Karnataka’s vibrant tourist circuit is peppered with an abundance of Jam temples, monuments and pilgrim spots. The Jam philosophy of non-violence and peace found royal patronage in the state and these temples and monuments are a testimony to the days when Jainism held sway in Karnataka.
Jan architecture can be classified into basadis and bettas. A basadi is a Jan temple where an image of one of the 24 tirthankaras (saints) is installed and worshiped. They were built in the Dravidian style and the oldest basadi can be traced back to the 8th century. A betta is a hill with an open courtyard containing an image of Gommata or Gomateshwara.
The most well known edifice of Jainism is the great monolithic statue of Gomateshwara or Lord Bahubalj at Shravanabelagola. This colossal statue, carved from granite, is the world’s tallest at 58.6 feet. Chavundandaraya, the Ganga general, is said to have undertaken the enormous task of installing the statue on the top of Vindhyagiri hill around 1,000 years ago thirukadaiyur.
A symbol of peace, tolerance and non-violence, this image symbolizes renunciation. The image of Gommata has curly hair and long, large ears. His eyes are open as if viewing the world with detachment. The entire figure stands on an open lotus, signifying the totality attained in installing this unique statue.
Located in Channarayapatna taluk of Hassan district, this huge statue is clearly visible from a distance of nearly 15 km. To reach it, you have to climb more than 600 steps chiseled in the rock. There are two 3rd century BC monuments on the hill-a rock-cut cave called Bhadrabahu and a structural shrine called the Chandragupta Basadi.
What is special about Shravanabelagola is the Mahamastakabhisheka, held every 12 years. The ceremonies last 20 days and the statue of Bahuhalj is anointed with 1,008 kalashas (painted earthen pots) of water, milk, coconut water, clarified butter, saffron, jiggery, bananas, sandal paste and marigold flowers. Since inception in the 10th century, the Mahamasthakabhisheka has been conducted 73 times. The next ceremony will be held in 2018.
Located in Udupi district, near the Western Ghats, Karkala has a 43-foot statue of Gomateshwara Consecrated in 1432 by Veerapandyadeva, the king of the Bairarasa family of Karkala, this statue is the second tallest in Karnataka. There are also life-size statues of three tirthankaras as well as one of Padmavathj Yakshi, The rulers also built Chaturmukha Basadj at Karkala and the famous Neminath Basadi complex and the tall Manasthamba at Hariyangadi. The Chaturmukha Basadi is open on all four sides with porches and is symmetrical in design.
Three tirthanka,-as in black polished stone are enshrined in this temple. These are the 18th, 19th and 20th tirthankaras that stand together, facing each entrance. There are 12 main idols in this temple, forming an inner square as they stand outwards, and these idols are protected by pillars that run round the central formation of 12 idols. The temple has many smaller images of all the tirthankaras.
The pillars at this temple are marvellous. There are 108 in total, 40 on the outside and 68 on the inside. Carved out of a single stone, the statue stands on a five- foot platform and is supported at the back by a large block of stone and is beautiful in both face and form, on entering the inner courtyard, you will find two shrines dedicated to Sheetalnatha Swami and Chintamani Parshwanatha Swami. The courtyard contains remains of other stones with the most notable being a series of rectangular, circular and triangular pits that may have been made for rituals and ceremonies.
Yearly celebrations are held in February and once every 12 years the Mahamastakabhisheka is performed. The surroundings are also picturesque with lush greenery and a hilly setting and the beauty of the Western Ghats is not to be missed.