Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Early Planning: Bahubali of Western India.

You've heard of the mysterious people who built Stonehenge, the Egyptians who constructed the Pyramids and the mighty Aztec civilization who built immense religious structures. Each of these civilizations had vast and massive undertakings to worship who they believed were the gods. But what else is out there that you haven't heard about? Take a moment and view this image with a sense of awe and wonder at the accomplishment.

These are the 620 steps one must take to reach Bahubali, a colossal 57-foot tall sculpture crafted in the 10th century in Western India. To this day it remains one of the largest freestanding sculptures in the world. From to Britannica Encyclopedia...

According to the traditions of the Indian religion Jainism, the son of the first Tirthankara (Ford-maker, i.e., saviour) Rishabhanatha. He is said to have lived many millions of years ago.

After winning a duel with his half-brother for control of the kingdom, Bahubali is believed by the Jains to have realized the transience of temporal affairs and renounced the world. According to legend he then stood immobile, with feet straight ahead and arms at his side, meditating for an entire year in the Yogic position of kayotsarga (“dismissing the body”). He was so unmindful of the world around him that vines grew undisturbed up his arms and legs and anthills rose around his feet. His meditation led him to true victory over human passion and, according to Digambara belief, enabled him to become the first human of this kalpa (world age) to gain liberation.

Several works of sculpture depict Bahubali, including an outstanding 9th-century bronze in the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India in Bombay. A colossal 10th-century sculpture stands atop a hill at Shravana Belgola (“White Lake of the Ascetics”), a centre for the Digambara sect in Karnataka state. Cut from a single block of gneiss, the figure stands 17.5 metres (57 feet) high and is one of the largest freestanding images in the world. Every 12 years, in one of the greatest Jain rites, the entire image is ceremonially bathed in curd, milk, and ghee before crowds of nearly a million people

Here is a map of where the Bahubali is located in Western India:

View Larger Map

Imagine the care and effort it would take to assemble a project like this. Consider the planning that would have to precede such an endeavor. How did they create, move and place these 620 individual slabs of stone? How were the people able to bring such an enormous amount of weight to the top of the hill to build such a piece of work? How many hundreds, if not thousands, of people were involved in this process? And all of it was in reverence to what we today would consider a primitive religion.

Yet think of it today--our society does this all the time. People spend thousands on Ebay for a piece of toast because it has the burnt image of Mary. Even here in Ohio we have that gawdy piece of gargantuan kitsch on I-75, lovingly known as "Touchdown Jesus". The people in this country--and all over the world, too--are doing the exact same things they did over a thousand years ago. The only difference is back then they built them to last.

While not a work as grand as the pyramids, the Bahubali is still an excellent example of the early minds of planners and engineers. In some ways we have come so far in a thousand years...and in other ways we haven't even budged.