Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bahubali, Lord of the Vindhyagiri


Chamunda Raya, a general with Ganga King, was impressed by the fabled Bahubali’s exploit and his renunciation of worldly pleasures and power over his kingdom. Bharata was crowned as emperor based in Ayodhya, but his brother Bahubali was based in the south as per succession plan of Rshabanath, who abdicated and took sanyas. Bharatha the younger son wanted to annex his elder’s brothers kingdom too by hook or crook. Both the armies were assembled face to face. The generals realized the futility of blood shed, they asked the brothers to have a personal duel to establish their sovereignty. Thus the battle of wits began Dristhi Yudda – looking at each other without winking, Jalla Yudda – sprinkling water at each other till one gives up and Malla Yudda – big wrestling match where one back is pressed to the floor in consecutive manner. All these battles were won unanimously by Bahubali. Yet the final move of trying to chop his brother’s head with a weaponry was also foiled. Even though Bahubali triumphed over his brother, he gave up his kingdom due divine intervention to give up worldly pleasures and follow the path of Dharma. This was an eye opener to his brother Bharata who started worshipping his elder brother akin to God. This fabled story was inspiration galore for general Chamunda Raya to commission 58 feet monolithic statue with the help of Nemichandra with great pomp and show.

Another reason for commissioning the statue in reverence of Bahubali’s exploits was because the wife of Chamunda Raya broke the bad news about his mother vowing not to drink a drop of milk unless a statue is built in memory of Bahubali’s exploit. Kalika Devi visited the sacred spot and stayed on the chandragiri hillock. She asked her son Chamunda Raya to fire an arrow to decide the spot on which the Bahubali’s image will be sculpted. The arrow fell on a huge monolithic rock on the Vindyagiri hillock, where the statue was sculpted with the theme of Bahubali’s meditative posture. Some claim that the image was already in existence from the time of Chandragupta Maurya who abdicated his kingdom and renounced the world in a true Jain tradition. Chamunda Raya had only discovered the idol and re-intalled the idol. But the age of the idol goes back to 981 AD, which disproves the fabled theory which tries to belittle the achievement of the general.

Chamunda Raya was obviously thrilled by his contribution to Jainism. He called for a great ceremony to be part of inaugural function. He wanted the priests to dedicated Bahubali’s statue to the revered soul by bathing the idol, with milk, sandal wood, honey, tumeric water, etc. The priest tried to bathe or anoint the idol, but all the liquids poured never crossed the naval part. This was fabled to be a lesson of humility to Chamunda Raya by the great saint.

An old lady Gullak ajji or Guli Ajji , who is fabled to be incarnation of Lord Padmavathi, bought a cup of pure milk in a lotus leaf and successfully drenched the statue throughout the body. From thereon the practice of bathing the Bahubali was continued with great fervour once in 12 years with 15 different combinations : 1. Water 2. Coconut 3. Plantains 4 Jaggery 5. Milk 6. Curds 7. Poppy Seeds 8. Golden Flowers 9 Silver flowers 10 Stone sugar 11 Dates which were symbol of common usage. Later the following aristrocratic items such as 12 Ghee 13. Almonds 14. Sandalwood paste 15 Honey 16. Silver coins 17 Cashew nuts 18 Saffron etc was added to the ceremony.

Shravanabelagola has been immortalized by this unique monolithic statute consecration on the 13th of March 981 AD. Chamundaya was the Yejmana, or the host of the anointing ceremony of the Statue of Bahubali, which is also known by the name of Gommateswara. Gommata in the vernacular mean a huge monolithic statute of Bahubali. In Sanskrit, it mean Manmatha or goddess Kamdev, who is supposed to goddess of sex. No wonder the naked figure of Bahubali has immortalized erotica before the Kamasutra were sculpted on Khajuraho. A sense of humility was achieved even in the naked form by its creator as well progeny.

Chandragiri hills was much more popular from the time of Mauryas, since Chandragupta Maurya, who had successfully repulsed the attack of Alexander the greats successor. Chandragupta gave up his worldly connection and went into a state of samdhi on the chandragiri hillock. The name stuck on as a dedication to this great emperor.

Subsequently the Gangas, Nolambas, Kadambas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagar empire have all contributed their might in developing the area in around Sravana belagola. There are 14 temples or basadis. One particular basadi has a first floor too too which when explored gives one a sense of adventure and extreme humility of the grandeur exhibited. One can imagine the harmony that existed in ancient times.

The highest state of meditation is displayed in the form of kayotsarga pose , an yogic posture which symbolizes the ultimate control over bodily functions without mobility. The posture signifies complete control over the worldly pleasures, needs and wants, a world far away for grief and happiness, stress and tension and ultimate triumph over birth and death in this world. The smile on the face of the statue radiates the triumph over myriad mental conflicts in human mind. One is required to walk the entire stretch of the hillock on bare foot on both the hillocks. It is advisable to undertake the climb either early morning or towards sunset. The ascent to the Vindhyagiri mountain wherein the Bahubali or gommata statue can test ones physical fitness, which steep 600 odd steps, whereas Chandragiri has only 300 steps, which can be slippery during rainy season. But the ascent is very easy in many portions. It is advisable to first climb chandragiri, to practice and appreciate the triumph of human spirit and ideology of the Jains.

Both the Hillocks are photographers delight. I hope the history of Chamunda Raya will be subject of a bollywood flick some day for the world to realize how he fulfilled the dream of immortalizing Bahubali, the lord of ultimate renounciation. The Jain Mutt has been promoting the cause of Jainism which has accommodation and boarding facility for the pilgrims.

: www.jainsamaj.org Encyclopedia of Jainism



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