GOMATAGIRI - unspoilt - or neglected
Reading newspaper reports of the mastakabhisheka performed in Gomatagiri last week, i couldn't help reminiscing about my many trips to the place.
Standing in the middle of almost nowhere on the Mysore- Hunsur road near the hamlet of Bilikere, this smaller version of Bahubali closely resembles the famous granite colossus at Shravanabelagola, but vastly neglected .
We have always had a soft corner for this 'poor cousin' and have dragged many a visiting guest to view it , as it gave us a measure of pleasure to share our little, unsung curio with people who had never heard of it. It used to be like a little secret treasure.
The setting itself could not be more forlorn. Acres of semi arid land open to the assault of elements. An outcrop of sturdy yellowish granite , bald and rugged. On the crest of this little hillock, which may be about a 100 ft. high, an old crumbly shrine with no roof. Approximately 80 rough steps ,gouged out in a careless fashion , lead to the narrow doorway of the four walled enclosure inside which stands an 18 ft. high black monolithic Bahubali. Erect, meditative, with creepers coiling around the limbs. The only detail different from the Gomata of Shravanbelagola is the pair of hooded serpants flanking the figure. The serpants are positioned upright and this is said to be unique in such statuary. It is said that Gomata figures represents the triumph of spirit over the physical , embodiments of renunciation and peace.
Nothing is known of the history of Gomatagiri. There are no inscriprtions to throw any light on the king or chieftain who put it up.
Jainism was once the predominant faith in Karnataka and Jina basadis were found extensively. Many were later converted into Hindu temples. Many more just fell into disuse. Jina Murthis - or statues of thirthankaras - routinely turn up at excavations in many places to this day.
In karnataka, five Gomatas are considered important for their antiquity and size. They stand in Shravanabelagola (1000 yrs. old), Karkala ( 400 yrs. old), Venur ( 300 yrs. old), Dharmasthala and Gomatagiri ( 700 yrs. old).
Climbing Gomatagiri ( also called Shravanagudda) is not very strenuous, but a bit tricky, because the steps are merely scooped out and in no user friendly planes. There are railings to hold on to only at the very top. The monolithic Statue fills up the rather small chamber . There is a Dwajasthamba ( flagpost) near the base of the hill.
The view from the top is enchanting. The backwaters of the Krishnarajasagar Reservoir is visible in the horizon. Its very quiet and peaceful up there, because it is far from the highway. Patches of cultivated land and some groves dot the landscape.
More recently, a religious hostel, a series of Footprints of Thirthankaras and some small shrines have sprung up around the hillock.
This Gomata was neglected and almost forgotten for a long time and it was only in 1947 that Mastakabhisheka ceremonies were initiated. The function takes place annually during September- October. It is only during this time that the place sees some life and activity, while for the rest of the year, Gomata is left to his serene meditative silence and solitude.
It was disheartening to hear a few years ago that some outfit had started quarrying granite in the vicinity of this ancient hillock. The frequent blasting is telling on the ancient hillock. Cracks are reported to have developed in its rockfaces . The Jain Mutt, in charge of the shrine , have been making many petitions to the government to contain the menace, but so far there seems to have been no useful response.
I got more concerned when a couple of months ago i saw realtors advertising residential layouts in Gomatagiri ! Will human neighbours bring cheer to the beloved Bahubali or will he close his eyes tighter in despair thinking : "there goes the neighbourhood!"