Kedarnath now has a Karnataka connection!
By Shankar Raj*
Bengaluru: The statue of Adi Shankaracharya that was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kedarnath Friday has a Karnataka connection. The statue was sculpted by an MBA graduate from Mysuru using a special stone called Krishna shile (chlorite schist) from a remote part of HD Kote taluk in Mysuru district.
The statue, measuring 12ft and weighing 28 tonnes, was chiselled by Arun Yogiraj from the famed Mysuru family of sculptors. It was carved out of a single rock and travelled to Kedarnath in Uttarakhand, covering more than 2,000km.
Arun Yogiraj (37) is a fifth generation sculptor who earlier worked with a private firm after his MBA, but quit his job in 2008 to take up sculpting. He joined his father and the master sculptors in his family who were the ace craftsmen behind life-like statues for the Mysuru Wadiyar family.
It was Jindal Steel Works that bagged the project to get a statue done and they did not look far and approached Arun and his father. “I was given a 3D model photograph, but I was not happy. I did my own model, a 2-ft prototype which was sent to PM Modi. Other sculptors too had sent their models. My model was selected,’’ he was quoted in the media. His model has a Srichakra (circular sacred geometry used for worship, devotion and meditation) on which Guru Shankaracharya is sitting. Work began in August 2020.
“We got Krishna Shile (stone) from HD Kote. This rock can withstand rain, sun, fire, air and other harsh climates. I didn’t take a single day off. I was told to make a 360 degree view, which was most challenging. He is a sanyasi, with no hair on his head and wearing a kaavi. I had to make his face look divine, and even sent all my helpers out for a few days as I wanted to focus on it,” he said. “The Mandakini river touches the statue before flowing further.”
Adi Shankaracharya is said to have taken samadhi at Kedarnath. But the saint’s samadhi was washed away in the 2013 floods.
Just two weeks before the project was to be completed, tragedy struck when Arun’s father Basavanna Shilpi passed away. “My father used to tell me, the rock has to listen to you, like clay, only then you can make a perfect statue.”
Arun could not attend the event at Kedarnath. “But I am happy that the statue was unveiled by the Prime Minister. That itself is an honour for me,” he said.
*Shankar Raj is former Editor of The New Indian Express, Karnataka and Kerala, and writes regularly on current affairs. The views expressed are personal.