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?


Anonymous said...

Dear Abhishek,

First of all a heartly congrats for visiting and watching live the "Maha Mastakabisheka" . well, I missed it.

It interesting to read your blog.
I think with the time we are living , Values of Jainism have changed a lot. Though many of our elderly people donot eat potatoes, etc; many of us including me haveit daily.
Regarding paying money for kalash and having the luxury of easy and splendid Lord Darshan, huge chunk of money should and hopely will go in developmental causes.

But, I also think that there is much scope of improvement in the way this great event can be managed. Hope Next time things will improve .


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
Critisising anything is very simple. Please think that for such a bigggg occassion there sould be some dicsipline, some rules, some critaria. Huge money is also required for such functions. Even then, daily there was time fixed for common poeple also to have darshan.

I do not know who is you and where from you. But If you can manage this type of function in a better way, please send me your details. I will recommend your name to be added in the Organizing Committee for next Mahamastakabhisheka.
Pl. excuse me if my comments are hard.
-Sudhir Jain.

Abhishek said...

Dear Sudhir Sir,

With all due respect to the organizing committee members, I totally agree that discipline is required for an event of this large nature. But my point here is the the criteria to impose this discipline should not be money alone. I believe that since the govt is also involved committee would not have been short on monetary resource to manage the event. Some lessons from Kumbh mela could be useful in this regard. No common man is ever denied a "shahi snan" there, while here to witness the mahaMastakabhishek one was necessarily required to "buy" a kalash.

Something like a country wide lucky draw to get half of the Kalash holders and rest half by same auction method could be one of way to balance out the current isolation of common people.

Also you would agree that money being biggest factor in anything makes process out of reach for common man and for such religious matter it is not a fair practice.

Abhishek said...

Hi Vikas,

The point in case is not potatoes, but it is discrimination. On one hand the management claim to make "satvic food" for Kalash people and discriminate out accompaning people like car drivers to eat at the place, while on the other hand they buy potatoes to feed the workers. Isn't that double standards ?

I remember reading some history books on jainism which said that the popularity of Jainism grew during time of Bhagwan Mahavir because it was a period of extreme rituals in hinduism. People were discriminated on caste and faith. This "inspired" people to come into folds of Jainism. So now when world is trying to do away with such autocratic discrimination, why should we travel backwards?

Anonymous said...

Compairing Mastakabhishek with Kumbh is not right. At Prayag there is miles of space for bathing in the Ganga. But at Sravanabelgola only one statue and that too on the top of hill. So we can go one by one only.

Your second suggession is good that we can reserve half (or some) KALASH for common people. But then what will be the critaria to distribute them? Any suggession?
-Sudhir Jain

Abhishek said...

Dear Sudhir Sir,

Its true that there is miles of space in prayag but the most auspicious one at sangam is limited.

Coming to second part, we have an extensive network of temples all over the country. We can organize some kind of dharam quiz and choose city/region winners and award them by giving them a chance to do kalash. I am sure we can also get lot of sponsers for such cause. I believe we need a will to use the event as a medium for increasing public awareness about Jainism and Jain ideas rather than just fundraising.


Abhishek said...

There is an audio slideshow for the event at BBC News at this link:

Award winning photographer Karoki Lewis has captured the sights and sounds of the event.

Abhishek said...

link did not showed properly on previous page. It is

Anonymous said...

Dear Abhishek/others

I am Sharad Jain, myself a kalash holder for 16th feb. few thoughts after reading all comments:

1. There already were daily 108 kalash's reserved as 'Gullikaji kalsh'-free of cost.
2. Lowest paid grade kalash was Rs 1500, then Rs 2500 and so on. Not too costly considering the event scale. If one poor cannot buy it, one may not even pay rail/bus ticket to reach there.
3. The platform will be there for months and once grand ceremony is over on 19th feb; normal mob will be going and doing Darshan/Kalsh as routine. Everyone does darshan/Kalsh in routine whole year.
4. I stayed in Yatri Nagar(paid accomodation) , had subsidised food of Rs 15 a thali. This was available to taxi/auto drivers too. I ate for 2 days, it was pure jain food. I can not comment on Kalash Nagar food. I understand Kalsh Nagar food was free for only Kalash holders, yes.
5. Whole 12 years there is no restriction on caste, creed, colour, money,religion..It is only this mahamastakbhisheka when arrangements are different and have to be...
6. At the top hill is very narrow. Even for Kalash holders additional iron/wood platform was created for seating. The hill is full of people full day. If normal mob is allowed in ceremony time.. I do not know of the control. It was difficult for organisers to even control privileged ones.
7. There are lot of educational institutes, colleges, hospitals etc. run by the mutt, it runs on this money ,collected once a 12 year, for 12 years.
8. In Balaji,lot of others Hindu temples, Akshardham temple in Delhi and so on, special Darshans cost some money, there is huge collection on daily basis, but expenditure on public welfare or poors is not visible.
9.In Dharmasthala, a nearby Jain pilgrimage, run by Hegdeji thru a mutth like Shravanabelagola, there are two free eatouts. 'Annapoorna' bhojnalaya for jans and Non jains-all-totally free,anytime. Almost 3000 people eat there. yes there is seperate Jain bhojnalaya,again free and gives Jain food.
10. The pure Jains whom I know are seldom poor Jains. The poor Jains I know are not always pure jains.

Last but not the least, as a good Jain, it is our duty to hide negative facts about any saadharmi bandhu( Jain person) and spread good facts about any Jain. ( this is also one of the aspect of a Jain or any religious person).

Lets us view things holistically.

I agree with Mr. Sudhir Jain on lot of thoughts.
Sharad Jain

Abhishek said...

Dear Sharad Sir,

I agree with you that it is one big moment for the math to generate money and then use it for the next 12 years. Being from Ujjain, I very well know that development happens in Ujjain only once in 12 years at time of Kumbh (Singhast) mela.

I also agree with you on the fact that money is spend on good cause, but my point here is, the occasion of the event is rare. Everyone would like to have a punya labh of doing the Kalash. But why should we part a common man with what could be a lot of money for him.

Here I would also like to bring to your notice a statistic which I read somewhere but don't remember the source now, that Jain community on an avg donate about 100 Crores each year. Most of that goes in construction of new temples or renovation of old ones. Some 15-20 % of the amount get spent on other social cause like education, hospital etc.

In view of this statistic, I feel a collection of few lakh rupees can easily be passed to offer an opportunity to common man to get benefited by doing a divine Kalash.

One point where I differ from you is that to hide negative points of our community. I am a firm believer of progression and it comes only in an open society. We should be courageous enough to know our shortcomings and should work on them to improve them. We always take pride in calling our religion as most advanced and having scientific roots. They why should on the other hand we press hard ourself to keep status quo. We should be progressive and open to accommodate any good ideas which confer to our basic principles of non-violence, equality etc.

I am very glad to receive so many good comments to my blog. I am in principle not against any institution or person, but just expressed my feelings. Most of this provocation came from the way I saw in Kalash Nagar where our people went a little over board in terms of commercialization of Kalash and anyone without money was strictly unwelcome in the area. I did not like that kind of attitude in such a grand religious event. We could be more compassionate and truly religious in our conduct.

Thanks & Regards

Abhishek said...

I just came to know about a legend about this idol. As it goes, at the time of first ever Mahamastakabhishek when the organizers poured loads of milk and other things but could not wet the idol fully. It was then a poor old lady came and poured just a bowl full of milk and magic! whole idol was wet.

This legend exemplifies my whole point in case. I do not think that it need anymore support from my side.