GRAND FESTIVAL OF
The great general Chamunda-Raya not only installed the colossal image of
Gommatesvara on the top of the Vindhyagiri hill at Sravana-Belagola but
also performed the ï¿½Pratishthpana Mahotsavaï¿½ i.e., the great ceremony of
consecration of the image, on Sunday, the 13th of March, 981 A.D, in
accordance with the detailed rituals prescribed in jaina scriptures for
the purpose and on a very grand scale befitting both the huge size of the
image and the extermely high status of the ï¿½Yajamanaï¿½ i.e., the host. As a
part of the sacred ritual the cremony of ï¿½Panchamritabhishekaï¿½ i.e.,
bathing of the image with five liquids, viz milk, curds, ghee or
orcharified butter, saffron and water, which is also known as ï¿½Mastakabhishekaï¿½,
i.e., the head-anointing ceremony, was performed with grandeur, dignity
and solemnity in keeping with the extra-ordinary nature of the occaison.
Later on this festival of performing ï¿½Mastakabhishekaï¿½ was continued and
it came to be termed as Mahamastakabhishekaï¿½, i.e., the great
head-anointing ceremony, since it came to be performed only at certain
conjunctions of the heavenly bodies at intervals of several years usually
10 to 15 years, and at a great cost. The huge proportions of the graceful
colossus, whose head is anointed on the particular day after an interval
of 10 to 15 years by thousands of priests and pilgrims, gives to the
ritual an impressive character. Hence the ï¿½Mahamastakabhishekaï¿½ ceremony
is popularly known as the ï¿½Grand Festival of Sravana-Belagolaï¿½.
This festival beings about a fortnight earlier and terminates after a
fortnight of the ï¿½Mahamastakabhishekaï¿½. Between these two dates there are
various festivals and ï¿½pujas, i.e., worships. Generally more than
two-hundred-thousand pilgrims of Jain religion and thousands of tourists
of other religions gather at the village of Sravana-Belagola to
participate and to withness the ï¿½Mahamastakabhishekaï¿½ ceremony. Since all
the participants and the spectators are in the festive religious mood and
in their holiday attire, the entire festival becomes a colourful
On the morning of the ï¿½Mahamastakabhishekaï¿½ day, the court-yard before the
colossus is strewn with layers of fresh paddy. On this green carpet, one
thousand-and-eight coloured ï¿½Kalasasï¿½, i.e., pots filled with sacred water
are arranged in rows, sticking out from the mouth of each, a coconut with
cremonial dressing of mango leaves fastened with coloured sacred twine.
Out of these 1008 pots, 900 pots are used for the first anointing, 103
pots for the second, and only 5 pots for the third and last anointing.
When ceremony is due to start, a number of Jaina priests take up their
positions on the high scaffoldings specially prepared out of strong wooden
pillars for the purpose. Each priest holds in his hands one ï¿½Kalasaï¿½ i.e.,
a pot brimming over with milk, and one pot with ghee. At a signal of the
officiating dignitory, they start the anointing or bath by pouring potfuls
of milk over the image. Then ghee follows.
After these preliminary baths or anointings, Gommatesvara is worshipped
till noon by the Jaina priests. At the stroke of 1 oï¿½clock, the great
ï¿½Mahamastakabhishekaï¿½ begins. The former Maharajas of Mysore state had
always been the greatest patrons of this colossal image of Gommatesvara,
since its installation at Sravana-Belagola a part of their Kingdom, and it
is they who had the hereditary privilege of performing the first ï¿½pujaï¿½ or
worship of the image on this auspicious occasion.
As the appointed hour draws near, the thousand priests climb to their
places on the scaffolding with pots of water. Suitable music is played by
temple musicians while the priests chant hymns and prayers from Jaina
sacred texts. Meanwhile the vast assembly of the pilgrims shout orations
in praise of Gommatesvara. Then at the bidding of the Master of the
Ceremony, the thousand pots of water are emptied over the image.
Following these baths 15 other
offerings are showered on Gommatesvara image in the following order :
13. Gold Flowers
14. Silver Flowers
15. Silver coins.
This kind of ï¿½Mahamastakabhishekaï¿½ ceremony was performed on the occasion
of the Consecration of the Image on Sunday, the 13th of March, 981 A.D. by
General Chamunda-Raya, who was the ï¿½Yajamanaï¿½, i.e., the host, of the
grand ceremony as he had caused that image to be installed at great cost.
In connection with this first ï¿½Mahamastakabhishekaï¿½ ceremony performed on
a very grand scale by Chamunda-Raya, there is a legend which describes how
the pride of Chamunda-Raya, for installing such a huge image was humbled
by a devoted old lady named ï¿½Gullakayajiï¿½, The story is as follows :
Chamunda-Raya, after having established the worship of this image, became
proud and elated, at placing this God by his own authority at so vast an
expense of money and labour. Soon after this, when he performed in honour
of the God the ceremony of ï¿½Panchmritabhishekaï¿½, i.e., bathing the image
with five liquids, vast quantities of these things were expended in many
hundred pots; but, through the wonderful power of the God, the liquid
descended not lower than the navel, to check the pride and vanity of the
worshipper, Chamunda-Raya, not knowing the cause, was filled with grief
that his intention was frustrated of bathing the image completely with
this ablution. While he was in this situation, the celestal nymph
ï¿½Padmavatiï¿½ by order of the God, having transformed herself into the
likeness of an aged poor woman, appeared, holding in her hand the five ï¿½amritasï¿½,
i.e., liquids, in a ï¿½Beliya Golaï¿½ (or small silver pot) for bothing the
statue; and signified her intention to Chamunda-Raya, who laughed at the
at the absurdity of this proposal, of accomplishing what had not been in
his power to effect. Out of curiosity, however, he permitted her to
attempt it, when, to the great surprise of the beholders, she bathed the
image with the liquid brought in the little silver vase. Chamunda-Raya,
repenting his sinful arrogance, performed a second time, with profound
respect, his ablution, on which they formely wasted so much valuable
liquids, and bathed completely the body of the image. From that time this
place is named after the ï¿½Beliya Golaï¿½ i.e., the silver vase, which was
held in Padmavatiï¿½s hand. (vide ï¿½Asiatic Researchesï¿½, vol. IX, page 266).
2. CEREMONIES TO THE END OF THE 19TH
Written records are available to establish the ï¿½Mahamastakabhishekaï¿½
ceremonies having taken place in the following years upto the end of the
19th century :
1. In 1398 A.D. :
The earliest reference to ï¿½Mahamastakabhishekaï¿½ is found in inscription
No. 254 dated 1398 A.D. Which also states that one Panditarya did perform
seven ï¿½Mahamastakabhishekaï¿½ like this prior to it.
2. In 1612 A.D. :
The poet Panchabana refers to an anointment caused to be performed by one
Santi Varni in the year 1612 A.D.
3. In 1659 A.D. :
Performed by His Highness Shri Maharaja Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar Bahadur of
4. In 1677 A.D. :
Poet Anantakavei refers to the anointment ceremony conducted at the
expense of Visalaksha-Pandita, the Jaina minister of the Mysore King
Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar in 1677 A.D.
5. In 1800 A.D. :
Performed By His Highness the Maharaja Mummadi Krishna-Raja Wodeyar (III)
Bahadur of Mysore.
6. In 1825 A.D. :
Mentioned by Pandita Santi-Raja of its being performed by Mysore King
Krishna-Raja Wodeyar (III) in about 1825 A.D.
7. In 1827 A.D. :
In inscription No. 223, a specific reference has been made to a similar
ceremony performed in 1827 A.D.
8. In 1871 A.D. :
Capt. J.S.F. Mackenzie of Mysore Commission mentions that ï¿½Once in twenty
years the great ceremony of washing the god is performed. The last
occasion was in the early part of June, 1871. (vide ï¿½Indian Antiquaryï¿½,
Vol. II, May, 1873, page. 129).
9. In 1887 A.D. :
Sri Laxmi-Sena Bhattaraka Swami of Kolhapur Matha performed the
ï¿½Mahamastakabhishekaï¿½ on the 14th of March 1887 A.D. It is said that this
Laxmi-Sena Bhattaraka spent Rs. 30,000 for this purpose. The following
account of the ceremony is taken from the May 1887 issue of the journal
ï¿½Harvest Fieldï¿½ :