Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Yes the Jain ceremony of head anointing which happens once in 12 years goes dot com this year.
To give the background of the event:
The 57 feet, thousand and twenty five year old monolithic statue of Lord Gommateshwara, also popularly known as Bahubali, at Shravanabelagola is the tallest in the world. As the Mahamasthakabhisheka begins, consecrated water is sprinkled onto the participants by devotees carrying 1008 specially prepared vessels. The statue is then bathed and anointed with libations such as milk, sugarcane juice, and saffron paste, and sprinkled with powders of sandalwood, turmeric, and vermilion. Offerings are made of petals, gold and silver coins, and precious stones.
After 1993, this event took place in 2006, from February 4th to 19th. The grand opening of Mahamasthakabhisheka festival was done by President of India APJ Abul Kalam on 22nd January 2006. Instead of limiting the abhishek ritual to a day, like all earlier times, the state government and the Sri Digambara Jain Mutt Trust held it for nine days. "We want more pilgrims to experience it. One hundred and eight selected pilgrims will pour the kalasas on the first day, 504 on the second and 1,008 on each of the remaining seven days," the Digamabara Jain Mutt seer Charukeerthi Bhattaraka said.
More details are available on the official website and there is always google.
Now coming to the point. The reason I am writing this blog is that during my two day long visit (see picturtes) to the place, one thing constantly made me think and re-think. I felt that Lord Gomteshwar's mahamastakabhishek was made available only to people who paid a well defined "ransom". See the kalash link for details of this.
A man doing his job honestly, living a true Jain life but poor was very much uninvited. I had an opportunity to experience this stark difference myself. On 18th Feb Saturday, first day of my visit, I went in as a poor man. I was not allowed to step on to the hill (Indragiri) on which the idol is located. The ceremony time was from morning 8 to afternoon 3. All the poor people were required to stand in hot sun or climb a smaller hill (Chandragiri) opposite to the main hill from which one can see the head of the idol but it required a very good eye sight. Poor were allowed to step on the main hill only after 3 PM till 8PM and thankfully till 10PM on Saturday else the poor me would have been disappointed. The great crowd because of religious appeal of the mega event, ensured that each person need about 3 hours to reach to the idol and that too for less than two minutes before you will be pushed out to the downhill way. In between there were enough places to get humiliated in the crowd similar to a Mumbai's local train during rush hours were one would be almost crushed. The patrolling police too made sure that all the people use only half portion of climbing stairs which rest was kept reserved for themselves or some VIP.
I was fortunate enough to get darshan on Saturday night. Finally a poor me got a consolation darshan to cherish.
Came the Sunday, and I was the rich me who got privileged to participate in the ceremony thanks to the money I could "buy" a Kalash. It also offered me privilege to get accommodation for next three days after paying a fixed amount (remember it was the last day of ceremony and I wonder if those temporary things would even have still been around for next three days.) and free food. Food which a person who has not "bought" a kalash cannot get. Food which was not allowed to non-Jain people such as my taxi driver. Food which was being cook exclusively for few privileged "pure Jain" people but the preparation place had loads of potatoes (Jainism advice againt eating vegetable which grow below ground like potatoes, onion, carrot etc.). When I inquired about the presence of potatoes, I met a harsh yelling asking me not be to oversmart and claiming that it was for non-Jain people who are working to make this event happen. Was my driver not working for same reason?
anyway... When I went with a pass denoting me a privileged Kalash holder, I was surprized to see the pathway to hilltop which took me 3 hrs to climb on Saturday, took me only 10 minutes rate limited only by my speed. Why not, I "paid" for it. On the hilltop, I was offered a privilege seat to witness the whole ceremony right infront and experience a divine joy for which I actually went there. But I am thinking, why a poor man who might be a better Jain than me or most of people out there is standing out waiting for the ceremony to get over before he is allowed to climb the hill?