The Story Of Gommateshwar Bahubali

Based on 'The Story Of Lord Bahubali' and 'The Great Head Bathing Ceremony', by Duli Chandra Jain, Jain Study Circular, April 1981, and 'Story of Bahubali And Bharat' by Kushal Jain, Jain Study Circular, July 1982.

According to the Jain literature, Bharat and Bahubali were two of the sons of Bhagwaan Rishabh Dev, the first TEERTHANKAR of this epoch. When Bhagwaan Rishabh Dev renounced his kingdom, he gave a portion of it to each one of his sons. Bharat and Bahubali also received their shares.

A few years later, Bharat decided to become the supreme ruler of the world (CHAKRAVARTI). He demanded that all other kings should accept his supremacy. All the kings, including his brothers except Bahubali conceded. However, Bahubali challenged Bharat. The armies of Bharat and Bahubali faced each other, ready to fight. The ministers of Bharat and Bahubali were worried about the bloodshed. Therefore, they counseled that the two brothers should engage in hand-to-hand combat to determine the winner. Bahubali and Bharat agreed.

The first round was a water-duel between Bharat and Bahubali. They stood in the knee-deep water of a river and sprayed each other with water. Bahubali won the round. The next round was a sight-duel. The two brothers stood in the sun, staring at each other. The one who blinked first was to lose the round. Again, Bharat lost. The final round was wrestling. A huge crowd had gathered. The supporters of each were cheering. In the course of the duel, Bahubali picked up Bharat. Carrying Bharat above his head, he whirled him in air as he paced the ring. Bahubali's supporters were very happy and excited. Bahubali was close to becoming the supreme ruler of the world. At that moment, he thought that he was about to hurt and humiliate his own brother for the sake of name and fame. He contemplated, "Such pride is false. What good is being a king or a supreme ruler of the world? Such desires are endless. Fulfillment of such desires cannot lead to peace of mind." He gently put Bharat down on his feet. He renounced his kingdom, and, started on the path to true happiness and peace of mind.

Bahubali spent many years in meditation and penance. According to legend, he stood meditating for such a long time that anthills formed on the ground where he stood, snakes lay coiled at is feet, and creepers grew around them. But he did not attain omniscience (KEVAL JNAAN) because he had one straining conceit (SHALYA) in his mind. He was thinking that he was standing on the ground owned by his brother Bharat. For this reason, he could not shed the knowledge-obscuring, perception-obscuring, deluding and obstructing karmas that influence the soul. When Bharat came and consoled him, his mental strain vanished and he attained omniscience and NIRVANA.

Bhagwaan Bahubali was a great soul and his story enlightens our lives. Chamundrai, the prime minister of King Rachmalla II of Ganga dynasty, built a colossal statue of Bhagwaan Bahubali. It was consecrated under the guidance of the great Acharya Nemi Chandra Siddhant Chakravarti in 981 A.D. Chamundrai was also called Gommat and therefore the statue is called Gommateshwar. Chamundrai was a staunch follower of Acharya Nemi Chandra Siddhant Chakravarti. The two scriptural texts composed by Acharya Nemi Chandra Siddhant Chakravarti are entitled 'GOMMATASAAR JEEVAKAND' and 'GOMMATASAAR KARMAKAND'.

The colossal statue of Gommateshwar stands 58 ft 8 in on the hill Vindhyagiri at Shravanabelgola near Mysore. It is the tallest known monolithic statue in the world carved out of a single huge granite boulder. In fact, the statue is part of the hill, sculpted by removing portions of the hilltop. The statue includes creepers, coiled snakes and anthills. The celebrated scholar, Kaka Kalelkar, describing the fact that it is nude, observed that the sculptors could easily extend the creepers to cover the nudity, but it would not have done justice to what Bhagwaan Bahubali represented. Every twelve to fourteen years, the Great Head Bathing Ceremony (MAHA MASTAKAABHISHEK) of the statue is celebrated. The 1000th anniversary of the statue was observed between February 19 and 24, 1981, and the Great Head Bathing Ceremony was performed. In the March 16, 1981 issue of the TIME Magazine, the correspondent rightly observed, "The Great Head Bathing brings no absolution from sin. It propitiates no gods. ... Most important it does not help remove the oppressive cumulative weight of individual misdeeds known ... [as] KARMA. ... While the Hindus offered ritual, meditation and devotion to gods, the other two religions (Jainism and Buddhism) taught that KARMA and reincarnation could be escaped through the willed elimination of ego and desire."

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A prayer to Gommateshwar Bahubali composed by Acharya Nemi Chandra Siddhant Chakravarti is presented below. The prayer, a literary composition, conveys some basic teachings of Jainism.

 

A Prayer To Gommateshwar Bahubali

by Acharya Nemi Chandra Siddhant Chakravarty

English adaptation by Manish Modi, Mumbai, India

 

His eyes are like lily petals,

his face fair as the moon and

nose more attractive than the champak flower;

so I bow in obeisance to Bhagwaan Gommateshwar.

 

He is shielded by purity, cheeks pure as water,

his ears hang gracefully to his shoulders,

and his strong arms, long like an elephants tusks;

so I bow in obeisance to Bhagwaan Gommateshwar.

 

His neck surpasses the conch in beauty,

his shoulders wide as the Himalayas,

his waist firm and spectacular;

so I bow in obeisance to Bhagwaan Gommateshwar.

 

His presence atop the Vindhyas is

the acme of all that is excellent,

like the full moon that gives joy to the world;

so I bow in obeisance to Bhagwaan Gommateshwar.

 

Creepers climb on his body, which is like

a wish yielding tree for all aspirants;

his auspicious feet adored by the heavenly beings;

so I bow in obeisance to Bhagwaan Gommateshwar.

 

He is naked and beyond fear

pure of mind, he has no use for clothes;

and pays no heed to the coiled snakes;

so I bow in obeisance to Bhagwaan Gommateshwar.

He looks not at the outside world;

this reflects purity of perception;

he has conquered all passions and desires

by defeating his brother, Bharat, the supreme ruler;

so I bow in obeisance to Bhagwaan Gommateshwar.

 

Unhindered by temporal possessions,

imperturbable equanimity,

banishing false pride and avarice

he fasted for a year and more, conquering hunger;

so I bow in obeisance to Bhagwaan Gommateshwar.

 

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