Jain World

Sub-Categories of Passions - The Sacred Sravana - Belagola






          The colossal image of Gommatesvara is a monolithic statue carved out of living rock on the top of the Vindhyagiri hill at Sravana-Belagola as it was quite impossible to transport a granite mass of such huge size up the hill.  The image is carved in fine grained light-gray granite.

          The height of the image is about 57 feet, and it is an unmistakable landmark for miles around.  Such large image sculptured in stone ae not uncommon in India, Tibet, Burma and other places outside India, wherever Buddhism and Jainism flourished and wielded their influence.  But this image of Gommatesvara happens to be the largest of such images found not only in India but in the entire world and at the same time most beautiful and best preserved since its installation and consecution strictly in accordance with the Jaina rituals one thousand years ago.

          The image of Gommatesvara is nude and stands erect facing north.  The standing position is according to the �Kayotsarga� or Khadgasana� posture of practicing penance generally prevalent amount the Jaina ascetics from  ancient times.  In this posture the person has to stand erect in a motionless condition with legs nearly touching each other, with both arms fully stretched and invariably kept hanging near the knees, with �nasikagra drishti� i.e., open eyes looking continuously in the direction of the tip of the nose and with complete engrossment in medition and self-contemplation.  Even a slight deviation in theposture is not permitted irrespective of the severe physicals strains involved and of the encroachments and attacks of the living creatures from outside.  Naturally the figure of Gommatesvara is treated conventionally, the shoulders being very broad and the arms hanging straight down the sides, with the thumbs turned upwards.  The waist is comparatively small and from the knee downwards the lags appear to be somewhat dwarfed.

          The face of the image is a remarkable one, with a serene expression.  The hair is curled in short spiral ringlets all over the head, while the ears are long and large.  This majestic image is most grand and impressive due to sublime meditative expression.  The sculptor, whoever he was, was most skillful in drawing from the blank rock such wonderful contemplative expression touched with a faint winning smile as is seen on the face of the image.

          The image has no support above the thighs.  Upto that point it is represented as surrounded by ant-hills, from which emerge serpents; and a climbing plant twines itself round both legs and both arms, terminating at the upper part of the arm in a cluster of berries of flowers.  According to the Jainas the plant is �Madhavi� ( i.e. �Gaertera recemosa� ), a large creaper with fragrant white flowers, which springs up and blossoms in the hot weather. It appears to be known as �Kadu-gulagunji, in Kannada and �Madhavi� in Hindi and Marathi.

          The pedestal of the image is designed to represent an open lotus, and upon this the artist worked a scale corresponding to three feet four inches, which was probably used in laying out the work.  The outstanding thing about this scale engraved near the left foot of the image is that corresponds  with the French metre.  That is way B. Lewis Rice states That �the use of this scale in the tenth century would form an interesting subject for enquiry�. This scale is shown divided into equal halves in the middle, where there is a mark resembling a flower.  According to some old residents of the place this measure, when multiplied by eighteen, gives the height of the image; but they cannot give any satisfactory reason for multiplying it by eighteen.  According to others measure represents the length of a bow, but the length of bow is supposed to be three and a half cubits and not three feet four inches.

          Owing to the great height of the image and the want of any point sufficiently elevated from which to take a picture of it, most of the representations fail to give a good idea of the features of the face, which are most perfect artistically. The face with its wonderful contemplative expression is touched with a faint smile which  Gommata gazes the struggling world below.

          The sprit of Jaina renunciation is fully brought out in this image.  The nudity of the image indicates absolute renunciation, while its stiff and erect posture suggests perfect self-control.  The smile on the face shows the inward bliss and sympathy for the suffering world.  In every sense, the image looks majestic and impressive.

          The majesty and the beauty of this great image has kindled the imagination of many a Kannada poet,  of the past and present, to sing praises of it in beautiful poetry.  For example, the Jaina poet Boppanna,  also known as Sujanottamsa, composed a short Kannada poem in praise of Gommata.  This poem has been engraved on a stone to left of the doorway of the Gommatesvare temple and this inscription No. 234 at Sravana-Belagola is dated 1180 A.D. This poem, inscribed on stone, gives particulars abut the life of Gommata and the  setting u of the image of Gommata by Chamunda-Raya and then bestows his praise on the image of Gommata thus :

          �When an image is very lofty, it may not have beauty; when possessed of loftiness and real beauty, it may not have supernatural power : loftiness, real beauty, it may not have supernatural power being all united in it, how worthy of worship in the world is the glorious form, comparable to itself, of Gommatesvara Jina ? When it is said that Maya ( the artist of the gods), Indra ( though posses of 1000 eyes ) and the lord of serpents (though possessed of 2000 tongues ) are unable respectively to draw a likeness, to take a full view and to undertake the praise of it, who else could then be able to do that and to undertake the praise of matchless form of wondrous beauty of the southern Kukkustsvara ? The famous world of the  Nagas always forming the foundation, the earth the base, the points of the of the gods above the towers, and the cluster of brilliant stars the inner broad jewal-awning, the three worlds enlightened by Jina�s sayings have thus become the abode to Gommatesa.

          Is the of matchless beauty ? He is Cupid.

          Is the mighty ? He is the conqueror

                   Of the Emperor Bharata.

          Is he liberal? He gave back the whole

                   Earth though he had completely

                   Conquered it.

          Is he free from attachment? He is

                   engaged in penance and contents

                   himself with the two feet of

                   earth under his two feet.


          Is he possessed of perfect knowledge?

                   He had destroyed the bonds

                   of �Karma�

          This said, how exalted is Bahubalis? No man shall take pleasure in killing , laying, stealing, adultery and covetousness; if he does, he will lose for ever this world and the next: 10: Gommatesvara looks as if proclaiming this standing on high.  The anthills and the pressing and entwining creepers on the body looking as if the earth and creeper-like women owing to their grief came and tightly embraced him, saying, �Why have you forasken us ? �, the state of Gommatadeva�s intense application to penance was worthy to be honored by the lords of serpents, gods and sages.�

           Like  the native poets, the foreigners were also immensely impressed by the characteristic features of the colossal image of Gommata.  The foreign travellers, W. H. Workman, and W. J. Workman, record their views in their travelogue, �Through Twon and Jungle� thus :

          �It is probable that Gommata was cut out of the boulder which rested on the spot, as it would have been a work of great difficulty to transport a granite mass of this size up the oval hillside.  It is larger any of the statues of Rameses in Egypt.