Bahubali - Gommatesvara [I]

Published: 14.06.2012
Updated: 21.07.2015

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. 15-25.


Bahubali - Gommatesvara


श्रीमन्नभेयजातः प्रथममनसिजो नाभिराजस्य नप्ता
देहं संसारभोगं तृणामिव मुमुचे भारते संगरे यः।
कायोत्सर्ग वितन्वन्महदुरगलद्गर्भवल्मीकजुष्टम्
सोऽयं विन्ध्याचलेशो स जयतु सुचिरं गोम्मटेशो जिनेशः॥


During recent years some colossal of Bahubali are being carved out and erected in different parts of the country. It is the quarries of Karkala (in South Kanara) that are supplying the necessary boulders. Obviously it is Karnataka which possesses great historical statues of Bahubali that has provided the source material, genius and initiative in this regard.

In Jaina temples the chief statue for worship is that of one or the other Tirthankara. Among the secondary statues we have those of Panchaparamesthi, Siddha, Navadevata, etc. There are statues of attendant deities. The statues of Tirthankara may be either in standing or sitting posture and in later days, they could be distinguished from each other by their lanchana, or distinguishing emblems. In view of the inspiring message of his life, Bahubali also came to be worshipped, and his statues consecrated, first in the South, especially Karnataka, and then, in other parts of the country. The image of Bahubali is in standing posture, and in a pose of deep meditation. The other characteristics are: the anthills growing around his feet with serpents peeping out from them, the creepers entwining his legs and arms and an atmosphere of firm companionship or non-enmity (among animals, etc.) round about him. Of all these, the most invariable and distinguishing feature represented as a rule in the image of Bahubali, is the creeper climbing on the body: it is by this feature that one can distinguish the image of Bahubali from those of others. Some of the important images of Bahubali may be reviewed here. They are nude if not described otherwise.

Dharmasthala is a holy place in South Kanara. The presiding deity is Sri Manjunatha, a Sivalinga, with Vaishnavite priests. The hereditary Dharmadhikaris are Heggades, pious Sravakas of Jaina faith, their family divinity being. Tirthankara Chandranatha to whom a separate temple has been dedicated there. Dharmasthla by its very nature attracts devotees from all over the country; and experiences have shown that they derive their solace and satisfaction directly or indirectly by paying respects to this holy place. The inspired dispensation of justice by the Dharmadhikari has dissolved many cases of dispute, and the parties have accepted his verdict as a court judgment.


Shri Manjunatha Shivalingam at Dharmasthala


The history of Dharmasthala is shrouded in many legends which evoke awe and devotion. During the regime of the late Manjaiah Heggade (1919-55), Dharmasthala came into more limelight on account of Sarva-Dharma-Sammelana and other cultural activities. He was an embodiment of piety and devotion, and his sweet words were a nectar to the suffering souls. In the year 1955 he was succeeded by the late Shri Rathnavarma Heggade. His devoted wile is Smt. Rathnamma. It is during his dynamic management that many buildings sprang up and attracted more and more pilgrims. He gave great impetus to charitable activities in that Kshetra. His pious wife was quietly building up a religious atmosphere around. Smt. Rathnamma reminds us of pious Sravikas of mediaeval Karnataka, such as Kalaladevi, Attimabbe, Santaladevi and others. She conceived the idea of having a statue of Gommatesvara at Dharmasthala, and her husband gave shape to it in due course. Soon he took up the idea with his usual vision and zeal. A suitable boulder was spotted on an auspicious day at Karkala, and the carving work was entrusted to the gifted and well known sculptor Shri Renjal Gopal Shenoy of Karkala. The work started in right earnest; but, as ill luck would have it, Shri Rathnavarma Heggade passed away in 1968. The responsibility of continuing this stupendous undertaking fell on the shoulders of his son, Shri Veerendra Heggade, just in his twentees. Young Veerendra Heggade backed by the firm religious faith of his revered mother remarkably carried it through. The carving of the statue was exquisitely executed under the supervision of Shri Shenoy within a period of four years. But, to transport this colossus, 39 feet in height and 170 tonnes in weight from Karkala to Dharmasthala along narrow roads with many curvings and week bridges was a herculian task in this country. Shri V. V. Giri, President of India, laid the foundation for installation at Dharmasthala (Bahubali-Vihara) on 11-5-70. Young Shri Veerendra Heggade, by virtue of his amiable nature and winning manners, evokes voluntary cooperation in this sacred and lofty task from high Government Officials and the public from all quarters. Who would not feel happy at this great cultural achievement which is unprecedented in recent history and will enrich the heritage of the entire nation? With great efforts the statue reached Dharmasthala to the joy of one and all. It was moved on a trolly of 64 wheels specially built and employed for the purpose by M/s Mangatram Bros, of Bombay. It was pulled and pushed by powerful machines, elephants and innumerable men and women. It was a great festive sight of jubilation and pious exaltation for the entire population round about. The message of Bahubali is universal, above all castes and creeds. It was a journey of 23 days from Karkala to Dharmasthala; and the people on the way enjoyed the long procession as some of the enthusiasts were singing and dancing, worshipping the idol with flowers and waving of lights and ringing of bells to the accompaniment of beating of drums and blowing of musical pipes. The present writer presided over a function on the historic day (27-2-75) when the statue moved from Karkala and the public of Karkala honoured Shri Veerendra Heggade and family and the sculptor Shri Renjal Gopal Shenoy. It was a unique occasion and a memorable day for all those who participated in this function.

The Dharmasthala statue with the foundation measures in all 52 feet; the statue is 39 feet erect on a pedestal of 7 feet in dimension and the rest being covered in foundation. It faces the east on a prominent hillock to the right of the Gate which marks the entrance to Dharmasthala.

A small incident may be narrated here. When the statue was being carved at Karkala, the present writer took Professor Dr. L. Alsdorf, the eminent German Indologist, University of Hamburg, to the spot and introduced to him Shri Shenoy, the master sculptor. Dr. Alsdorf had visited earlier Sravana-Belgola, Karkala and Venur and had already paid his respects to those great statues of Bahubali. Highly impressed by the prospective achievement, Professor Alsdorf asked me: 'Upadhye, have you got Chamundarayas even today?' My answer was: 'Why not, the spirit is there.' Shri Veerendra Heggade really reminds us of Chamundaraya and his pious mother, of Kalaladevi whose piety and devotion were responsible for carving out and erection of the colossus at S.-Belgola, almost a thousand years ago.

Another statue of Gommatesvara, carved out subsequently at Karkala by the same sculptor, Shri Renjal Gopal Shenoy was lately transported to Ferozabad (U.P.) to be erected on the premises of the white marble Temple belonging to C. L. Jain Trust. Shriman Chhadamilal Jain, the Chairman of the Trust, is a pious and generous Sravaka well known for his philanthropic instincts and charitable activities. He got this statue carved within a record period of just 18 months. In this project, right from the beginning, other two Trustees, his son, Shri Bimal Kumar Jain and son-in-law Shri Rattantryadhari Jain contributed with all zeal their full effort and mite. The Government ot India, in view of this project being carried out in the 2500th Lord Mahavira Nirvana Anniversary year and the services rendered by the Trust to the public in the field of education etc., gave a considerable concession in freight.

This is a single granite stone statue measuring 45.6 feet in height. The statue from toe to head measures 37.6 feet. The foundation block is 8 feet in dimension. This statue will certainly add to the sanctity and dignity of the marble temple at Ferozabad, near Agra. The statue was moved from Karkala to Mangalore by road on a trolly of 64 wheels. Then it was loaded into a special type of wagon called well-wagon and carried by a special train both on account of its size and weight. It moved only by day and at a speed of 24 Kms. per hour. It took five weeks to reach Hirengaon (Ferozabad) from Mangalore. It is for the first time that such a statue in granite is being carried from the South to the North. Most of the statues in the North and some of them lately carved out and erected in the South are of white marble from Rajasthan.

In the Jaina cave at Badami (Dt. Bijapur) which is assigned to a period little later than 578 A.D., there is a nude image of Bahubali. The creepers are climbing on the body. Serpents are shown to rise on both the sides. There are two ladies sitting on both the sides with folded hands and behind them there are two human figures standing. The hair is hanging on the shoulders (See photo No. 1).

At Aihole (Dt. Bijapur) in the Jaina cave, there is a figure of nude Bahubali in meditation. The creepers are entwining the legs and hands, and snakes are coming out from anthills near the feet. Two ladies, having the appearance of princesses are standing by the sides. The locks of hair are falling on the shoulders. The upper portion of the relief panel is covered with trees and flying divine figures. This relief is assigned to 6-7th century A.D.

At Kalagumalai (Dt. Tinnavalli), there is a figure of Bahubali in relief. As usual, he is standing in meditation with two ladies on either side. There seem to be no anthills near the feet. The creepers are crawling on his body. It is assigned to c. 9th century A.D. The same theme is presented in two other places in the South at Kilakkudi, Ummannamalai hills (Dt. Madura) and on a boulder near Samanarkoil, Annamalai (Dt. Madras) (Photo Nos. 2-4). At Chittamur (Tamil Nadu) there is a rock-cut image of Bahubali.

At Ellora, in the Jaina caves some twelve reliefs of Bahubali are found. They are assigned to c. 8th to 10th century A.D. They are all described according to the Cave Nos. in the Ajanta, Ellora and Aurangabad caves by R.S. Gupta and B. D. Mahajan, Bombay 1962. From the seven photographs supplied to me, years back, by my friend Dr. U. P. Shaha, Baroda, I shall give the descriptions as below: -

(i) Bahubali stands on a lotus. There are two damsels on both the sides; and some of them are flying above in a jubilant mood with garlands and musical instruments in their hands. To the right is seated below a devotee with folded hands and to the left we see a couple of seated deer. The creepers are climbing on the body and round about, and the hair though curly on the head is spreading on the shoulders. (J. Burgess: The Caves of Ellora, Plate No. 41).

(ii) In this relief Bahubali is standing on a pedestal. Creep;rs are climbing on his body; and there are two damsels each standing one side. A pose of one of their hands indicates a request as it were. Perhaps it is not complete.

(iii) Here to the right side of the image of Bahubali only one 'damsel is standing, and close to the pedestal some one is sitting on the right side.

(iv-vi) Three other reliefs may be taken together. Two damsels are standing on either side, and some nymphs are shown above with garlands in their hands. The creeper ia spreading not only on the body but also round about. On the right side are seated near the feet two persons in a pose of devotion.

(vii) This is an elaborately carved panel of Bahubali. This is the best figure of Bahubali at Ellora. Two damsels are standing on both the sides. Creepers are entwining his body; and he is sorrounded by all kinds of animals, deer, serpents, rats etc. To the right is the figure ol a devotee. The hair are dangling on the shoulder. Some nymphs are flying above (See Ajanta etc., Plate No. 141).

Scholars have interpreted that the two female figures represent Bahubali's sisters, Brahmi and Sundari and the figure of a devotee represents Bharata. In this connection it may be noted that the dress and the decoration of the female figures do not represent that they were nuns. But they are shown as princesses. The literary tradition, as we know it, indicates that both of the sisters had already entered the ascetic order by the time Bahubali started his penance.

Jinasena and Pampa make Bharata bow down before Bahubali so that his mana-kasaya disappears; and the sisters do not figure in the scene according to them, while the version in the Vasudevahimdi is that it is Brahmi and Bahubali's harem that approach Bahubali; but according to Hemachandra, once Bharata bowed down to him immediately after the duel; and prior to the dawn of omniscience both Brahmi and Sundari approach Bahubali with a message from Vrsabha that he should climb down from the mana-amtanga. These images in the relief are all nude, a tradition which has been consistently in vogue in the South as contrasted with that seen in the reliefs at Abu noted below. The combination of nudity with the figures of Brahmi and Sundari is an interesting phenomenon. In fact, it combines the literary traditions of the Digambara and Svetambara schools. One has to see whether it has anything to do with the Yapaniyas who accepted nudity but at the same time accepted the authority of some of the texts of the Ardha-magadhi canon. Leaving the sectarian approach, it means that the biography of Bahubali was quite popular both in the South and Western India; and the details got mixed up. The sculptor and the relief artist carved out their images of Bahubali with meditational dignity and with divine attendance for popular appeal.

The arrangement of hair is also of two types. The earlier reliefs and the statue at the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay (described below), have the hair hanging down on the shoulders, but the statues at Sravana Belgola and other places have curly hair confined to the head only. The idea of hair falling on the shoulders and of the atmosphere of non-antipathy among animals in the presence of Bahubali, as found in some of the reliefs, have been referred to by Jinasena. He also mentions the removing of creepers by damsels from the person of Bahubali.

As distinguished from the Digambara tradition about Bahubali represented by Jinasena and Pampa, there is the one given by Sanghadasa and Hemachandra of the Svetambara pursuasion. Some sculptures are found in the temples of Abu. In the annexe of the Sabhamandapa of the Vimalavasahi Dilwara temples, Mount Abu, the episode of the duel between Bharata and Bahubali and the latter's renunciation and penance are represented (c. 12th century A.D.). There is a sculpture in the Adinatha temple at Mount Shatrunjaya in which Bahubali is standing in meditation with his legs entwined by creapers and with two ladies (identified with Brahmi and Sundari) on either side. This belongs to the 13th century A.D. In both these Bahubali is shown wearing a dhoti. “Sculptures of Bahubali in Svetambara temples are very rare and these are the only examples known so far.”

Dr. U. P. Shah has described a miniature painting depicting the episode of Bharata and Bahubali, (published in the Jaina-Citra-Kalpadruma) dated c. A.D. 1465. The first panel, at the top, depicts both Of them engaged in drsti- and Vak-yuddha; the second, in musti- and danda-yuddha; the third (section one), shows Bharata holding a chakra in one hand and facing Bahubali and (section two) Bahubali's crown is falling off; and the last shows Bahubali wearing a white dhoti and standing in meditation. “A tree is shown on each side, snakes entwine his hands from the ant-hill below his feet and birds perch on his shoulders. The two Jaina nuns, Brahmi and Sundati, represented on the left, appeal to him with folded hands. In this miniature both Bahubali and Bharata are of golden complextion.”

Bahubali is given a special pitha in the diagram of Surimantra; and there is a mystic charm known as Bahubali-didya. Thus Bahubali has entered the Jaina Tantra as well.

There is a bronze image of Bahubali in the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay. It is unique in many respects. A creeper in high relief entwines the legs, thighs and arms. The image stands free on a circular disc and is 20 inches in height. "The hair is combed back in schematic rows, and curled locks are placed on the back and across the shoulders." Dr. U. P. Shah assigns it to a period not later than the 7th century A.D., while Dr. K. Khandalwala assigns it to the 9th century A.D. (See No. 6).

In the Hassan Dt. of Karnataka, just near Channarayapattana, Belgola is very attractively situated near a nieely built square lake in a valley between two hills Vindhya-giri and Chandra-giri, also called respectively Dodda and Chikkabetta. The name of the place means "white pond" and the corresponding Sanskrit word is Dhavala - or Sveta-Sarovara. A foreign scholar has observed that it is hard to find a spot where the historic and the picturesque clasp hands so firmly as here. The place is important for a number of reasons. The Chandragiri is traditionally associated with Bhadrabahu who migrated along with a big Sangha including Chandragupta Maurya to the South, when there was a great famine in the North. The large number of inscriptions found here are important from the historical, linguistic and literary points of view. It is spotted with more than a score of beautiful temples built from time to time, and also associated with great dignitaries from the medieval history of Karnataka. Some of them on Chandragiri or Chikkabetta are as old as the 8th century A.D. The locality is further sanctified by the Sallekhana or Samadhi-marana of many pious men and women, some of them hailing from noted families. There is the Matha of Shri Charukirti Bhattaraka who for centuries guided the social and religious activities of the community. In the Matha there are valuable Mss. of many Jaina works, both secular and religious; and any centre of learning can be proud of these collections. Most glorious of all is the colossus of Bahubali on the top of the Vindhyagiri facing the North and quietly watching the destiny of the rice and fall of ruling dynasties and empires for more than one thousands years. (See No. 7).



Compiled by PK

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