Shravanabelagola is situated about 150 km northwest of Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka. The town has been a prominent centre for Jain art, architecture, religion and culture for over two millennia. About two thousand years ago, Bhagawan Bhadrabahu, the earliest among the great Jain Acharyas came to Shravanabelagola from Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, with his disciples. Influenced by this ascetic, Chandragupta Maurya, the great emperor who ruled a large part of India, settled in this region, handing over the reins of his kingdom to his son.. The large hill, also called Vindhyagiri or Per-kalbappu, is 3347 feet above sea level. A flight of 614 steps, finely chiseled into the granite of the mountain, leads to the summit, where stands an open court and the great statue of Sri Gomatheswar. Shravanabelagola means ‘the monk on the top of the hill’ and hermits, mystics and ascetics have resided here since at least the 3rd century BC. In those early times the hill was thickly wooded and hermits could feed themselves from the vegitation of the forest. Near the middle of the 10th century AD, temples began to be constructed upon the hill and from that time the place has become one of the most important pilgrimage sites of the Jain religion. The 58 foot, 8 inch statue of Sri Gomatheswar, carved between 978-993 AD, out of the granite bedrock of the mountain is the tallest free-standing statue in the world. Sri Gomatheswar, also known as Bahubali, was the son of the legendary first Tirthankara, Adinatha (tirthankaras are the mythical, enlightened sages of Jainism).
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