sympathy for the suffering world. In spite of its slight anatomical defects, the image looks majestic and impressive. From the terrace around the Gommata image a wonderful sight meets the eye on all sides extending over a radius of about 60-65 Kms. On a clear day man well-known places can be identified through field glasses. This sacred place assumes an indescribable charm at dawn, at sunset, by moonlight and in the darkness of a starlit night.

    The word Mahamasthakabhisheka is a combination of three words viz: Maha (great), Masthaka (head) and Abhisheka (anointing) which literally means ‘the head anointing ceremony’. Unlike the other idols the ceremony is called Mahamasthakabhisheka and not Masthakabhisheka. This is because the ceremony is performed only once in 12 years on the contrary the abhisheka to the Gommata idol at Gommatagiri is performed every year. The earliest one on record took place in 1398 A.D. and the latest in 2018 A.D.For detailed information on Mahamasthakabhisheka/

    Chouri Bearers
    On both sides of the image of Gommata, a little to the front, are two Chouri/Chamara bearers about 6 feet high, beautifully carved and richly ornamented, the one to the right being a male yaksha and the other a female yakshi. To the left of the colossus is a circular stone basin called Lalitha Sarovara (or the lovely pond), the name being engraved on the ant-hill opposite to it which receives the water used for the sacred bath of the image. There is a scale engraved near the left foot of Gommata measuring 3 feet 4 inches. But it is not known which of the standard measures it represents. To the right and left of Gommata, on the ant-hills are engraved inscriptions in old Kannada, Marathi and Tamil stating that Chamundaraya got the image made and that Gangaraja got the Suttalaya or the surrounding buildings constructed.

    The mantapa or pillared hall in front of Gommata is decorated with nine well-carved ceilings. Eight of them have figures of the ashta-dikpalakas or regents of the eight directions, while the central one has in the middle a fine figure of Indra holding a kalasha or water vessel for anointing Gommata. The ceilings are artistically executed and considering the material used, namely hard granite, the work redounds to the credit of the sculptors. From the inscription in the central ceining, it may be inferred that the hall was caused to be erected by the minister, Baladeva, in the early part of the 12th century.

    Inner Enclosure (Suttalaya)
    The inner enclosure or other than the Bahubali idol can be divided into two parts: Mukha Mantapa and Suttalaya.
    Mukha Mantapa – Outer – This is the area from the Gullakayajji till the entrance to the inner enclosure. Within this area can be found two Dwarapalakas and Boppanna’s inscription (towards our left). This might have been constructed during the 17th and 18th Century.
    Mukha Mantapa – Inner – This starts from the entrance to to the inner enclosure. On entering this area we can find the carvings of Indra involved in Kalyana activities and carvings of Ashta Dikpalaka’s. This mantapa was built by Baladeva who built the Gullakayajji mantapa.
    Suttalaya – This is an enclosure surrounding the Gommata statue. The cloisters in this enclosure enshrine a large number of beautiful images of the Tirthankaras, yakshi Kushmandini and Bahubali or Gommata. Most of them are of high class Hoysala art. Many of these images bear a votive inscriptions on their pedestals and there are name boards fixed over these images.
    Inscriptions Besides the Gommata Statue – The Kannada, Marathi and Tamil inscriptions on either side of the image immediately below those of Bahubali state that the enclosure around Gommata was caused to be made by Ganga-raja, the general of Vishnuvardhana Hoysala.

    Boppanna Inscription
    A traditional account of Gommata is given in an inscription of poet Boppanna of circa 1180 A.D. and is repeated with some additions and variations in the details in several literary works such as the Bhujabalisataka, Bhujabali-Charite, etc. The particulars mentioned about Gommata in the inscription are that he was the son of Purudeva, the first Tirthankara and the younger brother of Bharata and that his name was Bahubali or Bhujabali. In a struggle for the empire between the brothers, Bahubali won, but generously handed over the kingdom of the earth to the defeated elder brother and retired from the world in order to do penance. He thus became a ‘Kevali’ and attained such eminence by his victory over Karma that Bharata erected at Paudanapura an image in his form. In course of time the region around the image became infested with innumerable Kukkuta sarpas or cockatrices. The image afterwards became invisible to all but the initiated. But Chamundaraya having heard a description of it, set out with the desire of seeing it. Finding that the journey was beyond his power, he resolved to erect such an image himself at Shravanabelagola. An arrow shot by him from Chandragiri struck a boulder on Indragiri, which appeared to him in the form of Gommata. With great effort Chamundaraya succeeded in getting this statue made under the supervision of the monk Arishtanemi. The literary works mentioned above support this tradition but differ only in minor details.

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