Observance of Mahamastakabhisheka
The frequency of Mahamastakabhisheka happens once every 12 years and hence the date for the festival is decided by the luni solar Jain calendar. The recent anointing ceremony took place in the Jain pilgrimage site of Shravanabelagola on February, 2018. This was the 88th in the series that commenced in the year 981 AD. The 2018 one was the second Mahamastakabhisheka of the 21st century and the next celebration will be held in 2030. The festival is held in veneration of a 57ft high monolithic statue of the Siddha Bahubali. Numerous Jain ascetics congregate together during the festival, which becomes an event among the Jain community.
The 2018 event was held under the leadership of Charukeerthi Bhattaraka Swamiji of Shravanabelagola from 17th to 25th February. The ceremony was inaugurated by the Indian President, Ram Nath Kovind on 7th February and the festivities concluded with a visit from Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India.
History of Mahamastakabhisheka
The son of Rishabhanatha, the first Tirthankara of Jainism, Bahubali is a revered icon among the Jains. As per Jain history, Bahubali is someone who succeeded in attaining liberty from worldly desires through a long period of sustained meditation. Bahubali’s story is narrated in Sanskrit texts like the Adi Purana and the Bahubali Charitra as well as in Kannada literary texts and poems.
Rishabhanatha had another son named Bharata, who was jealous of Bahubali’s wealth and affluence. So, Bharata decided to conquer his brother’s kingdom and as a mutual agreement to not lose the lives of innocent people, the brothers fought each other in the battlefield without armies. Invariably, Bahubali won but was filled with deep remorse and grief over his actions and therefore abandoned his possessions and kingdom in search for omniscience. He observed penance for several years before finally attaining enlightenment or Nirvana. When Bharata got to know that his brother has achieved salvation, he decided to build a large gold idol of Bahubali at Podanpura.
Celebration of Mahamastakabhisheka
Mahamastakabhisheka is celebrated by the anointment of the Jain idols in the Jain temples of all over India. The main ceremony of Mahamastakabhisheka is held in Shravanabelagola, where the giant 57 ft statue of Gommateshwara Bahubali is believed to be one of the largest free- standing statues in the world and was built in 983 AD. The statue is situated atop the Vindhyagiri Hills and is accessible through a flight of 500 steps. 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 Kumbhoj.
The event of Mahamastakabhisheka continues for weeks and at the beginning of the festivities, holy water is sprinkled onto the participants by devotees carrying 1,008 specially prepared vessels. The statue is washed with purified water and sandalwood paste and then the statue is anointed with libations such as milk, sugarcane juice, and saffron paste, and sprinkled with powders of sandalwood, turmeric and vermilion. Mahamastakabhisheka is celebrated with many special rules and principles. The Lord is also offered flower petals, precious gems and gold and silver coins. According to Jainism this worship is very fruitful for the upliftment of the soul.