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The Mahamasthakabhisheka Mahotsava of Lord Bahubali at Shravanabelagola - February 2006
TempleThe millennium's first Mahamastakabisheka, the head anointing ceremony of Lord Bahubali, a revered Jain Bhagwan, began on February 8, 2006 amidst prayers and monks taking part in bathing the world's tallest free standing statue with a steady stream of holy water and milk. The day-long ceremony started with the designated Jain monks, led by Charukeerthi Bhattarka, carrying the holy water of Agrodaka from the Digambar Jain mutt to the venue on Vindyagiri Hills. Chanting hymns, the pontiff filled a giant pot with rice and sealed it with a silver coconut, signaling the commencement of the spectacular event.

At the auspicious moment, Acharya 108 Vardhaman Sagar along with Charukeerthi Swami hoisted the first pot on the shoulders of Ashok Kumar Patni of R.K. Marbles, a devotee from Rajasthan, who had the privilege of pouring the first stream of holy water on the head of the 57-foot statue. Devotees clad in saffron and white apparel dotted the entire Chandragiri and Vindhayagri Hills and adjoining areas to witness the grand event, held once in 12 years during a period of rare astrological significance. As the bugle and trumpets sounded, marking the grand ritual, thousands of devotees raised their eyes skywards to have a look at the anointing of the gigantic statue, erected in 981 AD to commemorate Lord Bahubali's supreme sacrifice of renouncing the throne in pursuit of eternal bliss and liberation.

As the quadrangle in front of the statue decorated with strings of fresh marigold and green leaves reverberated with the chanting of hymns by Jain monks, groups of selected devotees made their way up the scaffolding to pour water on the head of Lord Bahubali. The premises was dotted with huge containers carrying milk, turmeric paste, rice flour, sugarcane juice, kashya (a herbal concotion) and ashtagandha (eight varieties of sandalwood paste), to be used during the day long ritual. Around 108 pots of water, 500 pots of coconut offerings, 300 pots of milk, 25 kg of coloured sandalwood paste, 25 kg of mixed sandalwood paste and 25 kg of herbal mixture will be poured out on the statue in addition to a shower of gold and silver flowers.

As the Mahamasthakabhisheka began, consecrated water is sprinkled onto the participants by devotees carrying 1008 specially prepared vessels. The statue is then bathed and anointed with libations such as milk, sugarcane juice, and saffron paste, and sprinkled with powders of sandalwood, turmeric, and vermilion. Offerings are made of petals, gold and silver coins, and precious stones. Most recently, the ceremony's finale included an enormous shower of flowers from a waiting helicopter.

The 618 steps leading to the statue was brimming with a steady stream of devotees, who made their way enthusiastically to occupy every vantage point, from where they could have a bird's eye view of the ceremony. Special arrangements had been made for the devotees, who are expected to touch the 30 lakh mark during the 12 days of festivity by providing special accommodation, health and sanitation facilities in and around the venue. Over Rs 100 crore had been earmarked for infrastructure development around the venue in view of the event.

Shravanbelagola, a small village about 90 miles from Bangalore, lies picturesquely between two rocky hills. The larger hill known as Indragiri or Vindhyagiri, has on it the colossal idol of Gommateshwra, or Lord Bahubali. The statue standing in an open quadrangle in the Kayotsarga position is massive in size and majestic in conception.

The story of Gommateshwara has been an enduring theme in the art and literature of the Jains. Bahubali was the younger son of the first Jain Tirthankar, Lord Adinath. The "Dharma Yudha" duel (a war that prevents death and suffering on a large scale) between Bharat, his older brother, and the younger Bahubali, is an example of the inner strength of the human soul. In a three part duel (Drisht Yudha, Jal Yudha, and Wrestling) over their father's kingdom, Bahubali triumphed over his brother and could have become emperor, and yet in utter selflessness he renounced everything. Bahubali, is the ideal man who conquers selfishness, jealousy, pride and anger to attain salvation. Although, Lord Bahubali is not a Thirthankar, the Jains revere him as the first soul that attained Moksha during the present cosmic cycle.

Legend has it that Chamundaraya's, a General in the Ganga Empire, at the bequest of his mother set out on a pilgrimage and came across the two hills at Shravanabelgola, which was already venerated as a sacred spot by the Jains. Here, Chamundaraya chose the larger hill for the statue and ordered the carving of the monolith from a massive rock at the peak of Indragiri Hill. The idol was consecrated in AD 980. According to local legend, it was Aristenemi, the sculptor, who carved the idol from a single granite rock. The head anointment ceremony is the tradition started by the Ganga General Chamundaraya at Sravanabelagola in 981 A.D. This ceremony, also known as Mahamastakabhisheka, has been celebrated once every 12 years for the last ten centuries. The last Mahamastakabhisheka (Anointment Ceremony) was held in the Feb 2006.

The colossal idol of Bahubali, carved out of a single granite rock is the world's tallest monolith statue at slightly over 58 feet. It is worshipped not just for its beauty and size but for the principles it upholds - the triumph of man over physical desire. The gargantuan proportions of the sculpture have not reduced the sense of feeling and life in the sculpture. The body is perfectly proportioned and reflects effectively the serenity of a soul in search of enlightenment. The head with its curly spirals of hair and the expressive eyes seem to endow the statue with life. The sculptor has beautifully brought out the saint's steely determination in penance.

The colossus stands in the kayotasarga pose, a yogic position where the body is under complete control needing no sustenance nor performing any bodily functions. This highest stage of meditation is said to be "Shukla Dhyana," where the soul is fully engrossed in itself, free of all temporal bondages. This idol of Bhagwan Bahubali eloquently conveys the non-attachment, the enlightened self-absorption of the soul engrossed in itself, and the bliss of Dhyana achieved by the Yogi. It symbolizes complete detachment from the world. It expresses perfectly the concept of successful withdrawal from a world of desire and suffering, weakness and worry, and from the inevitability of birth and death.

His serene smile radiates the successful achievement of total peace through the conquest of the inner turmoil. The sheer grace of the granite idol resplendent against the backdrop of the Chanadragiri Hills is breathtaking, a site that would be forever etched in the memory of the onlooker.

Sri Gommatheswra  .  Lord Bahubali  .  980 AD Vindhyagiri  .  Shravanbelgola  .  Karnataka Mahamastabhikesha of the Largest Monolithic Statue in the World February 2006

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