CLOSING STAGES OF
GIANT CHATRATRAYA OF BHAGAWAN
BAHUBALI BROUGHT DOWN
Shravanabelagola, May 3: In
a day long operation, a team of 13 artisans brought down the giant copper
Chatratraya (or the umbrella) over the Bhagawan Bahubali monolith on Wednesday,
heralded in the end of the Millennium's first Mahamastakabhisheka celebrations.
But, in the giant chatratraya and the three ft high Gold Kalasha atop it, which
was brought down last Wednesday, lays a tale hitherto untold. For, it was for
the first time in the history of the Mahamastakabhisheka that a Gold Kalasha was
hoisted up the giant monolith and equally, it was for the first time that the
Bhagawan received a Chatratraya of copper. During all the years hitherto, it was
always a Chatratraya of cloth, twisting and tearing in the winds and never
completely weathering the vagaries of time.
It was in last March that HH Jagadguru Karmayogi Charukeerthi Bhattaraka Swamiji
sent a young M Shivaprasad of Mangalore up the Vindhyagiri hills saying that he
needed a copper chatratraya and a Gold Kalasha atop the statue of Bhagawan
Bahubali during the millennium's first Mahamastakabhisheka celebrations. The
Swamiji wanted to eschew with the traditional cloth Chatratraya and tiny copper
"Though I do not hold a professional degree in this kind of work and have only
carried out works for some of the leading temples, I never thought I would be
able to carry out this work. When the Swamiji told me that I have to do an
umbrella atop the hills and sent me to have a look, I went up armed with a 10 ft
tape. But, when I stood before the giant monolith, I felt like a small fly. I
came down with the thought I cannot do it and it is impossible on my part to
have a umbrella done up for this giant. But the Swamiji instilled me with
courage and egged me on and I decided to give it a go. Now, when I see it, I
still cannot believe that my team and myself did it. It is like achieving
something next to impossible," says Shivaprasad, while supervising the
dismantling the Chatratraya, his labour of love.
The decision taken, K P Padmanabh, architect from Bangalore and the
Convener of Platform Committee and Shivaprasad were involved in the planning
that followed. It was first planned to go for a three tier Chatratraya with the
lowest being 10 feet wide, next 7 ft and the topmost 5ft with the Kalasha over
it. This was planned in keeping with the parameters that were being followed all
these years while making the cloth chatratraya. Then it was realized that such a
chatratrya would not cover the shoulders of the Bhagawan, as it should. Plans
were revised for a chatratraya with a first tier of 27 ft diameter to give
complete coverage to the 58 ft statue. The second tier was to be 18 ft and the
top most 9 ft with the three foot tall gold Kalasha weighing around 10 kgs with
Rs.4 lakhs worth gold in it, perched atop. The new copper chatratraya was to be
41ft above the statue from its head, as against 10 or 15 ft when the cloth
chatratraya was used.
A model was made using bamboo sticks and cloth at Mangalore and it was
constantly reviewed and modified nearly eight times with Mr.Padmanabh visiting
Mangalore on all these occasions. By November 05, the model was finalized
keeping in mind the safety, look and the grandeur of it.
Then the manufacturing work began.
First the skeletal stem structure in hollow iron pipes was readied keeping in
mind the need to keep it as light in weight as possible. Then in order to adhere
to the Vaastu parameters, measures were taken to ensure that the copper sheet
did not touch the iron pipes by cushioning with wooden stripes on top.
Simultaneously, the work on the copper umbrella top began using as many as 92+3
sheets of copper all 4 ft by 4 ft in dimension. Another 22 sheets of the same
dimension were readied for the various decorative hangings around the
chatratraya. As many as 33 artisans led by M Shivaprasad worked round the clock
for nearly three months to get the Chatratraya ready in time for the
celebrations. Each copper sheet was screwed onto each other and different
traditional figures numbering around 90 of them were embossed on it. These
sheets were treated with chemicals to ensure that it stood the test of weather,
be it hot or cold, ensuring that it did not corrode or come apart. Skilled
artisans using only traditional equipments did all embossments manually by hand.
By January 15, the copper chatratraya and the skeletal structure were ready for
being mounted. Mr.K P Padmanabh coordinated between the PWD engineers working on
the scaffolding and Shivaprasad's team working on the chatratraya. Even while
the chatratraya was being readied Mr. Padmanabh brought in the representatives
of TOR Steel, the steel industry for safety and regulatory inspections of the
Necessary changes were brought in keeping the safety requirements necessitated
by wind pressure and the load analysis in relation to the scaffolding, as the
entire chatratraya was weighing three tones with the 27 ft chatratraya.
However, as the scaffolding was still in the final stages, the team had to wait
around two weeks. The team reachedShravanabelagola with the Chatratraya and the
structure on January 27th. Meanwhile the formal inauguration of the celebrations
by President A P J Abdul Kalam had begun on Jan 22. But, the work on the
scaffolding was still in progress and hence, the Chatratraya was taken to the
top on February 4. Simultaneously, the need for removing the air blocks of the
Chatratraya for providing increased tenacity and safety was realized and work
began on cutting holes for allowing free airflow in the copper sheeting.
But, more drama was in store. The PWD stood firm by its stand that it would not
allow the firs tier of the chatratraya with 27 ft diameter to be hoisted up
above the statue. The PWD maintaining that the scaffolding has not been planned
for supporting the 27ft diameter chatratraya. All efforts to convince them that
TOR Steel, which had also cleared the scaffolding, had approved the umbrella
failed. With the clock ticking away and just days to go for Feb 8, the first
Mahamastakabhisheka day, it was a crisis management situation.
Taking up the gauntlet, Shivaprasad and a team of three artisans rushed to
Mangalore on Feb 5 evening, worked the whole night and day, and returned to
Shravanabelagola with an umbrella of 5 ft in diameter as the traditions
stipulated that Chatratraya has to have three tiers. Finally, the team, racing
against the clock, began the process of hoisting the giant three tier umbrella
on February 6 evening, the first tier being 18ft in diameter, the second 9 ft
and the third, 5 ft.
On Feb 7, Mr. Mruthyunjaya of the Scaffolding Committee carried the three ft
tall Gold Kalasha atop the hill on his head after it was put through the
traditional rituals. The Kalasha was then hoisted up the main stem of the
Chatratraya and the three tiers of the umbrella structure screwed around it and
the other three supporting stems. And lo! It was all ready for the grand show on
February 8. But, more was in store as concerns were raised regarding the safety
of the copper hangings with slightly sharp edges from the chatratraya owing to
the strong gushing winds. So, deciding that caution was better part of valour,
Shivarapasad and team decided to do away with the copper hangings that were
shaped like leaves by the third day of the celebrations February 10.
"There were certain critical parameters we kept in mind while doing the entire
exercise. First, the arch inside the chatratraya had to be such an angle that it
was aero dynamic. Second, the chatratraya was meant to be a re-usable addition
to the Mutt's Mahamastakabhisheka inventory and hence had to be such a manner
that it could be screwed up and brought down as easily as possible and even
while occupying the minimum storage space", says Shivaprasad. Total cost Rs.15
lakh for the chatratraya plus Rs.4 lakh worth gold for the Kalasha.
Lessons learnt? "Avoid last minute rush at any cost. Have enough time for a
trial run for carrying out corrections. Have better co-ordination."