Bahubali defeated his elder brother who was puffed up with pride, but at that very moment understood his life's aim. He gave back the kingdom to his defeated brother and went away to meditate on God. He enriched the lives of his fellowmen with the light he received. The magnificent figure of Gommateshwara at Shravanabelagola in Karnataka State is that of Bahubali.
shravanabelagola in the Hassan district of Karnataka State is a sacred place of pilgrimage to Jains. There is a splendid and lofty statue of stone on the top of a hillock there. When one stands at its foot and looks up, one sees it against the vast sky; and one feels that the sky is the most appropriate background for that statue. The figure is lofty like the sky, and again, like the sky, has no equal. And the serenity of the face is unique.
This statue of Gommateshwara is carved out of a single stone. It is fifty-seven feet high. There is no statue of this height anywhere in the world, except in Egypt. In 981 A.D., Chavundaraya, the minister of the Ganga King Rachamalla had this statue carved. Bahubali is another name for Gommateshwara.
Bahubali is a great name in the Jain legends. His story is an example of the inner strength of the entire culture of India. He won everything from his brother and could have become an emperor; and yet, in utter selflessness he returned everything to the brother. Bahubali is the ideal man who conquers selfishness, jealousy, pride and anger. This is his story, the story of a great soul.
Jain religion speaks of twenty-four Theerthankaras. They were holy souls; they came to the earth in human form with a purpose. When evil and injustice grew strong in the world, they came to save men by their example and their preaching.
Vrishabhanatha was the first of twenty-four such Theerthankaras. He was Bahubali's father.
Before becoming a Theerthankara, Vrishabhanatha was a king. Ayodhya was his capital. Vrishabhanatha had two queens, Yashaswathi Devi and Sunanda Devi. There was peace, contentment and prosperity everywhere in his kingdom.
As time passed, the elder queen Yashaswathi gave birth to a hundred sons. The eldest was Bharatha. Later a daughter was born and she was called Sundari. The younger queen Sunanda Devi had only one son, Bahubali, and a daughter by name Brahmi.
The joy of the king and the queens, who had more than a hundred bonny children, knew no bounds.
Three or four years passed. It was time for the royal children to begin their education. Not one or two but a hundred of them were there, and so it was not easy to organize their education. The king himself taught them. He taught Bharatha dramatics and economics. Bahubali was taught medicine, weaponry, the lore of the horse and the elephant and some other branches.
The king taught all his sons like this, each according to his choice and aptitude.
Even as a boy Bharatha showed signs of becoming a great emperor. Bahubali was an expert in wrestling. His very name meant one with strong arms, that is, a man of great strength. He had a keen interest in warfare. In wrestling or in any other kind of duel with his companions, Bahubali was always the victor. He would forget himself in playing with elephant cubs. He was very brave. He was not afraid of anything.
Great was the delight of the parents as they watched the progress of their children.
Once it happened that Devendra, the Lord of Heaven, arranged in Vrishabha-natha's royal court, a dance by a nymph of his own court. The nymph's name was Neelanjane. Her performance was superb.
But as the dance was in progress, the nymph's life came to an end. She was about to fall; Devendra, with his divine power, made her continue, so that the king's enjoyment might not end abruptly. No one in that big gathering understood what had happened. But the king recognized the change.
That very moment he developed strong disgust towards life.
'So human life means only this!' the king thought, 'Nothing in this world is permanent. All things must die. Life is just like a bubble of water. Every thing is beautiful like a rainbow to outward view. And man's life is just like the rainbow; life too appears and then suddenly disappears. Nothing lasts forever.'
Vrishabhanatha decided that he had had enough of this kind of life. He resolved to give up his kingdom, his queens and his children, and go away to perform 'tapas', that is, to meditate on God.
A small, unexpected incident thus transformed the mind of King Vrishabhanatha.
The Regime of the Sons
If the king gives up his kingdom and goes away, others must take up his responsibilities.
Vrishabhanatha made his eldest son Bharatha the King of Ayodhya. He decided that Bahubali was to rule in Paudanapura. Vrishabhanatha gave smaller kingdoms to each of his other sons. He gave them this advice : "Rule justly and righteously Look after the welfare of your subjects with affection. And earn a good name." He blessed them all, gave up everything and went away to begin his tapas or meditation for the attainment of salvation.
His sons took up the responsibilities of their several kingdoms. Hadn't they been trained by Vrishabhanatha? So they ruled well and wisely. They lived in wealth and grandeur. The subjects were happy, cheerful and contented.
Many years passed.
One day Bharatha was on his throne in the royal court. Glad tidings came to him - that his father Vrishabhanatha had received 'Kevala Jnana' (the supreme knowledge that can see all and understand all). Just then another messenger ran in and gave another bit of happy news - which a potent missile had appeared in the king's armory. Bharatha was delighted and also astonished.
The discus or 'Chakra' was an extraordinary weapon. The supernatural power of this 'Chakra-ratna' would conquer any enemy, however strong. Its appearance was a good sign indicating that Bharatha would become an emperor.
Along with it certain other unique objects of great power also appeared in the royal armory. These were the 'Chatra-ratna', a great umbrella which would give protection to the army against ferocious storms, heavy rains and the burning sun; the 'Charmaratna' or the magic boat which would enable the army to cross rivers or the ocean in its march for conquest; the 'Danda-ratna', a magic staff which could easily make a road for the army through forests and hills ; and also the 'Kakini-ratna', the gem of gems, which could give very bright light even when it was pitch dark. In addition the king received the fourteen 'bests', like the best horse and the best elephant, each of unequalled excellence in its class. He also received the nine treasures. His was indeed great fortune!
Even as the news of the appearance of these great objects in his armory was brought to him, the king received the happy news of the birth of a son. The King's joy was boundless.
Bharatha who had reached the pinnacle of happiness, first went to visit his father who had acquired the supreme knowledge. People had thronged in large numbers to worship Vrishabhanatha. All the sons and daughters of Vrishabhanatha went there, and worshipped him with devotion. He spoke to them of the path of virtue. They listened to him in reverence and returned happily.
Soon after his return, Bharatha celebrated the occasion of giving his son a name. Then he worshipped with devotion the extraordinary and potent missile, the 'Chakra-ratna'.
Bharatha's Quest of Victory
The celebrations all ended, now. Bharatha resolved to march forth with his army to subdue other kings. He was himself a mighty warrior. And now he had so many unique acquisitions giving him tremendous power. Who could oppose him? Victory was just in the palm of his hand. All preparations were completed for the conquests. His entire army consisting of the infantry, the cavalry, the chariots and the elephants got ready. Before he set out, Bharatha worshipped the Lord and received blessings. The sound of the war-drums rent the air.
The King ascended his mighty chariot and set out to defeat all the kings. The army was huge like the ocean, and seemed to occupy all the earth. And all faces were bright with enthusiasm.
The 'Chakra-ratna' rolled on and the army followed it. The army first marched towards the east.
Bharatha's march was a garland of victories. Powerful kings like Magadha, Vijayardhakumara and Kritamala were defeated and they surrendered. Bharatha knew no defeat. All the monarchs who opposed him had to accept defeat, and to surrender, and offer Bharatha precious stones and other gifts and. tributes. The huge army marched on and on with resounding cries of victory.
Bharatha, who conquered all other monarchs of the world, became an emperor. Thus, with the help of the great 'Chakraratna', he marched from victory to victory and was now near the end of his journey. The victorious army with its joyful shouts proceeded towards Ayodhya.
And Bharatha thought 'Never before had there been a powerful king like me. There is none now to equal me, and there will never be one. Who can oppose me? I am verily the unquestioned emperor of all the earth!’
This thought gave rise to another: 'my name should live eternally in the minds of men. I must therefore have it carved on Mount Vrishabhachala. People of all ages should know that there was never another monarch like me.'
On the way he came to Mount Vrishabhachala. He wanted to have his name carved on it; but Bharatha found that there was no blank space at all on that huge and lofty mountain;
Before him had come and gone many thousands of emperors in this world. All of them had their histories recorded on this mount, each thinking that he was an unequalled king. The entire mountain was full of the stories of their conquests.
Bharatha had thought that there never had been, and there could never be another emperor as powerful, valiant and as great as he was. But he now saw that numberless were the emperors who had lived and paraded their glory like him! Vrishabhachala stood a witness to all their empty vanities. Bharatha now felt ashamed of his earlier pride and arrogance.
Still the desire to have his history carved persisted in him. So he had some of the earlier writings erased by means of his potent staff, the 'Danda-ratna', and using the great diamond 'Kakini-ratna' had the grand story of his conquests recorded in that space.
Then he went to his father Vrishabhanatha. He worshipped him and obtained his blessings. Finally he returned to the capital with all the gaiety of victory.
But Why So?
Great was the joy and excitement of Bharatha's subjects. The citizens made befitting preparations to welcome the victorious king and awaited his return. The sound of musical instruments filled the air.
Bharatha and his army were about to enter the portals of the city. But lo! The 'Chakra-ratna' which had all along been moving in advance, suddenly stopped!
Everyone was stunned. Princes and kings had trembled before this matchless weapon. It had so easily vanquished so many heroes unequalled till then. But now all of a sudden it had came to a dead stop! Everybody was bewildered. And Bharatha's mind was filled with anxiety and worry.
It was clear that there was still a rival whom he had not conquered. 'I have conquered the whole world; who then is this unknown foe? He asked himself perplexed. The Emperor who had known no defeat was stunned.
Bharatha had defeated all the enemies outside his kingdom. Still if the Chakra stopped outside the city, it naturally meant that there were enemies within.
Bharatha at once sent for the priest of his royal court and asked him, "Why has this 'Chakra-ratna' stopped at the gates of the city, though I have conquered all my foes in the world? Who is this enemy in my own kingdom?"
The priest pondered for a while and replied, "0 great King, with this all powerful wheel, any enemy can be subdued. No enemy has survived outside your kingdom. If there are any, they must be your own brothers. They think, 'We got our kingdom from our father just as Bharatha got his. We are in our kingdom. Why then should we bow to him?’ And of all of them, Bahubali has a strong sense of self-respect. He thinks that though you have become the emperor, he need not care, and is proud."
Hearing this, Bharatha could not contain his wrath. He shouted, "They must all come and surrender to me. Or else I shall show my strength in war." At once he had royal commandments written and sent to all his brothers. 'Everyone should come and surrender to me. Any one who fails should be prepared to fight' - so read the royal order.
All the one hundred brothers of Bharatha received his writ. Ninety-nine of them thought -'Of course, we can salute our eldest brother, who is like our father. But we cannot accept him as an emperor and be his vassals.' But the thought also came to them:
'Why fight with our own eldest brother for the sake of a kingdom?' They became disgusted with life. They gave up everything and went away to perform tapas with their father.
The news reached Bharatha. He was surprised. But in his heart he was full of admiration for their self-respect and their greatness. But there was one thought, which brought anxiety also. If these other brothers acted so, what about Bahubali ? He was strong, and had a strong sense of selfrespect. Would he surrender? Most certainly he would choose to fight!
Bharatha's expectation was not belied.
The messenger who went to Paundanapura met Bahubali. Bahubali's raidance surpassed that of Bharatha. With wonder and pleasure, the messenger prostrated before him, and then gave him Bharatha's message.
Until then Bahubali had been hearing of the valiant deeds of his brother Bharatha, and had been very happy. Bull the royal command brought by the messenger filled him with anger.
He said to the messenger, "Even if Bharatha is the Emperor of the entire world, he is not my overlord. Being in my kingdom, given to me by my father, I am not obliged to him. I can never be his humble vassal. I am ready for a war, if a war is forced on me."
The messenger carried the reply Bharatha.
Bharatha ordered his army to get ready for war. His entire army with its four wings marched on Paudanapura. As the huge army advanced with the potent 'Chakra' in the forefront the very sky was totally covered with the dust it raised.
The news of Bharatha's march reached Paudanapura. Bahuball also stood ready for war with his army. The two armies seemed poised to pounce on each other for mutual destruction.
The fight was about to commence. But meanwhile the wise and farsighted ministers of both sides met and had consultations. Bharatha and Bahubali were both unequalled heroes. If there was a war, neither could win until both the armies were entirely destroyed. If only the two brothers fought a duel accepting the outcome as decisive a terrible tragedy could be averted.
The Duel between the Brothers
The two ministers went first to Bharatha. They described the horrors of war. They appealed to him, "The two of you must agree to fight a duel, and prevent this tragedy." Bharatha was not happy – because this course would not give any chance to display the might of his great army. But he concealed his thought and agreed to the suggestion of the ministers.
The ministers then went to Bahubali and made the same request. Bahubali said, "Bharatha is proud that nobody in this world can defeat his army. So first his army has to be defeated, and then there can be any kind of duel."
The ministers would not leave it at that. They described the deaths of thousands and the suffering and the agony that would result if the two powerful armies clashed. "In a duel, victory and defeat will be decided without sorrow and death. Bharatha has already agreed to this suggestion. You must also be pleased to agree," they appealed to him again. Unable to disregard the words of the elders, Bahubali also agreed.
Bharatha and Bahubali were mighty heroes, and each seemed to excel the other. What a fight would this be-this duel between them!
Bharatha was confident thinking, 'I have conquered the entire world. Will it be difficult for me to overcome Bahubali T And Bahubali proudly thought, 'Defeating me is not as easy as defeating others.'
The trumpets of war blared. And the duel began.
This kind of fight is called 'Dharma -Yuddha' or moral war, because it prevents death and suffering on large scale.
In such a duel, first there is a battle of eyes. The two have to stare hard at each other without moving their eyeballs or bating the eyelids. The one whose eye moves first is taken as vanquished.
When the duel began between Bharatha and Bahubali, it looked as if each would suck the other through the eyes. Each glared at the other as if he would burn him. Finally Bahubali won.
The second stage was the water fight. In this, each had to splash water against the other with his hands. Bharatha and Bahubali entered a lake like two angry elephants. Bahubali was much taller than Bharatha. In the anger of defeat Bharatha threw the water with all his strength but the water would reach only Bahubali's chest. But the water splashed by Bahubali beat upon the face and head of Bharatha and increased his anger. Unable to bear the force of the splashes, Bharatha had again to accept defeat. He became more incensed.
Only one stage remained - a wrestling match. The desire to defeat Bahubali at least in this match raged in Bharatha.
The wrestling began. Both were masters of the art of wrestling. And both were determined and unyielding. It looked as if neither could be defeated. At last Bahubali once lifted up Bharatha high in the air. The onlookers trembled - would Bharatha dash the Emperor to the ground?
But Bahubali gently set his elder brother on the ground. As he touched the earth, Bharatha's body was trembling with anger at his own fate.
He, Bharatha, had subdued the whole world and had become the emperor; but now, as two armies looked on, he had been defeated by his own younger brother ! The shame of this defeat was intolerable. At once he turned to his powerful 'Chakraratna' and commanded: "Go forth and kill Bahubali!"
The blazing wheel flew towards Bahubali.
The two armies and the citizens shuddered. ' What has Bharatha done?' they thought, 'is this "Dharma-Yuddha"? After he has been defeated is it fair to use the "Chakra" against his brother? It will certainly kill Bahubali now. What injustice!' Wide - eyed and breathless, they looked on in terror.
The 'Chakra' approached
Bahubali. It went round him once, and came to a halt on his right side.
The people shouted in joy. The angels showered flowers from above.
Bharatha stood with his head bent.
Bahubali looked at him. This was Bharatha, the son of Vrishabhanatha, and the lord of the great 'Chakra-ratna', one who became Emperor by conquering many kings; and now he stood with his head bowed in shame, before the two armies. Pity welled up in Bahubali at his condition. All his anger melted away.
Bahubali reflected further. Bharatha and he were brothers, were brought up together, and had lived in afffection. But now they had fought with each other. Bharatha had made up his mind even to kill his younger brother. What was the cause of all this? For the sake of a kingdom men even forget that they are brothers, and also not hesitate to kill each other. beside, he felt, is evil. He grew weary of life.
'Keep the Kingdom'
Bahubali thought, 'I do not want this position. I do not want this desire. The best step is to give up everything and go to perform tapas.'
He prostrated before his elder brother Bharatha and said, "Kindly pardon me, brother. I did wrong to fight with you. I also put you to shame. I do not want this kingdom. Let it be yours. I shall go away to perform tapas, and wash off my sins. Please permit me."
Bharatha's desire to be the emperor, his anger and his obduracy - all evaporated.
He saw the nobility of his brother and he was filled with pain that he was going away to perform tapas. Tears rolled down his eyes and he raised his prostrating brother, and said, "Brother, I have sinned. Because of my pride and rashness, all the other brothers went away to perform tapas. If you also now go away, who will be with me? You are the only brother left to me. How can I live if you also go away? What do I do with this kingdom? I beg of you, do not go away from me." He held Bahubali's hands and implored him.
But Bahubali's mind was unmoved, in spite of the entreaties of many. He renounced everything and went to perform tapas.
Bahubali went to Vrishabhanatha and got initiated for tapas. He gave up even his clothing and stood completely naked in rigorous meditation. Many days rolled by. But he did not move from where he stood. He had no food or sleep. Big anthills grew around him and covered his entire body. Snakes crawled all over him. Various creepers entwined his limbs. Birds made their nests in the creepers. Bahubali's hair became matted. But Bahubali did not flinch. He stood firm, his naked body exposed to storm and rain, to lightning and thunder. With a will of iron he continued his severe meditation.
Many years passed but Bahubali did not receive the supreme and ultimate knowledge.
'Brother, Give Up Self-love'
Bharatha was now very perplexed that despite such severe tapas, Bahubali did not receive enlightenment. He went to his father Vrishabhanatha and asked him why it was so.
Vrishabhahatha said, "True it is that Bahubali ' has been performing the most exacting type of tapas. But he has not given up his self-love. He still has this thought - that he is standing on ground, which belongs to his brother, because he gave the entire kingdom to you, his elder brother. This sorrow haunts him. If he does not give up this pride, how can he get enlightenment?"
Bharatha then went to Bahubali. He prostrated before him and said, "Dear brother, give up this feeling that you are in my kingdom. Such a thought, too, is a kind of attachment. This kingdom is not mined. It is what you, the victor, gave back to me liberally. In a way this earth does not belong to anybody; it is nobody's property. Please renounce this thought of prestige, and continue the tapas."
Then, even the little thought of self in Bahubali's mind disappeared.
Once, earlier, the younger brother had destroyed the pride in the elder brother's mind. Now the elder cleansed the mind of the younger.
Bahubali continued his meditation without this thought of self. Then he got enlightenment. There was the glad sound of celestial drums. The people all praised Bahubali's greatness. They worshipped him with devotion. Listening to his teachings, they felt happy.
Bahubali went to many lands and taught people the way of righteousness. He showed them the way to lead meaningful lives. Finally, this ideal man attained salvation earlier than his father.
Bahubali, who was very valiant and full of self-love, could have himself become the emperor, having crushed his elder brother's pride. But he returned the kingdom to his brother. And he found out the true path for himself. He became a splendid soul, attaining salvation. He illumined the darkness in the minds of men with the light of his knowledge. He became a great saint praised by the whole world.
Emperor Bharatha wished that such a brother's fame should last for all time; he had a statue of Bahubali made of emerald in Paudanapura. It was worshipped with great grandeur.
It is said that the statue has sunk in the sea. There are statues of Bahubali now at Shravanabelagola,Venooru, Karkala, Shravanagudda, Bastihalli and Dharmasthala. The tallest and the most important is the magnificent statue at Shravanabelagola.The story of the installation of this image is interesting.
The Dream and the Image
Rachamalla of Ganga Dynasty was the King of Talavanapura.
Chavundaraya, his Prime Minister, was very intelligent, very brave and heroic, and devoted to God.
His mother was Kalaladevi and fat Mahabalaiah.
Once Kalaladevi heard from the priest a discourse on Sharatha and Bahubali. From the discourse it seemed that the emerald image of Bahubali which was got made by Emperor Bharatha was perhaps still in Paudanapura. She felt a keen desire to see that image. She vowed that she would not drink even a cup of milk until she saw the image.
Thousands of years had passed since Bharatha had that icon sculptured. Both the icon and Paudanapura had disappeared.
Even if they existed, there was no one who had seen them. People Said that they had become submerged in the sea or were perthaps in the midst of thick jungles full of fierce animals, where no human being could go. How could he get at that idol? Chavundaraya was worried. But Kalaladevi would not listen. Whatever the difficulties, she was determined to see that idol.
At last, Chavundaraya started with his mother and a few followers to find Paudanapura and satisfy his mother’s desire. There seemed no end to their journey. They could not find Paudanapura.
After a long journey, they came across a hill by name Chandragiri. They halted at the foot of the hill, and lay down to rest.
That night Chavundaraya had a dream.
A supernatural being by the name of Kushmandinidevi appeared to him in the dream. She said to him, "Human beings cannot see again the Bahubali idol got prepared by Bharatha, however hard they may try. Even Paudanapura will not be found. Instead of all this, if you stand just here on the hill and shoot a golden arrow at the peak of the Indragiri hill opposite, you can see Lord Bahubali."
At once Chavundraya did as he was asked to. He picked up his bow and arrow, aimed straight at the top boulder on Indragiri and shot the arrow. With a terrible sound, the huge stone split into two. Between the parts was a magnificent figure of Bahubali.
And what a beautiful statue!
But at that moment Chavundaraya woke up. When he opened his eyes there was nothing before him. He rubbed his eyes, and looked all round.
No, there was nothing. There was no Goddess, and no statue. It had all been a dream. Chavundaraya became very sad. ‘How nice it would have been if the dream were a reality!' he thought.
He narrated everything to his mother in the morning. All of them looked at Indragiri. There on the peak was a huge boulder, as in his dream. 'How wonderful it would be if I shot an arrow and the Lord appeard!' he thought. But how was it possible?
But soon the meaning of the dream was clear - that the figure of Lord Bahubali should ' be carved out of that same huge stone.
But, how could one go near that boulder? All around was the thickest forest. The place was full of pits and ravines, stones and thorny shrubs. How to cross all these? It looked impossible. But Chavundaraya did not lose heart. He determined that his mother's wish should be fulfilled at any cost. He resolved that whatever the difficulties, a statue of Bahubali should be sculptured there.
The people around came forward to help, and the work began. The pits and ravines were closed. Stones and shrubs were removed. Thus with great difficulty a path was cut to go upto the top of Indragiri.
And then, the statue had to be carved out of that boulder. Hundreds of sculptors from different parts of the country were invited by Chavundaraya. The boulder was piously worshipped by one and all. The work of sculpturing began at an auspicious time. Everyone worked day and night. It was extremely difficult to carry on the work in that jungle and amidst wild rocks. However, God's blessings strengthened human effort and a figure, such as Chavundaraya had seen in his dream, finally took shape.
A lofty and majestic statue of great beauty, fifty-seven feet high. A gentle smile on the face, and broad shoulders. Creepers with blossoms encircling the hands and feet. Tall ant-hills around the feet, and snakes peeping out of them. Such was the matchless statue, which took shape.
Chavunclaraya was proud that he had got such a beautiful figure carved. Kalaladevi was very happy that her wish was fulfilled. People gazed and gazed on the statue but could never feel satisfied. They danced with joy.
Chavundaraya's dream had come true. Lord Bahubali whom he had seen in his dream now stood before his eyes.
Millions of people gathered to see that magnificent figure. Every one praised that great wonder. Chavunclaraya now felt proud that he had accomplished what no one had been able to do before him.
A Cup of Milk
The statue was not be consecrated according to religious rites.
Chavundaraya performed the prescribed rites and ceremonies for the installation of the image. He also arranged the first ritual of the great ablution.
There is an interesting story about that. Hundreds of vessels full of milk were brought for the ablution of the statue. Vessel after vessel of milk was poured on the head of the lord's idol. The head was bathed, the face became wet, and the neck and chest also. But - No matter how much milk they poured on the head, the figure was not completely bathed. They poured more milk, and still more milk, but all that milk was absorbed at the navel.
A thousand years have passed since this image was installed. And the majestic and benevolent figure still stands atop the hill, with the vast sky as its background -reminding generations of human beings of the heights which man can reach if he gives up selfishness, desire and pride