2 Bahubali Gomateshwara Statues At Karkala & Venur


Bahulbali – the two films made the characters popular. I had just watched the films and wondered where the word Bahubali came from. I did not have to go too far. A family wedding took me to Mangalore – met the two Bahubali Gomateshwara statues at Karkala and Venur. That was a trigger to explore his history and popularity of him in South India.

Bahubali Gomateshwara Statue, Karkala, landscape view
Bahubali Gomateshwara Statue, Karkala, landscape view

The name literally means the one with strong arms. Yes, that is what the WhatsApp joke saying Neil Armstrong was none other than Neelendra Bahubali refers to.

So, come with me to meet the two giants near Mangalore.

Who is Bahubali?

He was the son of the first Jain Tirthankara – Rishabhnath or Adinath. It is said that Adinath had 100 sons. But Bahubali and Bharat Chakravartin were the two main contenders to his legacy. Adinath divided his kingdom and gave the northern kingdom to Bharat who ruled from Ayodhya or Ayodhyapuri. It is also referred to as Vinita in some texts. The southern kingdom was given to him.

When Bharat tried to be the Chakravarti or the king who rules all four directions, he went around the world and conquered all kingdoms. However, he still had to win his brother’s. All brothers except he conceded. The two brothers then fought in all kinds of ways and Bahubali was the winner.

However, as soon as he won he was dejected. He felt guilty for defeating his own elder brother. He went to Mount Kailash and meditated in a standing position on the mountain. And he was so still that vegetation and ant hills grew around his legs and his body became part of the place he was standing on. A year later his brother Bharat came and prayed to him – at which point he was liberated of his guilt. Metaphorically, he won over his own vices and attained the ultimate knowledge. He was liberated and he became a Siddha.

Gomateshwara statue at Karkala
Gomateshwara statue at Karkala

It is his liberation that is celebrated in various tall monolithic statues dedicated to Gomateshwara. What is interesting is that most of these statues exist in Karnataka – a state that is home to many Jain temples, Basadis, and Gomateshwara statues.

A standing posture of his is known as Kayotsarga. Jain Tirthankaras can be seen in two postures while meditating – sitting in a lotus pose or Kayotsarga.

Bahubali Gomateshwara statue at Karkala

After exploring the Jain Kashi or Moodbidri we headed to Karkala. We climbed the huge rock on which the Gomateshwara statue is located. The rock has been cut to create steps for the visitors. You can also climb the rock if you want.

Carved steps on rocky hill at Karkala
Carved steps on a rocky hill at Karkala

There are about 500 steps to climb – being small steps, they are not very difficult to climb. The intriguing bit is that you cannot see the statue until you have almost climbed all the steps. If the weather is good, climbing can be fun, as you see the lush green landscape around the hill. As you go up, the view changes.

The tall monolithic Gomateshwara statue stands in a walled temple complex. As you enter the temple complex, there is a platform on either side to sit and admire the statue. There is a large compound in which the statue stands.


The Karkala Gomateshwara statue was built in 1432 CE by King Vir Pandya of the Kalasa-Karkala dynasty. This was a period when Jainism was at its peak in the South Canara region of Karnataka.

Monolithic Gomateshwara Statue at Karkala
Monolithic Gomateshwara Statue at Karkala

The monolithic statue measures 42 feet in height, adding to it the five feet of its stone platform.

Yaksha atop a pillar facing the Bahubali
Yaksha atop a pillar facing the main statue

Opposite the statue is a Maanstambh or a pillar with a Yaksha image sitting in a canopy on its top. The Yaksha and the main statue face each other.

Jain Tirthankara statue at Karkala
Jain Tirthankara statue at Karkala

Some stone images of various Jain Tirthankaras are placed behind the main statue.

A collage of several Jain Tirthankaras statues at Karkala
A collage of several Jain Tirthankaras statues at Karkala
Sri Raja Guru Peeta near Gomateshwara statue
Sri Raja Guru Peeta near Gomateshwara statue

Karkala Statue

Bahubali stands erect on the Kayotsarga posture. The statue has all the features of a Mahapurusha like elongated ears, long arms, three folds on the neck & curly hair. What makes it distinct from other Mahapurush iconography is the creepers and ant hills on his legs and arms. This is a feature that belongs solely to Gomateshwara.

The grains of ash-gray stone add texture to the stone statue.

The oldest and the most famous Bahubali statue is at Shravanabelagola which was built in 981 CE.

Chaturmukha Basadi

Landscape view of Chaturmukha Basadi from the Gomateshwara Hill, Bahubali at Karkala
Landscape view of Chaturmukha Basadi from the Gomateshwara Hill at Karkala

As we started walking back from Karkala Hill, we saw a lovely temple bang opposite it – just a small distance away. Surrounded by green trees on all sides, this absolutely symmetric structure with a small boundary wall going all around it – looked beautiful.

We gathered that it is called so because of the four symmetrical sides.

Chaturmukha Basadi, Karkala
Chaturmukha Basadi, Karkala

After soaking in the greenery from the hilltop, we decided to visit the Chaturmukha Basadi. It was afternoon and the Basadi was closed. We were told it opens for a very small time in the mornings and evenings.

Dwarpalakas at Chaturmukha Basadi
Dwarpalakas carved in stones

We went around it and tried to peep in through the doors of this late 16th CE temple. The Basadi has four beautifully carved gates on all four sides. Wooden doors had elaborately carved doorjambs with Dwarapalas on either side. Steps leading to the doors have beautiful balustrades.

One of the doors of Chaturmukha Basadi
One of the doors of the monument
Pillars of Chaturmukha Basadi
Pillars of the monument, guess the size

On the circumambulation path too, the walls had various figurines and ceilings had typical Jain beam and lintel roofs with geometric designs. Gargoyles were shaped like animal faces. All signs of a temple of its era.

Sculpted walls & pillars of Chaturmukha Basadi
Sculpted walls & pillars
Landscape view of Chaturmukha Basadi
Landscape view of Chaturmukha Basadi

The Bust of his statue can be seen emerging from the hill opposite the temple.

Bust of Bahubali as seen from Chaturmukha Basadi
Bust of the statue as seen from Chaturmukha Basadi

Venur Gomateshwara

Bahubali Gomateshwara statue at Venur
Gomateshwara statue at Venur

Venoor or Venur is a small town a few kilometers from Karkala on the banks of river Gurupura.

Here again, on a hill stands another giant statue of his. This one is about 38 feet in height and was built a few years later than the Karkala one. It is believed that the renowned sculptor Amarshilpi Jaknachari carved this statue from a single stone.

This statue stands on a double pedestal and has all the signs of a Bahubali.

Yaksha at Venur Gomateshwara Bahubali temple
Yaksha at Venur

The Yaksha on the Maanstambh has no canopy over him, so you can get a clearer view of him.

A Mahabhishek is performed every 12 years here and the last one was in 2012.

The good part is you need to climb just a few steps at Venur, the car goes right to the gate of the temple. It also stands in a walled enclosure on a rocky hill.

Travel Tips for Karkala and Venur Bahubali

  • To visit Karkala and Venur, you can stay at Mangalore and do them as a day trip from there.
  • It is advisable to climb Karkala Hill early in the morning or evening. It can get really hot during the day.
  • Check the temple timings before you go.
  • Venur statue complex is also closed after 4 PM, though you can still see the statue from the gate.
  • Stop by the various rivers like Phalguni and Gurupura that you cross – they have a very active bird life on their banks.
  • You get simple South Indian food in these towns.
ASI information board at Karkala
ASI information board at Karkala

Some beautiful birds can be spotted from atop the hill on the trees in the surrounding valley. Spend some time if you are interested.

Brown-headed Barbet bird at Karkala
Brown-headed Barbet bird at Karkala

We managed to capture the Brown-headed Barbet and Jerdon’s Leafbird in about 15 minutes there.

Jerdon's Leafbird at Karkala
Jerdon’s Leafbird at Karkala

Recommend you read the following travel blog on nearby places to visit.

A rewinding trip by the backwaters in coastal Karnataka

7 reasons to spend a holiday at Sai Vishram Beach Resort, Byndoor

Exquisitely carved ancient 1000 Pillars Temple at Moodbidri


  1. Anuradha, the west coast was Jain territory, and east Buddhist until the vaishnava movement heralded by Ramanujacharya came. The temples along the west coast are dedicated to the mother goddess, or to Babbabarya the ethno-folk deity who is being absorbed into the hindu pantheon as a demi-god. Any way what I wanted to share was the structure of the temples are based on Jain architecture, for me Karkala is very dear because I was born there.:)

    • Ah, I never thought of this east west divide in Buddhism and Jainism. Now that you say, it makes all sense. Can you tell me more about Babbabarya – was he by any chance related to Bhim of Mahabharata?

  2. Visit to this great place of Gomateshwara Bahubali is a pleasure. One can admire the architect and the religious fervor of the people and imagine the significance of Jainism in old south.
    As to your reply Parwati who said the temples along west coast are dedicated to the “mother goddess”, or to Babbabarya … then your asking if its related to Bhim… does not make sense.

  3. Definitely you’ve had lots of fun and brought back lots of memories, with all these fabulous pictures, it’s been a very interesting reading. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  4. there is a story behind Gommateswara of Karkala. The Bhirava King who responsible for formation of this Statue. The Sculptor KALKUDA was cut off the hands of kalkuda after he sculpted the statue just because he should not build any where else such a statue. after protest by his sister kallurti, both the brother and sister left the place. They are the Daivas now worshipped in Karavali of Dakshina Kannada.
    (This is a small gist of the story that I heard. Any one knows the correct history of this story can enlighten more)

  5. Venurbahubali monolithic statue was carved by kalkuda…not amarshilpi jakanchari.
    Story of kalkuda daiva who is being worshipped all over tulunad..

    Story of Kalkuda & Kallurti…
    kalkuda and kallurti were born in a poor family of a suclptor named shambu kalkudaand ervadi kaluda was named as “veere” & and kallurti was named as “kalamma”, in the small age they lost thier father so veere thought of continuing his fathers occupation as his father was very famous sculptor , so he gets a work in karkala to sclupt the statue of gomatta, he carefully and beautifully sclupt the gomatta, people frshort om various started coming to see the staute karkala got famous in short time , but there was apolitical mind running in king bailasudda mind, so he made a plan even after the mastakaabhisheka he told to veera to wait for some days as he wanted to personally felicate him for his great work , veera waited for it that night next day morng he was called in front of all and was ordered by the king to cut his one hand and one leg so that he couldnot create such statue any where in world, veere handicapped didnt return to his home he instead went to venur, his sisster at house saw dream that someting wrong has be done to her brother and it has been years fro her brother not returned so leaving her mother at home she went in search of brother she went to karkala there she was told he had left , the girl in early 20 was walking alone at that time one drunkard tried to do unwante dact with her but she was saved by naga , then she went in search her brother and finally find him in venur one side of the place inspite of his one hand handicapped he was sculpting a statue of gomatta ther ewas river passing and across the river onits bank ther was war between bailasudda arasu and venur arasu, kalamma went running towards her brother and cried seeing his condition both kept crying , then kalamma told him that we will take revenge from bailasudda arasu, and that time they came to know through maya shakti abt thier past that they were cursed and sent to earth as human beings in real they were from deva loka , thier fault was that when in deva lokka dev guru brahaspati was absent due to some reason.They called guru vishwakarma and he did some mistake so this bro and sisster cut his head so they were punished and sent to the earth , now after knowing abt the reality both brother and sisster went to the mahalingeshwara temple at venur made a offering to shiva and jumped into the well and became maya, and came in a diffrent form kalkuda wit black face white dots on it with one hand and leg cuted lokked dangerous and sisster kallurti in mahakali form and came out in dangerous form , they went to all holy places took holy baths tooked all powers and at last came to place calle “ubbar”. then they went to bailur too bailauda arasu and tortured him mentally physically at last the king asked abt the problem to a n astrolger he told him that there is new daiva plse give them kola build them a stana and give them thier offerings, king accepted and build stana gave kola in kola he came to know abt the reality of this daivas and he even felt sorrry and that place is know as palli mangaldimatta in our century , after this both brother and sisster helped needy , punished the wrong people, and took thier place in whole tulunad, now they r settled in whole of i\ou r tulunad .

  6. Madam, Anuradha,
    Inspired by your blog, I have visited Karkala, Venur and Mudibidri. Its heavily raining but its a great experience. They are not promoted by KSTDC. only interested people will visit them. Travelled to Manglore by train from Banglore by Ypr Karvar express for 9 hrs day journey. You will cross 52 tunnels in the western ghats during this journey. A great opportunity to see the greenery and beauty of Western Ghats. One should not miss them.

  7. Jakanachari couldn’t have sculpted the two Bahubali statues at Karkala and Venur respectively because he lived more than 200 years before those installations.
    The local legends have it that both the Statues were sculpted by a local sculptor Veera Shambhu Kalkuda.
    He is also revered as a Daiva by the locals of coastal Karnataka.


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