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Views in Mysore. Shevana Bala Gola [Sravana Belgola]. The Jain statue

Views in Mysore. Shevana Bala Gola [Sravana Belgola]. The Jain statue

Photographer: Lyon, Edmund David

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1868

Shelfmark: Photo 212/6(5)

Item number: 21265

Genre: Photograph

Photograph from an album of 40 albumen prints by Edmund David Lyon. Sravanabelagola, in the Hassan district of Karnataka, is a site sacred to Jains and renowned for the 10th century monolithic granite figure of the Jain saint Bahubali on Vindhyagiri hill, the tallest free-standing sculpture in the world.

Bahubali meditated in the forest before attaining self-knowledge and reputedly was oblivious to anthills and vines growing about his legs whilst in this state. In his 'Notes to Accompany a Series of Photographs Prepared to Illustrate the Ancient Architecture of Southern India' (Marion & Co., London, 1870), edited by James Fergusson, Lyon wrote of this close-up view of the statue, known locally as Gomateshvara: 'After entering the doorway in the outer wall, the ascent is easy, steps being made to the top of the rock. Here there is a flat space on which the wall and porches round the inner enclosure are built. The view from the top over many miles of the surrounding country is magnificent. There is a large porch opposite the entrance, where the visitor must leave his shoes, and unless he has come provided with slippers made of list, must enter barefooted. The figure exactly faces the entrance. It represents the Jain God Gomateswara, and is cut out of one single boulder, is 60 feet high, and 25 feet across the shoulders. If the inscriptions were copied, they could easily be read, as the characters are perfectly known. They probably might contain something indicating a date. In the meanwhile, however, Colonel Mackenzie got two dates from this place; one, 1121, the other, 1126, which from the style, as well as what we know of the history of the country, is most probably the date of this statue. There is another, very similar, at Carculla, but only 28 feet high, which bears the date of 1431. This at least would show that the age above given, is, if anything, too ancient, but as we have no Photograph of the latter, we cannot feel sure of its style. It will be observed that the fore-finger of the left-hand is shorter than the others, and the story goes that just as the sculptor was putting the finishing strokes to his work, the colossus began to move, and terrified beyond measure at the idea of such a monster being let loose on earth, he struck at it with his hammer, and broke off the fore-finger of the left-hand; and thus the image, being maimed, remained lifeless and stationary for ever. No one is allowed to approach it closer than the rails. The two odd-looking mounds on each side of its legs are supposed to represent the curious mounds thrown up by the white ants in making their nests'.

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