Lord Bahubali’s Gommateshwara statue
India is a land of magnificent history and incredible reminisce. A land that had witnessed the glory of Mughals to Gupta’s also hides some of the most ravishing histories of the time. Yes, we are talking about the Gommateshwara Statue of Lord Bahubali, a place lesser-known but holds the grandeur of Jainism in India. Located on Vindyagiri at Shravanbelagola in the Indian state of Karnataka, the Gommateshwara Statue is indeed one of the prestigious marvels of India. It is believed to be carved on a granite rock somewhere between the Vijayanagar periods built on the Shravana Gudda hillock! Let’s explore this incredible history and try to know what lies behind!
The importance of Gommateshwara Statue and Jainism
India is home to various religions different and unique enough to make it the most diverse country in the world. One of them is Jainism, which is one of the ancient religions that came into existence in the 7th century BC in eastern India. The people of Jainism idolize about 24 historical deities which are known as Tirthankaras or the ‘Ford-Finders’ are the ones who uphold the path to passing through the ocean of sufferings and miseries in this mortal world.
Located on the top of Vindhyagiri hill stands tall the Statue of Gommateshwara at an altitude of 1020.16m between the temple town of Shravanabelgola. It is a huge monolithic statue that is entirely dedicated to the Jain deity Lord Bahubali also known the Lord Gommateshwara. A flight of some 500 steps, this 17.37m tall granite statue is 80 tons in weight! The place was also voted as the first of seven wonders of India on August 5, 2007, by the Times of India newspaper during a live poll. It is among the tallest monolithic statue in the world. The site offers some incredible picturesque view of the nearby hills and the plains stretched miles below them.
The Gommateshwara statue with long curly hairs and elongated ears is facing north which depicts the upright position of Kayotsarga which is done to achieve the ultimate salvation. The most famous form of Jainism, Digambar, which also means the nude form refers to a point where a person gets away from all the earthly pleasures or desires and donate themselves to the spiritual world. Interestingly, the smiling sculpture makes it even fun and intriguing to visit the site! The body of the statue is adorned with nothing but just marvelous designing and shaping of features which include a smiley face, broad shoulders, and posture that depict calm vitality.
Legend says that the Ganga Ruler Rachamalls’s able General and Commander-in-Chief Chavundaraya’s mother, Kalala Devi saw a giant sculpture of Gommateshwara in her dream that is interestingly also inscribed below the statue itself. She took a vow that she won’t be taking any food unless her dream is fulfilled. A place which was already sanctified by the Jains was chosen by Chanvundaraya to build the statue of Gommateshwara at Sravanabelgola. Another story says that Chavundaraya visited here with his mother where he saw this dense overshadowed hills adorned with ponds, Chandragiri and Indragiri. In this version of the story, Chavundaraya himself saw a dream where he saw him shooting an arrow from the summit of Chandragiri to the hill behind, as told by Kushmandini Yakshi and just at the moment the arrow hit the spot, the figure of Gommateshwara flashed out! Shocked and inspired by the scene, Chavundaraya commissioned himself into curving a granite rock in the figure of Lord Gommateshwara under the supervision of sage Arishtanemi somewhere between the 980 AD and 983 AD. This valley between those two hills came to be known as Shravanabelgola, where ‘Shravana’ means saint and ‘Bel Gola’ means white pond.
Do you know about Bahubali?
The son of Rishabhanatha came to be known as Bahubali or Gommatesha. A poem by Digambara monk Jinasena, Adi Purana, written around the 9th century tells a much-deciphered version of the story of Bahubali. Bahubali was a great king born in the Ishvaku Dynasty in Ayodhya. He challenged his elder brother Bharat for the Chakvartin supremacy which his brother had already won by the rulers of 6 divisions and also 98 of his own brothers. Though Bahubali won all the three challenges against Bharat, he was disgusted because of the violence and bloodshed that followed the contest. As a result, he gave up everything, abandoned his kingdom, family, friends and all of that attached to this mortal world. He became a Digambara monk! He meditated for a long time in Kayotsarga to attain the ultimate nirvana and knowledge to become the first human of this age to attain liberation.
The Gommateshwara statue of Karnataka is indeed one of the most prestigious Temple of India for the people who follow Jainism. Especially the place is of great importance for the Digambar Jains. If you happen to visit Karnataka, do not forget to pay a visit to the Gommateshwara statue as the place is of divine beauty. From hilly terrains to sloppy plains, the magnificent beauty of the temple makes it an incredibly unique spot to witness.