Mahamastakabhisheka refers to the anointment (abhisheka) ceremony of the Jain images. The most significant of the Mahamastakabhishekas held in India is the anointment of the statue of Bahubali at Shravanabelagola, Karnataka, known as the Gommateshwara statue. Bahubali is much revered figure in Jainism and was the son of Jainism first tirthankara – Rishabhanatha.

The Mahamastakabhisheka of Bahubali Gommateshwara statue is a major festival of Jainism, celebrated every 12 years. Last anointing took place 17th February 2018 to 25th February 2018 and the next is scheduled for the year 2030.

Mahamastak Abhisheka 2030

When Will Next Mahamastak Abhisheka Held?

As the festival is observed every 12 years, the next is scheduled for 2030.

Mahamastak Abhisheka 2018

The last Mahamastak abhisheka of Bahubali at Shravanabelagola (District – Hassan) was held from February 17th to 25th in 2018.

When is Mahamastakabhisheka Celebrated?

The dates for Mahamastakabhisheka are decided based on the Lunisolar Jain calendar and depend on the location of celestial bodies. The ritual is observed every 12 years and usually falls in the month of February. The dates of the ritual are announced by the main Swami of Jain Mutt at Shravanabelagola, well in advance to give plenty of time to devotees coming from far off places.

Legend Behind Gommateshwara Mahamastak Abhisheka

Gommateshwara statue is carved from a single piece of stone and represents a revered Jain figure Bahubali, the son of Jain religion’s first tirthankara – Rishabhanatha, who belonged to the Ikshvaku dynasty of Ayodhya.

Bahubali was an excellent medical student and archer. When king Rishabhanatha decided to lead an ascetic life, he distributed his kingdom among his hundred sons. Thus, Bahubali got the kingdom of Asmaka from south India and his elder brother Bharata got the kingdom of Ayodhya.

Bharata moved on to conquer the kingdom of his brothers as well. His all other 98 brothers gave up their kingdoms to him and became monks, except Bahubali, who relented. Thus, three fights were planned between Bharata and Bahubali, with the condition that one who losses will have to forego his kingdom to the other.

The fights or competitions included staring at each other eye to eye, water fight (jala yuddha) and malla yuddha (wrestling).  Bahubali won all the three competitions and win over his elder brother Bharata.

Though Bahubali won over Bharata, he was filled with remorse and regretted the violence. He abandoned not only his kingdom, but also his clothes and moved on to become a Digambara monk. He meditated motionless in standing position for a year at Vindyagiri Hill in Shravanabelagola. It is believed that he meditated with so much penance that climbing plants and ant hills got built up at his lower body.

The enlightenment came to Bahubali when his elder brother Bharata came to worship him after a year. The regret of humiliating his elder brother that Bahubali was nursing since a year was gone when Bharata came to worship him. This regret was abstaining Bahubali from attaining nirvana, and with the regret gone, Bahubali did attained Nirvana or enlightenment.

 

Mahamastak Abhisheka – History

The present statue of Gommateshwara was built in 983 A.D. by Chamunda Raya, an Indian military commander, poet and minister.  The statue stands 57 foot high and is monolithic i.e. carved out of a single stone.  The statue depicts Bahubali in standing position, with large ears, open eyes and curly hairs. The facial features are sharp with a faint smile. An anthill is carved in the background and plants are show climbing on his feet as a resemblance to his penance.

Chamunda Raya not only installed the statue but also performed a fully fledged consecration ceremony on 13th March in 981 A.D. There are scripted evidences of Mahamastakabhisheka being performed as early as in 1612, followed by Jain Minister of Mysore kingdom in 1677 and by the Mysore king Krishna Raja Odeyar III in 1825.

The event was performed precisely as prescribed in the Jain scriptures. Gradually with the passage of time the event got to be called “Mahamastakabhisheka”. Initially Mahamastakabhisheka was performed every 10 or 15 years, depending on the position of celestial bodies. Later the festival started to be celebrated every 12 years.

Mahamastak Abhisheka – Celebration

The anointing ceremony or Mahamastakabhisheka of Bahubali is the most significant festival of Jainism. Millions of Jain pilgrims and Jain gurus make their presence to witness the holy ceremony. The preparations for the day are made well in advance. Scaffolding is constructed above the statue to let the devotees pour milk, water and other condiments over it.

The statue is anointed for three to four days using water, milk, sandalwood paste etc. Thousands of devotees perform the rituals by coconut milk, sugarcane juice, turmeric, ghee and flowers. Devotees chant mantras while ascending the 650 steps to reach the top of the scaffolding. Millions of Jain devotees witness the proceedings from the ground.

The anointing ceremony commences with the sound of a trumpet.  First the religious priests perform the anointment. Sometimes a bid is held and the highest bidder gets to start the anointing ceremony. The devotees are dressed in saffron and white to celebrate the auspicious day which comes only after every 12 years.

Devotees keep pouring milk, water, turmeric, sandal wood and other condiments over the statue, continuously for hours. Thousands of liters of milk and water are used in the ceremony. The statue keeps on changing color as the ritual is performed; leaving the devotees spell bound.

 

The event is witnessed by many political and social figures and is also broadly covered by various media houses. On the 88th Mahamastakabhisheka in 2018, Hon’ble President of India, Prime Minister of India and other dignitaries graced the occasion.

Mahamastak Abhisheka Significance

Bahubali is much revered figure in Jainism and his anointing holds auspicious value to the devotees. The performance of the ceremony after 12 years only adds to its value. Millions of faithful devotees from various corners of India as well as the world are present to reinstate their faith the religion. The festival is observed with reverence by the Jains in the countries like United States, Kenya, Canada, Uganda, Burma, Malaysia etc.

The statue of Gommateshwara signifies self control, enlightenment, surrendering of the ego and wealth. The nude form of the statue implies complete victory over earthly possessions and desires and resembles total salvation or nirvana. The ritual of anointment is significant not only for the Jains but also for the Hindus and Buddhists.

Other Mahamastak Abhisheka across India

Likewise the anointment of Gommateshwara statue at Shravanabelagola in Karnataka, other Jain statues are also anointed throughout India. Other statues are also anointed every twelve years.

Some of the major anointment ceremonies take place at Dharmasthala, Karkala, Venur and Kumbhoj. Dharmasthala is a town located in southern Karnataka on the banks of river Nethravathi. The temple is dedicated to lord Shiva and other Jainism’s protective Gods – Kumaraswami, Kanyakumari, Kalarahu and Kalarkayi.

Karkala is a town in the Mangalore district which houses a statue of Bahubali. This statue is also anointed every 12 years; the last anointment was performed in 2018. Similarly the anointment of the statues of Bahubali in the small village of Venoor in southern Karnataka was performed in 2018.

Bahubali’s statue in Kumbhoj town, Kolhapur District of Maharashtra, is also anointed every 12 years in a grand event which runs for seven days.