Bahubali of Dharmasthala

Posted: 21.05.2012
Updated on: 12.06.2012


The paper was published in February 1982 in Pratishthapana - A Commemoration Volume of the Pratishthapana and the Mahamastakabhisheka Ceremons of Bhagawan Bahubali at Dharmasthala, pp. 9-11.


 

The colossal statue of Bhagawan Bahubali that now stands on the hillock, Bahubali Vihar, at Dharmasthala is a piece of marvellous granite sculpture carved in recent years. It is one of the greatest sculptures of its kind designed and carved during this century. Yet, the carving of the statue took hardly ten years and the sculptor is an old man - a septuagenarian.

It was Late Shree Rathnavarma Heggade, the then Dharmadhikari of Shree Dharmasthala Kshetra, who cherished the idea of having a Bahubali statue installed at Dharmasthala. To this end, he was encouraged by his pious and noble wife Smt. Rathnamma who started observing many vratas for the fulfilment of this cherished dream. He broached the subject with his intimate friend and legal advisor Mr. K. B. Jinaraja Hegde in 1967. Mr. Jinaraja Hegde acclaimed the idea as a very noble one and immediately set his mind working on the selection of a most renowned sculptor who could accomplish the task. Finally, he selected the sculptor Sri Renjala Gopala Shenoy, the founder of Sri Bhuvanendra Shilpa Kala Kendra at Karkala and commended him to Shree Heggade.

Meanwhile Shree Rathnavarma Heggade and his noble wife re-visited all the Bahubali statues in Karnataka to study the sculpture therein. The statue at Shravanabelagola was undoubtedly the choice. They had been fascinated by the peaceful demeanor and the innocent smile on the lips of the 57 feet monolithic sculpture. Similarly they were attracted by the white marble statue erected at the Bahubali Kshetra in Kolhapur. So they decided that Dharmasthala should have a Bahubali made of white marble. But, better counsel given by experts convinced them that white marble could not withstand the torrential rain, fierce winds and tropical heat of Dharmasthala. Eventually they settled upon a statue made of granite which variety of rock exists in this district.

The sculptor Sri Renjala Gopala Shenoy started vigorously studying the relevant Jaina Shasthras and Puranas in order to get himself acquainted with the intricacies involved in the carving of this statue. He also studied the style and proportions of the Bahubali statues found in Shravanabelagola, Karkala, Venoor etc. He was fully aware of the fact that such a task had not been attempted anywhere in this part of the country in the last four hundred years, since the installation of the statue at Venoor by the local chiefton Thimmaraja Ajila in the year 1583. These statues were erected in the past to remind the people of the necessity of practising non-violence, co-existence and renunciation of the self.

 

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Bahubali stands as a symbol of the human spirit trying to conquer its own baser instincts which bind it to the trivial pleasures of earthly life. Bahubali is the younger brother of Bharatha who, with the help of an invincible weapon conquered the whole world and was puffed up with pride and arrogance. He was told that his victory would not be complete until he had defeated his own younger brother, Bahubali. So there ensued a fight between the two brothers, much against the wish of Bahubali. In a duel, Bahubali completely defeated Bharatha. But he saw his dear brother seething in mad fury though he was defeated. Bahubali thought deeply and decided that he should restore the kingdom back to his brother and renounce the world. ReĀ­nouncing all the wordly pleasures, he went to perform penance, His face radiated the tranquil holy light of truth. It glowed with the brightness of self mastery. Thus, the statue of Bahubali proclaims the eternal truth that the conquest of the world is not the real conquest, but the conquest that man should aim at is the conquest of his own self. This is the eternal message of Bahubali symbolised in the statues carved and erected.

The sculptor started looking for a suitable rock in the vicinity of Karkal where, after a long search he located a good rock about 100 feet long. Shree Heggade was delighted and asked him to carve a statue of 100 feet if possible. But the sculptor after studying everything irt detail decided that the statue should be 39 feet from top to toe exlcuding the pedestal measuring 13 feet.

The commencement of the effort of chiselling the statue was marked by religious rites in the traditional way. Since Shree Rathna Varma Heggade was busy at the Kshetra on that day, he sent his eldest son to inaugurate the carving of the statue at Karkala. Little did he realize on that day that his desire that his eldest son Sri Veerendra Kumar should inaugurate the carving of the statue would prove prophetic for, it was left to Shree Veerendra Kumar who is the present Heggade of Dharmasthala to complete the task begun by his illustrious father. The master sculptor drew the figure of Bahubali on the huge rock. He applied himself so sincerely to the task that he vowed that he would not consume salt until the work was over. Hundreds of sculptors and artisans started applying their chisels and hammers to the rock. Mangala-pade - the spot of the carving - about two miles from the Karkala-Agumbe main road, which was a deserted spot became a busy place visited by hundreds of visitors every day. A road was built to the spot for the benefit of the visitors. A spring of fresh water erupted at the foot of the rock as if by divine grace to quench the thirst of the sculptors and the ever increasing number of visitors.

The total height of the statue is 39 feet, From chin to hair it measures 6 feet, neck 1 foot, arms 22.3 feet, back 13 feet, circumference round the waist 19.5 feet, thickness of the feet 1.4 feet, length of toe 1 foot, ears 3.5 feet, nose 1.10 feet and the width of chest from shoulder to shoulder 13.5 feet. These proportions were kept so that the artistic appreciation of the sculpture will be hightened by a sense of the relation of the parts to the whole body. They are also in accordance with the rules of shilpa shastra, Thus the statue as it stands now is a consummate work of art, its lines and curves conveying the eternal values of a great religious tradition.

When the statue was complete, a greater problem loomed large - the problem of transportation of the 170 ton statue from Mangalapade at Karkala to Bahubali Vihar at Dharmasthala, a distance of more than 100 Kms. Several transport contractors were consulted before M/s Mangatram Brothers of Bombay finally came forward to undertake the work. A special trolley with 64 wheels was divised for the purpose and two bulldozers of 250 H.P. capacity were employed to pull the trolley in front and one to push it from behind.

More than these technical details, what is memorable in the transportation of the statue is the public participation in the process. Thousands of people from all walks of life and religious faiths participated in the grand procession lasting 23 days. There was a festive mood everywhere. People of all religions and castes welcomed the procession by erecting welcome arches all along the route. Wherever the procession halted for the night, the people of the locality extended hospitality to the procession and participated in the entertainment programmes like Yakshagana, Harikatha etc. Many towns through which the procession passed, honoured Sree Heggade in special functions. People affectionately pave him the title "Abhinava Chavundaraya", after Chavundaraya who was the chief minister of a king of the Ganga Dynasty and to whom the carving and erecting of the Bahubali statue at Shravanabelagola in the 10th century is ascribed.

After the statue reached Dharmasthala, the next problem was its installation. M/s Vikhroli Metal Fabricators of Bombay came forward to take up the challenge of erecting this statue. The lifting of this giant statue without causing any damage or even a scar to the sacred idol was really a memorable incident.

Since suitable cranes of 125 tonnes capacity at 15 feet operating radius was not available in the country and since the lifting of such a huge weight by means of jacking from below the shoulders was not practicable, they decided to use Travelling Gantry with lifting tackles attached to the idol. But since this operation involved stresses during handling, especially at the slim toe-region, the erectors decided to envelop the idol in a steel cradle before the lifting operation began. After erecting the Travelling Gantry, the erection of the steel cradle was taken up. It was lifted by specially made flats fixed to two points on each side of the cradle. The lifting system behaved very nicely. The installation was a thrilling experience to the operators as well as to the thousands of devotees. Sixty people had toiled for a period of one month to prepare for this operation which took place on 25-12-1975.

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Pratishthapana

Compiled by PK