When Bahubali mania is gripping the country, it is the time to know about the original Bahubali, the history character.
The literal meaning of the word Bahubali is a person with strong arms. Bahubali was the son of the first Jain tirthankara Adinath/Rishabhdev. He was the younger brother of Chakravartin King Bharata. According to Jains and Hindu puranas, Bharata, another name of the country India is named after this Chakravartin King. Chakravartin is an ancient Indian term used to refer to an ideal universal ruler who rules ethically and benevolently over the entire world.
Bharata’s 98 brothers became Jain monks’ and submitted their kingdoms to him. Bahubali was gifted with the superior body of extraordinary sturdiness and strength like Bharata. He hurled open defiance at the chakravartin and challenged him to a fight.
It was decided that to settle the dispute, three kinds of contests between Bharata and Bahubali would be held. These were eye-fight (staring at each other), water-fight, and wrestling. Bahubali won all the three contests over his elder brother, Bharata.
After the fight, Bahubali was filled with disgust towards the world and developed a desire for renunciation. He abandoned his clothes and kingdom to become a Digambara monk and began meditating with great resolve to attain omniscience.
Bahubali is said to have meditated motionless for one year in a standing posture and that during this time, climbing plants grew around his legs. After his year of meditation, Bahubali has attained omniscience. According to Jain texts, Bahubali’s soul was liberated from the cycle of births and deaths (moksha ) at Mount Kailash. He is said to be the first Digambara monk to have attained moksha in the present half-cycle of time (avasarpini). He is revered as a liberated soul by the Jains.
Bahubali is also known as Gommateshwara. The famous Gommateshwara status is located at Shravanabelagola, Karnataka in the Hassan district. This 57 feet status was built in around 91 AD. The status is 57-foot monolith (statue carved from a single piece of rock) situated above a hill in Shravanabelagola. This is one of the largest free-standing statues in the world.
The Mahamastakabhisheka is an important Jain festival held once every twelve years in the town of Shravanabelagola The festival is held in veneration of statue of the Bahubali. The anointing last took place in 2006, and the next ceremony is going to take place in February 2018.
On this day, the gigantic idol of the Lord is smeared with 1008 pots from devotees arriving from various parts of the world. The preparation for the festival starts from 18 days in advance. On the day of the ceremony, the devotees begin to worship the Lord early morning. The 1008 vessels or pots are kept beneath the idol. The priests chanting divine hymns ask the devotees to carry the vessels, climb around 600 stairs to reach the top of the statue. Upon reaching the top, the devotees then pour water on the idol. The chant of the holy mantras and trumpets certainly make the environment unforgettable.
The statue is then smeared with the coconut water, milk, sugarcane juice, turmeric paste, sandalwood, rice flour and 52 types of flowers collected from various parts of the world. Precious stones, petals, gold and silver coins are offered as a mark of respect. The ceremony nearly takes 10 hours to complete.
How to Reach Shravanabelagola?
By Air: Bangalore International Airport is the closest airport to reach Shravanabelagola. Upon reaching the airport, the visitors can take the buses, private cabs or taxis to reach their destination.
By Train: Shravanabelagola does not have a railway station of its own. The nearest railhead is Hassan city that is around 45 km from Shravanabelagola. The buses and taxis are available from the station to reach Shravanabelagola.
By Road: Shravanabelagola is around 160 km from Bangalore. The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) runs buses to Shravanabelagola city from Bangalore. Besides, Bangalore, the buses are quite conveniently available from Channarayapatna town that is about 11 km away from Shravanabelagola.
For a Tour to Shravanabelagola, the best time to visit is between the months of October and March. However next best time is during February 2018 when the festival is celebrated. The festival starts on 17th Feb 2018.
This is the short story of the ancient Bahubali. When the nation is in Bahubali mode, it is pertinent to know something from the history book.