Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Sunday, April 14, 2024

Chandragiri Hill









Chandragiri is one of the two hills in Shravanabelagola in the Indian state of Karnataka, the other one being Vindhyagiri. Though Chandragiri is less than half the size of Vindhyagiri, more than 90% of the monuments are found on top of this hillock. A small flight of steps leads one to the top of the hillock which is almost flat and half of it is enclosed to cover the monuments.



The hill is situated about 3049 feet from mean sea level and 200 feet from the above the ground level and is situated in the NW entrance of the town. Steps have been cut into the hill to make ascent easier for the visitors. A vast expanse of granite rock, scattered large and small boulders can be found en route to the peak. 












In the old inscriptions it is designated as Katavapra (Black hill), in Sanskrit and as Kalvappu or Kalbappu in Kannada. A portion of this hill is known as Tirthagiri and Rishigiri. With the exception of one shrine, all the basadis on the hill are enclosed in a walled fort area. Almost all the temples are built in the Dravidian style of architecture, the oldest of them going back probably to the eighth century A.D. Altogether the number of the temples in the walled fort area is fourteen and their plans are mostly similar to one another.










This hillock is one of the oldest Jain pilgrim centers in the south as it has the tomb of Bhadrabahu Muni and many other great Jain devotees. At the entrance of the Temple complex is Kuge Brahmadeva Pillar known as Manasthambha. This highly decorative pillar has a small seated figure of Brahmadeva positioned at the top, facing east.








The erection of free-standing pillars like Kuge Brahmadeva represents an interesting aspect of Ganga art. Jain pillars are generally of two types: Manasthambas and Brahmasthambhas. The Manasthambhas, also known as Indrasthamba pillars, are those which have a pavilion at the top contain figures that face the four directions. In the case of Brahmasthambhas, a seated figure of Lord Brahma sits at the top. The huge Kuge Brahmadeva pillar at Chandragiri and the Tyagada Brahmadeva pillar at Vindhyagiri are excellent examples of free-standing pillars from this period, and both stand as witness to the importance of Brahmadev in the Jain cult.



The recorded history surrounding the hill started in 300 BC when last Shruthakevali Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya visited the place in order to attain religious peace. The small hill derives its name of Chandra from the fact that Chandragupta was the first of the rishis who lived and performed penance there.



The hillock has 14 Jain basadis which were constructed along a wide timeline in the history – Chandragupta Basadi was constructed by Emperor Ashoka in 3rd century BCE, and was dedicated to his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya. Another basadi ‘Savatigandhavarana basadi‘ was constructed by Queen Shantala, wife of Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. It is said that Chandragupta Maurya traveled down to Shravanabelagola after abdicating the throne along with his spiritual guru Bhadrabahu. Both the guru and the disciple performed penance on top of Chandragiri and ended their days in ‘sallekhana‘ (religious ritual of suicide by fasting practiced in Jainism).










Along with the statues and basadis on top of Chandragiri, there are also stone scripts scattered around. One of the prominent one is by poet Ranna (one of the earliest and one of the greatest poets of the Kannada literature) in his handwriting and also by his brother Jinavallabha.










And one last but interesting titbit is about Chavundaraya, the minister in Ganga dynasty who commissioned the sculpting the huge monolith of Gommateshvara. It is said that he was asked (in his dream) to climb Chandragiri, go to a point and shoot an arrow southwards. And the legend is that place where the arrow stuck on Vindhyagiri is the foot of the 57 feet statue of Gommateshwara. The place where Chavundaraya shot the arrow is still accessible on top of Chandragiri.