Shravanabelagola: Unknown Facts about this World’s Tallest Monolithic Sculpture

Scout to be 1000’s year old, the 57 feet tall statue of Gommateshvara Bahubali at Shravanabelagola is considered to be the world’s tallest Monolithic Sculpture which is carved out of a single granite rock and stands on the top of a hill.

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There are interesting stories associated with the origin of the name Shravanabelagola, which is one of the most significant pilgrimage sites in Jainism and has been preserving its art and culture for over 2 millenniums.

This ancient town in Hassan district of Karnataka which is overlooked by two rocky hills, Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri, has been derived from two words: Shramana or Shravan which means monks and Bili-goda which means white pond which is nestled between the two hills.

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Another legend has it that the name was due to an old woman who poured the milk she had carried in a small bowl over the deity anointing him every day.

The statue of Gommateshvara Bahubali, erected on Vindhyagiri hill, personifies the qualities Bahubali made during his life that is birth, renunciation, enlightenment and salvation. It is believed that Bahubali offers the path to eternal happiness by helping man live a life attuned to the natural world around him and not causing any harm to any living being.

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Certainly, the statue of Bahubali is a marvel piece of art which excelled and reached a peak in architectural and sculptural activity under the patronage of Western Ganga dynasty of Talakad, the time it was constructed in 981 A.D

It is also interesting to note that this beautifully carved statue has remained intact over the years without much damage. But do you know there is a reason behind why this statue can’t get damaged? I would certainly accredit the masterminds here 😉

Before telling you this, let me take you through the other unknown facts about this World wonder:

Do you know why the sculpture was built at Sharavanbelgodha?

It’s an interesting tale behind. It is believed that Rishab Adinath, the first Tirthankara (an individual who achieves immortality by enlightenment), before going on his spiritual quest had to give up on his worldly pleasures. He decided to equally divide his kingdom between his two sons – Bharat and Bahubali.

But his elder son Bharata had a greater desire to become a supreme ruler and conquer every kingdom on this earth. Bahubali refused to accept his brother’s supremacy and a battle was called. However with the intervention of few wise men the battle was called off and it was decided they will fight it out by gazing into each other’s eyes, throwing water and grappling (wrestling) with each other. Bahubali emerged winner in all three

Bharata felt deeply humiliated and in a fit of rage, he threw a chariot wheel at Bahubali. However, the wheel had divine powers and didn’t harm him much. Rather it encircled Bahubali and settled at his right side. Bahubali in this moment realised that getting struck in the pleasures of fortunes will never do any good to anyone. Bahubali decided to perform a penance (mediate) by standing on his feet in order to ask forgiveness from the God. He stood in an upright position for a year exactly where the statue is today and attained the state of Kevali Arihanta –which means attaining enlightenment and salvation

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Do you know the one who built this statue, could not perform its head anointing ceremony?

The statue of Lord Gommateshvara was built by Chandrayana of the Gangas dynasty, which was completed in 12 years. But he could not perform its head anointing ceremony (known as Mahamastakabhisheka) because he was so proud and aloud of his marvelous work, that shrewdness reflected in his nature. It is said that whenever he would take the bowl of milk, it would not go beyond the navel, despite several attempts. That time a goddess disguised as an old woman took a small bowl of milk with which the head anointing ceremony was done. This ceremony takes place in every 12 years

The statue which spans over centuries has witnessed different ruling dynasties and kings, who have added their own contributions and architecture to it. Historians describe the idol of the Lord as both beautiful and graceful, breath taking yet serene.

The verdant greenery and calm crystal clear waters of the ponds that has attracted hundreds of monks to seek this sanctuary to meditate have helped to make this place truly a ‘tapobhumi’ where people come to get deliverance.

Do you know why this sculpture is not much damaged despite being 1000’s year old?

According to the texts, the one who erected the sculpture wanted it to be the world’s tallest, beautiful and perfectly designed figurine without any loophole. This is the reason why the statue was closely monitored and scrutinised while it was built. But during the process they realised that a perfect embodiment can attract an evil eye, which can get a scratch on the statue. To avoid this, the statue of Bahubali was designed imperfectly but in a way which cannot be clearly noted. The index finger of its left hand is an inch shorter than the right hand. And so if anyone says that the statue is perfect and beautiful, then it’s NOT!

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Now if you Note 😉

Some 687 steps (I counted 700 plus) will take you to Sharavanbelgodha which is an absolute lethal combination of beauty and serenity that gives it a unique appeal. Standing 57 feet tall, the Lord is a beacon for the world weary who flock here to shed their worldly burdens and to embrace a life of peace and ahimsa, meaning non-violence

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How to Reach Shravanabelagola

By Air: Bangalore International Airport is the closest airport to reach Shravanabelagola. Upon reaching you can take the buses, private cabs or taxis

By Train: Shravanabelagola does not have any direct railway station. The nearest railhead is Hassan city that is around 45 km from Shravanabelagola. The buses and taxis are available from the station

By Road: Shravanabelagola is around 160 km from Bangalore. The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) runs buses to Shravanabelagola city from Bangalore. Besides, Bangalore, the buses are quite conveniently available from Channarayapatna town that is about 11 km away from Shravanabelagola.

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