The monolith- Gommata
The Mahamastakabhisheka is currently being celebrated at Sharvanabelgola after 12 years. My friend Bala covered the event in 2006 & published a coffee table book called Gommata. It is an amazing collection of photographs & mateial which I will be sharing from in this series called Bahubali- The real hero!
Why is the idol of Bahubali cleansed every 12 years? It is a custom that has been followed for the last 1000 years & it is said to be in remembrance of the 12 year drought that affected most of the northern parts of India in the 4th century AD. This anointing of the statue is called Maha mastakabhisheka & it carries on for over a week .For those who take this pilgrimage it is an experience. The Jains especially make it a point to go through this at least once. Jains are divided into two groups- The Swetambers & the Digambars. While the Swetambers retain clothing when they attain monkhood, the Digambars go one step ahead & give up everything materialistic including clothes they wear. Only the Jains meditate standing.
Shravanabelagola was the place a lot of saints decide to attain death by choice or Sallekhana. & attain Samadhi. Home to the world’s largest monolith statue, the Jains call Gommateshwara or Bahubali .Legend has it that saint Bhadrabahu had a great role in spreading Jainism down South. Chandragupta Maurya was hugely influenced by the teachings of the saint . When the saint came begging he heard an oracle of a famine that would last for 12 years. Anticipating the Impending famine in mind, he along with Chandragupta & 2000 othere moved down South. When they reached Chandragiri Bhadrabahu realised that he would leave the world soon. So he asked his followers to move on & he stayed back at Chandragiri. Chandragupta stayed on to serve. After Bhadabahu attained Samadhi, Chandragupta perfomed Sallekhana ( an act of voluntarilythrough fasting. facing death to attain Samadhi.
Legend has it that Chamundaraya shot an arrow from the Chandramaurya rock.The arrow struck Vindyagiri & that caused the mountain to open & reveal the marvelous statue of Bahubali which was already carved by his brother Bharata.
Interesting facts on the monolith:
The 58’8” statue can be seen from a distance of 14 kms.
The posture of Bahubali is in the Kayotsagara. A yogic pose where the body is in total control.
The index finger of the left hand of the statue was made short so as to ward off the evil eyes.
More on who are Bharata & Bahubali in the next blog.