As you approach the hill from afar, you see him. Slowly appearing in the distance. The majestic Bahubali in his simple grandeur awaits for the pilgrims as they climb up the 600+ steps carved in the steep hill in the holy town of Shravanabelagola, Karnataka.
We had the opportunity to make this journey last year. Today, through some of the photographs taken at that time, we share some moments from that experience.
Let us begin the climb to meet Bahubali.
“Bahubali (One with Strong Arms), a much revered figure among Jains was the son of Rishabhanatha, the first tirthankara of Jainism. He is said to have meditated motionless for a year in a standing posture (kayotsarga) and that during this time, climbing plants grew around his legs. After his year of meditation, Bahubali attained omniscience (Kevala Jnana). Bahubali’s soul was liberated from the cycle of births and deaths (moksha) at Mount Kailash. He is revered as a liberated soul (Siddha) by the Jains. (Wikipedia)
After you make the strenuous and tiring climb – somehow the last few steps might feel the most challenging once you are inside the complex and still not there – the first thing your eyes go toward are the feet of Bahubali.
And you begin to feel small, very small. In front of such majesty, such immensity, such towering grandeur, our littleness comes out in front in stark contrast. Maybe as a way to remind us that:
“We must learn that whatever our efforts, whatever our struggles, whatever even our victories, compared with the path still to be traversed what we have already travelled is nothing.” (The Mother, CWM, 14, p. 152)
The majestic statue of Bahubali, the Gommateshwara, one of the largest free-standing statues in the world, was built by Chavundaraya, the minister and commander of Ganga dynasty around 981 A.D. It is a 57-foot (17 m) monolith (statue carved from a single piece of rock) situated above a hill in Shravanabelagola.
You spend some time there in the presence of Bahubali, in silence, in awe, in a spirit of quiet reverence. And somewhere along with the feeling of reverence and devotion, an understanding also begins to somehow dawn upon the mind:
“Not the ideal physical or emotional beauty, but the utmost spiritual beauty or significance of which the human form is capable, is the aim of this kind of creation. The divine self in us is its theme, the body made a form of the soul is its idea and its secret.
And therefore in front of this art it is not enough to look at it and respond with the aesthetic eye and the imagination, but we must look also into the form for what it carries and even through and behind it to pursue the profound suggestion it gives into its own infinite….
…The statue of a king or a saint is not meant merely to give the idea of a king or saint or to portray some dramatic action or to be a character portrait in stone, but to embody rather a soul state or experience or deeper soul quality, as for instance, not the outward emotion, but the inner soul-side of rapt ecstasy of adoration and God-vision in the saint or the devotee before the presence of the worshipped deity. (Sri Aurobindo, Indian Art – III, CWSA 20, pp. 290-291)
For last month’s photo-feature, click HERE.
For more photo-features on this blog, click HERE.