I 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.
Chandragiri, 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 Mauryan 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.
The 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 first 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 the 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 the 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.
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.
Architecturally 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 are 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.
Terina 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.
Sasana 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 have built this and the Kattale basadi on this hill, it may be assumed that the former was built on behalf of his mother Pocikabbe 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 probably 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’’ and 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.