Sravanbelagola (Gomateshwara Temple) is one of the most popular Jain pilgrimage center in South India, an is known for its collossal monolithic statue of Gomateswara, on top of a hill. The word “Sravanbelagola” means the Monk of the White Pond (Sravana means Monk and belagola means a White Pond). Chanragiri and Indragiri are two peaks of the mighty Vindhyagiri mountain-range. Of this two, Indragiri is famous for containing the 57 feet high statue of Gomateshwara-believed to be the world’s tallest monolithic statue. The history of Sravanabelagola goes back to a long time, when Emporer Chandragupta Maurya arrived here with his guru, Bhagwan Bhadrabahu Swami and embraced Jainism after renouncing his kingdom of Magadha in the 3rd centuary AD patroned Jainism and were responsible for its extensive spread in the south.
The statue of Gomateshwara was erected during the reign of the Ganga King, Rachamalla, under the patronage of his minister Chamundrayar and by sculptor Aristenemi (981 AD). The temple to Gomateswara is built on top of a hill, in between two hills – at a height of 3000 feet above sea level.The statue, atop the hill, is reached by 614 rock-cut steps. There are many smaller images of Jain tirthankaras (revered Jain teachers) around the image.
Jains form less than one percent of the Indian population. For centuries, Jains are famous as community of traders and merchants. The states of Gujarat and Rajasthan have the highest concentration of Jain population in India. The Jain religion is traced to Vardhamana Mahavira (The Great Hero 599-527 B.C.). Mahavira was the twenty-fourth and last of the Jain Tirthankars. Mahavira was born in a ruling family of Vaishali, located in the modern state of Bihar, India. At the age of thirty, Mahavira renounced royal life and devoted himself to the task of discovering the meaning of existence. At the age of 42 he attained enlightenment and spent the rest of his life meditating and preaching Jainism.
Jainism rests on a real understanding of the working of karma, its effects on the living soul and the conditions for extinguishing action and the soul’s release. Jainism considers the soul as a living substance that combines with various kinds of non-living matters. The Jain religion rests on complete inactivity and absolute nonviolence (ahimsa) against all living beings. All practicing Jains try to remain vegetarians.
The Jains celebrate the five major events in the life of Mahavira- conception, birth, renunciation, enlightenment, and final release after death. Major Jain pilgrimage destinations in India are Palitana, Ranakpur, Shravanbelagola, Dilwara Temple, Khandagiri Caves and Udayagiri Caves.