Acharya Vardhman Sagarji led a group of 44 male and female monks on a Padayatra from Rajasthan to Karnataka to participate in the 2018 Mahamastakabhisheka of Bahubali at Shravanabelagola that is to take place during February 7-26. This ceremony is conducted every 12 years,ever since the statue was first installed and consecrated in 981 CE by Chamunda Raya, a minister from the southern kingdom of Madhura. The venerated Digambar spiritual leader, Vardhman Sagarji, reached the sacred town of Shravanabelagola on June 4 this year and will stay on for the big event in February 2018. He is observing Chaturmaas here,from July 7 till Deepavali and will stay on till the Mahamastakabhisheka concludes early next year, during end February. This is not his first time here. Vardhman Sagarji had come in 1993 and 2006 as well for the grand headanointing ceremony of the towering figure of Bahubali, the son of the first tirthankara, Adinath Rishabdev, who gave up his kingdom and other possessions to become an ascetic. Like this time, on the earlier two occasions, too, the Jain Acharya spent chaturmaas here in Shravanabelagola. Devotees point out that he follows a disciplined daily routine and still drinks only well water and eats food cooked over a coal-fired stove. In the course of a conversation, he answered the following
Why did you undertake the Padayatra from Rajasthan to Karnataka that took you one whole year to complete?
We set off from Niwai near Jaipur, Rajasthan, and undertook the journey to Shravanabelagola by foot, covering a distance of 2,500 km in 365 days. During
the course of the Yatra, several events were organised, including Panchakalyanak and the chaturmaas.Diksha was also given. More
importantly, the journey
was crucial to creating public awareness not just
about the forthcoming Mahamastakabhisheka of Bahubali at Shravanabelagola, but also to create more knowledge about Jain Dharma and the teachings of the Tirthankaras. The Yatra was sponsored by devotees, some of whom also participated in the pilgrimage.
Why is the Mahamastakabhisheka
conducted once in 12 years?
It is like the Kumbha Mela for the Jain community. Moreover,we need that much time to prepare for such a mega event. Since it is only once in 12 years, people look forward to it as an important event and it is a major attraction not just for Jains and devotees of Bahubali, but for people of all faiths and it is a big tourist
attraction as well.
What is the significance of the Mahamastakabhisheka?
Imagine, the sculpture of Bahubali is so beautiful and it has stood there for more than 1,000 years now. Yet, we still do not know the name of the sculptor! We do know that the statue was commissioned by Chamunda Raya and, of course, there are many stories around how the sculpture came into existence. One story goes that the sculptor demanded payment equal to the weight of stone chips that fell off during the sculpting, in gold. But later, he decided not to take any payment once he realised his ego was
getting the better of him.
There is another story of how when Chamunda Raya initiated the pouring of milk over the statue,the milk would not flow beyond the neck.Then an elderly woman, Gullikayi Ajji – actually, Padmavathy the protective Goddess or Yakshi of the region – comes along with a small container of milk and when she offers that to Bahubali, much milk flows all the way down and even fills up the large Kalyani Tank between Vindhyagiri and Chandragiri Hills.The incident brought home to Chamunda Raya the truth that when one operates from pride and ego,nothing is achieved, but when one acts with humility, love and devotion,one is showered with Divine Grace.
What would you say is Bahubali’s eternal message?
? Ahimsa se sukh; tyag se shanti; dhyan se siddhi and maitri se pragati – happiness from nonviolence;peace from sacrifice; realisation from meditation and progress from friendship. Bharat and Bahubali were sons of Adinath and were heirs to the kingdom but when Bharat decided to wage war against his brother, Bahubali declined and instead of risking the lives of his people, offered to combat just Bharat in three ways, one to one…. and Bahubali won. An angry Bharat released his Chakra that had helped him conquer several territories so far but the Chakra stopped short of entering Bahubali’s territory and so Bharat lost. But this triggered a train of thought in Bahubali who decided to give up everything and become an ascetic. He stood in the open in penance for one whole year, even as anthills grew at his feet and creepers clung to him as they used his body as support.This way, Bahubali attained Kaivalya (enlightenment) and also achieved Moksha – before his father Adinath, the first Tirthankara, could attain Moksha although he, too, had attained Kaivalya state.
In most text books, Jainism is always attributed to Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, but it existed long before even Adinath, the first Tirthankara.
Yes, it is believed that Bharat’s son Marichi’s Atman became Mahavira,the 24th and last Tirthankara.Every era gives rise to 24 Tirthankaras, so Jainism has neither beginning, nor end.
Can you tell us something about the Jain practice of voluntarily giving up one’s life, known as Sallekhana or Santhara. Recently a girl child reportedly practised this; is there no age limit?
About Sallekhana – no, there is no age limit. Either you have finished all worldly responsibilities and decide it is time for you to go or you suffer a terminal illness and wish to go.For the latter, it has to be confirmed by doctors that no medicine or treatment can save the patient’s life.The process is that slowly, in a phased manner,you reduce your intake of food and fluids, until you abstain altogether.According to legend, Emperor Chandragupta Maurya is said to have performed Sallekhana here, in Shravanabelagola, after completing all his responsibilities.
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