Shravanabelagola is situated about 150 km northwest of Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka. The town has been a prominent centre for Jain art, architecture, religion and culture for over two millennia. About two thousand years ago, Bhagawan Bhadrabahu, the earliest among the great Jain Acharyas came to Shravanabelagola from Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, with his disciples. Influenced by this ascetic, Chandragupta Maurya, the great emperor who ruled a large part of India, settled in this region, handing over the reins of his kingdom to his son.
Wedged between two stark rocky hills, the monolithic statue of Lord Gomateshwara, a Jain saint and an object of worship for centuries, standing atop one of the hills (Indragiri hill), is 18 meters high and is said to be one of the tallest and most graceful monolithic statues in the world.
Lord Gomateshwara, also known as Balubali, was the son of the first Jain Teerthankara, Lord Adinatha. Challenged by his brother Bharatha over the succession to the throne, Bahubali took on Bharatha in a duel that involved three forms – Drishtiyuddha, Mallayuddha and Jalayuddha. Though Bahubali finally emerged victorious, he was overwhelmed by both the enormity and the futility of the desirefor material wealth – a pursuit that set brother against brother. He then renounced his kingdom and all other worldly pleasures. Bahubali stood in deep meditation and radiated the glow of spiritual tranquility. Chavundaraya, prime minister and commander-in-chief of the Ganga Kingdom, consecrated the statue of Bahubali in a meditative form in 981 AD.
Just opposite is the smaller Chandragiri hill where some Jain temples and tomb of Chandragupta Mourya, famous patron of Jainism can be seen.
The Mahamastakabisheka festival, an elaborate ritual, held here once every 12 years, the last one in 2006, attracts devotees from all over the world. Priests climb up to pour hundreds of pots of tender coconut water, turmeric paste, vermilion powder, sugarcane juice, milk, rice flour, kashaya (a herbal concoction), shrigandha (sandal paste), chandana (coloured sandal paste), ashtagandha (eight varieties of sandal paste), saffron, gold and silver flowers, and precious stones over the statue’s head. A spectacular finale to this splendid ceremony is a shower of flowers from a helicopter
Hassan is a district with several splendid tourist destinations. Sakaleshpur, which is one of the most prominent taluk headquarters of Hassan district, is rich with many picnic spots and popular tourist places adorned with picturesque natural sceneries and structures of exquisite art and architecture. The region is endowed with dense forests, hills, rivers, waterfalls, streams and valleys that attract the attention of connoisseurs of beauty and nature. The Western Ghats, Pushpagiri, Bisle range of forests, Hirekal hill range and the evergreen forests draw the attention of everyone.
The Manjirabad Fort is about five km away from Sakaleshpur on the south-western side. The fort has been constructed atop a hill, which is about 988 m above the ground-level. The fort can be accessed by taking a left turn on the National Highway 48. This fort was built by Tipu Sultan in 1792. It is understood that Tipu Sultan was wonderstruck by the scenic beauty of Majirabad after witnessing it from the fort and therefore named the fort as Manjirabad Fort. The enchanting beauty of nature can only be perceived by standing on the fort wall and taking a look at the surroundings. The green-masked altar of uneven hillocks, dense forests, valleys and streams that bequeath all nature-lovers spellbound needs only to be seen to believe.
There is a sprawling 40-hectare reserved forest area at Bisle in Hettur hobli of Sakleshpur taluk of Hassan district. Identified as a very distinguished forest region in Asia, this forest spreads across Hassan, Kodagu and Dakshina Kannada districts. In this vast forest region, there are several hillocks called Pushpagiri, Kumara Betta, Yennikallu, Patla, Dodda Betta and Kannadi Kallu. In the Bisle forest region, various species of high value trees, including Teak, Rosewood, Alexandria Laurel, Indian Copal, Tulip and Malabar Kino, are in abundance. Elephants, Bison, Sambar, wild boar and other wild animals are aplenty. People living in the villages around Bisle Ghat are protecting the rich forests here. Whenever wild fire breaks out during the summer season, the villagers douse it quickly so that the forest does not suffer heavy damage. People in surrounding villages keep a continuous vigil so that thugs and thieves do not enter the forest area to steal the woods or kill animals.
Belur, situated on the banks of river Yagachi, 38 km from Hassan, is a world famous tourist destination. Belur was the erstwhile capital of the Hoysalas and referred to as Velapur, Velur and Belahur at different points in history. The town is renowned for its Chennakeshava temple, one of the finest examples of Hoysala workmanship. The temple was consecrated by the famous Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana to mark his victories in 1116 AD against the Cholas and called the Vijaya Narayana.
The Hoysalas used soft soapstone for their structures as they were found suitable for intricate carvings. Enclosed by a Prakara with a Gopurabuilt in the Vijayanagar style, the temple stands on a platform or Jagati and looks like a huge casket. The fine workmanship and skill visible in this masterpiece is truly breathtaking.
The Chennakesava temple is a fine example of fine quality work of art in stone. There are more than 80 Madanika sculptures in the temple, dancing, hunting, standing under canopies of trees and so on. The 4 Madanika figures (striking elegant dancing poses) on the wonderfully engraved columns of Navaranga are unique creations of Hoysala workmanship. The Garbhagriha is stellar in shape and its zigzag walls make the figures of 24 forms of Vishnu look different at different times of the day due to light. The temple was built by master craftsmen – Dasoja and Chavana, a father and son duo, hailing from Balliganve, a centre of Kalyana Chalukya art in Shimoga district. It is said that Shantaladevi, the accomplished queen of King Vishnuvardhana is the model for one of the sculptures in the Vavaranga – Darpana Sundari. This work of art alone, speaks for the beauty of the magnificient temple. The temples of Kappe Chennigaraya, Soumyanayaki, Andal and other Vaishnava manifestations surround this main temple. Belur also has a samadhi believed to be of Raghavanka, the celebrated Kannada poet of the 13th century.
The main tower at Sri Hasanamba has been newly constructed in Dravidian style. There are three major temples on the premises of this temple dedicated to Darbar Ganapati, Hasanamba and Siddeshwara. Another prominent attraction here is the shrine dedicated to Kallappa. The three idols installed here are said to be of three thieves, who had allegedly come to steal the idol of the presiding deity, Sri Hasanamba, and earned her wrath. Earlier, Hassan was known as Sihmasanapuri and later it got the name of Hassan. It is said that during the rule of Hoysala dynasty in twelfth century A.D. an idol was found with its face wearing a pleasant smile. Hasana Mukhi or a smiling face was transformed into Hassan. The Hasanamba temple is opened in the presence of the Deputy Commission for only twelve days in a year during Deepavali celebrations. The special feature of this temple is that the lamp lit this year will be alive till the temple is reopened next year. Even the flowers retain their freshness for the entire year. Devotees from across south India and Maharashtra visit the temple.
Halebidu temple is another great example of temple architecture the twin temples of Hoysaleshwara, Kedareshwara built by Vishnuvardhana and Ballala-II at Halabidu. Sequences from Ramayana, Mahabharatha & Bhagavatha are depicted on the outer walls of these temples. The efficiency and experience of the sculpture, who had carved these stories in stone is bewitching.
A dam has been constructed across Hemavati River, an important tributary of the Kaveri. The dam is located at Gorur, near Hassan in Karnataka. Built in 1979, the reservoir has been providing water for drinking and irrigation purposes for the people of Hassan district. Hemavati Dam is very vast and covers a catchment area of 2,810 sq. km. This dam is 4,692 m long and 58.5 m high. The gross storage capacity of this dam is 1,050.63 mcm. The reservoir has six large radial spillway gates.
Hemavati dam presents a beautiful look to the visitors, especially during rainy season, when the spillway gates are opened to release the flooding waters that gush out like froth. A garden covered with a green lawn right next to the dam enhances the beauty of the atmosphere as well as the location. The garden is often visited by local people. A visit to the dam in the early hours of the morning is highly gracious, pleasant and inspiring. Various water birds keep flying and diving into the waters. The temples of Sri Paravasudeva and Sri Yoganarasimha are very close to the dam and are popular tourist destinations. The best time to visit Hemavati reservoir is the period between October and March.