Harsha Raj Gatty visits the historic town of Shravanabelagola and gets a sense of the preparations that are unfolding for the biggest spiritual and cultural events in South India – the Mahamastakabhisheka (Grand Consecration performed once in 12 years) of the Gomateshwara statue at Shravanabelagola in Karnataka, slated to take place in February from the 7th to the 26th.
Come February, for the second time this millennium, the Jain conglomeration all over the world will join hands together for Mahamastakabhisheka at Shravanabelagola in Karnataka. One of the most awaited events of 2018, the Mahamastakabhisheka (Grand Consecration) draws lakhs of devotees to witness the anointment of Gomateshwara statue at Shravanabelagola.
Located 51 kilometers southeast of the Hassan District, Shravanabelagola lies around the Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri hills. It is approximately 157 km from the Karnataka state capital and home to over 2,300 years of Jain heritage.
The word Shravanabelagola is derived from two words “Shravana” meaning “Jain ascetic” and “Belagola” or “Biliya Kola” meaning “white pond”.
In his message, His Holiness Swasti Sri Charukeerthi Bhattarakha Swamiji of Shravanabelagola said that the upcoming event will be the 88th in the series of Mahamastakabhishekas that have been conducted since the first one in 981 A.D.” In 2018, the event will take place between February 7 and 25. “We will ensure that all the devotees are accommodated and the entire event unfolds seamlessly,” he said.
Held every 12 years as per the Jain Dharmic cycle, the Mahamastakabhisheka comes from the fusion of three words i.e. Maha (Great), Masthaka (Head) and Abhisheka (anointing) which in the literal sense means ‘the head anointing ceremony’.
Bhagwan Bahubali was the son of the first of the twenty four Jain Tirthankaras. "From conception, birth, renunciation, enlightenment and salvation, Bhagwan Bahubali displayed exceptional qualities. It is for this reason that we worship all stages of his life," the Swamy said.
For the worshippers, the Gomateshwara statue bears a testimony of mental strength of Tyaga (renunciation) and the tender message of Ahimsa (Non-Violence) that is indispensable from the Jain way of life.
The anointment of the 57-feet (17.4 m) Gomateshwara statue at Shravanabelagola is regarded as an integral part of the ancient Jain tradition. At the Mahamastakabhisheka, the devotees will first climb the scaffoldings and bathe Bahubali's statue with 1008 Kalashas, which is a ritualistic way of showing the highest form of respect to the concept of enlightenment. The Kalashas at the anointment will consist of offerings such as water, flour, shrigandha (sandal paste), chandana (coloured sandal paste), ashtagandha (8 varieties of sandal paste), turmeric paste, kashaya (herbal concoction), milk, sugarcane juice, and saffron paste, that are sprinkled with powders of sandalwood, turmeric, and vermilion.
"Every time a new offering is poured, much to the awe of the spectators, the magnanimous Gomateshwara changes its colour," Pratishtacharya at Shravanabelagola SB Nandakumar, says. While most of the ceremonial aspects remain the same, of late, an addition of showering of flowers from a chopper (helicopter) has been made.
Located on top of the Vindyagiri hill (3347 ft. above the sea level), the Bhagwan Bahubali carving is considered as one of the largest monolithic statues. The statue that stands upright in the Kayotsarga posture of meditation is accessible through a flight of 500 steps and the statue is said to be visible from a distance of up to 30 km. The organizers will be observing the Digamber Jain tradition while paying tribute to the sculpture of Bhagwan Bahubali that is carved out of a single granite rock.
"The Mahotsava will be graced by numerous Acharya, Munis, Aryikas, Kshullaks, Kshullikas and all of the Bhattarak Swamijis. Those attending will have the benefit of the holy audience of religious leaders and listening to their discourses on spirituality, ethics and morality. In addition, there will be the opportunity to witness many cultural programmes as well as religious and spiritual discourses by prominent sadhus, sadhvis and scholars," President and Convenor of Bahubali Mahamastakabisheka Nirmal Kumar Sethi Jain said in a statement.
As per the recently announced schedule of events, the inauguration of the event will be held on February 7, and the Pancha Kalyana Pratishtha Mahotsava and other religious programmes will be held between February 8 and 16. The Mahamastakabhisheka will begin onFebruary 17 and end on February 25.
In between, the organizing committee announced that for NRI's a separate date (February 21) is set aside to perform the Abhishek of Bhagwan Bahubali. "We will also try to accommodate NRI’s to jointly perform the Abhisheka together if their family in India wants to join them. On February 26, the event will be wrapped up. The Karnataka state government has already decided to extend financial support of Rs. 570 crores to the event.
Speaking in the backdrop of the Mahamasthakabhisheka, Moodabidri MLA Abhayachandra Jain assured that the state government has ensured that all assistance is provided to the organizers for the success of the mega-event. “The event at Shravanabelagola speaks for world peace and promotes non-violence. Through this event we hope the message of oneness and harmony is floated all over the world,” he said.
According to sources in the organization committee, the leaders of the community have reached out both to President of India Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be present for the event. “They will confirm their participation and itinerary shortly,” a member of the organizing committee said.
According to the Jain historians, the carving and the first 'Prathista Abhisheka' (Consecratory bath) in 981 AD is attributed to Chavundaraya who was the commander-in-chief as well as the Prime Minister of the Ganga King Rachamalla.
The Jain legend says, Kalala Devi the mother of Chavundaraya wanted to have a darshan of the golden statue at Poudanapura. To fulfill her wish, Chavundaraya along with his mother and Guru Acharya Ajithasena set out on a pilgrimage. Enroute, they stopped at Shravanabelagola for a break. At night, in his dream Kushmandini Yakshi (deity) ordered Chavundaraya to erect a statue at Shravanabelagola. As directed, the next morning Chavundaraya is said to have flung his golden arrow from the top of Chandragiri hill to the top of the bigger hill in the opposite direction. Immediately the prophecy came true and the image of Bahubali was seen.
He then entrusted the most skillful sculptors under the guidance of Arishtanemi, the task of chiseling a huge granite stone into a statue.
However, the legend goes that in later years, Chavundaraya became the victim of pride, achievement and arrogance and set out to perform the Mahamastakabhisheka himself. But, the anointing liquids such as the coconut, milk and the five nectars would not descend down the navel of the statue. At that time, an old woman by name Gullikayajji, presented herself with a little milk in the shell of a white Gullikai fruit. Many chided the old woman, but Acharya Nemichandra advised Chavundaraya to invite her. As the humble devotee of Bahubali poured the milk from the small shell, it instantly ran down through the sculpture, reaching the feet of the statue and covered the hill around.
Humbled by the sight, Chavundaraya then made it mandatory that Mahamastakabhisheka be performed every 12 years for Lord Bahubali, Charukeerthi Bhattarakha Swamiji narrated.
The subsequent ritual of Mahamasthakabhisheka of Gommateshwara statue at Shravanabelagola is in memory of the first consecratory bath. Based on inscription, literature and records such as Epigraphica Carnatica, it is understood that 'head anointment ceremony' and the sacred bath has taken place with a gap of 12 years. The Mahamastakabhisheka of 1981 coincided with 1,000 years of the consecration of the statue while the Mahamastakabhisheka of 1993 was the last of the previous millennium. The last and previous 87th Mahamastakabhisheka was held in 2006 A.D.
Significance of 108, 1008 Kalasha's & 12 Years at the Mahamasthabisheka
According to the available information, the number 108 is derived from the following theory:-
There are 4 kinds of Kashayas (passions) multiplied (X) by 3 Karanas (ways) multiplied (X) 3 stages of planning multiplied (X) 3 way to acting on it (execution). Therefore the formula draws us to 4 x 3 x 3 x 3 = 108. So 108 is the number of ways a human being can indulge in impure activities. Each way must be closed to the influx of bad karmas. With this reasoning 108 Kalashas of pure water are poured on Jina idols just to achieve the purification of our soul.
Also, 1008 is an equally auspicious number for Jains, again, it is described in Jain scriptures that after gaining enlightenment each Thirthankar is so omniscient that he/she can be worshipped by devotees with 1008 different names. The pouring of 1008 Kalashas becomes a ritualistic way of showing the highest form of respect to the concept of enlightenment.
Mahamasthakabhisheka to Bahubali idols at Shravanabelagola, and Mastakabhisheka to idols at Karkala, Venur and Dharmasthala are conducted once in 12 years. There are various interesting stories/interpretations around this; however it is firmly believed that the Jain priest arrived at this number, as it took 12 long years to carve the idol of Lord Bahubali at Shravanabelagola. Therefore Mahamasthakabhisheka is conducted and observed at the same interval.