As the weekend set in, our search for places of historical interest and amazing architecture within a range of 200 kms from Bangalore led us to our next destination – Shravanabelagola
At a distance of approximately 150 kms from Bangalore, Shravanabelagola is a town located between two mountains Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri hills andis famous for the gigantic statue of Lord Gomateswara. Sculpted under the leadership of Chavundaraya , in 978 to 993 A.D, out of the granite bedrock of the mountain, this 57 feet feet towering statue of Bahubali (or Gommateshwara as the Kannadigas refer to) is an important piligrimage destination for the Jains.
Considering the fact that to get a view of this statue, one would have to climb around 700 steps on a steep mountain, we left home early around 05.30 in the morning. After a drive with a stop for breakfast at Swathi delicacy, a pretty good restaurant we started again at 07.30. Driving on NH 75, we took a left turn at Hirisave junction and reached Doddabetta or Vindhyagiri Hills at 08.30. The temple is open from 06.00 am to 06.00 pm. The climb takes about half an hour to 45 mins. The people who find the climb tough could also use the palanquin facility.
The view from the top is beautiful. Majorly covered by coconut groves, the city is blessed with good fertile land and greenery. From the top, a pond can be seen in the centre of this town and hence the name “ Belagola”. There are several inscriptions on the rock from various eras and kingdoms who ruled over this land Glass panes have been placed around the inscriptions to protect them.
As one enters the main monument, the view of the Gomateshwara statue is enchanting. The features of the monolith – the carved out nails with such precision, the smile curved at the lips, the peaceful calm expression on the face leaves one gaping. The threshold of the temple has some beautiful carvings and paintings demonstrating patience and labour of those unknown artisans.
Gallery running around the statue displays many more sculpture of the Jain Tirthankars.
The descend from the mountain was fast but had to balance the gravity and we reached down at around 11.00. Gearing up for the Mahamasthabisheka next year in 2018, a new set of steps were being carved on the rock.
After some quick refreshments of cool cucumber and some sour and spicy raw mangoes, we started for our next place – Nuggehalli.
Located at a distance of around 28 kms from Shravanabelagola, Nuggehalli can boast of two protected monuments maintained by the Archaelogical Survey of India – the Sada Shiva temple and the Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy temple
Constructed by a commander Bommana Dandanayaka, a commander in Hoysala Empire, this temple built on a jagati has the ekakuta architecture – one super structure here being the Shivalinga. Lord Shiva resides in the Garbhagudi (sanctum sanctorum) of this temple. The ashtadigpalakas (guardians of the eight directions) carved on the roof of the entrance to Lord Shiva’s sanctum sanctorum guard this entrance. A beautifully carved Nandi is placed at the opposite end of the Linga in a closed hall.
Artistically carved Shardula ( a creature with feature of eight animals) and Vinayaki (believed to be the wife of Vinayaka) adorn the top walls of the the threshold of this garbhagudi.
A set of carvings depicting the nine avatars of Parvathi, statues of Lord Karthikeya on his vahana- peacock, Chamunedeshwari, Kala Bhiarava, are placed independently in the common hall. Its unusual to see that there are two idols of Ganesha in this temple – one outside the Shivalinga’s sanctum and another outside Devi Parvati’s sanctum which is outside the common hall. Another unusual feature in this temple is the Navagrahas facing each other.
A little away from this temple is the Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy temple, one of the few temples where Lord Narasimha is worshipped alongwith his consort Lakshmi. Built in a trikutachala concept a typical of a Hoysala Architecture, this temple is dedicated to Krishna, Keshava and Narasimha. The temple is generally known as Lakshmi Narasimha temple though it is actually temple dedicated to Keshava. The central sanctum has the Keshava, the sanctum to the left has Krishna and right sanctum has Narasimha. The original temple was small to which later a larger hall was added.
Similar to the architecture at Somnathpur, the bottom of the temple wall has a frieze of elephants, – playing with their trunks or fighting each other. Above the elephants are the horses, followed by men, lion, birds, monkeys etc..
The wall has images of various Gods beautifully carved all approximately of 3 feet height. The story of Bhagavata, Story of Krishna, Vishnu as Vamana, Varaha, and Arjuna shooting the fish, are a few images, among many, are outstanding examples of fine sculpting by the master sculptors Mallitamma and Baichoja.
Amazed and happy with our day well spent, we left the quaint small village of Nuggehalli at around 1.00 pm and proceeded towards Bangalore. A lunch break and we were home by 04.30 pm.