A small town of Shravanabelagola in the state of Karnataka in India is usually quiet, except for every 12 years. The Mahamastakabhisheka or the Grand Consecration is a major festival for Jains that’s celebrated every 12 years. During this festival, Jain idols are anointed including the famous statue of Bhagwan Bahubali known as the Gommateshwara statue.
The statue was built in 981 AD and stands at 58.8 feet tall and it the world’s largest free-standing statue. This year will be the 88th anointing of the Gommateshwara statue and will be conducted under His Holiness Swasti Sri Charukeerthi Bhattarakha Swamiji of Shravanabelagola. More than 1 million devotees are expected to attend the event in 2018.
Bhagwan Bahubli is revered because he is considered one of the first followers of Jainism to reach salvation. During the ceremony, 1008 pots that contain water and sandalwood paste are poured over the statue. During the week-long celebration milk, water, sugarcane juice, turmeric, saffron, and vermillion are bathed upon the statue. Other donations include silver and gold coins and other gems. At the conclusion of the ceremony, a helicopter drops 52 varieties of flowers upon the statue and the crowd.
This year, the local government has set up housing with running plumbing and electricity to house the millions to be estimated to come to this event. The local government is also working on upgrading roads and bus stands to help accommodate the visitors. The scaffold that is built in order to anoint the statue is approximated to have between 500-600 steps.
Mahamastakabhishekas happen at other holy Jain idols every 12 years. Next year, there will be a Mahamastakabhishekas at Dharmasthala where a different statue of Bhagwan Bahubli will be anointed. This statue is 39 feet high with a 13-foot pedestal. The attendance of that event is normally smaller than the one in Shravanabelagola. After that, the next Mahamastakabhishekas will take place in 2024 at Venur.