Thursday, February 28, 2008

Travel - A pilgrimage... Concluding Part 4 (Vittal-Hassan-Shravan Belagola-Halebid-Belur-Bangalore-Mumbai)

The time had come now to embark upon the most dreaded part of the journey. From Vittal had to reach Hassan to visit Shravan Belagola, Belur and Halebid. There were two routes to do so. One was via Charmadi Ghats and the other via Shiradi Ghats and both the Ghat roads were reputed to be a challenge for offroaders, so it was a matter of choosing between the devil and the deep sea. After a lot of consultation and advice received on various auto and travel forums, decided on the route via Shiradi Ghats. We left Vittal in the afternoon at 1430hrs, after attending an important religious function in the temple that was followed by a sumptuous prasadam lunch. The road, right upto the Shiradi Ghats, though two laned was good. Had to crawl all along the Shiradi Ghats after which again the road was good right upto Hassan. Took us four hours to cover 151kms and checked in the Hotel Sri Krishna at 1900hrs. This Hotel is clean and convenient. Next morning we decided to visit Shravan Belagola before visiting Belur and Halebid to ensure that we did not have to climb up the steps in the hot sun. We checked out at 0815hrs after an ‘Idli Vada’ breakfast in the in-house restaurant, got on to the Mangalore Bangalore highway, and at Chanarayapatna took a right to reach Shravan Belagola at 0900hrs – a distance of 50kms.
The signage throughout is good. Parking at the designated parking lot costs Rs.20/- and the police ensure that everyone parks in the right place, thankfully. Everything is very organized out there. Since it has a religious significance, one has to climb it barefoot. At the base there is a stall with attendants where, for a small price, you can leave your footwear against a token and can climb assured that it is safe. There are people selling socks too if you wish to protect your feet. Next to it are clean pay and pee toilets and areas to wash your feet before and after the climb.
It took us about 30minutes to climb up the 600+ steps to reach the top. You may hire the services of palanquin bearers who will cart you all the way to the top for a nominal fee.
At the top we were breathless as a result of the climb and the panoramic views apart from the giant monolith towering over us.
Shravan Belagola is an important Jain pilgrimage center. Incidentally, in the Kannada language, Bel means white and kola means pond.
The white pond that is alluded to is possibly the pretty pond at the bottom of the hill. The giant statue of Gomateshwara (17meters high) is situated on the summit of Indragiri hill.
It was carved out of a single block of stone sculpted by Aristanemi in 981 AD and Chamundaraya, a General and minister of the Ganga King Rachamalla installed it in 983 AD. Regarded as one of the largest monolithic statues in the world, it symbolizes renunciation, self-control, and subjugation of ego as the primary steps towards salvation. The naked Digambara form of Bahubali represents complete victory over earthly desires. The statue came to be known as Gomateshwara, which in local parlance means ‘a handsome young man’.
The sheer size of the statue does not permit any devotee to bathe the entire Gomateshwara statue everyday hence only the feet are washed. However, every 10 to 15 years, when there is a favorable conjunction of the stars and planets, the entire statue is bathed in milk, honey and herbs and is called Mahamastakabhisheka.
The monolith stands in a compound surrounded by a colonnade sheltering additional Tirthankara images.
The sacred Chandragiri hill with Chamundaraya Basadi with manastambha on the top. The photograph is taken from the Indragiri hill on which the Gommateshwar idol stands. After taking in all the views and blessings, we raced down in 15minutes and moved back towards Hassan to go to Halebid. Reached Halebid, 81kms away in 90minutes, at 1230hrs. Halebid was the capital of the Hoysalas until it was destroyed in the early 14th century after attacks by the Delhi Sultanate.
The Hoysaleshwara temple survived the pillage but it somehow managed to remain incomplete even after 87 years of uninterrupted construction.
The temple is dedicated to Shiva and has two enormous Nandi bulls at the entrance.
The intricate architecture of ancient times and the meticulous craftsmanship is nothing short of Divine.
There are carvings inside, outside and on the roof of the temples!
There are plenty of stories depicted on the panels all round the temple and are interpreted by local guides to suit the interests of their clients! After spending an hour there and talking to some research students who were busy replicating the art and the architecture, we moved on to Belur which is just 23kms away. The road connecting Belur to Halebid is single laned and it took us 30minutes to cover the distance. The parking fees at Belur and Halebid are Rs.30/- each. Since both are temple premises, footwear is not allowed, and if you reach there in the afternoon socks are advisable as the stone tends to get extremely hot in the afternoons. Bittiga, the fourth and mightiest monarch of the Hoysala dynasty, was converted from the Jain faith to the Vaishnava faith by the sage Ramanuja. The king changed his name to Vishnuvardhana and built temples with great vigor and dedication. In order to commemorate his victory over the Cholas in the battle of Talkad, he built Belur Temple in 1117 A.D. His queen Shantala, though a Jain by faith, was noted for catholicity of her religious outlooks.
She was a well-known dancer and on one of the temple's brackets her dancing pose has been sculptured in the most ornate and in exuberant style. The most outstanding temple in Belur is the Chenakeshava (handsome Keshava), a monumental edifice that took 103 years to build, possibly because of the intricate details and the myriads of friezes and sculptures that embellish the temple walls.
It is about one hundred feet high and has a magnificent gateway tower (gopuram), built in Dravidian style.
The main temple, surrounded by a group of subsidiary shrines, stands in the center of a rectangular, paved courtyard along the perimeter of which are ranges of cells fronted by a pillared veranda. The main temple has a pillared hall (navaranga). The extensive hall is supported by forty-six pillars, each of a different design.
The Narasimha pillar it seems could be rotated at will, but not now. :)
The Hoysala kingdom that flourished in these parts of ancient India between the 11th and 14th centuries is widely acknowledged as the 'crowning glory' in Indian architecture. After reveling in the splendid historic art ambience for an hour, we had to return to the present to satiate our hunger at Mayura restaurant outside the complex. Simple, airy and clean. Left Belur at 1530hrs and reached Malleshwaram in Bangalore at 1900, a distance of 220kms. Enjoyed our stay in my in-laws house for a few days and was privileged to be driven around and then regrettably had to end the vacation. While in Bangalore visited the HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) Museum. Somehow it gave the impression that it was more of a botanical garden than a museum for aircrafts. They had proudly displayed the trophies that they had won in horticulture and of course the flowers were beautiful.
Unfortunately, the aircrafts were left dusty and forgotten.
The drive back to Mumbai with an overnight halt at Belgaum was uneventful but pleasant.
Back to the grind.


  1. Lovely piece and awesome photos. Loved all the pics.

  2. As always, Delightful reading material and great pictures! Am wondering how you always tend to select such great places to visit ... keep writing ...suucheta

  3. Lovely, the temples are awesome. Amazing pieces of architecture. The whole travelog was a delight to read.

  4. WHAT a pilgrimage! Thanks for sharing so many interesting details and pictures.
    Shalom from another place of pilgrimages.

  5. Been to these places so could enjoy your interesting post all the more. Lovely pictures. :)

  6. Thanks for sharing all these wonderful travelling photos!

  7. Really nice and beautiful pictures from interesting places. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  8. My what beauty, I have a love and fondness for things made of stone, especially carvings, but these are beyond belief......what a wonderful sight to see this in person.

  9. Looks like an amazing place. I really enjoyed the photos. Thanks for sharing them.

  10. The Indian people are truely awesome carvers, I saw many examples of these wonderfully intricate carvings as I travelled around your country.

  11. How do u go to vittal from bangalore and come back...
    Can u suggest transportation i.e. is there any buses go/./ kindly advice!!
    U can email me on

  12.; You saved my day again.

  13. Fabulous! We actually went to Chikamagalur recently from Bangalore and visited Belur en route. The roads are fabulous now. There is a stretch after Hassan that is a bit bad if you are going to Chikamagalur. The architecture is quite amazing though the upkeep is not so good :(. We had to give Shravan Belagola a miss due to the heat, and it would be difficult to walk up the steps barefeet, as we were advised against doing by some sightseers.