Updated May 26, 2023
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 devotees sprinkle the magnificent statue with water 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
Experience the grandeur of the Mahamastakabhisheka, a revered event held every twelve years at the Gomateshwara Temple. Notable personalities like Krishna-Rajendra Wodeyar, Narendra Modi, and Ramnath Kovind have graced this occasion. According to legends, the general Chavundaraya organized the event after the statue’s construction, using five liquids for the abhisheka. A disguised Kushmandini completed the abhisheka with milk during the ceremony, revealing Chavundaraya’s oversight.
The Iconography of the Giant Gomateswara Statue
The magnificent statue, erected in 983 A.D., portrays Bahubali in a serene state of deep meditation, depicted through the kayotsarga pose. Climbing vines near his legs symbolize the growth that arises from this meditative state. Meticulously sculpted, the statue exhibits broad shoulders and straight arms, while the absence of backing from the thighs upwards adds to its awe-inspiring presence. Intricate details grace his curly hair, large ears, and half-open eyes gazing inward, reflecting detachment from worldly affairs. A subtle smile adorns his lips, signifying inner peace and vitality.
- An anthill can be spotted in the background, denoting his infinite atonement. A snake and a creeper emerged from the anthill coil at the upper portion of the arms, 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, 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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