Another place put on my radar by Twitter was Chandragiri in Shravanabelagola. My usual favourite spot on Vindhyagiri overlooks this much smaller hillock. It is less than half the climb of Vindhyagiri, and the number of visitors is usually fewer. There are temples that look Hindu unlike the Jain Bahubali temple on Vindhyagiri. But technically, even Vindhyagiri looks like a Hindu temple, only that the towering Bahubali gives it away.
Considering that it had been a while since I last visited Shravanabelagola, (the last was early June) I promptly set out in the morning. The breakfast was had at Swati Delicacy and I had reached the entrance of Chandragiri around 10 AM itself. Unlike the more famous Vindhyagiri there weren’t any lockers to hire, and I was in no mood to lug my bike jacket up the hill. In case you’re wondering, the bike jacket has solid paddings for the spine, elbows and shoulders and is pretty heavy and unweildy to carry about. Pretty much the only thing you can do well with it is wear it and ride a bike. Thankfully, the guy manning the slippers counter offered to keep it in a shelf, but asked me to remove any valuables like wallets or phones. Those weren’t in the jacket anyway and I had it cleared of my water bottle, sunglasses and cap to carry up the hill, and left it on his shelf.
Unusually, or at least unusually for me, there were a lot more people, mostly pilgrims from the North. Wonder if Navrathri holds something special for them.
Right at the top there’s a sign towards Bhadrabahu Cave. This was the main reason why I had plumped for the shorter Chandragiri instead of Vindhyagiri this time. The name Chandragiri is from Chandragupta Maurya, the first of the Maurya dynasty. Legend goes that he had dreams of a severe famine/drought hitting his lands and renounced his throne. He became a follower of Bhadrabahu, a Jain guru, and converted to Jainism. (I think the term here is more followed Jainism)
Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta with a host of other followers and monks came down south and settled in this hill and its surroundings. Eventually Bhadrabahu starved himself to death as per Sallekhana. Chandragupta followed a few years later in the same spot, the cave that is called Bhadrabahu cave.
Most of these legends come from edicts from the 4th or 5th CE, which is still a good 700-800 years after Chandragupta’s time. Historians don’t consider it proof enough, but the only thing they agree on is that Chandragupta renounced his kingdom, leaving his son Bindusara as King, at a reasonably young age and left his country. Historians don’t know for sure what became of him after that. Officially he died in 298 BCE, while Bindusara became king in 298CE. It could be that he came South in 298 CE and died a few years later.
Inside the cave, there are two footprints carved as a mark for Bhadrabahu(Do check the Wiki story on him, pretty fascinating).
After this spot, I made my way to the main complex.
This is actually of a complex of Jain Basadis. I couldn’t be more mistaken about this being a Hindu temple complex.
Most of the Basadis date from the turn of the Millennium around 9th CE to 12th CE. Almost all of them are accompanied by Edicts or Shasanas(ಶಿಲಾಶಾಸನ). This definitely has helped in identifying exactly when they were built, by whom and for whom.
One Basadi even had a sunk chariot in front of it, a Basadi called Terina Basadi(ತೇರಿನ ಬಸದಿ).
The usual stambas were present in front of the main Basadis.
The entrance also had a small statue of Bharatha, who was Bahubali’s younger brother. Unlike the older one who gets a full 57 ft statue on a monolith rock, on the opposite mountain, Bharatha’s is cut off at the thighs and is just about Human size.(Separate thought: The world has always been unfair to the younger siblings, no?)
The Basadi for Chandragupta is much smaller, but it had a window-screen carving of the story of his embracing Jainism and traveling to the South and taking Sallekhana. Behind these screens were two Yakshis – Ambika and Padmavathy which were being worshipped as Hindu deities in that temple.
Towards the end, I noticed an inscription on stone, with info-text that it was done by the poet Ranna with Chavundaraya of the Gangas. (whom you might remember from school history)
There was also Neminatha Basadi which was built by Chavundaraya during the 9th CE.
Right after, I had planned on climbing up Vindhyagiri, but the October Sun which seemed to be thinking it’s March for some reason had exhausted me and I decided not to do the climb. The sight of all those people trudging up the tall hill under the blazing Sun isn’t really inspiring when you’re tired.
I decided to beat it and took the road to Kikkeri. The Brahmeswara temple was arrived at (you might remember it from this post), but the temple was locked. I spent some time sitting outside under the shade of some trees and then headed back.
I decided to take the road to Nagamangala, but again ended up in not so great territory for a brief while. The ride for some part was bumpy, but once the yellow roads of Google Maps were reached, it was just pristine! Swati Delicacy was reached, lunch was had and I was home by 3:30 PM.