Mahamastakabhisheka Ritual of the “Great Anointment of the Head”

This is a photo of the Mahamastakabhisheka ritual, “Great Anointment of the head.”. The photo is from 2012 taken by Professor Rajini Rao. The statue is over 1,000 years old. 


The ceremony lasts over 6 hours and occurs every 12 years in February. The Jain Puja website explains:

“Priests climbed the special scaffolding and assisted pot-holders in anointing the statue with water, coconut, sugarcane juice, rice flour, herbs, milk, sandal paste, turmeric, precious stones, and 52 varieties of flowers from around the world. Dressed in saffron and white, thousands of devotees gathered at the Chandragiri and Vindyagiri Hills for the grand event. As trumpets marked the beginning of the rare, auspicious ceremony, thousands looked up to witness the anointing.

For six hours, 108 jal kalashas (pots) were poured on Bahubali by devotees from around the world. 1,000 litres of milk, 3,000 litres of water, 250 kilograms of turmeric and sandal were poured on the gigantic statue, which kept changing colour…

The stone sculpture symbolises renunciation, self-control and subjugation of the ego as the first steps towards salvation. The nude form — also referred to as Digambara — of Lord Bahubali, represents complete victory over earthly desire that hampers one’s spiritual ascent towards the divine.

Check out a wonderful BBC slideshow on this Jain festival. It includes a brief overview of their belief system which is about non-violence, respect for life and compassion.

Photo: Rajini Rao

4 thoughts on “Mahamastakabhisheka Ritual of the “Great Anointment of the Head”

  1. It’s such pleasure to mark the diverse cultural heritage of our species. As an aside, the feel of the warm, slightly rough stone under our bare feet as we climbed the steep stairs to the top of the hills where the Mahavira statue stands is an unexpectedly pleasant memory.  Carved on the stones along the hills were scripts from an even older era (~600-1830 CE). 


  2. The script on the statue is either in Kannada (the language of my state, Karnataka) or in Devnagiri, an old language. The older script was just on the rocks and in various ancient scripts, recounting the history of the ruling dynasties of the time.  


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