Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chandragiri hill - Grandeur of the Temple complex

In the town of Shravanabelagola is the Chandragiri Hill temple complex, which is home for Jain monuments. Just opposite of the Vindhyagiri site, the small hill of Chandragiri is situated. Steps have been cut into the hill to make ascent easier for the visitors. A vast expanse of granite rock scatted large and small boulders can be found en route to the peak. The smaller hill known locally as Chikkabetta rises about 200 feet above the plain and is 3052 feet above the sea level and here inside a huge compound, are many monuments.
In the old inscriptions it is designated as Katavapra (Black hill), in Sanskrit and as Kalvappu or Kalbappu in Kannada. A portion of this hill is known as Tirthagiri and Rishigiri. With the exception of one shrine, all the basadis on the hill are enclosed in a walled fort area. Almost all the temples are built in the Dravidian style of architecture, the oldest of them going back probably to the eighth century A.D. Altogether the number of the temples in the walled fort area is fourteen and their plans are mostly similar to one another.

Jain monuments in India
This hillock is one of the oldest Jain pilgrim centers in the south as it has the tomb of Bhadrabahu Muni and many other great Jain devotes. First we noticed Kuge Brahma Stamba (pillar) a highly decorative pillar with an image of Brahma. A small seated figure of Brahmadeva is positioned at the top, facing east.
Jain Monuments in India
The pillar stands on a high platform of three tiers; the lowest is broad and squared the middle one octagonal, and the upper one circular. The Pithas were originally held in place by eight elephants, each oriented towards the diks and vidiks (the four directions), but now only a few remain. Lions are carved at the middle tier, with the asta-dik-palakas with retinue and musician are represented. An inscription on the pillar notes the death of the Ganga king Marasimha II, in 974 A.D., so the Pillar was likely installed not much after that date.
Jain monuments in Karnataka
The Tyagada Brahmadeva pillar stands 2.30 meters high. It was erected in front of the enclosure leading to the colossal Bahubali shrine. The pillar has a small Gopura on top with Kalasa as the crown. Inside is the seated figure of Lord Brahma. The four side of the pavilion on top contain Jain figures, facing the four directions.
The erection of free-standing pillars like Kuge Brahmadeva represents an interesting aspect of Ganga art. Jain pillars are generally of two types: Manasthambas and Brahmasthambhas. The Manasthambhas, also known as Indrasthamba pillars, are those which have a pavilion at the top contain figures that face the four directions. In the case of Brahmasthambhas, a seated figure of Lord Brahma sits at the top. The huge Kuge Brahmadeva pillar at Chandragiri and the Tyagada Brahmadeva pillar at Vindhyagiri are excellent examples of free-standing pillars from this period, and both stand as witness to the importance of Brahmadev in the Jain cult.
Next is the Basadi housing Shanthinatha and Suprashwantha. Soon after is seen the Parshwanatha Basadi with a tall Manasthamba in front of it.
There is the Chavundaraya Basadi built by Jinadevana, the son of Chavundaraya, who had installed the Gommata monolith. The basadi houses Neminatha. The Shasana Basadi known of because it has a large stone inscription (Shasana) in front of it, actually houses Adinatha. The Chandraprabha Basadi is the creation of the Ganga king Shivamara II (788- 816 AD.). The Savathi Gandhavarna Basdi was raised by famous Hoysala queen Shanthidevi.
Chamundaraya basadi in Shravanabelagola is one of the largest Jaina temples on the hill both in style and in decorative features. The temple is 68 feet long and 36 feet wide. The temple consists of a Garbhagriha a Sukhanasi a Navaranga and a Mukhamantapa. It has an upper storey above the Garbhagriha and Dravidian Sikhara. The outer walls have decorations of pilaster over which are three friezes containing ornamental niches, Yalis and seated Jina figures. The outer wall of the upper Garbagriha also has similar three friezes over which are a simple Dravidian Sikhara. These mouldings attract the visitors even from a distance. The Mukhamandapa rests on 4 pillars with sloping eave on all the three sides. Thus the whole temple is very elegant. The lower part of the temple is interesting it has undecorated flat base with neatly cut roundish and projected moulding above. There is a similar but smaller moulding above. Between the two mouldings is a highly decorated eave is prominent at the roof level. This is the most decorated part of the structure and adds a special grace.
The Kattale Basadi also called the Padmavathi basadi has an image of Yakshi Padmvathi in it but main diety here is Adinatha and is a considerably huge structure. The Chandraguptha Basadi though small is the oldest a creation of the local Ganga rulers and is believed to have accompanied Bhadrabahu Muni to his place. The frontal entrance gate is of the days of the Hoysala dynasty, highly emlellished. The three shrines here house Parshwantaha at the center and the Yakshis, Padmvathi and Kushmandini in those on either side.
At Present there is a sculpture of Naminatha in the lower Garbhagriha, five feet in height flanked by male Chauri bearers on either side. The Garbhagriha doorway is decorated and has Sarvaha Yaksha and Kushmandini Yakshi. It is believed that this Neminatha image originally belonged to another temple but now kept here. The upper Garbhagriha has an image of Parsvanatha of three feet in height. Its Pedastal has an inscription which states that Jinadeva, son of the minister Chamundaraya built this Jina Temple. Perphes this refers to the consecration of the image in the upper Garbhagriha, The inscription on the pedestal of Neminatha states that it was consecrated by Echana, son of minister Gangaraja of the Hoysala period in 1128 AD. And the upper storey was added by Chamundaraya’s son Jinadeva in 995 A.D. and the present image was bought from some other temple and consecrated in 1128 AD. The very fact that it is named after Chamundaraya is taken as evidence to say that it was built by him who also set up the great colossus of Gommatesvra here.
The Mahanavami Mantapa, Majjiganna Basadi, Eradukatte Basadi etc. are other monuments here, Near the Mahanavami Mantapa is an unfinished image of Bharatha, Bahubali’s elder brother about two meters in height top till his kneecap near it is Iruve Brahma Shrine.
The deity of Lord Brahma at Iruve Brahmadeva is carved out of solid rock, done in the Late Phase of Jain Basadi sculpture. The image is fairly small. The temple sits to the north in the main Chandragiri complex. There, the solitary shrine consists of a Garbhagriha, with the low relief deity of Brahmadev. An inscription on the doorway dates the temple to about 950 A.D.
The history of this hillock dates back to 2nd Century B.C. and has a history that is 1000 years older than that of Indragiri. We can find many inscriptions spread across the hillock. These inscriptions help us understand the antiquity of Jainism and Shravanabelagola.
The recorded history surrounding the hill started in 300 BC when Shruthakevali, Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya visited the place in order to attain religious peace. The Small Hill derives its name of Chandra from the fact that Chandragupta was the first of the Rishis who lived and performed penance there.
 Bhadrabahu Cave
A number of Jain Basadis are found on the Hill. Some of the prominent ones are Shantinatha Basadi, Parshwanatha Basadi, Chandragupta Basadi, Kattale Basadi, Majjigana Basadi, Shasana Basadi, Chandraprabha Basadi, Parshwanatha Basadi II, Chavundaraya Basadi, Eradukatte Basadi, Savatigandhavarana Basadi, Terina Basadi, Shantishwara Basadi, Iruve-Brahmadeva Basadi. Apart from these a number of other monuments such as Bhadrabahu Cave, Marasimha's Manastambha, Mahanavami Mantapa, Bhadrabahu Inscriptions, Gangaraja Mantap and Nishidhi Mantaps can be found on Chandragiri.
Photos by  - I  and Ashok SB

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gokarna Trip

Most Beautiful Beach in India
Gokarna is repute for its sanctity and meritorious of a spiritual center but of course, that’s not how most young knows it and also famous for its beautiful beaches and landscapes, here are the five main beaches in Gokarna – Gokarna beach, Kudle, Om, Half Moon and Paradise (Full moon) in that order and with hills between each the beaches. As such, it offers extremely good opportunity for beach treks.
Most Beautiful Beach in India
Few weeks back I visited Gokara Mahabaleshwar Temple and nearest few beaches with my friends. After a good breakfast, we prepared for our exploration to Gokarna. After a comfortable journey by late morning we reached Gokarna town. The structures of the town have a distinct boundary, beyond which is an open space.
 The first thing we encountered in the town was a Ganapathi temple. Gokarna Ganapati Temple is one of the famous and very old Siddha Ganapati shrines in the State. The temple has a 5 ft tall idol of Lord Ganapati in the form of a young Brahmin. Maha Ganapathi Temple built in honor of the boy Ganapathi, who deceived the demon Ravana.
Here Ganapathi idol is in standing position and I observed a small hole on his head. The first sights of the town included a few priests walking around and Hallakki tribeswomen selling flowers and other things of worship. We walked past them and headed towards a lane that laid us to the famous Shiva Temple which houses the ‘Atmalinga’ named so after Ravana referred to the Linga’s great strength.
The temple is very old very beautiful but very crowded and not proper system inside the shrine hall. Here lord Shiva in the name of Mahabaleshwara enshrines the Aatma Lingam of Lord Shiva. The temple, built in a classical Dravidian style of architecture, was first constructed by Mayurasharma of the Kadamba dynasty who ruled between 345 –365. Visvesvaraya of Halasunadu-Kundapura built the Chandrasala and Nandi pavilions when Queen Chennammaji and her son SomaSekharanayaka were ruling Keladi (1653-1671). The temple is a large complex of shrines and much of it belongs to the later Vijayanagara period. In 1665, Shivaji came here to worship the deity.
Beautiful Beachs in India
The village is mentioned in the subcontinent’s two most important epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and is considered one of India’s holiest places, an equal of the god Shiva’s two other abodes, Varanasi on the Ganges and Mount Kailash, in the Himalayas. This is considered as one of the seven Mukti Kshetras of India.
Mythological reference to Gokarna describes how Ravana, the demon-king of Lanka, received the Atmalinga from Shiva after he had performed a penance at Mount Kailash reciting self-written Shivatandava Stotram. Legend has it that the holy Lingam was given by Shiva to King Ravana to make his kingdom an invincible fortress Shiva instructed Ravana that the sacred Atmalinga should not be placed on the ground as it would establish itself where placed on earth.
On his way back to Lanka, Ravana stops for his evening prayers at Gokarna. To prevent Ravana from getting a weapon as powerful as the Atmalinga, Ganesha, in the disguise of a Brahmin boy, tells Ravana that he will hold the Atmalinga until Ravana finishes his prayers. As soon as he receives the Atmalinga, Ganesh promptly puts it down. As Ravana tried to pull the Atmaling it came out in the form of Cow’s Ear hence named the place Gokarna (Go- Cow + Karna – Ear).
Later we finished delicious lunch in temple premise and headed to Gokarna beach which lies close to the Mahabaleshwar Temple and is frequented by locals and tourists alike. In the vicinity, you will find plenty of hotels, food joints and garments and Puja shops. Since the ancient temple is nearby this part of Gokarna is more of a pilgrim town than a beach town. We had some quick photo session on the sea-shore and back to parking area to occupy taxi.
 After a 10kms pleasant drive from town we parked our vehicle on hill top and we made our way down the steps and finally on to Om beach. This beach certainly the best of the five Gokarna beaches, the beach derives its name from the Hindu religious symbol – OM, since its shape resembles that of the symbol.
 The ‘OM’ shape is pretty evident when you see the beach from the hillocks on the either side. However, the right side gives a better view than the left. Consequently, the picture you take would be mirror image of the OM symbol. The beach is the longest among the five beaches and is frequented by Indian and foreign tourists alike.
After few minutes’ walk on sea shore we faced heavy rain so we took rest under one of the trees lined around the sea shore. There are three equidistant rocky patches at the beach. We hiked the thick shrubbery part of the steep rocky hill situated at center of the beach; we grabbed a safe place to sit on top and had a fantastic view. This part you shouldn’t miss at OM sitting atop on rock and relax to the rhythm of cascading waves.
Half Moon Beach is a tiny beach and can be reached by beach trekking from Om. The beach has huge rocks as well. Once here lose yourself and merge with the tranquil surroundings. Paradise Beach is the fifth and the last beach in the series and it befits its name. You have to beach trek for about 20 min from Half Moon beach to reach Paradise beach.
Fascinating glimpses of the upper green hills, brightly lit woods in vast shore line, loneliness, the chill air and occasional bikini girls altogether wasn't a soothing experience to visit Om beach at Monsoon time. It’s a really pleasing to heart Rendezvous with Nature in rainy.