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Holy bath for Bahubali

The Mastakabhiseka or the anointing ceremony of 16-foot-tall Bahubali was conducted amidst Jain religious ceremonies at Gommatagiri, about 20 kms. from Mysore, on September 30.

The 52nd annual big bath to the Jain king turned seer was held in the presence of Sri Devendra Keerthi Bhattaraka Swamiji, the Jain Guru of Hombuja Jain Math. The offering of the holy water kept in 108 ‘kalashas’ or vessels was taken up first followed by liquids like milk, honey, Chandana (sandal paste) and other sacred items. It lasted over two hours, giving different hues to the solid rock statue, thrilling the large number of pilgrims as they kept shouting ‘Bahubali Maharajki Jai’.

The holy bath to the monolith statue concluded with Archana and Pushpabhiseka, followed by Mangalarathi offered by the Swamiji. He also addressed the gathering. The Jain pilgrim centre is located near Hunsur. The statue stands on a small hillock having about 80 rock cut steps. It is visible to the visitor from a distance. From atop the hillock, the backwater of Krishnarajasagar reservoir provides an enchanting view. At the bottom, near the foothill, are located the ‘Padakoota’ of Neminatha, the 24th Jain Theerthankara, Kailasagiri and Jina Mandira.

Though no clear record about the date and the person who had it carved is available, it is believed that the statue is of 12th century, when Gommatagiri was an important Jain religious centre. There are a number of Jain Basadis or temples at Hale Beedu Grama, near the hillock. Similarly Bettaduru, Bilikere, Mallinathapura and other surrounding villages had Jain population. The hillock and the statue remained neglected for a long period, after Jains lost their prominence in these areas. A lightning had split the hillock with a huge gap, making it almost impossible to climb it for worshipping Bahubali, which fortunately had suffered no damage.

The place had become almost inaccessible with no proper road and other facilities. The Jains of Mysore formed a committee, the Gommatagiri Kshetra Seva Samithi, in 1924-25 and undertook its restoration, including carving of steps to reach the statue. In 1950 the committee conducted the first anointing ceremony and since then it is being organized every year. In 1952, Maharaja Sri Jayachamaraja Wodeyar of Mysore participated in the Mastakabhiseka. The committee has built a Mahaveer Bhavan and provided other basic facilities for pilgrims visiting Gommatagiri. There is scope to develop the place further and make it an important Jain pilgrim centre in Mysore district.

The 57-foot monolith statue at Sravanabelagola in Hassan district is the tallest statute of Bahubali, also called Gommateswara. There are smaller statues at a few other Jain pilgrim centres in Karnataka including Karkala and Gommatagiri.

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