The unsung hero

The Mastakabhisheka that took place at Dharmasthala in February 2019 opened doors to a treasure of information from the past concerning the 39 feet tall colossus. Though it was all an enchantment like no other; the more I read about the journey of the statue, the more I grew interested about one person in particular. I tried my best to find him – contacting Mangatram, enquiring the elders, scanning the documents and so on – all in vain. Until one day, I was privileged to ask the illustrious Dr. D Veerendra Heggade himself about this man – who concurred to me that he was no more. That was disappointing to learn, but not limiting for me from resonating his story in whatever form I could. (The article might take some understanding of the context beforehand.)

So here goes.

The Bahubali colossus of Dharmasthala underwent a journey from conceptualization to installation that is no short of a divine miracle. Amidst all the awe-inspiring stories about the statue and its transportation, there’s this man who cannot refrain from limelight. He was a hero who, quite practically, made the impossible possible, as referred by Dr. D Veerendra Heggade himself.

We neither have a picture of him, nor does anyone recall what he looked like – he probably looked one amongst other labourers who toiled for the success of this venture alongside Dr. Heggade and Renjala Gopala Shenoy (the sculptor of the statue); and never attracted much attention. But we do know that his name was Shekhar and his personality was that of a soldier in battle. This man was the driver who drove the Mangatram trolley and the Bahubali colossus with it, from Mangalapaade to Dharmasthala. Not to mention, also around the Manjunatha Swamy temple through the unbelievably slim corridor.

The Mangatram trolley was a 20 ton heavy vehicle ferried over by 64 tyres, out of which only 46 were left after a trial trip was done carrying the Bramhastamba from Karkala to Dharmasthala. The statue was loaded on to this vehicle with painstakingly long effort, after which the 70 kilometer journey lasted 23 days.

When the vehicle approached sharp curves on the way such as ones near Venur and Moodubidre, and near the temple at Dharmasthala, Dr. Heggade says that he would always ask Shekhar how he would manage this. The trolley was exceptionally long and was carrying a totally 52 feet (including the base nail) tall statue. In all, the vehicle itself must have made for a 55-60 feet long, and 200 ton heavy entourage. For those who know the kind of turns on the road that exist near Venur, Moodubidre, on the way to Guruvayankere and around the temple of Dharmasthala, driving this vehicle would be an absolute nightmare. More so, Shekhar was shouldering a responsibility where any failure meant shattering of a distinguished, decade long dream that was pretty much irreversible.

Quoting Dr. Heggade, Shekar would say ‘yaan malpve Dhanikule’ (I’ll do it, sir) and drive through the curves and L-turns as though he controlled the trolley with not the steering but his mind. The trolley reached Dharmasthala on 20 March 1973. Just when everyone was about to heave a sigh of relief assuming that the hard part was over, the biggest challenge lay ahead Shekhar – someone suggested that the Bahubali statue must first render its respects to the presiding deity of Dharmasthala by going around the temple. Everyone, including Dr. Heggade believed that it was impossible, but they all held their breaths as Shekhar slid the trolley through the impossibly narrow pathway around the Manjunatha Swamy temple. Dr. Heggade still cannot believe that worked out. How the man turned a 60 feet long entourage within a 20-30 feet gap, he alone knows.

Even today, Dr. Heggade states that the man was a miracle in himself, and he doesn’t think anyone else could have done this task like he did. Shekhar doesn’t live anymore, but we remember him for his incredible contribution towards this legacy. He was a common man shouldering the completion of an uncommon bequest, and shouldering it single handed at that phase because no one could reverse the damage that he could have inflicted. Touchwood, damage was a far off thought considering the way he cake-walked through the mission. His skills and courage are afresh in Dr. Heggade’s mind, and we cannot help but assume that Shekar’s possibilities were facilitated by his faith in the divinity he was ferrying through. For all that he did, we recall and remain thankful.

3 thoughts on “The unsung hero

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  1. Hello. It was wonderful to read this. I am the grand-daughter of Tilakchand Mangatram Bros., and I have previously seen photos of this in our company booklet. However, reading your story, brought this magnanimous task to visualization! Mangatram Bros. was my grandfather’s (nanaji’s) company and I am proud that they took this undertaking. I knew Shekhar uncle, and have fond memories of him. I am glad you wrote this article about him!

    Like

  2. Hello. It was wonderful to read this. I am the grand-daughter of Tilakchand Mangatram Bros., and I have previously seen photos of this in our company booklet. However, reading your story, brought this magnanimous task to visualization! Mangatram Bros. was my grandfather’s (nanaji’s) company and I am proud that they took this undertaking. I knew Shekhar uncle, and have fond memories of him. I am glad you wrote this article about him!

    Good job with the article – very detailed, descriptive and concise.

    Like

    1. Hi Gunjan, thank you! We tried finding you during the Maha Mastakabhisheka a lot! Its so good to know that the family of Mangatram Bros is around… we hope to get in touch with you!

      Like

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