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Gomatesvara, Sravanabelagola

DISTRICT: Hassan;
TALUK: Channarayapatna
LOCALITY: Sravanabelagola (Lat. 12° 51' N; Long. 76° 29' E)
APPROACH: AIRPORT: Bengaluru;
RAILWAY STATION: Hassan;
BUS STATION: Sravanabelagola

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According to Jaina traditional accounts, Sravanabelagola seems to have had religious significance from the 3rd century BC with the migration of Bhadrabahu, a Jaina pontiff along with his emperor Chandragupta Maurya. The place attained greater prominence  as a Digambara Jaina center when Chamundaraya, an illustrious minister of Ganga Rachamalla IV (974-985 AD), got installed the colossus of Bahubali to fulfil the cherished desire of his mother. The colossal image of Gomatesvara (Bahubali), sculpted from a tor, marks the culmination of the artistic excellence achieved by the Ganga sculptors. This magnificent sculpture installed at the peak of the Vindhya hill around 981 AD, is the tallest monolithic image in India and measures about 17.7 m in height. Hewn out of fine-grained grey granite, it is finished in the round from head to knees. The depiction of ant-hill with snakes peeping out and the ascending Madhavi creeper hides the fact of bold relief of the lower limbs. Exhibiting all mahapurushalakshanas, Bahubali stands erect in the kayotsarga posture on a blown lotus pedestal flanked by dwarf chauri-bearers. The head decorated with dakshinavarta, the sublime face, the half-closed, contemplative eyes with gaze turned towards the tip of the sharp nose, lips bearing a serene smile, the dimpled chin. The long lobed ears, all enhance the grace of sculpture. The broad shoulders, the long arms dangling on the sides, the fold lines on the neck, faithful delineation of the joints, etc. attest to the skill and mastery of the artist in executing the anatomical details in the stone medium. Surrounding the main statue is the stone railing, the pillared cloister with a series of cells enshrining the 24 tirthankaras executed mainly during the Hoysala period. Within the inner enclosure stands gazing at the feet of the colossus the statue of Gullakayajji, holding an egg- fruit in her hands. Legends identify her as Padmavati Yakshi who appeared in this form to humble the ego of Chamundaraya.