Gomateshwara Temple a distance of around 158 kms of Bengaluru and 83 kms of Mysore, there is a town situated in Karnataka known as the city of ponds and temples – Shravanabelagola. It is the most renowned Jain pilgrimage in South India. This place is one of the eminent heritage sites in Karnataka. The place Shravanabelagola is famous for its Gomateshwara Temple also known as Bahubali Temple. Shravanabelagola has two hills, Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri. The 58 feet tall monolithic statue of Bahubali is located on Vindhyagiri Hill. The base of the statue has an inscription which praises the king who funded the effort and his general, Chavundaraya, who erected the statue for his mother. The Bahubali statue is both magnificent and munificent. Magnificent in form, it is a 57 feet high monolithic statue built in around 983 A.D. The Gomateshwara Statue can be viewed at a distance of 30 km.
One can have a beautiful view of the surrounding areas from the top of the hill. An event known as Mahamastakabhisheka attracts devotees from all over the world. The Mahamastakabhisheka festival is held once in 12 years, when the Gommateshwara statue is anointed with milk, saffron, ghee, etc. to maintain its freshness. The upcoming edition of the abhisheka will be in February 2018. Lord Gomateshwara (Lord Bahubali) was son of the first Jain tirthankara named Lord Adinatha. Lord Adinatha had 99 other sons and when he renounced his kingdom, there was a big fight between the two brothers, Bahubali and Bharatha, over the kingdom. Bharatha lost this battle, but Bahubali did not feel any happiness on seeing his brother’s defeat. He then gave the kingdom to his brother and then attained Kevalagnana.
Jainism is one of the ancient religions and came into being during the 7th Century BC in Eastern India. Jains idolize the 24 historical figures or Tirthankaras, “‘Ford-Finders” who uphold the path to cross the river of suffering and misery that is the mortal world. Situated on top of the Vindhyagiri hill at an altitude of 1020.16m, in the Temple Town of Shravanabelgola, is the giant monolithic statue dedicated to Jain deity Lord Gommateshwara, also known as Bahubali. The 17.37m tall granite statue weighs about 80 tons and is accessed via a flight of more than 500 steps. The site offers a picturesque view of the plains as well as nearby hills. In an SMS poll carried out by The Times of India newspaper, from 21 July to 31 July 2007, it was voted as the first of Seven Wonders of India on August 5, 2007. The statue is considered to be the tallest monolithic sculpture in the world.
According to the inscriptions at the base of the statue of Gommateshwara, it is said that Ganga Ruler Rachamalls’s able General and Commander-in-Chief Chavundaraya’s mother, Kalala Devi, saw a huge statue of Gommateshwara in her dreams. She vowed not to eat until her dream was realized. Chavundaraya decide to build the statue of Gommateshwara at Sravanabelgola, a site already sanctified by the Jains. Another legend has it that Chavundaraya arrived at this place overshadowed by two hills, Chandragiri and Indragiri, with a pond in between, on his way to pilgrimage with his mother. In a vivid dream, Chavundaraya saw himself shoot an arrow from the summit of Chandragiri to the adjacent hill, as directed by Kushmandini Yakshi and the figure of Gommateshwara flashed from the spot the arrow hit. Following this he commissioned the curving of the same image from a granite monolith under the supervision of sage Arishtanemi between 980 and 983 AD. The valley between the two hills around the pond was named Shravanabelgola (‘Shravana’ meaning saint; ‘Bel Gola’ meaning white pond).
The Gomateshwara statue was erected by a Jain king in 1432, in memory of Bahubali (the first Tirthankara) who renounced the world at his most triumphant moment. The image is revered by Jains worldwide and is a true representation of their faith. In 1436, Veera Pandya installed the Brahmadeva Pillar in front of the statue. His successor, Abhinava Pandya, installed an elaborate 54-foot-high carving of Manastambha in front of the Neminatha Basadi in Hiriyangadi in 1457 AD. Afterward, in 1545 AD, Pandya VI built the Kere Basadi in the middle of Anekere Lake. Bahubali stands for renunciation and serenity. He could have continued as a king and enjoyed all the pleasures and power that came with it but he chose to relinquish all his material wealth, and turned into an ascetic.
The Gomateshwara statue atop the Shravanabelagola hill becomes the focal point of the “Mahamastakabhisheka festival” every 12 years. Mahamastabhisheka is translated as grand consecration and devotees celebrate this ritual by pouring 1008 vessels of water from scaffolding near the top of the statue. After the offering of water, the statue is anointed with a mixture of sugarcane juice, milk, and saffron. The statue is sprinkled with flower petals, turmeric and sandalwood powders along with vermillion. Devotees also offer valuable stones and coins made of silver and gold, in deference to the deity. The last Mahamastakabhisheka was held in 2006 and the next one will be held in 2018.
The Monolithic Statue
The north facing stone sculpture of Lord Gommateshwara is depicted in the upright posture of meditation known as Kayotsarga that is practiced to attain salvation by practicing renunciation, self-restraint and complete dominance of ego. The digambara (nude) form is typical of Jain traditions and it symbolizes one’s victory over earthly attachments and desires that hampers their spiritual ascent towards divinity. The statue has ringlets of curly hair and large elongated ears. His eyes are open in a face with perfectly chiseled features and are sporting a faint smile tugging at the corner of his lips. His face, smile and posture embody a calm vitality ascetic detachment. The statue depicts broad shoulders with arms stretched straight down.
HOW TO REACH SHRAVANABELAGOLA :-
By Air : Nearest Airport: Bangalore – Bengaluru International Airport (165 Kms)
By Train : Nearest Train Station: Hassan Railway Station (50 Kms)
Bangalore City Railway Station (140 Kms)
By Bus : Nearest Bus Station: Shravanabelagola (0 Kms)