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Scant attention for a 16-ft giant

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CRYING FOR ATTENTION: Gommateshwara statue at Gommatagiri in Hunsur (left) and the damaged portion.
CRYING FOR ATTENTION: Gommateshwara statue at Gommatagiri in Hunsur (left) and the damaged portion.

Quarrying has damaged the left foot and ankle of the statue at Gommatagiri

It is not as celebrated as its illustrious counterpart at Shravanabelagola, the 58-ft statue of Gomateshwara atop the Vindyagiri hills. But the 13th century statue of Gomateshwara at Gommatagiri, which measures about 16 feet, is no less impressive. Located off Yelwal on Mysore-Hunsur Road about 24 km from Mysore, this is the only statue of Gomateshwara in the country where the anointment ceremony or mastakabhisheka is held every year. Sadly, it has received scant attention from the Government which is lobbying to secure UNESCO’s World Heritage Site status for the statue at Shravanabelagola but has not ensured even minimum conservation for the statue at Gommatagiri. Illegal granite quarrying surrounding the hillock has damaged the left foot and ankle of the statue which could crumble if steps are not in place to protect it. While nearly Rs. 150 crore was spent for the Mahamastakabhisheka at Shravanabelagola, nothing has been spent for the upkeep of this statue on the 50-metre high hillock at Gommatagiri. An expert committee comprising officials of the Department of Mines and Geology surveyed the area two years ago and cautioned that the statue would collapse if the hillock was not strengthened. Their report suggested that the hillock needs to be strengthened at the base by providing some sort of “abetment”. But no measure is in place so far, according to Suresh Kumar Jain, an industrialist who is involved in the mastakabhisheka celebrations. Though the district administration issued a notification banning quarrying activity in the area, blasting continues to be reported from its vicinity and the statue of Gomateshwara or Bahubali remains exposed to its effects. Despite its isolation and relatively small size, local Jain people believe that the statue was created by the same sculptors responsible for the Gomateshwara statue at Shravanabelagola as both have a striking resemblance. However, art historians say the statue is an early Vijayanagar creation and is reckoned to belong to the 12th or the 13th centuries.

R. Krishna Kumar in Mysore

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