Where is the Baahubali Temple located

The Chandragiri seen from the Vindhyagiri

Ascent to the Vindhyagiri

The statue of Gomateshwara on the top of Vindhyagiri

Imagine: Two small hills covered with rounded granite rocks rise from a very flat plain. In between there is a square water reservoir, around which the houses of a village crowd. The whole place is sacred, and both hills are crowned by temple complexes; all day long barefoot Indians make a pilgrimage up stairs carved in the stone to the temple complex. This is Sravanabelagola.

The statue of Gomateshvara on the top of Vindhyagiri

The temple complex on the Chandragiri; in the foreground the Manastambha

The place is, so to speak, a living fossil, because a piece of the past has remained alive here: About a third of the inhabitants, I was told, still profess Jainism. This religion has often been mentioned for a longer or shorter period of time. A thousand years ago the Jains were spread all over India and could seriously compete numerically with the Hindus and Buddhists; their theology and philosophy shaped contemporary Indian thought and continue to have an impact today. And yet the number of Jains has shrunk to around one crore of believers today (almost half of them in India, the others in the diaspora), who live mainly in the (north) west and even there are only the population.

The temple complex on the Chandragiri; in the foreground the Manastambha

The entrance gate (Akhanda Bagilu) to the complex at Vindhyagiri

Sravanabelagola is one of the most important Jain pilgrimage sites, perhaps even more popular than the large temple complexes in Rajasthan and Gujarat. A huge, barely large monolithic statue of Gomateshwara, a legendary son of the equally legendary First Ford Rider Adinath, stands on Vindhyagiri, the higher of the two hills, and looks down on the village with a relaxed face. Last but not least, the well-known education-obsessed Jains also run schools and colleges here, which mainly attract Jain students from all parts of India.

The entrance gate (Akhanda Bagilu) to the complex at Vindhyagiri

Sri Parshvanatha at Chandragiri

Mandapa in Kattale Basti (Chandragiri)

Purohita at the foot of the Gomateshvara statue

A Jain trust runs a collection of guest houses in which one can live quite well and cheaply; however, the thriving cockroach population gave me some headache. I always carry some cockroach chalk with me, but its use is morally questionable in a hotel that is entirely dedicated to the Ahimsa principle. A Jain priest (Purohita) even explained to me that he doesn't even use mosquito coils, although these stink coils tend to drive the bloodsuckers away rather than poison them. Plagued by the idea of ​​fear, in the morning by a ten-part choir “La Cucaracha” To be woken up in my bed, I used the chalk after all, and made sure to check out on the day of departure so quickly that you wouldn't notice the mess until I left.

Mandapa in Kattale Basti (Chandragiri)

Sri Parshvanatha at Chandragiri

Mandapa in Kattale Basti (Chandragiri)

Purohita at the foot of the Gomateshwara statue

Most of the Jain temples are small, clearly arranged structures: closed buildings with little decoration on the outside with only one entrance, a small pillared hall and usually only one shrine in which a Tirthankara cult image shines. Many of the temples belong to the Digambara sect, and therefore the Tirthankaras are often depicted standing and naked. In front of many temples there are graffiti in the rock floor or even steles with inscriptions, so that the temples can be dated quite precisely; they are up to 1000 years old. However, the place of worship itself is likely to be much older; legend speaks of the Maurya epoch, a proud 2500 years.

Purohita at the foot of the Gomateshwara statue

The landmark in the truest sense of the word is the large statue of Gomateshwara (also called Bahubali), which unfortunately cannot really come into its own in its small inner courtyard of a temple on the top of Vindhyagiri. This saint is also shown naked; a Purohita stands at his feet and gives the blessing for the pilgrims. Inscriptions in different languages ​​and scripts cover the area around the feet of the colossus.

Openwork stone wall with relief in the Chandragupta Basti

Cult image in Shasana Basti, flanked by Gomeda Yaksha and Yakshi Kushmandini Devi

Openwork stone wall with relief in the Chandragupta Basti

The more beautiful temples, however, are on the Chandragiri: the great Parshvanatha Basti houses a gleaming, five-meter-high statue of the twenty-third ford-maker with his canonical hood made of a seven-headed serpent, and right in front of the temple a slender Manastambha strives skyward. A small temple called Chandragupta Basti tells the story of the Maurya king Chandragupta in an ornate stone relief, who renounced the world here meditating under the guidance of the famous Jain teacher Acharya Badrabahu. And the two-story Chavundaraya Basti has a relatively large hall with smooth, round columns.

Cult image in Shasana Basti, flanked by Gomeda Yaksha and Yakshi Kushmandini Devi

Sitaphalas in the left hands of guardian spirits in some temples on Chandragiri: Left Gomeda Yaksha (Kattale Basti) and Sarwahna Yaksha (Chavundaraya Basti). In the middle and on the right the two figures from Shasana Basti; the Sitaphal (right) held by Yakshi Kushmandini Devi looks differently like a pine cone.

The sanctuary in such a temple consists essentially of a niche on the front side with a simple Tirthankara cult image, which in most temples is decorated a little in the evening and lit with candles. To the left and right of the niche are usually the “guardian spirits”: on the left the male (Yaksha) and on the right the female (Yakshini or Yakshi). There are several such protectors, each with specific legends surrounding them; some are worshiped by Jains almost like gods, although the Jain religion is actually atheistic (parallels to Buddhism, especially in its Mahayana form, are imposing). In most of the Jain temples that I have seen so far, these yakshas were only made as a relief, but here you can find full statues of these mostly somewhat small and squatly depicted beings who hold a variety of iconographic attributes in their hands. Including something that reminded me suspiciously of the "corn on the cob" of Somnathpur.

Sitaphalas in the left hands of guardian spirits in some temples on Chandragiri: Left Gomeda Yaksha (Kattale Basti) and Sarwahna Yaksha (Chavundaraya Basti). In the middle and on the right the two figures from Shasana Basti; the Sitaphala (right) held by Yakshi Kushmandini Devi looks differently like a pine cone.

Annons grow wild in India and are known as Sitaphala in various languages. I ran into this one on the march to Kumbhalgarh.

Hybrid of meals and thali

Annons grow wild in India and are known as Sitaphala in various languages. I ran into this one on the march to Kumbhalgarh.

These objects are always held in the left hand, in the same slightly cramped hand position that I had observed in the somewhat more recent Hoysala temples. They are even more bulbous than those (look even less like maize) and differ in a further, very important detail: The "grains" are usually not arranged in longitudinal rows, but either in transverse rows or in a hexagonal pattern (these two alternatives are topologically equivalent and therefore often not clearly distinguishable). So it can hardly be corn; I asked those present about it and received a clear but unsatisfactory answer: Sitaphala, the "fruit of Sita". My Sanskrit dictionary gives the meaning "cream apple, Annona squamosa“And that is also the meaning in modern Kannada or Hindi. However, this annon is also a New World fruit, the presence of which in medieval India would be a real surprise (today it grows wild in many places). The resemblance is not too great anyway: the scales of the annon don't really look like seeds and are also much larger.

Hybrid of meals and thali

toast

Alu Gede Ban

Hybrid of meals and thali

When it comes to catering, Sravanabelagola really stinks even compared to the not exactly outstanding places in front of it. I don't mean to complain that the kitchen is completely vegetarian; but it just doesn't taste good. Apparently because of the many North Indian visitors, the food is a crude mix of north and south, and even the meals are served with chapati. At least I could use that to eat a little paneer again. The host in the largest (but not necessarily best) restaurant in town, although Hindu himself, offered dry-fried plantains in addition to the potatoes, because Jains have their problems with root vegetables.

toast

Alu Gede Ban

But I was able to try new things on the roadside: Many vendors sell plenty of European-looking cakes (be careful, sugar shock!) And also some savory snacks. These are sandwiches or toast made from heavily sweetened, perfectly plastic deformable bath sponge bread. However, the topping is sometimes surprisingly spicy and easily overcomes the sweetness. The toast, fried in clarified butter and topped with a mixture of steamed onions and chiles, tasted really good; The Alu Gede Ban, on the other hand, was somewhat slower ("Potato bun", sweet yeast pastries filled with potato pieces), which was drowned in tomato ketchup before serving.

Improvement is in sight: next week I'm going to the coast, to Udupi, famous for its vegetarian cuisine.