Every 12 years, the small town of Shravanabelagola in Karnataka turns into a conglomeration of hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world. The occasion- the celebration of the Mahamastakabhisheka ceremony. One of the biggest festivals for the Jain community, it honors Lord Bahubali, a revered Jain icon.
Lord Bahubali is highly revered by the Jains. He is considered to be the first one to have attained salvation. Shravanabelagola is home to the 57 feet high gigantic idol of Lord Gommateshwara Bahubali that stands on the Vindyagiri Hill. It is believed to be the largest monolithic statue in the world. This is the head anointing ceremony of the idol. It is part of an ancient Jain tradition.
During the ceremony, the statue of the Lord is worshipped by the devotees who gather from far off places to be a part of the event. Various special rituals are observed to mark the ceremony. The rituals are as per the Digamber Jain tradition.
History of Mahamastakabhisheka
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 last head anointing ceremony took place in 2006. It was observed with a lot of enthusiasm and splendor as it marked the first celebration of the ceremony in the new millennium.
The Upcoming Mahamastakabhisheka
The next ceremony is to be held in 2018. It will be the 88th celebration of the ceremony. The celebration will take place from 17 to 25 February 2018. The event is to be conducted under the guidance of His Holiness Swasti Sri Charukeerthi Bhattarakha Swamiji of Shravanabelagola. More than 1 million devotees are expected to attend the event in 2018.
Celebration of Mahamastakabhisheka
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.
The idol is then smeared with various things like milk, turmeric paste, rice flour, coconut water, sandalwood, sugarcane juice, vermilion, and 52 varieties of flowers. Then the lord is also offered precious stones and gold and silver coins as a mark of respect. It is also showered with flower petals. The ceremony continues for around 10 hours during which countless devotees show their devotion to the Lord. The Jains believe that attending this ceremony is helpful for uplifting their souls.
Apart from the Bahubali statue at Shravanabelagola, the other statues of the Lord in Karnataka are also honored with the ceremony at a gap of 12 years. These include the statues at the following places:
- Dharmasthala – The next celebration to be held in 2019.
- Karkala – The next celebration to be held in 2027.
- Venur – The next celebration to be held in 2024.
- Kumbhoj – The next celebration to be held in 2027.
If you are planning to visit Shravanabelagola anytime soon, make it a point to be there during the grand event in February 2018. After all, you don’t get a chance to be a part of such celebrations every year. So, why give up the chance to be a part of something so unique?
How to Reach Shravanabelagola
It is easy to reach the town of Shravanabelagola through air, rail, or road.
You can reach the town by taking a flight to Bangalore International Airport, which is the nearest airport. It is at a distance of about 165 km. You can take a cab, taxi, or bus to cover the distance from the airport to the town. It will take you around 3.5 hours to reach the town.
Shravanabelagola has no railway station of its own. The nearest railway station is at Hassan. It is at a distance of about 50 km. You can reach your destination under one hour by taking a bus or taxi ride.
There are several buses that connect the small town to the capital city of Bangalore.