Monday, October 31, 2011

DSC01325I was already tired with all the climbing of the Vindhyagiri hill. Once i came down, i had a quick snack while it rained heavily and moved to the hill opposite the one i ascended earlier. Earlier, i could wear my sock and climb, but here i was asked to take them off. So had to climb barefoot. Man! It was slippery with all the rain and legs were aching on the hard surface. There are around 250 steps to the top of the hill and this was a little relief.

DSC01308Chandragiri, also known as Katavapra (Black Hill), Tirthagiri or Rishigiri is locally called as Chikkabetta (Small Hill). This is one of the oldest Jaina pilgrimage centres in South India as it has the tomb of Bhadrabahu muni and many other Jaina devotees. It stands at a height of 3052 feet above sea level and here, inside a huge compound, are many monuments. This hill became holy due to the arrival of the fifth and the last Shrutakevali Bhadrabahu, Eighth in the lineage of Lord Mahaveera, the 24th Tirthankara. It is popularly known as Chandragiri after the DSC01327Mauryan emperor Chandragupta. There are 14 Jinalayas of great antique, among is one which built as early as 4th Century BC. i.e. 2500 years old. On the rock bed of Chandragiri, near the first inscription one can see the specimen signature of Chavundaraya the commander in chief during the Ganga rule.  We can have a beautiful view of all the monuments all at once from the Vindhyagiri hill. Also the statue of Bahubali looks great from the Chandragiri Hill.

DSC01335The entrance to the compound is a decorative arch made of brick and lime with exquisite carvings on the top. The centre of the gateway is designed like a gopura with a Yakshini in the middle. We will talk about the most important monuments.

The firsDSC01340t one we notice is the Kuge Bramha Sthambha, a highly decorative pillar. It is a fine specimen of Ganga workmanship and one of the most elegant and free standing pillars. Erected in honour of thDSC01383e Ganga King Marasimha, who died observing the rite of Aradhana at Bankapur (Dharwad District of Karnataka) in 974 AD. This is considered both a commemorative column as well as a Manasthambha. The column is 30 feet in height and has Sarvahana Yaksha on top. The 113 like inscription engraved on the pedestal begins on the southern face and ends on the eastern side. It gives a glowing account of the King, his heroic life and his pious end. The upper part of this long pillar looks like a small mantapa and is extremely beautiful with a Jina image.

Next is the basadi housing Shanthinatha and Suprashwanatha. The image to DSC01350the north of the Shanthinatha basadi, which is standing with an iron railing, is that of Bharatha, brother of Bahubali. The Digambara traditions in this place accepted and popularised Bharatha image from the 10th Century. From an inscription near the Bharatha image mentions that Arishtanemi carved this image. This image is not hewn out of rock bed and is mutilated below the thighs and is currently 2 metres in height. Stylistically this one is very close to the Bahubali image and can be dated to the Ganga Period (10th Century). Another image of Bharatha is found on the Akhanda Bagilu on the Vindhyagiri hill. DSC01355

I noticed something interesting over here. There are a couple of temples which date to around 10th Century and their architecture resembles the Pallava style to some extent. It is quite evident that they are Jain basadis with the Tirthankara images on the outer walls, but the structure above the lintel totally resembles many monuments in Mahabalipuram, especially the Shore Temple. It is a known fact that influence of culture is not new in Indian History and there are good instances where the Hoysala temples are inspired by Chola art.

DSC01363Architecturally very interesting and historically immensely important,. the Chavundaraya basadi was built by Jinadevana, the son of Chavundaraya. This granite structure is again a good example of Ganga architecture and as mentioned earlier has Dravidian influence also. Though the outer walls arDSC01370e plain, the parapet and the tower are ornate. A row of swans below the eaves, the horse-shoe shaped arches on the cornice, a row of sea horse or lion-faced fishes at the lower most row of the parapet, a row of large reliefs of Tirthankaras, Yakshas, Yakshis, Gandharvas, elephants and other reliefs, and the gable shaped crowning architectural members are of absorbing interest.

We find here some of the finest creation of Indian artists. The architectural pattern is repeated on the tower, which perfect, proportionate and compact. The sanctum houses and image of Neminatha carved by a famous Hoysala artist Gangachari, son of Hoysalachari. In the vestibule are the images of Sarvahana Yaksha and Kushmandini Yakshini of Hoysala period (12th Century). A narrow staircase in the Southeast, leads to the upper storey where you find a standing image of a Tirthankara dated to 10th Century. An inscription on the pedestal of this statue attributes this temple to Chavundaraya’s son.

DSC01380Terina basti is named after the chariot stone structure facing it and was built by Macikabbe and Shanthikabbe, mothers of two royal merchants, Poysalasetti and Nemisetti. It was consecrated in 1117 AD. Inside is a Bahubali image of 4 feet in height. Images of Sarvahana Yaksha and Kushmandini Yakshi are of Hoysala workmanship and dated to the 12th century AD. Surprisingly this structure is devoid of any Dravidian influence. This confirms that more than one artist worked on each of the structures and we anyway know that they have been constructed across centuries.

DSC01388Sasana basadi is called so, because of the inscription located at its entrance. The image of Adinatha, seated in a yogic posture on a lion throne in the sanctum has an inscription which states that this abode of Lakshmi was built by Gangaraja. Also it is known that the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana granted a village for its maintenance. The Kushmandini and Sarvahna statues are a Hoysala work. As Gangaraja was supposed to haveDSC01395 built this and the Kattale basadi on this hill, it may be assumed that the former was built on behalf of his mother PocikabbDSC01394e and the latter on his wife Lakshmimathi in 1118 AD.

The Chandragupta basadi was erected in the 9th Century. Interesting aspects of this three celled structure are 1) it’s fine towers, 2) a unique image of standing Sarvahna Yaksha in the vestibule and 3) two perforated screens with reliefs believed to be connected with Bhadrabahu. The sanctums have the images of 4 armed Yakshni Padmavathi, Parsvanatha and Kushmandini Yakshini. The stone screen narrating the story of the migration of Bhadrabahu was executed by a Hoysala artist called Dasoja.

And finally we talk about the Parsvanatha basadi.

This temple called the Kamata Parsvanatha Basti in records was DSC01398probably erected in the late 11th century. An inscription found in the vestibule seems to associate Dhanakirthideva, disciple of Damanandi Traividyadeva to this temple. The image of Parsvanatha is about 14’6’’ DSC01343and stands on a lotus pedestal. The reliefs at the base are not only of great artistic excellence but also of immense mythological interest. They reveal Parsvanatha’s encounter with his enemy Kamata. The main image as well as the serpent body and the canopy are hewn out of a single stone of schist.

The commemorative column in the hall was erected in the honour of saint Mallisena in 1129AD. Executed by an artist called Gangachari, it bears testimony to the artistic excellence as well as to the high literary attainment of poet Mallinatha. The Manasthambha which faces the temple is about 65 feet in height and is also the tallest of the free standing pillars at Sravanabelagola. It was added in the late 17th century.

As i complete my entire series on Hassan District a lot of memories make me happy and satisfied. Also there are some things that tourists must know before. I will talk about them in my final post of this series.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

DSC01281We have seen all the monuments in and out of the complex on top of the Vindhyagiri Hill. In the middle of the complex stands the mighty statue of Gomateswara. According to Jainism, Bahubali, called Gomateshwara, was the second of the hundred sons of the first Tirthankara, Rishabha. The Adipurana, a 10th century Kannada text by Jain poet Adikavi Pampa (941 AD.), deals with the ten lives of the first Tirthankara, Rishabha and his two sons, Bharata and Bahubali.

The colossal image of Bahubali marks the culmination of the artistic excellence achieved by the Ganga sculptors. The magnificent sculpture installed by Chavundaraya in around 982 AD. said to have been carved by Arishtanemi is the tallest monolithic image in India. Hewn out of uniformly fine-grained grey granite, it is finished in the round from head to knees. The depiction of ant-hills with snakes (Kukkuta Sarpa) peeping out and the ascending Madhavi creeper hide the fact of bold relief on the lower limbs. This north facing sculpture measures about 18 metres (588’’) in height. Believe it or not, this statue is visible from a distance of 30 kms.

DSC01282Exhibiting all Mahapurusha lakshanas Bahubali DSC01302stands erect in Kayothsarga posture on a full-blown lotus pedestal flanked by ornate but dwarf chauri bearers of Hoysala period on either side. The head decorated with Dakshinavrutha curls, the sublime face, the half closed and long conDSC01295templative eyes with gaze turned towards the tip of the sharp nose and the well shaped lips bearing a serene smile, can be visualized from any angle. The rounded face, the slightly projected and dimpled chin, the imperceptibly high cheek, the long lobed ears, all enhance the grace of the sculpture. The broad shoulders, the long arms. dangling on the sides, the fold-lines on the front of the neck, faithful delineation of the joints etc. attest to the skill and mastery of the artist in executing the anatomical details in the stone medium.

The stark nudity of the sculpture indicates the absolute renunciation of a Kevalin (one who attains supreme knowledge) and the stiff erect stance (Prathimayoga) itself suggest the firm determination and self control. The Dvarapala images on either side of the Bahubali colossal carved in src013schist, are among the finest of the well preserved guardian deities carved by the Hoysala artists of the 12th Century.

There are 3 other monolithic statues of Bahubali in Karnataka erected centuries ago at Karkala in Udupi District (42 feet erected in 1432 AD), Venur in Dakshina Kannada (35 feet erected in 1604 AD) and Gommatagiri in Mysore District (20 feet erected in the 12th Century).

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, devotees and tourists from all over the world flock to the statue once in 12 years for an event known as Mahamastakabhisheka. The recent anointing last took place in February 2006, and the next ceremony will occur in 2018. As the ceremony begins, consecrated water is sprinkled onto the participants by devotees carrying 1,008 specially prepared vessels. The statue is then bathed and anointed with libations such as milk, sugarcane juice, and saffron paste, and sprinkled with powders of sandalwood, turmeric, and vermilion. Offerings are made of petals, gold and silver coins, and precious stones. Most recently, the ceremony's finale has included an enormous shower of flowers from a waiting helicopter.

I was on top of this hill for about 2 hours and then moved on to the Chandragiri hillock which is opposite to this one.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Once we climb all the 640 steps and reach the top, the first thing that is seen is an inner complex on DSC01265the right with a wall. We have the first view of the Gomateshwara Statue from here. Figures like fishes and elephants are carved on the wall, which we do not the significance. We need to enter the inner complex walking from the rear end. There are some monuments to the back of the compound. The Wodeyar mantapa on the western corner, has a column whiDSC01271ch has a donative record. One portion of this record tells how mortgaged property of the temple got redeemed by the initiative of the Mysore King Chamaraja Wodeyar in 1634 AD. The other portion mentions the grants made for the upkeep of this centre by King Dodda Krishnaraja Wodeyar in the 18th Century. Nearby, there is a three step pillar stone on the floor. We do not know the significance of this as well but it should be something relevant to Jains. Nearby is the Gullekayi Ajji Mantapa.

DSC01274An image of immense legendary interest is housed in this pavilion. Its open ground floor contains five round pillars, an inscription and an image of the Old Lady (Gullekayi Ajji). The pillars, though simple are very strong and support the upper section. The upper floor enshrines a Yaksha image. DSC01275The large central pillar was cut out of a boulder in the 12th century. An inscription at its base names it as, “Manasthambha”. The pillar and the Yaksha image were caused to have been made by minister Baladeva of early 12th Century. The inscription column was placed against the central pillar in 1422 AD by Irugappa Dandanayaka. It mentions the gifts made by this general to Gommata.  The image of Gullekayi Ajji wears a blouse and a pleated saree. According to a local legend, Yakshi Padmavathi transformed herself into an old woman to humble the pride of Chavundaraya.

DSC01279The outer compound wall i talked about was erected during the time of Mysore Wodeyars (17th-18th Century). The Siddhanta basti is at its southeast corner was built in the 14th century. It is notable for the two commemorative columns in the hall than for the image enshrined in the sanctum. These columns were erected in 1398 and 1432 in honour of Saint Panditharadhya and Srtamuni respectively. The text of the second memorial was composed by Mangaraja, a famous Kannada poet.

DSC01290Before speaking about the main attraction at this place, we need to talk about one amazing feat called the Suttalaya. Spanning all the three sides of the colossal statue of DSC01289Bahubali and built in two successive stages, house many Tirthankara images. Gangaraja, a general of Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana erected the enclosure. Basavi Setti during the 12th Century erected all the 24 Tirthankara statues inside while the others were installed by Kethi Setti, Balleya Dandanayaka, Anki Setti, Bidiyama Setti, Mahadeva Setti, Nemi Setti etc. These Suttalaya images (3.5 to 5.25 feet high) are of great interest to the pious Jains as well as students of Jaina art and iconography. From the records and the cognizance’s engraved on the pedestal, from the attributes held by attendant deities, and from certain other conspicuous characteristics, the Tirthankara images are identified.

I will be dedicating my next post to discuss about the Gomateswara Statue in detail.

Friday, October 28, 2011

As mentioned previously, i climbed 500 steps to reach the main entrance of the hillock. Known also as DSC01228Indragiri or Vindhyagiri, this hillock locally called as Doddabetta (Big Hill) which stands at a height of 3,347 feet above sea level is fortified with a wall across its circumference. There are various shrines that one can visit before reaching the main place. The smaller hill which is opposite to this one and the big pond at the bottom of this hill look beautiful from here.

There is a small shrine to the left of the main entrance, which is called the Chavvisa (24) Tirthankara basadi raised by Charukeerthi Pandithadeva and others. It contains a stone slab with small DSC01242images of all the 24 Tirthankaras. Within a short distance, there is an elevated basadi which can reached by a flight of steps. Built of granite blocks, it is impressive for the commanding position it occupies. This is called the Odegal basadi. It is so called because of the stone props against its basement. It is the only trikutachala (triple-shrine) temple at Sravanabelagola. It houses the images of Adinatha, Neminatha and Chandranatha, all carved in schist with a congregation hall common to all the three shrines. This temple is datable to the 14th century which is similar to other Jain temples constructed during the Vijayanagara period like Ganagitti Jain Temple and Parsvanatha Temple in Hampi. I did not understand why a bell is hung in a Jain basadi. Normally, all sounds except chanting are prohibited in a Jain religious place.

DSC01245From the Odegal basadi, we move on to the next monument, the Tyagada Kamba. We can find many inscriptions scribbled on the raw granite floor on the way. The ASI has covered those with glass so that they cannot be damaged by tourists. All these inscriptions are recorded as part of the Epigraphia Carnatica Series in its second Volume.

One of my acquaintances recently posed two questions 1. Why would important inscriptions be made on random, uneven rocks? My guess is that normally any inscriptions commissioned by ruler will have well-setup DSC01314slabs. Because these constructions were not officially funded by the ruler and commissioned by officials and generals, they were scribbled on the floor by the masons so that they can still name the person who commissioned them. 2. The protecting glass on top of them is a mere eye-wash, as rain-water etc. can still flow from underneath.. My perception is rain water, if it falls directly on the rock can cut the stone damaging the inscription. But here, the damage can be far less than normal as the water passes underneath the glass. Now back to business.

DSC01249Tyagada Kamba is a small, open pavilion with an upper sDSC01247torey and his historically important. It was installed by Chavundaraya who himself commissioned the Gommata statue here. In the centre of the pavilion is a 11 feet long elaborately carved pillar which is unmatched in its artistic beauty. It was probably erected in the late 10th Century. It is believed that Chavundaraya distributed gifts to the needy and deserving from here, hence the name Tygada Kamba. Another view is he renounced his worldly possessions including his life from here. The simple scroll designs, elegant workmanship, and bold lines bring out the best of the Ganga architecture. The original inscription at the base of the pillar was eraseDSC01251d in about 1200 AD by Heggade Kanna and installed the Yaksha image on top of this pillar after which, got a record engraved at its pedestal. Some 500 years later, an upper mantapa was built in brick and mortar.

From the Tygada Kamba starts the second series of 140 steps which lead to the inner complex. After climbing some steps from the Tyagada Kamba, we stand before the Akhanda Bagilu or the monolith gateway. It has a Gajalakshmi panel above the lintel, where Goddess Lakshmi is seated on a lotDSC01257us flanked by two elephants who anoint the goddess with pots held with their trunks. The relief sculptures of crocodiles and lions form the upper part of the panel. This is one of the finest and largest reliefs of Gajalakshmi in the country - undoubtedly the best of the Ganga craftsmanship. While the doorway is assignable to 980 AD. the two cells at its side were added around 1130 AD. by Bharathamayya, a general of the Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana. The two relief sculptures iDSC01262n the cells represent Bharatha and Bahubali. Both the smaller shrines are locked.

There are two more doorways between the steps. The pillars of one of them is carved with Tirthankaras and musicians. There are dwarapalas on either side which is an example of Hindu architectural influence. The second doorway is the one you see in the picture. It has 4 pillars and figures of elephants are sketched on either side. The lintel of the doorway is carved with Tirthankara and Yaksha figures. Just outside this doorway you will find a image of a crocodile on the left which is a signature sculpture of Vijayanagara architecture. After crossing this doorway, we reach the upper complex.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

This is the last leg of my 3-day Trip to the Hassan District. I had to get up very early and so that i could DSC01215reach Sravanabelagola as soon as possible, which i managed to reach by 7 AM. The town has just woken up and you will find the vendors starting to clean their premises to start their day’s business. I put my bag at a travel agent’s place and started off to the entrance to the hill.

Activity at the hill was full on. There were people already climbing. Its advisable to start the climbing as early as possible as heat will be a concern once the sun rises. There are two sections of steps to finally reach the destination. The first section is a steep climb of 500 steps after DSC01223which we reach the main entrance to the complex on the top. Be very careful while climbing as the steps are steep and one mistake may cause a person to tumble down. The steps may be slippery in rainy season, so be very cautious. We can have a nice view of the surroundings during the climb. There are two doorways during the ascent which may have been setup during the 10th Century. Surprisingly i took just 10 minutes to reach the entrance of the second complex, where i rested for about 10 minutes before starting off again. We will talk a little bit about the hill and its history before moving on.

DSC01230Sravanabelagola has two hills, Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri. Acharya Bhadrabahu and his pupil, King Chandragupta Maurya are believed to have meditated here and Chandragupta attained salvation at this place. Chandragupta Basadi, which was dedicated to Chandragupta Maurya, was originally built there by Asoka in the third century BC. Chandragiri is also said to be the place where the last Rashtrakuta King of Manyakheta is said to have meditated. The 57-feet tall monolithic statue of Gommateshvara is located on Vindyagiri Hill. It is considered to be the DSC01243world's largest monolithic stone statue.

More than 800 inscriptions have been found at Sravaṇabeḷgoḷa, dating to various times from 600 to 1830. These inscriptions include texts in the Kannada, Sanskrit, Tamil, Marathi, Konkani, Marwari and Mahajani languages. Some of these inscriptions mention the rise and growth in power of the Western Ganga Dynasty, the Rashtrakutas, the Hoysala Empire, the Vijayanagar Empire and the Wodeyar dynasty.

Now lets talk about the various monuments on the Vindhyagiri Hill.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This is the last place of visit on my second day. Even though i was not exhausted, i was a little bored with DSC01171the monotonous visits to temples. I feel that when we plan a trip, it must contain a mix of different types of places, and this i realized after making a couple of trips like this :) . It was almost 4 when i visited this temple. It is again situated in a nice picturesque location and beautiful with all the coconut trees. A nice lawn has been established near the temple premises which creates a good ambience and pleasant atmosphere in the evenings.

DSC01172Koravangala is a small town 12 kilometres from Hassan on the Hassan -> Arsikere road. Inscriptions around the temple site give us an idea of the temple's construction and the various grants it received. One of them specifies the name of Bhutanatha Raja or Buchi Raja, a Brahmin officer from the family that serves Hoysala king Narasimha I, as the man who constructed it. The inscription also states consecration of the temple coincided with the coronation of King Ballala in 1173. Though originally built over a large platform, today it stands almost equal to the ground.

DSC01177I enter the temple complex from the rear end. The entrance is very small and guarded by elephants. There are beautifully carved dwarapalaka statues on either side. This entrance leads to a  mukhamantapa which is supported by 32 pillars. The ceiling is partitioned into 13 parts and each is carved beautifully with lotus flowers. Once you cross the mukhamantapa you enter the navaranga which has neatly carved ceilings. The northern part of it has an enticing image of Krishna. On the lintel, above the entrance, a fine image of Gaja Lakshmi is DSC01207also found. Idols of Ganapathi, Saraswathi and Saptha Matrikas adorn the corners of the. On the right side is a figure of Dakshina Murthy. The antarala is supported by 8 pillars, four of which are star shaped.

The sanctum sanctorum has a huge Sivalinga made of Blackstone. As usual, there is a Nandi statue in front. There is a small shrine on the left of the sanctum dedicated to Ganesha. The Vimana above the Garbhagriha is made of soapstone. It consists of turrets in four tears with numerous sculptures. An exquisite Hoysala crest adorns DSC01202the Vimana's facade.  Every section of the temple has wonderful sculptures that mark this temple out from many others.
A row of large idols carved in single and double pilasters with turrets above them adorn the outer walls. Figures of Vishnu, Narasimha, Varaha, Venugopala, Natya Saraswathi, Kaliyamardana Krishna, etc. can be found there. On the wall panel the carving of the Gajendramoksha sequence is absolute marvel.

Apart from the Bucheswara Temple, there are two other temples DSC01209in the vicinity but they are in a very bad shape. They have been completely ignored and the place is filled with vegetation and stench. The structure of the temples is good in some sections. The pillars are damaged in one of the sides which may weaken the entire structure. Most of the pillars in the mukhamantapa inside are still good and they  lead to a small sanctum which has a pedestal for the Sivalinga. There is an inscription on a stone slab written in Kannada.The outer sides of the temples are designed with turrets as the Bucheswara Temple and extremely beautiful.

As this was the last stop for the day, i leisurely roamed around and was there for half an hour. I then went back to my stay in Hassan town. I was looking forward to my next day’s trip. I had a good time off before the tiring and fun experience in Sravanabelagola.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Haranahalli is a small village near Arsikere and 35 kilometres from Hassan town. There are two temples DSC01142in this small place which are rich in their architecture but they are totally ignored by the government and ASI due to which they are becoming endangered. When i went over, they were locked and i had to get them opened. There is no proper maintenance inside the complex.

The inside of the temple is good though. We enter to a four pillared mukhamantapa from which three shrines are connected. The pillars are again typical Hoysala types with rounded DSC01158structure and 5 different parts to the ceiling. The ceiling is 5 stepped inside and has amazing design. Each step is connected with the other as a interlocked piece even though it is completely monolithic.

The remaining sections of the mantapa are carved with turrets and pillars protruding outside. There are two start shaped pillars which again is typical Hoysala signature. There are images of Lakshmi Narasimha, Chennakesava and Venugopala inside the shrines. There was not much to look inside lets talk a little bit about outside.

DSC01144This temple is a simple trikuta construction with three shrines situated around a common hall with a strong emphasis on the central shrine. In plan and execution, this temple is similar to the ones that are found in places like Hosaholalu, Javagallu and Nuggehalli, but only here no later structures have been added to the main temple. The central vimana has a star-like plan and a complete tower and its nose is also complete with an intricate design. Due to the design, this temple looks much like an ekakuta when seen from the outside.

The outside wall is carved DSC01162similar to the Hoysaleswara and Kedareswara Temples where there are friezes at the bottom followed by sculptures and pillar like structure on the top. Part of the friezes were left un-sculpted plain. I assume that the part of the stone was unsuitable for any carving because of its composition (either too hard or too soft). I say this as there is no sign of human inflicted damage to the sculpture as we see in the Chennakesava Temple, Belur or The Hoysaleswara Temple, Halebidu. There is an inscription on a stone slab but its unreadable now because of the exposure to weather.

DSC01165The caretaker will have a guest book over there for the tourists to write comments. When i asked about the ill-maintenance, he simply said that the local MLA visited the temple recently and assured a grant. I doubt it though as this was the same answer that one of my friends got when he visited the temple after a couple of months. I was there for about 15 minutes in this complex and moved ahead to my last pit-stop for the day, The Bucheswara Temple in Koravangala.

References: A Complete Guide to Hoysala Temples by Gerard Foekema