SB Nandakumar: This year over 600 priests from remote parts of the country are taking part in Mahamastakabhisheka

This February between 7th -26, the town of Shravanabelagola is all set re-enact the 2300 year old Jain legacy with the anointment of Bhagwan Bahubali. At the otherwise silent tourist and pilgrim town, the preparation for the mega-event is at full throttle. Taking a brief pause from his schedule Pratishtacharya at Shravanabelagola SB Nandakumar, spoke to Harsha Gatty of Karnataka Today Magazine giving its readers an exclusive peek into the preparation of Mahamastakabhisheka 2018.

Could you throw some light on the significance of Mahamastakabhisheka for the Jain community?

The primary deity of Jains is Lord Bahubali. Lord Bahubali is the son of the Rushabhanatha or Rishabhanatha (Adinath Thirthankara), the first of the 24 Thirthankaras. Lord Bahubali through meditation gained enlightenment at a very early age, this is the reason we attribute so much reverence to him and hence the observation of Mahamastakabhisheka.

Moreover, the Bahubali statue on Vindhyagiri hill in Shravanabelagola spreads the message of sacrifice, peace and non-violence. The anointing of the statue is a gala affair for all members of the community. Therefore it is a matter of a great privilege and honour for the Jains to participate and perform in the anointment ceremony of Lord Bahubali that takes place once in 12-years.

What is the reason attributed for the performance of the Mahamastakabhisheka for once in 12 years?

Following the directions from the Prime Minister and Commander in Chief of the Ganga dynasty, Chavundaraya, it took 12 long years for engraving and completion of the Gomateshwara statue. The Bahubali statue at Shravanabelagola was setup in 982 AD.

The Jain priests decided to anoint the statue at regular intervals. The interval was discussed among the community members - whether the anointment should take place on yearly basis or once in 12 years.

Based on the deliberations and discussion of several criteria and parameters, it was concluded by the priests that if the ceremony was held once in a year it won’t have a great significance. Moreover hosting such an auspicious and revered event would be an expensive affair in itself. However, if the event is held once in 12 years, it can be conducted in a grand manner and everyone will look forward to participate in the same. To rationalize the interval of the ceremony - the priest taking a cue from the 12-year timeline that underwent to sculpt the great statue, decided to host the Mahamastakabhisheka ceremony for once every 12 year.

Is there any scientific reason behind the ingredients with which Mahamastakabhisheka is performed?

For centuries altogether the monolith statue of Lord Bahubali has withstood all types of weather condition, including torrential rains or extreme rays of the sun. So the deterioration of the image is inevitable. However, when the anointment takes place we use the purest form of water, coconut water, sugarcane, milk, rice flour, sandalwood, turmeric and honey. These ingredients enable the sculpture to further withstand the vagaries of nature.

What is the difference between the Mahamastakabhisheka that is held in Shravanabelagola, and the others held in Dharmasthala, and Karkala?
Even I am interested in clarifying this doubt. Karkala and Dharmasthala have their own calendar to hold anointment ceremonies that is independent from the one being at Shravanabelagola. They also anoint statues once in 12 years, for instance in Dharmasthala it will be held next year and few years later in Karkala, it also depends when the statue was first installed at those places. They are run by independent managements.

Although, the ingredients used for the anointment such as water, coconut water, sugarcane juice, milk, rice flour, sandalwood, turmeric and honey, are the same. It is only in Shravanabelagola that the ceremony is called as ‘Mahamastakabhisheka’, whereas in other places it is only the Mastakabhisheka.

So, what will be a major attraction of Mahamastakabhisheka this time?

Usually it’s observed that around 100 to 150 Jain priests used to take part in the Mahamastakabhisheka. However, this year over 600 priests from remote parts of the country are taking part in Mahamastakabhisheka. They have set out on a journey of over 100 kilometers to reach Shravanabelagola to participate in the programme. Some of them have already arrived and at present are performing different ‘vrathas’ (fasting) and ‘poojas’ (prayer) in preparation for the main event.

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