He was second of the 98 sons to Rishabha, traditional founder of Jainism. A man of great pride and ego, Bahubali gave up his empire exasperated after series of fights with his elder brother Bharata and intended to lead an ascetic life. To do so, he had to take vows and bow down before all others who had renounced their normal lives regardless of their age.
But Bahubali was adamant not to bow down before anyone and began meditating himself. His pride and ego prevented him from attaining enlightenment even after years of meditation. Remarks from his two sisters requesting him to step down from ‘The elephant’– Ego-made him realize his mistake, shed his ego and eventually attain Nirvava.
Owning to this background, Bahubali is considered as an Arihant (in Jainism) who had conquered anger, ego, greed and selfishness. And therefore, he is much revered.
A statue of Lord Bahubali was built under the supervision of General Chavundaraya of the Western Ganga Dynasty, many centuries ago. This massive structure at Shravanabelagola is considered as one of the largest monolith statues in the World.
Standing tall at 57 ft, the inscriptions on either side date back to 981 AD! The statue is believed to have been built somewhere between 978 and 993 AD.
Father of Bahubali, Rishaba is the first Tirthankara (Propagator). Jainism is said to have been propagated by 24 tirthankaras, which is inscribed as rock carvings at the entrance of the temple.
Once in 12 years, there is a grand festival called Mahamastakabhisheka celebrated here. During which Lord Bahubali is bathed in milk, curd, ghee, saffron and gold coins. Flowers are showered from helicopters. Millions of people come during the festival to pray and to watch the grand spectacle. The next one is in 2018 and I have made up my mind to be there already.
How to get here?
Well, from Bangalore, I took a bus that goes to Chikmagalur, got down at Channarayapatna, and then took a local bus to Shravanabelagola (fantastic scenic bus ride through villages). Climbed up the Vindayagiri hill and reached the temple. If you are not comfortable switching buses like I did, opt for the day tour ‘Shravanabelagola-Belur-Halebeedu’ organized by KSTDC.
If you are hungry after climbing up and down the 760 steps, try vegetarian meals at ‘Hotel Raghu’, a clean place with decent tasting food.