MAHAMASTAK ABHISHEK - BAHUBALI
This festival is celebrated in Karnataka once in 12 years to pay homage to Bhagwan Bahubali.
This Jain festival is celebrated in the town of Shravana Belagola, in Karnataka. Gomateshwara Bahubali was the son of King Rishabhadeva. He is held in very high regard by the community for he was the first to have attained salvation. As a mark of respect to this great saint, his 18-metre high statue is ceremonially anointed every 12 years. In Jainism, 12years represent one tap.
Millions of devotees converge to Shravana Belagola for the occasion. Observed regularly since the installation of the statue in 981 AD, the last anointing was on December 19,1993. Preparation for this ceremony takes about 18 days. On the day of the festival, worship begins at dawn. One thousand and eight small metal vessels containing water are placed neatly in the courtyard below the gigantic sculpture, considered divine. At day break, a select group of priests, chanting hymns, arrange the pots in a traditional geometrical pattern. Devotees then lift these vessels and climb up the 600 stairs to the top of the enormous statue, and position themselves on the scaffolding. To the sound of conches, cymbals, trumpets, incantations and piped music, the splendid libation commences. Consecrated water from the pots is showered on the assembly below by those on the scaffolding.
The statue is bathed with unending quantities of milk, sugarcane juice, pastes of saffron, sandal wood, and therapeutic herbal lotions. Powders of coconut, turmeric, saffron, vermilion and sandal wood are then sprayed on the statue. Precious stones, gold, silver, petals and coins are offered in reverence. The spectacular finale to this 10-hour ceremony is a shower of flowers from a helicopter. At the conclusion of the Mahamastak Abhishek, devotees retrace their steps down the stairs with a feeling of fulfillment. According to a legend, King Rishabhadeva had two sons, Bharata and Bahubali. In keeping with the traditions of Varnashram Dharma, the king decided to renounce the world. Before this, he distributed his property, giving Ayodhya to his elder son Bharata and Podanpura to his second son Bahubali. Since King Bharata desired to become a Chakravarti monarch, he began conquering all the neighbouring kingdoms. On returning victorious to Ayodhya, he received a great shock. The chariot would not enter his kingdom, indicating that at least one ruler's territory had yet to be captured. Bharata realised that he had not conquered his brother's domain and tried to negotiate a settlement with him, but Bahubali refused to accept his supremacy. This resulted in war-like tension. To avoid the bloodshed of innocent soldiers, the two brothers decided to battle by staring into each other's eyes or drishtiyudha, throwing water at each other or jalayudha, and wrestling or malayudha. Bahubali was the winner in each of these contests. Bharata was so deeply humiliated by his defeat that in a fit of rage, he threw one of the wheel's from his chariot at his brother. However, since the wheel had supernatural powers, it could not hurt a relative, so Bahubali was unharmed. But at the moment he was struck, Bahubali realised the futility of the fight. Dismayed and disgusted at what the lust for power and greed could do, he left his kingdom and decided to strive for spiritual peace. The repentant Bharata entreated Bahubali not to renounce the world but he declined. Bahubali stood in penance for so long that creepers grew up his legs and spread onto his arms. Despite the calm facial expression of Bahubali, kevalgyan eluded him. He could not free himself from the thought that he stood on land that belonged to Bharata. Realising this, Bharata prayed at his feet. He implored Bahubali not to think of the land as belonging to either brother. This truth suddenly dawned on Bahubali. He achieved complete enlightenment and soon thereafter attained salvation. Bharata then decided to get a huge gold statue of Bahubali installed at Podanpura. However, the present statue is at Shravana Belagola, and the credit for its creation and consecration there is given to Chamundrai, general-in-chief and chief minister of a king named Rachmall during the 10th century. Chamundrai's mother, Kallal Devi, was a very religious woman who wished to see the golden likeness of Bahubali at Podanpura. So Chamundrai, his mother and their guru set out on a pilgrimage to Podanpura. They reached Shravana Belagola at dusk and decided to halt there for the night.
While asleep, a goddess appeared in their dreams. She told them that the golden statue at Podanpura had disappeared but a true image of Bahubali lay buried under the stones on Vidyagiri Hill in Shravana Belagola. To uncover it, they would have to purify themselves, stand on top of the smaller hill, Chandragiri, and shoot a golden arrow to the south. Early the next morning, Chamundrai went to the peak of the Chandragiri Hill and shot his golden arrow at the pinnacle of Vidyagiri. Immediately, as prophesied, the likeness was revealed. Kallal Devi desired a definite shape to be given to the statue. Chamundrai entrusted Arishtanemi, a highly skilled sculptor, with the task. In payment, he agreed to equal the weight of the stone dust that fell during chiselling with gold.
When Arishtanemi took the first load of gold to gift it to his mother, he found that he was unable to give it because the precious metal had got stuck to his hand. Despite his best effort, he could not detach it. Seeing his agony, his mother consulted a sage for a solution, and at his advice, she counseled her son to cast away his greed and pride. She chastised him for trying to bargain over the price of sculpting the likeness of a great person like Bahubali. And it was this greed that was clinging to his soul in the form of the gold. As tears of repentance started trickling down Arishtanemi's cheeks, his hands were freed from the gold. He then chiselled the statue of Bahubali from a single rock on the pinnacle of Vidyagiri, starting from the top and working down, to fulfill Kallal Devi's wish.
On the completion of the statue, Chamundrai set out with great pomp and show on March 13, 981 AD toper form the grand head anointing ceremony of the statue. Filled with great pride at his achievement, he decided to bathe the statue with milk and collected an amount worthy of a great warrior. But to the amazement of all those present at the occasion, the enormous quantity of milk could barely wet the body beyond the chest. A poor, simple woman called Gullikayaji then expressed her desire to pour her humble offering on the image. It is said that her thimble of milk drenched the entire statue and flooded the basin below. This miracle humbled the mighty Chamundrai and as a mark of respect for Gullikayaji, he had her statue carved and installed.
Chamundrai was called Gomat in his childhood, so Bahubali is also known as god or ishwar of Gomat, Gomateshwara, as well. He is considered to be the originator of the concept of ahimsa or non-violence by the Jains, the basic tenet of their religion.