BAHUBALI COLOSSUS OF SRAVANA-BELAGOLA
1. BAHUBALI ï¿½S LIFT AND HIS IMAGE
Sravana- Belagola is Known all over the world for its colossal image of Bahubali or Gommatesvara which is regarded as one of the wonders of the world. This marvellous image was caused to be erected on the vindhyagiri hill in the year 981 A.D by chamunda ï¿½Raya. But the legendary accounts say that this magnificent image of Bahubali was already there on the hill in a concealed manner and that chamunda- Raya discovered the image and consecrated it in a proper way. Hence to Find out the real facts it is necessary to know the orginal story of Bahaubali ï¿½s life, the traditional account of Bahualiï¿½s image and the historical evidence about the actual installation of image at sravana Belagola in the last quarter of the 10th century A. D.
Bahubali, the first Jaina saint to attain liberation in this ï¿½ avasarpin kalaï¿½, i.e., the descending half arc of time , was the son of Lord Rshabha, the first Jaina Tirthankara, who flour-ished at the dawn of civilization and taught mankind the first lessons of a cultured life. Lord Rshabha-deva, the son of Nabhiraja and Marudevi, was a patriarch king of Ayodhya. Lord Rshabha-natha had many sons.among whom Bharata and Bahubali were very prominent.Bharata was the crown-prince and he succeeded his father to the throne of Ayodhya. By his prowess Bharata became the first universal monarch and due to his profound impact on the country, India came to be known as ” Bharatavarsha”, i.e., the land of Bharata. Bahu-bali was given the kingdom of ï¿½ Asmakaï¿½ form south India which he ruled from its capital seat at podanapura. In this way after dividing his kingdom among his sons, Lord Rshabha- deva retired to the Himalayas and adopted the Jaina ascetic way of life to teach mankind the path of salvation.
In course of time king Bharata was moved with an intense desire to establish his power as chakravarti ‘, i.e., Emperor. Bharata had in possession a wonderful ï¿½ chakraï¿½, i.e., discus, which could not be withstood by any warrior in fight. With the help of this ‘ chakra’, Bharata conquered all the countries in the six continents known at that time and returned to his capital Ayodya. But the ‘ chakra’, did not enter the capital. Bharata then took this as a sign that there was still another territory on earth which had not been conquered by him, and, after reflection, came to the conclusion that there was only the kingdom of Asmaka, ruled by his brother Bahubali, which had not been subdued by him.Bharata then declared war on hisbroher Bahubali and with his entire army marched towards podanapura, where Bahubali also had gathered his army and was prepared to meet his brother Bharata on the battle-field. When both the arimes were about to attack one another, the ministers of both the brothers stepped forward, prayed to their Lords not to fight and said, ” O Lords ! both of you are divine personalities and your bodies are invulnerable. Why should these innocent soldiers be massacred and driven to the jaws of death? You may kindly decide your superiority by a dual com-bat”, Ultimately the spirit of ‘ Ahimsa,’ i.e. , non ï¿½violence, trium ï¿½phed over ‘ Himsa’, i.e., violence, and both the contending brother Bharata and Bahubali, who were aslo naturally averse to any form of injury to any life, agreed to decide their ques-tion by three methods of rightous fight, viz.,
(i) Drishti- yuddho’, i.e., looking at each other without win ï¿½king,(ii) ï¿½Jal-Yuddha’, i.e., throwing water on each other’s face, and (iii) ‘Malla-yuddha’,i.e., wrestling. In all these three combats Bahubali became victorious and his army shouted with applause. Thereupon, Bharata lost his temper and resorted to his all powerful ‘ chakra’, with which he strov to kill his brother. But even this ‘chakra’ could do no harm to Bahubali. No doubt Bahuali remained unhurt, at least in body, yet in his heart he was surely grieved. Though Emperor Bharata felt humiliated, Bahubali was not elated in spite of his victory. Bahubali pitied his brother’s aggressive nature and the selfish ways of the world. He asked his brother to take over his kingdom and rule over it, renounced the world forthwith and adopted the life of a naked Jaina ascestic. Bharata made obei-sance to Bahubali and returned to Ayodhya. Bahubali, as an ascestic, was deeply engaged in meditation and was so much immersed in Dhyana’, i. e., self ï¿½concentration, that he became absolutely unconscious of the external world. An ant-hill grew up at his feet, and even creepers wound themselves around his legs and hands. Subsequently, Bahubali obtained absolute know-ledge and became the ‘kevali’, i.e., the Omniscient. All human beings on the earth, animals and birds gathered around Bahubali to pay homage and to hear His teachings. No less a person then Emperor Bharata became one of Bahubalis ardent devotees. Showing the Right path to the erring world , Bahubali be-came a Perfect soul and attained ‘Nirvana’, i. e., Salvation, on mount Kailasa. Later, the devotion of Bharata was so intense that he erected a standing colossal image of saint Bahubali in his memory at Podanapuar.The image was 525 bow ï¿½lengths in height. In course of time the region around the image having became infested with innumerable ‘ Kukkuta- sarpas’ (The ‘Kukk-uta-sarpa’ is a fowl with a serpant’s head and neck. It is the emblem of Goddess Padmavati’) or cockatrices, the statue came to be known as ‘Kukkutesvara’.
2. TRADITION ABOUT BAHUBALIï¿½S IMAGE
The knowledge of this colossal image of Bahubali erected by Emperor Bharata at Podanapura created an intense desire in the mind of devoted Chamunda ï¿½Raya to see it . As a result, Chamunda- Raya set out in search of it. But on his way at Sravana ï¿½Belagoala he was informed in a dream that the journey was beyond his power owing to the distance and inaccessibilty of the region, and that the same image of Bahubali would manifest itself on the larger hill at Sravana-Belagola by per-forming a particular feat. Accordingly, when Chamunda ï¿½Raya did the feat, the colossal image of Bahubali became visible on the summit of the vindhyagiri hill at Sravana- Be legola.
This traditional account of the discovery of the image is extremely interesting and has been given in detail by some classic works in sanskrit and kannada languages like :
1. ‘Bhujabali- sataka’ of 1550 A.D. written in Sanskrit by Doddaiya of Piriyapattana,
2. ‘Bhujabali ï¿½charite’ of 1614 A.D. written in Kannada by panchabana of Sravana ï¿½Belagola,
3. ‘Munivamsabhyudaya of about 1680 A.D. written in Kannada poems by chidananda-kavi,
4. ‘Gommatesvara- charite’ of about 1780 A.D. in kannada by Ananta-kavi,
5. ‘Rajavali ï¿½kathe’ of about 1838 A. D. in kannada by Devachandra, and
6.’Sthala-purana’ of 19th century A.D.in Kannada.
A well ï¿½known kannada poet, Panchakbana, in his ‘Bhujabali- charite ‘,gives the tradition about the image in detail. It states that Rshabha-deva or Adinatha had two sons, Bharata by his wife Yasasvati and Bhujabali or Bahubali by his other wife Sunanda. Bhujabali married Ichchhadevi and was the ruler of Podanapura. Owing to some misunderstanding there was a battle between the two brothers, in which Bharata was defeated. Bhujabali , however, renounced the kingdom and became an ascetic. Bharata had a golden statue, 525 ‘marus’ * in height, of Bhujabali made and set up Only the gods worshipped the image, the region having become inaccessible to human beings dute to ‘kukkuta-sarpas’ which infested it. A Jaina teacher, named, Jinasena, who visited southern Madhura, gave an account of the image at Podanapura to kalala-Devi, the mother of chamunda ï¿½Raya, who vowed that she would not taste milk until she saw Gommata or Bhujabali. Being informed of this by his wife Ajita-Devi, chamunda-Raya set out with his mother on his journey to podanapura. In the course of the journey, he stopped at sravana-Belagola, went up the smaller hill to pay homage to parsvanatha of the chandragupta ï¿½Basti and to the foot ï¿½prints of Bhadrabahu, and descended. The same night goddess Padmavati and god Brahma appeared to him in a dream and said , ” Around the god at Podanapura to a considerable distance ‘ Kukkuta-sarpas’ keep guard and will not allow anyone to approach. It is not therefore possible for A ‘ maru’ or ‘vyara’ is the measure of length equal to the space between the tips of the fingers of either hand when the arms are extended.