Sravanabelagola, Belur and Halebid are ancient architectural and historical destinations in the Karnataka state of South India, being proposed as UNESCO world heritage sites.
The 58 feet tall Gomateshvara Bahubali at Sravanabelagola, considered to be the world’s largest monolithic stone statue, is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Jainism (an Indian religion whose followers believe that nonviolence and self control are means to liberation from the cycle of births and deaths.) Jainism has been practiced in this town for over 2000 years.
Climbing up the small hill by 600 steps and seeing the enormous statue in the open courtyard at the top is a spiritually uplifting experience for many. On the way, you will see smaller temples dedicated to the Jain tirthankaras (those who showed the path to liberation).
Every 12 years, thousands of devotees congregate at Sravanabelagola to perform the Mahamastakabhisheka, a spectacular ceremony in which the statue is covered with milk, curd, ghee, saffron and gold coins.
The Belur and Halebid temples, about an hour’s drive from Sravanabelagola, are best known for their exquisite architecture, carved with scripts of Hindu mythology. The 12th century temple at Belur boasts of intricately carved sculptures of dancers, pillars of different designs and exquisite panels. A tall, stone pillar in the temple courtyard amazingly balances, only on its center of gravity. It is said that this temple took nearly 103 years to complete. Belur and Halebid can be overwhelming, given the sheer beauty and magnificence of the temples. Definitely worth visiting!
Attractions: Gomateshvara, temples, temple tanks and courtyards, local town walks and local markets, visit Jain monks. Shopping: The local towns offer items for prayer and puja, wooden toys and cotton fabric.
Accessibility: Approximately 223 km (4.5 hours drive) from the nearest airport Bangalore. Day trips by tourist buses and taxis are also feasible.
Best time to visit: October to February is ideal due to pleasant weather. Temples are open throughout the year however please check about weekly holidays or festivals before you plan your visit.