Chandragiri: Less known hillock of Shravanabelagola
For most of the people visiting Shravanabelagola, their purpose of visit starts and stops at the huge monolithic statue of Lord Gommateshvara on top of Vindhyagiri (more commonly known as ‘Dodda betta‘). What most of them don’t know is that the small hillock on the other side of the town also has an equally important historically and architecturally. Though Chandragiri is less than half the size of Vindhyagiri, more than 90% of the monuments found on top of this hillock. A small flight of steps leads one to the top of the hillock which is almost flat and half of it is enclosed to cover the monuments. The temple complex is scattered with ruined statues of all sizes and shapes including an interesting statue of Gommateshvara. The statue is sculpted only from the knee above and is about 8 to 10 feet tall (and local people call this statue fondly as ‘Ajjagummappa‘ – I’m not sure why/how the name derived!).
One of the many ruined sculptures
The hillock has 14 Jain basadis which were constructed along a wide timeline in the history – Chandragupta Basadi was constructed by Emperor Ashoka in 3rd century BCE, and was dedicated to his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya. Another basadi ‘Savatigandhavarana basadi‘ was constructed by Queen Shantala, wife of Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. It is said that Chandragupta Maurya traveled down to Shravanabelagola after abdicating the throne along with his spiritual guru Bhadrabahu. Both the guru and the disciple performed penance on top of Chandragiri and ended their days in ‘sallekhana‘ (religious ritual of suicide by fasting practiced in Jainism).
Along with the statues and basadis on top of Chandragiri, there are also stone scripts scattered around. One of the prominent one is by poet Ranna (one of the earliest and one of the greatest poets of the Kannada literature) in his handwriting and also by his brother Jinavallabha. And one last but interesting tidbit is about Chavundaraya, the minister in Ganga dynasty who commissioned the sculpting the huge monolith of Gommateshvara. It is said that he was asked (in his dream) to climb Chandragiri, go to a point and shoot an arrow southwards. And the legend is that place where the arrow stuck on Vindhyagiri is the foot of the 57 feet statue of Gommateshwara. The place where Chavundaraya shot the arrow is still accessible on top of Chandragiri.
In case if you visited Shravanabelagola but missed paying a visit to the Chikka betta as its locally called, don’t make that mistake again when you visit next time. :)