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Gommatagiri statue crying for attention

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ENDURING HARDSHIP: Poor facilities greet pilgrims visiting Gommatagiri near Mysore. PHOTO: M.A. SRIRAM
ENDURING HARDSHIP: Poor facilities greet pilgrims visiting Gommatagiri near Mysore. PHOTO: M.A. SRIRAM

Special Correspondent

Statue of Bahubali threatened by quarrying around the hillock

Striking resemblance between Bahubali statues at Shravanabelagola, GommatagiriAlmost half of the pilgrims visiting Shravanabelagola will come to GommatagiriNo approach road, drinking water or toilet facilities at the pilgrimage centre

MYSORE: As the Gomateshwara monolith at Shravanabelagola continues to receive universal attention in view of the Mahamastakabhisheka, its lesser-know counterpart in Mysore languishes in neglect.

Even as efforts are on to secure UNESCO's World Heritage Site status for the world's tallest monolithic statue by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), no step is being taken to at least conserve the impressive 12th Century statue at Gommatagiri in Hunsur taluk. For quarrying around Gommatagiri has endangered the statue, which has developed cracks and risks crumbling.

Located about 24 km away from Mysore, the statue of Bahubali at Gommatagiri has a striking resemblance to its celebrated counterpart at Shravanabelagola, the difference being in size with the former not more than 20-ft tall while the latter measures 58 ft.

However, its small size has not diminished its popularity and the statue at Gommatagiri is famous as a tourist centre. Devout Jains from all over India frequent the place for pilgrimage. A unique feature of the Bahubali at Gommatagiri is the annual Mastakabhisheka that takes place here unlike once in 12 years at Shravanabelagola.

What has not struck the authorities is that almost half the Jains who will congregate at Shravanabelagola are expected to visit Gommatagiri. Suresh Kumar Jain, an industrialist and member of the Mahamastahabhisheka Committee, told The Hindu that over 30 lakh tourists and pilgrims are expected to converge at Shravanabelagola of whom at least 15 lakhs are sure to visit Gommatagiri.

"But the Government has failed to anticipate this and not a single paisa has been spent or earmarked for developing Gommatagiri. There is no approach road and once you reach the place, there is neither drinking water nor toilets," Mr. Jain said and lamented the apathy of the authorities.

During the last Mahamastakabhisheka at Shravanabelagola in 1993, lakhs of pilgrims visited Gommatagiri near Mysore and were forced to sleep on the pavements and roads. Many even spent the night in gardens and open spaces around the Town Hall. Though we have made arrangements at Nanjanraja Bahadur Choultry this time, it is a token gesture as only a miniscule number of pilgrims of the 1.5 million people can be accommodated," Mr. Jain said.

Blessing

Jains in the city represented by Gommatagiri Seva Samithi president Prabha Mandal have expressed the hope that the great anointment at Shravanabelagola will come as a blessing to Gommatagiri and the area will be developed and conserved. But though the Government has spent over Rs. 150 crores in Shravanabelagola, nothing is being done to develop Gommatagiri.

Local Jains had nurtured the hope that at least the statue of Bahubali would receive attention and quarrying would be banned.

But their hope has been bellied. "Though quarrying has been banned officially, we get calls from priests and pilgrims that the area surrounding the statue is blasted by dynamites by quarry owners," Mr. Jain said.

Meanwhile, a review committee comprising officials of the Department of Mines and Geology has carried out a study of the statue at Gommatagiri and submitted a report stating that if the hillock is not strengthened, the statue is bound to collapse.

The joints supporting the hillock have widened because of the blasts and the hillock needs to be strengthened by providing "abetment" from the western side. Situated on a diversion road from Bilikere and about 12 km. from Yelwal, the statue at Gommatagiri is atop a 50-metre hillock and is reckoned to be an early Vijayanagar creation in granite.

Though its origin is shrouded in mystery, Jains believe this to be the contemporary of the Shravanabelagola statue, given the striking similarities between the two works.

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