Serene Sravanabelagola, literally meaning the ‘Monk of the White Pond’ is one of the oldest and most important Jain pilgrim centers in the country. Its antiquity dates back to 297 B.C., when Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan empire renounced his kingdom and came here along with his guru, Bhagwan Bhadrabahu Swami, to become a Jain ascetic. He led a recluse life and breathed his last at the Chandragiri hill, which is named after him.
Gomteshwara Temple: The temple atop the 470 ft. high Indragiri hill is dedicated to Lord ft. Gomteshwara or Bahubali, the younger son of Jain emperor and the first Jain Tirthankara, Vrishaba Deva (Adinath). It is world-renowned for the 58 feet and 8 inches tall sculpture of the Jain sage Gomateswara, which is regarded as the tallest monolith in Asia. The splendidly sculpted monolith is set in the middle of the temple courtyard encircled by a gallery enshrining the images of various Jain Tirthankaras. It was carved out of a single block of granite by sculptor Aristenemi in 981 A.D. and installed in 983 A.D. by Chamundaraya, a powerful minister of Ganga king, Rajamalla IV. The statue stands upright in the posture of meditation known as kayotsarga, indicating perfect self-control and its nakedness suggests complete renunciation of worldly things. It has curly hairs, long and large ears and eyes are open, gazing at the world with detachment. The perfectly chiseled facial features with a serene smile embody calm vitality. The figure has no support from the thighs upwards and shows an anthill growing in the background and creepers and snake emerging from it. The intricately carved creepers entwined on the legs and arms of the figure, culminating as a cluster of flowers and berries at the upper portions of the arms. The image is shown standing on a beautifully carved lotus pedestal.
The sacred shrine is accessible by a flight of 641 rock-cut steps. One can also hire a Doli or chair to reach the shrine. On the way up, there are several Jain bastis or temples.