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SHRAVANABELAGOLA -GOMATESHWARA (BAHUBALI)

                                     

Location :  Shravanabelagola  is located 51 km south east of Hassan in Karnataka at an Altitude of about 3350 feet above sea level. There are excellent roads from Bangalor and Mysore. The nearest airport is Banglore which at a distance of  157 km. and the nearest railway station is Hassan. It is a little township tucked away between Indragiri and Chandragiri hills. The colossal rock cut statue of  saint Gommata at Shravanabelagola  is the most magnificent among all Jaina works of art.  It was built in circa 982 AD and is described as one of the mightiest achievements of ancient Karnataka in the realm of sculptural art. Also referred to as Lord Bahubali, the image is nude an stands upright in the posture of meditation  known as kayotsarga, reaching a height of nearly 57 ft atop the Vindyagiri  of Doddabetta hills accessible through a flight of 500 steps. The image of  Gommata has curly hair in ringlets 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.   

   
The statue of Gommateshwara at Shravanbelagola.

  There is an  anthill in the background which signifies his incessant penance. From this  anthill emerge a snake and a creeper 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 entire figure stands on an open lotus signifying  the totality attained in installing this unique statue. On either side of Gommata stand two tall and majestic chauri bearers in the service of the Lord. One of them is a yakshi and the other one is a yakshi. These richly ornamented and beautifully carved figures complement the main figure. Carved on the rear side of the anthill is also a trough for collecting water and other ritual ingredients used for the sacred bath of the image. 

 

  Around the statue is an enclosure of a pillared hall where one can find 43 images of tirthankaras in different cloisters. There is also a figure of a woman called Gullikayajji sculpted with a good built and wearing exquisite ornamentation, typical of the sculptures of the Ganga period. The Akandabagilu or the massive door, carved out of a single rock with an elaborately carved Gajalakshmi in her typical posture flanked by two elephants, is another meritorious work of Jain craftsmanship. This also said to have been under the guidance and inspiration of Chaundaraya, the illustrious minister who served under the successive rulers of the Gangas namely Marasimha II, Rachamalla IV and Rachamalla V.
One of the largest temples in the area is the Chaundarya Basadi dedicated to Neminatha, the 22nd Tirthankara depicted under a seven hooded canopy and flanked by male chauri bearers. This temple is unique in its style. It belongs to the era of the western Gangas and is evolved out of the Chalukyan styles at Badami and Aihole. One the same hill can be seen the Chandraprabha Basadi dedicated to the 8th tirthankara by the same name. It is one of the oldest basadis on the hill and can be assigned to the early 9th century under the reign of Sivamara, a Ganga king.
While at Shravanabelalgola one can also gain insights into Jaina mythology through some of the finest paintings depicted on the walls of the Sri Jains matha. Rich in colours and harmonious in composition, these paintings of the 18th century depict royal processions and festivities, monks, women in brightly coloured  sarees, forest scenes of wild animals and other topics that shed light on the domestic, religious and social life of the people. 

Another concrete expression of the intensity of Jaina art is the sthambha, the free standing pillar in front of every basadi. Elegantly carved out of granite, these are classified as Brahmadeva Sthambha and Manasthambha. While the former portrays the figures of Brahmanical gods, the latter is depictive of Jaina faith. Manasthambha pillars can be found elsewhere in the country but the Brahmadeva pillars are restricted to the South, a fine specimen of which can be found in front of the gigantic statue of Gommata at Shravanbelagola. Extremely attractive is the Manasthambha at Mudabidri 
with a small shrine at the apex surrounded by four bells and topped with a gold finial. Such pillars at Karkala and Humcha are equally eye-catching. All these pillars, irrespective of their connotations, are exquisite pieces of art, elegance and decoration. Another pillar of immense interest is the Tyagada Brahmadevara Kamba at Sravana Belgola where Chaundaraya has  inscribed his genealogy and his life time achievements. Only segments of  the inscription are readable.
There are inscriptions on the slabs near the right and left foot of the image of Gommatesvara at Sravana BELGOLA. T
HE INSCRIPTION ON THE RIGHT HAND SLAB IS AS FOLLOWS :
                         
 
Sri-Chamundarajam madisidam;
                    Sri-Chamundarajan "se" Yv 'v' ittan;
                    Sri-Gamgaraja suttalayavam madisida;
 
The first two lines record that Chamunda Raja caused to be made the image, at the foot of which the inscription is engraved, and the third line that Gamgaraja caused to be made the buildings which surround the image. Thus, the carving and consecration of the Bahubali statue in Shravanabelagola is ascribed to the great Chamunda Raja who was the commander-in-chief as well as Prime Minister of the Ganga King Rachamalla during the later period of 10th century A.D.
  The story goes that Kalala Devi, mother of Chavundaraya, wished to have a darshan of the golden statue at Poudanapura. The obedient son, seeing the intense spiritual fervour of his mother, set out 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 Poudanapura. In identical dreams, the Kushmandini Yakshi ordered Chavundaraya to erect a statue. The next morning, as directed in the dream, Chavundaraya flung his golden arrow with the first shaft of the rising sun from the top of Chandragiri hill to the top of the bigger hill opposite. Immediately the prophecy came true and the image of Bahubali was discerned. Chavundaraya then entrusted the task of chiseling the statue out of a huge block of granite to 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 Mahamastaka Abhisheka be performed every 12 years for Lord Bahubali. The Mahamastaka Abhisheka of 1981 coincided with 1,000 years of the consecration of the statue while the Mahamastaka Abhisheka of 1993 was the last of the previous millennium. 
The story goes that Kalala Devi, mother of Chavundaraya, wished to have a darshan of the golden statue at Poudanapura. The obedient son, seeing the intense spiritual fervour of his mother, set out 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 Poudanapura. In identical dreams, the Kushmandini Yakshi ordered Chavundaraya to erect a statue. The next morning, as directed in the dream, Chavundaraya flung his golden arrow with the first shaft of the rising sun from the top of Chandragiri hill to the top of the bigger hill opposite. Immediately the prophecy came true and the image of Bahubali was discerned. Chavundaraya then entrusted the task of chiseling the statue out of a huge block of granite to 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 Mahamastaka Abhisheka be performed every 12 years for Lord Bahubali. The Mahamastaka Abhisheka of 1981 coincided with 1,000 years of the consecration of the statue while the Mahamastaka Abhisheka of 1993 was the last of the previous millennium.
The story goes that Kalala Devi, mother of Chavundaraya, wished to have a darshan of the golden statue at Poudanapura. The obedient son, seeing the intense spiritual fervour of his mother, set out 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 Poudanapura. In identical dreams, the Kushmandini Yakshi ordered Chavundaraya to erect a statue. The next morning, as directed in the dream, Chavundaraya flung his golden arrow with the first shaft of the rising sun from the top of Chandragiri hill to the top of the bigger hill opposite. Immediately the prophecy came true and the image of Bahubali was discerned. Chavundaraya then entrusted the task of chiseling the statue out of a huge block of granite to 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 Mahamastaka Abhisheka be performed every 12 years for Lord Bahubali. The Mahamastaka Abhisheka of 1981 coincided with 1,000 years of the consecration of the statue while the Mahamastaka Abhisheka of 1993 was the last of the previous millennium.
Every 12 years, Mahamastaka Abhisheka is performed for the statue of Lord Bahubali, which stands as an imposing symbol of benevolence and sacrifice. This religious ceremony, to be held this time round from February 8 to19, 2006, has over decades drawn the attention of not just India but the entire world. 

 

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