He stands there, right in front my eyes. I travelled for 144 km and climbed more than 500 steps to see him and he did not disappoint me. He was tall and majestic. He stood there in peace, a gentle smile on his face. Tranquility triumphed everywhere. The place radiated purity because of him. He was the first of the 21 Tirthankaras, Bahubali. He is also known as Gomateshwara.
Nearly 12 kms to the South of Bangalore-Mangalore Road from a town called Channarayapatna in the Hassan district, is this village called Shravanabelagola. Shravanabelagola translates to ‘White pond of Shravana’ and the pond in the middle of the town literally glistens in Spring. It has a number of names like Sveta Sarovara, Dhavala Sarovara and Dhavala Sarasa. It has two beautiful hills, Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri. Guess whose abode it is? Yes, it is Gomateshwara’s home.
Bahubali, is the most important Tirthankara in Jainism. His 58 feet tall monolithic statue was carved by commander Chavundaraya of the Ganga dynasty. This giant statue is the largest free standing statue in the world. It is one of the Seven Wonders of India. It was carved at around 981 A.D. The structure has absolutely no support from above the thigh region.
Bahubali was known for living all the phases of his life with exceptional qualities. Read the Adi Purana to know more about him. It is a 9th century Sanskrit poem that describes how he led his life. His acquired inner peace and vitality is portrayed beautifully in the chiselled statue. The facial features are simply flawless.
Once every 12 years, the town gears up for one of most religious events. The event is Mahamastakabhisheka. The event takes place in pomp and splendour. It is to happen from the 17th to the 25th of February this year under the leadership of Swasti Sri Charukeerthi Bhattaraka Swamiji. The last time this event happened was back in 2006. This year, over a million devotees are expected to witness the grandeur.
The Abhisheka is performed for weeks where the statue is bathed in purified water, milk, sugar cane juice, saffron paste, sandalwood paste, turmeric and vermillion using special vessels called ‘Kalash’. Two eyes are just not enough to view the sight. In all their devotion, the basic amenities to the visitors are provided by the hermits residing in Shravanabelagola.
So, what are you doing for this duration? Get a bike on rent and proceed to watch the magnificent event. Walk in to the nearest bike rental, rent a bike and hit the road. While you are there, do not forget to visit the Suparshvanath Digambar Jain temple, Hanuman temple, Sri Someshwara temple, Chandragupta Basadi, Bandhar Basadi, Kushmandini Devi temple, Bhadrabahu cave, well the charming town has many places to see. Which is exactly why our first Prime Minister after visiting the place said, ‘I came, I saw and left enchanted’.