Jain World

Sub-Categories of Passions - The Sacred Sravana - Belagola





(iv) Between the hills of Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri there are two beautiful tanks, viz., Kalyani Tank and Jakki-Katte Tank, which form part of Sravana-Belagola village. The Kalyani Tank is a well-built tank near the western side of the village and is the first structure to be seen as one enters the village by only main road coming from the Taluka Headquarters Chennarayapattana on the west. The Kalyani Tank is a beautiful large pond, stepped on all sides and surrounded by a wall with gates surrounded by towers. To the north of the pond is a large pillared hall on one of the pillars of which is an inscription, No. 365 stating that the pond was caused to be built by Chikka-Deva-Rajendra, the king of Mysore, who ruled from 1672 to 1704 A. D. As the king died before the completion of this renovation work, his mini-master by name Annayya completed the entire work with the addition of towers, pillared hall, etc. during the rule of Krishna-Raja-Wodeyar I (1713-1731 A. D. ) the grand-son-of- Chikka-Deva-Raja. In this way, the Kayani pond which had been in exstence for centuires and which was in a dilapidated condition was renovated by the kings of Mysore during the early part of the eighteenth century. The second tank, viz, Jakki-Katte, is a small tank to the south of the village and near the Bhandari Basti, the largest temple in the village.

(v) Chennanna�s pond is small pond at some distance to the south of the village. From Inscription No. 390 It is learnt that the period of the construction of the pond was about 1673 A. D. The pond is named after the philanthropist by name Chennanna who also built a grove, a �mondapa�, i. e., hall, and a temple named Chennanna-Basti on the larger, i. e., Vindhyagiri hill.

Thus the prominent hill with heavy boulders, the built-up tank with pillared hall and towers, the natural ponds with clean water, the groves of tall cocount trees, the old temple of various dimensions scattered over the entire area, the elegant pillars with inscriptions, the large Matha with its fine wallpaintings, the serene and enchanting surroundings, the exquisite statues of different deities, and above all the most imposing image of Gommateswara in a commanding position drawing the attention of persons for miles around undoubtedly make the village. Sravana-Belagola the most beautiful and highly attractive spot in the region. This is testfied by the views of discriminating travellers who visited the spot during the last so many centuries. In this connection the British travellers. W.H. Workman and W.J. Workman, state in their book that �In the whole beautiful State of Mysore it would be hard to find a spot, where the historic and picturesque clasp hands so firmly as here�. [vide Through Town and Jungle (London, 1904), p. 80]. This opinion of modern foreign travellers was regarded certainly justified by the eminent historian, Dr. B. A. Saletore, who had clearly stated that �The Jainas, much more than the Hindus, had a rare conception of scenic beauty and a gift of selecting delighful spots which were suited for religious meditation as well as for furthering the cause of material existence. Sravana-Belagola was essentially one such spot.� (vide �Jaina Antiquary�, Vol. V, March 1940).


The names given to the village and to the hills are very meaningful, and they do convey the long, effective and continued association of the Jainas with these places.

(i) Sravana Belagola :

The word Sravana-Belagola is formed by joining the two words. �Sravana and Belagola� together, and it means Belagola of the Sravanas. Again the word �Sravana� is derived from the Sanskrit word, �Sramana� meaning a Jaina ascetic. It is an established fact that the village Belagola was closely associated with Sharamanas or Jaina ascetics since the stay of the great sage Bhadrabahu with his 12,000 ascetic followers and of the Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta at the hill near the village in the 3rd century B. C. and that both Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta died on the hill according to the Jaina rite of Sallekhana. In view of this sancitity attached to the place, Emperor Asoka, the grand-son of Chandragupta Maurya, visited the place to pay his respects to his departed grandfather and it is believed that Asoka named the place as Sravana-Belagola to signify the intimate relationship of Shramapas or Jaina ascetics with Belagola. Further, the name Sravana-Belagola bestowed on the village Belagola also served to distinguish it from two other Belagola villages in the same neighbourhood, viz., �Hale-Belagola�, i. e., Old Belagola, and �Kodi Belagola�, i. e., Belagola by the side of water-channel.

Later on, with the installation of the image of the God (i. e. Jina) on the hill, the term �Sravana� assumed the meaning of Jina image and was accordingly prefixed to the hills having Jina image on them. That is why we find that the villages are named �Sravana-gutta� in the Mysore Taluka and �Sravana-ppana-gutta� in the Malvalli Taluka of the Mysore District as both the places are �gutta� i.e., small hills with Jina images on them. In the same strain we find that even the place Sravana-Belagola was mentioned in the inscritption No 352 of 1634 A. D. as Devara-Belagola� that is, Belagola of the God Jina.

The usual derivation of Belagola is from the two Kannada words �bel� (meaning white) and �kola� by euphony �gola� (meaning a pond) evidently in allusion to the splendid pond in the middle of the village; and this derivation derives support from the Sanskrit equivalents �Svela-Sarovara�, �Dhavala-saras� and �Dhavala-Sarovara� (meaning white lake) used in the inscription Nos 67 of 1129 A. D. and No. 258 of 1432 A. D. to denote the place. That is why in some Jaina inscriptions the place is termed as �Sukla-tirtha�, i. e., �bright sacred place�.

Moreover, the name Velgola occurs in the inscription No. 31 of about 650 A. D., and Belagola in the inscription No 35 of about 800 A. D. , other forms of the name occuring mostly in later inscriptions are Belagola, Belugua and Belagola, which have given rise to another derivation of the name Belagola from the herb white �gulla� (the egg plant, Solanum ferox) in allusion to a tradition which says that a pious old women completely annointed the colossal image with the milk she had brought in a �gulla-kayi� or gulla fruit. The old woman was hence forward known as �Gulla-Kayajji�. On learning this incident saint Ajitasena, the religious preceptor of Chamunda Raya who installed the colossal image on the top of the Vindhyagiri hill, remarked that �As the old woman who has brought milk in a white �gulla-kayi� obtained celebrity by immersing the god in that milk, it is appropriate that the village should be named Belagola�. Accordingly Chamunda-Raya named the village Belagola and had also a stone image of old woman Gullakayajji installed in the enclosure on the Vindhyagiri hill.

In addition, the village is also designated as �Gommatapura�, the city of God Gommata, i. e., Bahubali, whose colossal image is the most important spot in the village. In many inscriptions the word Gommatapura is mentioned.

Further, in some modern inscriptions the epithet �Dakshina Kasi�, i. e., Benaras of the South, is applied to the village Sravana-Belagola.

On the same lines the Jainas, especially from North India, frequently refer to Sravana-Belagola as �Jaina-Badri�, i. e., the Badri, or the most holy place, of the Jainas. Furthermore, in modern Jaina literature the village Sravana-Belagola is some times respectfully described as �Abhinava Podanapura�, i. e., mordern Podanapura, the capital of Bahubali during his career as a king.

(ii) Vindhyagiri :

Like Sravana-Belagola, the word Vindhyagiri also denotes a spiritual meaning. The word Vindhyagiri is derived from the three words �Vim�, meaning soul, �Dhya� meaning doing meditation, and �Giri� meaning hill. Thus the word �Vindhyagiri� denotes �hill for the meditation of soul� Since many Jaina saints practised penance here in the form of meditation or comtemplation, the word Vindhyagiri came to be associated with the hill.

Further, Vindhyagiri is also sometimes designated as �Indragiri�, i. e., the hill of God Indra. There is a beautiful statue of God Indra in the pose of holding a pot for annointing Gommatesvara. This fine statue is erected in the centre of the pillared hall facing the image of Gommatesvara. It is felt that, due to this special statue of Indra, the hill might have got the name of �Indragiri�.

Moreover, Vindhyagiri is commonly termed in the local Kannada language as �Dodda-betta�, i. e., the larger hill, distinguishing it from the other smaller hill known as �Chikka-betta�.

(iii) Chandragiri :

The word �Chandragiri� i. e., the hill of Chandragupta, has a meaning of historical nature in the sense that it signifies the most important events in the life of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya-his arrival, his long stay for 12 years, his practice of penance as a Jaina ascetic and of his ultimate death according to the Jaina rite of Sallekhana (Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Mauryan Dynasty, in the third century B.C)

In the old inscriptions Chandragiri is designated as �Katavapragiri� or �Katavapra� in Sanskrit and as �Kalvappu� or �Kalbappu� in Kannada.

Further a portion of the hill Chandragiri, has been referred to as �Tirhagiri�, i. e., the sacred hill in the inscription No. 76 and as �Rishigiri�, i. e., the hill of the sages, in the inscription No. 84.

Moreover, Chandragiri is commonly termed in the local Kannada language as �Chikka-betta�, i.e., the smaller hill, distinguishing it from the other larger hill known as �Dodda-betta�.

Thus the words designating the village �Sravana-Belagola� and its hills �Vindhyagiri� and �Chandragiri� are very appropriate as they correctly convey the spiritual significance and historical association of the Jainas over several long centuries.