Just as summer temperatures were beginning to take over the really-short spring season that the Indian subcontinent gets, we decided to hit what I’d like to call ‘Karnataka’s Sculptural Triangle just a stone’s throw from Bengaluru. Ok, that might seem like a little bit of an exaggeration but Shravanabelagola, Belur and Halebeedu are places that are not very far from the Capital City.
Although we could have done it all in a day, our Shravanabelagola-Belur-Halebeedu plan was stretched into a weekend trip so there would be ample time to appreciate the art and architectural spread we were going to treat ourselves to.
I wanted to get to Shravanabelagola as early as possible so as to start the climb up ‘the hill’ before the sun was really upon us. By the time we got there (after a couple of breaks on the way; we travel with 2 kids under the age of 10) it was past 10 in the morning. It was not as early as I would have liked it to be but then if not then, the temperatures would have only risen. Deciding to make the most of the day, my five year old and I decided to take off, leaving daddy and the littlest one to take it easy in some conditioned air.
We dropped off our footwear for some safekeeping and began the ascent up Vindhyagiri Hill. Atop Vindhyagiri Hill is an age-old Jain temple and in it, is a 57-foot colossus of Bahubali, popularly known as Gomateshvara. A walk up the 600-odd steps of the hill is the way to see all of this monolithic statue that is said to be one of the biggest ones ever. (Now if you cannot do the climb, you can be carried up the hill on a cane chair; palanquin fashion or will have make do with seeing the head and shoulder of the figure from afar.)
As we started up Vindhyagiri, we were welcomed by ‘easy riser’ steps and in my mind I was saying, ‘this looks easy-peasy lemon squeazy.’ I didn’t say it aloud not wanting to give false hopes to the little boy who was eager to see a gigantic statue and who was insistent on accompanying me up that hill. (When I asked him if he was sure he could walk up 600 hundred steps he went into pleading mode and kept telling me, I’m brave; I can go all the way up). I knew the climb would get tougher. The easy risers soon gave way to higher steps and my legs were beginning to feel the strain. A few rest-cum-photo breaks later were up there, albeit a bit exhausted.
I was surprised by the fact that the ascent was not as bad as I thought it would be, and my sonny boy got up there with absolutely no fuss and no drama.
It took us around half an hour to get to the top of Vindhagiri Hill and it was totally worth it, for we got to to see the nearly 60-foot monolith we had come to see and we were rewarded with scenic views too, which was like a bonus.
Who was Gomateshwara?
And why he is naked here (in Shravanabelagola)?
Gomateshwara was one of the sons of the first Thirthankara (a spiritual teacher of the Jains), who used to be a prosperous ruler called Vrishabhadeva. Sometime after the king had given up his throne, the kingdom went through a troubled period, which saw siblings fight for their royal ambitions. Bahubali is said to have won the power struggle only to find that material wealth and power did not seem right for him. As such, he is said to .have renounced all his worldly possesions and taken to meditation in order to seek that enlightened state
The nakedness is a sign of owning nothing. The creepers on Gomateshwara’s limbs symbolise the long period he spent meditating; so do the anthills and the snakes by his feet
After having seen the gargantuan monolith, we walked around taking in the scenes from the hilltop and then went on to rest our feet for a few minutes. A little rest and a sip of water later, we began that downhill walk and wasn’t it ‘easy peasy lemon squeasy!’ The kindergartener sure seemed to agree. By the time we got to the bottom, he was hungry and my legs were feeling a bit wobbly from the exertion because I hadn’t exactly been physically active for some time leading up to that walk up Vindhagiri in Shravanabelagola.
- The summer might NOT be a good time to walk up to the Gomateshwara on Vindhyagiri.
- You might want to carry some water if you are not comfortable drinking the portable water in the temple premises.
- If you think you will find yourself walking up or down that hill around midday, you might want to consider carrying some socks to be a little kinder to those soles, which are to be exposed to burning-hot hillside steps.
- This is also a place of pilgrimage so keeping your volume down and respecting the spiritual air would be a really considerate thing to do on this trip.