981 A.D. – The first ever Mahamasthakabhisheka of the sacred 57 feet high monolithic statue of Lord Bahubali was performed in 981 A.D. under the guidance of Chamundaraya. On account of the stupendous height of the image special scaffoldings have to be erected whenever Mahamasthakabhishekas are to be performed. Hence such anointing ceremonies are few and far between performed only at certain conjunctions of the heavenly bodies at intervals of several years and at a very great cost.

1398 A.D. – “The earliest reference to Mahamasthakabhisheka is found in an inscription of 1398, which states that Panditarya had it performed seven times.

1612, 1677, 1825, 1871, 1887 A.D. – The poet Panchabana refers to an anointment caused to be performed by one Santavarni in 1612, Ananthakavi to another conducted at the expense of Visalaksha Pandita, the Jaina minister of the Mysore kin Chikka-Devaraja-Wodeyar, in 1677 and Santaraja Pandita to a third caused to be performed by the Mysore king Krishna Raja Wodeyar III in about 1825(Epigraphia Carnatica Vol II page 18). Reference is made to a similar ceremony performed in 1827, to another in 1871 in the Indian Antiquary and to another still performed in 1887 at the expense of Sri Lakshmisena Bhattarka of Jain Mutt Kolhapur who is said to have spent nearly Rs. 30,000 for the purpose.

1910 A.D. – Within recent times there was a grand anointing ceremony on 30th March 1910. It will interesting to note that on that occasion an aerial post was tried by one Mr.G.F.Edwards who sent a message regarding the puja by a homing pigeon which was received by the Madras Mail Office within three hours and forty minutes details of which were published in the Jaina Gazettee Vol VI No. 6.

1925 A.D. – After the lapse of a decade and a half a very grand Mahamasthakabhisheka was performed on the 15th of March 1925. Months before this date a pooja comittee had been formed with His Holiness Charukirti Panditarya-Varya Swamiji of the Jain Mutt at Shravanabelagola as president and Mr.M.L.Vardhamanaiah of Mysore the Secretary. Bulletins were caused to be issued in various vernaculars and circulated all over India to give the widest publicity possible about the then impending great and religious function of the Jains. With great self sacrifice, Mr.Vardhamanaiah, the energetic and indefatigable Secretary of the Pooja Committee, toured all over India visiting the important Jain centers to invite the Jain Samaj and to make the necessary arrangements for the success of the festival. The news of Mahamasthakabhisheka of Sri Gommateshwara was welcomed with a thrill of joy all over the Jaina world and the one common talk of the Jains early that year was about their intending pilgrimage to Shravanabelagola.

The Mahamastakabhisheka mahotsava began on the 27th February and terminated on the 15th of March with the grand Mahamasthakabhisheka of the sacred and magnificient image of Sri Gommateshwara. Between those two dates there were various festivals including a Panchakalyana pooja. As days passed on the influx of pilgrims went on increasing gradually untill at last towards the middle of March large crowds began to gather in the small town of Shravanabelagola. Jains from all parts India from Calcutta, Cuttack, Kanchi, Kashmir, Belgaum, Benaras, Bombay, Poona, Madras, Meerut, Akola, Alahabad, Lahore, Lalithpur, Delhi, Dacca, Indire, Ajmer, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Bharatpur, Lucknow, Moradabad, Puri, Peshawar, Surat, Ahmadabad, Trichy, Tanjore, Madura, Ramnad, Mangalore, Moodabidri, Karnala, Venur and many other parts of India speaking various vernaculars languages from different professions irrespective of their financial status or education thronged to Shravanabelagola. Many sadhus, sadhvis and shravakas thronged at Shravanabelagola to pay their reverential homage to Gommateshwara and witness the sacred Mahamasthakabhisheka.

With an intention of increasing the importance of the event it was announced that the All India Jain Conference would be held under the distinguished presidency of His Highness the Maharaj of Mysore. The accasion attracted unprecedented number of Jains and the erstwhile village of Shravanabelagola got metamorphosed into a typical Indian city by the middle of March 1925. The pooja committee had made elaborate arrangements for the convenience of the piglrims and had erected a large number of sheds and tents which were fully occupied. His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore had camped at Sravanabelagola for three days. All kinds of bazaars and tamashas and circus added to the buzzle of the place. With the beloved ruler of the state in the midst and with thousands of pilgrims and hundreds of shops, Shravanabelagola could very favourably be compared with any of the average capital cities of the native states in India.

His highness the Maharaja arrived at Shravanabelagola on the 13th March at 6-30pm and His Highness was given a hearty and royal reception at a special entrance to the village, where a welcome arch had been erected for the purpose. On the way from Mysore to Shravanabelagola special arches were erected at the entrance of each village to welcome His Highness on his way to Shravanabelagola. From Kikkeri, His highness traveled along the new route constructed by Sowkar G.P.Dharaniah of Shravanabelagola. Sir Seth Hukumchandji, Mr.M.L.Vardhamanaiah and Dorbali Jinadas Sastri, the palaca Mahadivan and other dignitaries welcomed His Highness in a traditional manner.
On the following four or five days there were anointing ceremonies performed by the pilgrims from different places in India.

The greatest, grandest and the most sublime and memorable event took place on the 15th March. Early in the morning people were seen going up the Vindhyagiri shouting “Sri Gommateshwara Swamiki Jai, Sri Bahubali Maharajki Jai”. About 9’o clock in the morning all the available space on the hill was occupied. It was estimated that not less than 5000 people were seated on the Mantap around the sacred Image. Tens of thousands of pilgrims were on the Chandragiri and in the shade of trees anxiously waiting to see the pooja.

At about 9-30 A.M. the pooja began amidst the loud sounding of bands, pipes and drums and the mingled shouts of, “Jai, Jai”, the first pooja was performed in the name of His Highness the Maharaja of Mysore. As the collossal and the majestic inage was being bathed with water, cocoanut meal, plantains, jaggery, ghee, sugarcane juice, almonds, date, etc. In quick succession the devout pilgrims found themselves in a land of immortality and joy.

At about 11-30 A.M., His Highness the Maharaja arrived at the foot of the hill by motor and walked up the hill bare footed. His Highness sitting on the special seat arranged for him witnessed the pooja. Then the abhisheka or the anointment with milk took place which was a supremely grand and inspiring sight which almost made the spectators forget themselves and cry, “Gommateshwara Swamiki Jai”. Then there was abhisheka with sandalwood, saffron mixture and swarna, gold and sivler flowers, varieties of gems and coins. His Highness presented a few costly shawls to His Holiness Sri Charukeerthi Panditarya Swamiji of Jain Mutt at Shravanabelagola. Then the masthakabhisheka came to a successful close for that day amidst shouts of “Jai, Jai”.

On the following four or five days there were anointing ceremonies performed by the pilgrims from different places in India.

1940 A.D. – The government of Mysore sanctioned the performance of the Mahamasthakabhisheka in February 1940. For the first time the Mysore government took up the celebration of this function which on the previous occasions was performed by the leading Jains. As usual for about a fortnight prior to the day of mahamasthakabhisheka which was held on the 26th February 1940, several religious ceremonies were performed. At 9-30 A.M. on the 26th February the first Abhisheka was performed by the late His Highness Sri Krishnarajendra Bahadur accompanied by the prince Sri Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar. The people assembled were happy to witness the pooja and also to see their Highness in their midst. At 4 P.M. on the same day their Highness were presented with welcome addresses on the occasion of the All India Digambar Jain Mahasabha which was graciously opened by His Highness the Maharaja. Several conferences were held during the occasion. Over Rs. 75,000 were collected by the auction sale of Kalashas to constitute a fund for the protection and upkeep of the sacred image. This pooja also was a grand success and a good occasion for the discussion of several matters concerning the welfare of the Jain Community.

Reference:
Glory Of Gommatesvara – Edited by: C.S.Mallinath, Mercury Publishing House, Madras (1953).

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