Worshipping Lord Bahubali - The Jain Pilgrimage Site at Shravanabelagola

Posted by Susanne Kuhn • Monday, November 15. 2010 • Category: People and Places
The ascent of the 660 rock-cut steps, all of them polished smooth by uncounted bare feet of humble worshippers seeking to perform Darshan (“the beholding of a deity”) at Shravanabelagola, one of the oldest and most important Jain pilgrimage sites in the world, is truly worth each drop of sweat shed. The gigantic 18 meters tall and blindingly white gleaming statue of Lord Bahubali carved from a single piece of granite stone and located on the summit of the Indragiri Hill can be seen even from as much as 24 km afar and is considered to be the world's largest monolithic stone statue. Each day thousands of Jain pilgrims as well as curious visitors make their way up, passing the numerous smaller shrines. Even elderly or handicapped people get the chance to take a closer glimpse at the towering statue on top, as there is a palanquin transport service available to avoid the strenuous hike.

By albany_tim

By albany_tim
The magnificent sculpture is depicting Lord Bahubali (or Gomateshwara as he is also referred to), a highly revered saint in Jain history. The splendid art used showcases the ancient glory of Jains in the tenth century in the whole of South India. Shravanabelagola in Karnataka state was a key centre for their activities and continues to occupy this prominent position even up to the present day.

So, who are these Jains, one might ask. Jainism is a religion that is mostly associated with India, but its followers can be found all over the world as well. The principles that are central to the Jain religion are the utmost respect for all living beings and the strict practice of non-violence (Ahimsa). Although Ahimsa is recognised by Buddhists and Hindus, too, it is practised ritually only amongst the Jains. Under the obligation of non-violence they abstain entirely from meat, dairy products, alcohol, and even honey, as its collection would amount to violence against bees.

(c) Knowledge Must
Jain monks take the concept of Ahimsa even a step further and move around only by foot, do not light any fire, and breathe only with a piece of white cloth tied around their mouth, so as to prevent the inadvertent killing of living organisms in the air by inhaling them. All the above rules might sound rather strange to people of other faiths.

Besides, there is also a very special event held at Shravanabelagola only every twelve years: the Jain community performs a highly exceptional and intriguing ceremony called Mahamastakabhisheka (Maha = great, excellent; Mastaka = head; Abhisheka = anointing, coronation) and myriads of people flock there to witness it. The usually purely white coloured statue turns yellow, orange or red when being showered and bathed with milk, ghee, yogurt, saffron, sandalwood, turmeric, flowers, sugarcane juice, precious stones and gold coins. The anointing ceremony last took place in February 2006, and the next one will occur in 2018. But you do not have to wait. Visiting this unique pilgrimage place is worth the effort anytime!

By Jim Downing
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