About Mahamastakabhisheka festival
Mahamastakabhisheka festival is one of the biggest and important festivals for Jain community, celebrated once every twelve years at Shravanabelagola city situated in Karnataka. The word Mahamastakabhisheka is a combination of three words Maha meaning great or excellent, Masthaka means head and Abhisheka meaning anointing or coronation. The words literally mean ‘the head anointing ceremony’. It is one of the biggest festivals for the Jain community as it honors Lord Bahubali, a revered Jain icon.
It is primarily a head anointing ceremony of 57 feet high monolithic idol of Lord Gomateshwara Bahubali. He holds a very high regard among the Jain people as he was the first one to have attained salvation. Every 12 years, the small town of Shravanabelagola in Karnataka turns into a conglomeration of hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world.
Where it is celebrated
The virtues of Bahubali are celebrated not just in the gigantic statue at Shravanabelagola, but there are various other figures created of him at Karakala, Dharamasthala, Venur and Gommatagiri.
Bahubali is a revered figure among the Jains. He is the son of the first Tirthankara of Jainism. Jain mythology holds up Bahubali as the one who succeeded in attaining liberty from worldly desires through a long period of sustained meditation.
The story of Bahubali, though varied in details, is that of a ruler who won against his brother and was filled with grief over his actions and therefore abandoned his possessions and kingdom in search for omniscience.
The history of the ceremony traces back to more than one thousand thirty-five years ago. The statue of Lord Bahubali, the centerpiece of the ceremony, was built around 981 A.D. The custom of celebrating the ceremony started in the same year. Since then, the devotees have continued to celebrate the ceremony every 12 years.
The ceremony in 2018 is said to be the 88th in the series that commenced in the year 981 A.D. and second Mahamastakabhisheka of the 21st century. The February 2018 event was held under the leadership of Charukeerthi Bhattaraka Swamiji of Shravanabelagola from 17 to 25 February 2018.
About the Statue
A six storied scaffolding has been laid for devotees to climb and perform Mahamastakabhisheka. Openings are provided at the 4th, 5th and 6th floor of the scaffolding to perform the ritual. Lift facility has also been provided. Two two-storied viewers galleries flanking the statue has been laid to help people view the proceedings. The sculpture of Lord Bahubali stands for renunciation, self-control and subjugation of the ego as a reflection of his life. The statue of Lord Bahubali is worshipped by thousands of devotees who assemble from all over.
How it is celebrated
The celebration involves smearing the idol from the contents of 1008 pots carried by the devotees. The preparation for the event starts around 18 days before the due date. On the main day of the festival, the worship of the Lord begins from early morning. Devotees place the 1008 pots near the feet of the idol. A large number of priests chant divine hymns as devotees carry the pots to reach the top of the huge statue. After climbing around 600 stairs, the devotees reach the top of the idol and pour water on it. Precious stones, petals, gold and silver coins are also offered as a mark of respect. The ceremony nearly takes 10 hours to complete. After the completion of the ceremony, the devotees walk down the stairs filled with a feeling of fulfillment and utmost devotion towards the Lord.
Mahamastakabhisheka is celebrated with many special rules and principles. Devotees bathe the statue with milk, sugarcane juice, and saffron paste. They also sprinkle sandalwood, turmeric, and vermilion on the statue. The Lord is offered flower petals, precious gems and gold and silver coins. According to the Jainism this worship is very fruitful and for the upliftment of the soul.
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