Our itinerary for the day, the second day of our trip, was to visit Melukote, Shravanbelagola and Manjirabad fort in Sakleshpur. Accordingly, we checked out of Hotel Rio Meridien, Mysore immediately after breakfast. Before leaving, we got some idlis, dosas and boiled eggs packed to stave off starvation if we did not find a decent place to eat.
We reached Melukote, about 50 kms from Mysore, in less than 90 minutes and proceeded straight to Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple. The temple is accessible through a road not wide enough to accommodate vehicular and pedestrian traffic and various stalls selling packets of flowers, coconuts, bananas etc. to be offered to Cheluvanarayana Swamy (a form of Lord Vishnu) the presiding deity. The ancient temple is in a large rectangular enclosure. An imposing structure, the temple is rather plain with sparse sculpture. We gained entry to the sanctum sanctorum after waiting more than fifteen minutes in a queue along with devotees. The place is not very clean. Photography is not allowed. I did not find anything to interest me.
Yoga Narsimha Swamy temple is situated on a hill near Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple. The statue of Narasimha here is believed to have been installed by Prahalad himself. If true, it would mean the temple is many thousands of years old. We drove to the base of the hill but did not go up because worship was on in this temple also. Photography was prohibited here also.
Melukote is one of the most sacred religious place of South India. Lakhs of devotees come to attend ‘Vairamudy Brahmotsava’, a festival celebrated every year.
We covered the distance of 40 kms between Melukote and Shravanbelgola in less than an hour.
Shravanbelgola is famous for the statue of Gommateshwara erected on Vindyagiri hill. The statue, referred to as Bahubali by the Jains, and is revered by them. It is one of their most sacred places. Jainism was introduced in Karnataka by Lord Mahavira in early 6th century BC and flourished till 10th century AD. The Maurya emperor Chandragupta who renounced his kingdom and became a Jain monk is believed to have lived on a nearby hill and died there in 297 BC. The hill is named Chandragiri after him.
Bahubali was the son of Vrishabha Deva, more popularly known as Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankara. Mahabali renounced the world. He shed even the clothes he was wearing and started meditation. He is said to have remained standing for twelve months and meditated. Weeds grew near his feet. Creepers encircled his legs and arms. Creatures like ants and serpents crawled over him. But he did not waiver and remained in meditation. He attained poorna gyan and became a siddh purush at the end of his meditation.
In 981 AD sculptor Aristenemi was commissioned to carve out the statue out of a huge rock on Vindyagiri hill. The result is the 59 feet monolithic statue, reputed to be the tallest in the world. A continuous stream of devotees and tourists climbs the 650 odd steps barefoot to reach the top of this steep hill to see this marvel of sculpture and engineering.
Every twelve years a mahamastikabhisheka ceremony is held. During the ceremony, the statue is anointed with 1008 pots of water, milk, ghee, coconut water, turmeric and sandalwood paste etc. The ceremony draws lakhs of devotees from all over the country and the globe.
The light drizzle in Shravanbelagola had turned into heavy rain by the time we reached Manjirabad fort, Sakleshpur 90 kms away, just after 4 PM. The climb, though short, appeared to be slippery. We therefore postponed it to next morning.