Shravanabelagola being a holy site of worship for Jains in Karnataka, is also a town which has two famous hills, Chandragiri and Vindhyagiri. It is also meant as one of the most important sacred shrine of Jains (second place) located near Channarayapatna of Hassan district in Karnataka state, of South India, situated 144 km away from Bangalore city (capital of Karnataka). This place derived its name from Shravana or Shramana meaning a Jain ascetic and Belagola or Biliya Kola meaning white pond. The other imortant Jain temples near to it are Karkala, Moodabidri and Dharmasthala.
Shravanabelgola Water Pond
Mahamasthakabhisheka, is an important Jain Festival, held in veneration of huge 18 meter high statue of the Bhagwan (or Saint) Gomateshwara Bahubali, celebrated once in every 12 years in the town of Shravanabelagola of Karnataka state, India. This Jain Festival is dated to 10th century and is chiefly the head anointing ceremony performed to the 58 ft tall monolithic statue of Lord Bahubali at Shravanabelagola. Pilgrims from all across the world come to visit this event. Last time when 88th festival was celebrated in Feb 2006, nearly 1.4 million people participated in the event . This year (2018), as it is the 89th Jain Festival, around 3.5 million people are expected to participate from all over the world. It is conducted under the leadership of His Holiness Swasti Sri Charukeerthi Bhattarakha Swamiji of Shravanabelagola sheduled from 17th-25th February 2018.
Monolithic Statue at Shravanabelgola Karnataka
Mahamastabhisheka ceremony is an wonderful experience and is considered equivalent to the famous Kumbh Mela of India.
History of Shravanabelagola:
History dates back 2000 years ago, Shri Bhadrabahu Swami, who was the earliest among the great Jain Acharyas came to Shravanabelagola from Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, along with his disciples. It was then that Chandragupta Maurya, the great emperor who ruled a large part of India got Influenced by Shri Bhadrabahu Swami, settled in this region.
According to one of the Jain epic Adipurana of Jinasena Acharya, it is believed that Rishabhdeva (Adinath), the first Tirthankara had two queens namely Yasavati and Sunanda. Lord Bahubali was born to Sunanda while Bharata was born to the other queen who also gave birth to many other sons and daughters. Upon renouncing his kingdom, Rishabhdeva divided his kingdom between the two.
Bahubali was excellent in archery, floriculture and the medicinal sciences, He was a real blue blooded warrior. The dispute
with his brother Bharata over territories arosed into a full fledged war and both of them got engaged in a one to one duel which included fights in the water and wrestling. Bahubali won all the duels, hands down. But the bitterness of war touched the core of Bahubali’s heart and he finally went on a path in search of divine truth.
Lord Bahubali at Shravanabelgola
With great passion, He meditated in a motionless state for a year. At the time of His meditation period the plants and creepers which grew from the earth around him, started coiling over his body, His determination and stron will power ignored all bad weather conditions, vegetation and insects. On one fine day he attained Moksha from his human form.
Thus, Bahubali who was the second child of Rishabhdeva choose to become a saint and the other ruled the kingdom. It is the same place where he did meditation and lived his life as a Jain sadhu.
In the year 981 AD, Chavundaraya a minister in the Ganga Dynasty built this statue in honor of the great penance of Bahubali. This statue is also known as Gommateshwara and depicts the naked Bahubali who is meditating in a standing position with creepers coiled around his legs. The monolithic statue of Lord Bahubali is about 18 metres (58 feet) high wedged between two stark rocky hills, atop the Indragiri hill. It is said to be one of the tallest and most graceful monolithic statues in the world.
Monolithic Statue of Lord Bahubali Shravanabelgola
The base of the statue has an inscriptions in Prakrit i.e. Devanagari script, dating from 981 AD. The inscription praises the king who funded the effort and his general, Chavundaraya, who erected the statue for his mother. Since then, for every twelve years, thousands of devotees congregate here to perform the Mahamastakabhishekam, a spectacular ceremony in which the statue is anointed with religious items like Water, Turmeric, Sandalwood paste, Rice flour, Sugar cane juice, saffron, gold and silver flowers.
Holy feet of Lord Bahubali Shravanabelagola Karnataka
Recently in 2007, on August 5, by the readers of Times of India, this statue of Lord Bahubali at Shravanabelagola was voted, as the first of the Seven Wonders of India.
Significance of Shravanabelagola:
Shravanabelagola which has been serving over two millennia, as a prominent centre for Jain culture, art, religion and architecture, is also the principle seat of the ancient Bhattaraka Matha, who belongs to the Desiya Gana lineage of Mula Sangh, from the Digambara monastic tradition.
Again this festival is of great significance as it is the celebration of Lord Bahubali, who was a renowned saint of Jainism, a Mahavira who found this religion, as a contemporary of Buddha, around the fifth century BCE.
With the presence of Gommateshwara Bahubali statue (one of the most important tirthas), Shravanabelagola gained importance from the point of pilgrimage, archeology and religious heritage. It is believed that Acharya Bhadrabahu and his pupil Chandragupta Maurya have meditated here. After becoming a Jain monk Chandragupta Maurya assumed an ascetic life style and is assumed to have died here in 298 BCE.
There are around 800 inscriptions found at Shravanabelagola, which date to various times from 600 AD to 1830 AD. A large number of them can be found on Chandragiri and the rest on Vindhyagiri Hill and the town. Most of these inscriptions were found written in Kannada text (local language of Karnataka) at the Chandragiri which date back before the 10th century.
Celebrations and Offerings:
The Temple Authorities and Karnataka State Government has taken necessary actions for the convenience of pilgrims who come to attend this event. When this event begins, the consecrated water is sprinkled over the participants by devotees who carry around 1,008 specially prepared vessels. After this the Lord Bahubali statue is bathed and anointed with religious items such as milk, sugarcane juice, saffron paste, yogurt, honey and sprinkled with sandalwood powder, turmeric, and vermilion. The other offerings to Lord include flower petals, gold and silver coins, and precious stones. Recently, a waiting helicopter was included in the final ceremony which showers enormous flowers from top.
Mahamastabhisheka of Lord Bahubali Shravanabelgola
Famous message by Lord Bahubali:
Happiness Through Non Violence
Peace Through Renunciation
Progress Through Amity
Perfection through Meditation
How to Reach:
By Road: The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) provides many buses to reach Shravanabelagola which is 18 kms from Hirisave, 51 kms from Hassan, 80 kms from Halebidu, 83 kms from Mysore, 89 kms from Belur, 157 kms from Bangalore and 221 kms from Mangalore.There are also other private travel services to reach this place.
By Train: The nearest railway station is Shravanabelagola Railway Station which is well connected to all the major cities of Karnataka and other states of India.
By Air: The nearest International Airport is the Bengaluru International Airport, which is 4 1/2 hours drive from Shravanabelagola. It is well connected to all the cities of India.
Image courtesy: www.imvoyager.com