On my way from Bangalore to Mysore I took a detour to Shravanabelagola. There I visited the monolith statue of Lord Gomateshwara or Bhagwan Bahubali as referred to by Jains. Shravanabelagola is one of the most important pilgrimage centers in Jainism. The 17.38 meter (58 ft) high monolithic stone statue of the Lord Gomateshwara is located above this hill which is called Vindhyagiri or Doddabetta or Indragiri hill. It is estimated to weigh approximately 80 tons. The hill is about 470 feet above the ground and is one solid rock. It must be climbed barefoot. There are 800 steps to the top cutout in the rock. The climb is hard and tiring. But it is worth the effort. It took us more than an hour to climb the 800 or more stairs but once there and you have seen the beautiful statue of Bahubali you forget it all. The beautiful statue is considered to be the world’s largest monolithic stone statue. It is carved beautifully from a single block of rock with accurate sense proportion and expression.
The statue of Gommata has curly really nice hair in ringlets on the head and long, large ears. His eyes are open as if viewing the world with detachment. His facial features are perfectly chiseled with a faint touch of a smile at the corner of his lips and embody calm vitality. His shoulders are broad, his arms stretch straight down and the figure has no support from the thigh upwards. There is an anthill in the background which signifies his incessant penance. From this anthill emerge a snake and creepers which twine around both his legs and his arms culminating as a cluster of flowers and berries at the upper portion of the arms. The creepers encircling the arms and legs are artistic and beautiful. The nude north facing, stand upright stone sculpture of Bahubali (Lord Gomateshwara in the posture of meditation known as Kayotsarga, symbolizing renunciation, self-control and subjugation of ego as the first steps towards salvation. The digambara (nude) form of Bahubali represents the complete victory over earthly desires and needs that hamper spiritual ascent towards divinity. The entire figure stands on an open lotus signifying the totality attained in installing this unique statue. The statue is simple, stylish and splendid. The base of the statue has an inscriptions in Kannada as well as the oldest evidence of written Marathi, i.e. devanagari script, dating from 981 AD. The inscription praises the king who funded the effort and his general, Chavundaraya, who erected the statue for his mother.
According to Jain theology, there are period of happiness and peace called “Utsarpini”, during this period truth and ‘Dharma’ reign. Alternately, during ‘Avasarpini’, truth and goodness decline. During the period of deteriorations and decline the “Tirthankaras” (the realized souls) incarnate in this world and guide people to truth and the right path. There were supposed to be twenty four Tirthankaras in Jain religion – the first one is Purudeva. He is also called Vrishabhadeva or Adinatha. Vrishabhadeva had two wives. The elder queen was called Yashaswathi, she gave birth to Bharata and other sons and a daughter called Brahma. The younger queen was Sunanda; she gave birth to a son called Bahubali and a daughter Sunadri.
Purudeva the first Tirthankara renounced the world. Of his two sons Bharata the elder was crowned the King and Bahubali was crowned as the Yuvraj (heir apparent). But they squabbled between themselves for the kingdom. In the ensuing fight that happened Bahubali succeeded. However, he soon was overcome by grief and shame of seeing his defeated brother. His mind got transformed. He renounced the Kingdom to his brother and retreated to penance and attained Kevalagnana….. or complete jnana. His brother Bharata got Bahubali’s statue erected in Paudanapura. After several years ant hills and mounds covered it. He came to be recognized as Kukkuteshwara. Only the devout could see the image.
The story goes thus Chavundaraya who had heard of the story narrated it to his mother- Shrimati Kalala Devi. Kalala Devi wished to have a darshan of the golden statue at Paudanapura. The obedient son, seeing the intense spiritual favour of his mother, setout on a long pilgrimage to see the golden statue along with his mother and Guru Acharya Ajithasena, and spent a night at Shravanabelagola en-route to Paudanapura. In identical dreams to Chavundaraya and his mother, the Kushmandini Yakshi ordered Chavundaraya to erect a statue. The next morning, as directed in the dream, Chavundaraya shot his golden arrow at the first shaft of the rising sun from the top of Chandragiri hill to the top of the bigger Vindhyagiri hill on the opposite side. Immediately the prophecy came true and the image of Bahubali appeared. Chavundaraya resolved to have an image of the same description installed on the Vindhyagiri hill at Shravanabelagola. Bahubali was 525 arrows tall, that’s why the 57 feet tall statute got made. The sculpture was got carved out of a huge block of granite by the most skillful sculptors of the land under the guidance of Arishtanemi.
In later years, Chavundaraya, filled with the pride of achievement and arrogance, set out to perform the Mahamastaka Abhisheka. But, the anointing liquids – coconut, milk and the five nectars –would not descend down the navel. At that moment, legend goes, Gullikayajji, an old woman presented herself with a little milk in the shell of a white Gullikai fruit. Many derided her but Acharya Nemichandra advised Chavundaraya to invite her. As the humble devotee of Bahubali poured the milk in the shell, it instantly ran down the image, reaching the feet of the statue and covered the hill around. A chastened Chavundaraya then made it mandatory that Mahamastakabhisheka be performed every 12 years for Lord Bahubali. Every twelve years, thousands of devotees congregate here to perform the Mahamastakabhisheka, a spectacular ceremony in which the statue is covered with milk, curds, ghee, saffron, turmeric, sandalwood, silver leafs and gold coins. A helicopter showers flowers on the statue. It is a beautiful spectacle spanning 12 days every 12 years. The king of Mysore is given the honor of the first abhishek. This is usually shown live in most television channels. The next Mahamastakabhisheka will be held in 2018.
(Information courtesy : Wikitravel)