Located in south Karnataka, they are testimony to the region once being a strong bastion of Jainism

While all eyes are on the monolithic statue of Gomateshwara in Shravanabelagola for Mahamastakabhisheka held once in 12 years, there are other statues of the revered Jain monk, a few of which are virtually unknown.

A case in point is the statue at Artipura, also called Bastipura or Basadi Tippur, near Kokkrebellur in Maddur taluk of Mandya district. While the statue at Shravanabelagola stands tall measuring 57 ft and is universally known, vying for the UNESCO world heritage tag, the one at Artipura is obscured to the world presenting a picture of contrast. Almost diminutive in comparison measuring about 10 ft in height, it came to light only in the recent decades and has kindled the interest of archaeologists.

N.S. Rangaraju, a retired professor from the Department of Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Mysore, told The Hindu that the Bahubali or Gomateshwara at Artipura predates the statue at Shravanabelagola. “One is a visual wonder depicting maturity of art, the other is a prototype, and the first step in the evolution of an art that reached its pinnacle in Shravanabelagola,” he added. Having explored and studied some of the lesser-known statues of Bahubalis in the State, Prof. Rangaraju said there are at least 10 statues and idols of Gomateshwara and interestingly, all of them are located in south Karnataka. He attributed this to the Jain influence in the region while pointing out that even historically, south Karnataka was a strong bastion of Jainism. It is established that Chandragupta Maurya, who reigned from 322 BC to 298 BC, abdicated his throne and followed his guru Bhadrabahu from Pataliputra to Shravanabelagola where he died. Later, this region was under the Gangas and the Hoysalas who were strongly influenced by Jainism.