Gomatesvara, at 56 ft tall, is one big nekkid man. And he’s said to be the tallest monolithic statute in Asia — i.e., carved from a single rock. Moreover, he represents “the highest value of life, renunciation selflessness.” Gomata (aka Lord Bahubali, son of the first Jain Tirthankara Vrishaba Deva) stands atop a mountain in Sravanabelagola (a village west of B’lore), overlooking a “tank” (square, man made reservoir). In fact, the village name derives from the tank, “bela-kola” means white pond.
It’s very lovely – and quite the hike to scale the mountain to get to the top to view the statute. One must climb 641steps carved into the rock face. You can see the path winding up the mountain and glimpse Gomata standing serenely at the top (behind the big tree) from this photo:
And here is what the steps look like up close:
This whole mountain is a holy Jain* site, hence the climb must be done barefoot. But for those who do not which to hike you can hire 4 men to carry you up on a chair attached to poles, called a “doli” (which seemed even more life threatening than the uphill hike, in my estimation).
The site has been a holy place since 3rd Century BC, but the colossus was finished in 981AD. As I understand the story: Gomata and one of his brothers (the properly acknowledged hire) fought mightily over who would rule the kingdom. Even though he won, Gomata couldn’t bear hurting his brother, so he ended giving his brother the kingdom and went off to meditate. He stood still for so long in this yoga pose that ants built hills at his feet and vines started to grow on him. But he was still unsettled, since he was on what was now his brother’s land. One day his brother came by and acknowledged that the land was really his (Gomata’s) — in some versions it is said the brother actually returns the land– and in that moment Gomata attains enlightenment/Nirvana. (I am still a little blurry about which brother retained the property rights to the kingdom, but I suppose this doesn’t matter to someone who has attained Nirvana…)
*Jains accept the whole Hindu “pantheon”, but focus on the divine in humanity.
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