Significance of the Gomateshwara Temple
Shravanabelagola- a pious town located in Karnataka town at a distance of 83 km approximately from Mysore and 158 km from Bangalore, is well-known for its Jain pilgrimage in South India. This holy place is one of the notable heritage spots in Karnataka. People mainly recognize Shravanabelagola for its Bahubali Temple, also known as Gomateshwara Temple. Two central hills- Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri, are also present at the godly Shravanabelagola. A monolithic statue of Bahubali of 57 feet (17 m) tall is present at Vindhyagiri Hill.
The inscription at the base of the statue praises the King, endowed for the effort behind constructing the figure. Widely known fact general of the King, Chavundaraya erected this exalted statue for his mother in 983 A.D. The Bahubali statue is both glorious and generous and is visible at a distance of 30 km. The figure is one of the tallest monolithic statues carved of a single block of Granite and is the world’s second after the Great Sphinx of Giza.
The Story Behind Gomateshwara Temple
As per various Jain scripts, the first Tirthankara of Jain Rishabdeva (Adinath) had 100 sons, and the pious Gomateshwara, or Bahubali, was the second descendant of him. When he left his kingdom, a rough-and-tumble situation emerged between two of Rishabdeva’s sons, Bahubali and Bharatha, for the empire. Bahubali defeated Bharatha in the skirmish; however, the tartness between him and his brother left him miserable. After much deliberation, he decided to proffer his earned kingdom to Bharatha and went on his way toward achieving Kevala Jnana (Absolute Knowledge).
The Kannada people of Karnataka refer to this statue as the statue of Gomateshwara, and the Jains refer to this pious statue as the Bahubali. The grand Jain event ‘Mahamastakabhisheka festival’ organized at the Shravanabelagola hill every twelve years, attracts tourists and devotees worldwide. ‘Mahamastakabhisheka festival’ has a unique ritual in which the magnificent statue is sprinkled with water by the devotees from a high platform. Followed by the figure is rinsed with tons of milk, sugarcane juice, and saffron flower paste. The Mahamastakabhisheka festival will occur in 2030.
Significance of Mahamastakabhisheka Festival
This grand event, celebrated every twelve years, is known to be attended by great personalities like Krishna-Rajendra Wodeyar in 1910 and Narendra Modi and Ramnath Kovind in 2018.
According to various sagas, the general of King, Chavundaraya organized a Mahamastakabhisheka right after the construction of the Gomateshwara statue. Five liquids- milk, tender coconut, sugar, nectar, and water- were used to conduct the Mahamastakabhisheka. The liquids are collected in hundreds of pots but cannot bathe below the navel of the statue. Kushmandini, in disguise, as a poor older man, appeared in the ceremony holding milk in the shell of half of a white Gullikayi fruit, and the abhisheka was done successfully from head to toe, letting Chavundaraya realize his mistake.
The Iconography of the Giant Gomateswara Statue
The statue, constructed in 983 A.D., depicts Bahubali in deep meditation, depicted through the kayotsarga (standing still) pose. The presence of climbing vines near his legs represents the blossoming that occurs as a result of this meditative state. The sculpture portrays Gomateshwara in a state of nudity, with intricate detailing on the curls of his hair and large ears. The eyes are depicted as half-open, with a gaze directed towards the nose, conveying a sense of detachment from the material world. The subtle smile at the corner of his lips symbolizes inner peace and vitality. The facial features are meticulously sculpted, with broad shoulders and arms that extend straight down. The sculpture is depicted without any backing from the thigh upwards.
(Image Credit: Karnataka Tourism)
- An anthill can be spotted in the background, denoting his infinite atonement. At the upper portion of the arms, a snake and a creeper emerged from the anthill coil, both the legs and arms pinnacle as a cluster of flowers and berries. The entire sculpture stands on an open lotus embodying the completeness acquired in establishing this fantastic statue.
- Two Chauri bearers named Yaksha and Yakshini stand on either side of the vast Bahubali or Gomateshwara. These richly embellished and beautifully sculpted figurines complement the central sculpture. Inscribed on the posterior side of the anthill is also a trench for accumulating water and other ceremony components used for the holy bath of the statue.
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