Shravanabelagola is famous both as a major Jain pilgrimage centre and a site of historical significance. The present head of the Shravanabelagola Jain Matha is Swastishri Karmayogi Charukeerti Bhattaraka Swamiji . One of the most prominent cultural events of Jainism is Mahamastakabhisheka which is organised once every 12 years. This year Mahamastakabhisheka is being organised from February 17 to February 25. This is the 4th Mahamastakabhisheka that is being held under the supervision and guidance of Charukeerti Bhattaraka Swamiji. In view of this momentous occasion, Swamiji spoke to the Organiser on history and importance of Mahamastakabhisheka, tenets of Jainism, the significance of Bahubali and the history of Shravanabelagola.
You have organised previous Mahamastakabhishekas of Bhagwan Bahubali. How were they managed and how was the response from devotees and the public in general?
I was given charge of this holy place on ‘Mahavir Jayanti’ of 1970. The first Mahamastakabhisheka in my tenure was in 1981. It was the commemoration of 1000 years of Mahamastakabhisheka. The millennial Mahamastakabhisheka celebrations were organised very successfully. That year our Paramapoojya Acharya Vidyananda Bhimaraj had walked all the way from Delhi to Shravanabelagola. The then Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi had inaugurated the event. Then Chief Minister of Karnataka Shri. Gundurao had provided excellent co-operation.
The Mahamastakabhisheka of 1993 was also special. Shri. Shankar Dayal Sharma, the then President, inaugurated it and it was during this event that the ‘Prakrit Institution’ was inaugurated. Shri Shankar Dayal Sharma delivered an erudite and elaborate speech on Prakrit for about an hour. ‘Jana kalyan’ Schemes were started during this Mahamastakabhisheka.
The Mahamastakabhisheka of 2006 was the 3rd during my tenure. Then-President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam had inaugurated the event.
Adequate planning and preparations have been made for the Mahamastakabhisheka of Feb, 2018.
p Can you please provide an insight into Shravanabelagola’s history as a place of pilgrimage, a legacy of its Acharyas and accomplishments?
Sharavanabelagola has been a place of pilgrimage for the last 2300 years. Research has found evidence from the era of Harappa-Mohenjodaro. Hence this place has a history of 5000 years at least. In fact, the image of Bahubali has been found on seals excavated in Harappa-Mohenjodaro.
‘Dwadashanga’ Shruta Kevali Bhadrabahu had arrived here. Swami Shruta Kevali Bhadrabahu was the 8th Successor of Mahavira Thirtankara. He had mastered all the 12 arms of the doctrine of the Tirthankaras. Though he was self-taught, he had learnt the shashtras by heart along with their true meaning. Chikkabetta (Chandragiri) was the ‘Tapobhoomi’ of Shruta Kevali Bhadrabahu along with other 12 thousand saints. Hence it became a place of pilgrimage since then. History also says that Chandragupta Maurya took ‘deeksha’ as a monk here and performed penance during his old age here. Prakrit scriptures have information about this. The history of Shravanabelagola starts during 3rd Century BCE.
In the 12th Century CE, though the matha was administered by the Digambara saints, it was ordained that the head of the matha would adorn clothes and discharge his duties. This has been the practice ever since.
The gist of the teachings of the Tirthankaras has been to save oneself from the worldly bonds and escape the cycle of birth-death and attain ‘moksha’. Prakrit was the primary language then and was also the language of the ‘Agamas’ and Jain literature. When the idol of Bhagwan Bahubali was consecrated on Doddabetta (Vindhyagiri), it became a place of pilgrimage too. The 24 Tirtankara Jain Basadi was built by Hulla Chamopathy who was a local administrator of the Hoysala kings. Chikkabetta, Doddabetta, Bhandara Basadi have made Shravanabelagola a place of pilgrimage. Collection of palm leaf manuscripts about this pilgrim town is also considered sacred.
There are many books and articles that have been published on Bhagwan Bahubali and Shravanabelagola. Have there been any efforts or any plans to compile all such books and articles or bring out a bibliography consisting of such works?
There are many such compilations that have been published. There is also a plan to publish a compilation of all such literature during the Mahamastakabhisheka. Few bibliographies have been published too.
Bhagawan Bahubali’s idols have been installed at several places other than Shravanabelagola. What are the differences and specialities between Mahamastakabhisheka offered at Shravanabelagola and other places?
Bhagwan Bahubali’s idols have been installed at several places across the country. There is Bahubali’s idol of various sizes in temples across the country too. Bahubali’s idols are in homes too. The reason for this is that Bhagwan Bahubali is in the minds of people.
Similar Mastakabhishaka of Bahubali happens at Karkala, Venur, Dharmasthala and Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh. A 21 feet idols of the trio Adinatha-Bharata-Bahubali have been installed in Delhi and Mumbai. Abhisheka happens at these places and also at Shedawala and Kothali in Belgaum.
Mahamastakabhisheka is one of the major culturally significant events of Bharat. Just as Mahakhumb and Mahasnan have their own importance, Mahamastakabhisheka too has its own importance. Mahakhumb which occurs once every 12 years, is one of the prominent cultural events of Hinduism. Hinduism and Jainism have grown together in Bharat.
Mahamastakabhisheka is a nationwide event. The event has gained national importance the history of Shruta Kevali Bhadrabahu and Chandragupta Maurya has been associated with this place. Significant work was done by the Kings and Chieftains of Ganga empire who reigned here from the 2nd century till the 12th century accorded Shravanabelagola its regal prominence. This was continued later by the Hoysalas, Vijayanagar and the Mysore Kings too. Mahamastakabhisheka continued unabated even during the colonial period. In 1925, Maharaja of Mysore himself was in-charge of the Mahamastakabhisheka that year.
In 1981, Mahamastakabhisheka gained prominence internationally. Articles on Bahubali’s Mahamastakabhisheka appeared in Germany, France, Austria, Japan, Australia and other countries in their native languages. The entire event was telecast on TV Channels.
We attempted a unique effort during the 2006 Mahamastakabhisheka. We sourced flowers and saffron from 6 continents for the Abhisheka. Unique flowers were also brought from many countries. Bhagwan Bahubali was showered with flowers specific to that country.
What are the ideals of Bhagwan Bahubali that can be emulated from common people to Acharyas?
Bahubali is a hero for everyone. He is an icon for warriors, chieftains and brave men. He is also a role model for renunciants too. He is an ideal even for administrators as he accepts his ministers’ advice to avoid war which would kill many. He gives importance to ahimsa. He also has a quality to absorb good ideals from others. Being handsome in terms of looks, tall in terms of height, bravest of the brave, unrivalled in sacrifice and penance, there is none to beat him in strength.
Ideals of Bahubali are great. His eternal message of happiness from Ahimsa, peace from sacrifice, progress from friendship, salvation through meditation has given him a permanent place in the hearts and minds of people. His is a personality that has been part of our history and Puranas. His speciality can be read in the ‘Adipurana’ of Pampa, and in ‘Bharatesha Vaibhava’ of Ratnakaravarni. Hence Bahubali is a prominent literary figure too. If you go through the history of any religion, country or society in the whole world, there is none in comparison to Bahubali in terms of the penance he performed. Though he is not a Tirthankara, the importance of his penance surpasses that of the Thirtankaras in Jainism.
Ahimsa, Satya and Aparigriha are the basic tenets in Jainism. It is most required in today”s time and age. But how pragmatic is the practice of Ahimsa, Satya and Aparigriha in modern times?
Disarmament which we hear a lot today, was the message of Bahubali. It is most appropriate in modern times. From small arms to atom bombs, every country today has one or the other weapons. But everyone hesitates to use them. It is not a joke to use such weapons that could destroy even the countries that use them. Einstein was once asked on the nature of the 3rd World War, to which he had said, “I may not be able to tell the exact nature of the 3rd World War but am sure that humans will not exist for a 4th World War. Machines might be fighting a war amongst themselves.” Present situation seems to be heading that way. Hence disarmament is of paramount importance. One should resort to war only in self-defence for the protection of the country and war itself should not be the path forward as it will lead to destruction.
Regarding Aparigriha, we should have only that much which we require the most and give away anything in excess. In a population of 700 crores in the world, there are only 700 Digambaras. It is true that not everyone can reach their stage. The least one can do is to donate for the sake of the downtrodden, keeping in mind the good of the country. This itself as Aparigriha. ‘Parimita Parigriha’ is one of the ‘Anuvratas’ in Jainism itself which is to use only that much which is required for self and donate the rest.
Tamasic forces seem to be on the rise everywhere in the world, even in India. How can Sattvic forces be strengthened? Is it possible for a common man to retain his ‘Sattvic’ qualities?
One way is through consumption of simple and pure ‘sattvic’ food. Second is the change in psychology through education. Education based on morals is the need of time. Just as nutritional food is required for the growth of the body and medicines are required for wellness, similarly, education that teaches moral values is required for bringing about a change in our psychology. Even parents don’t seem to have enough time today. Parents are occupied in sending children to school and once they return, they are busy with other household work. Parents have to focus on their children. Mathas have to organise ‘Sanskar Shivirs’ and simplified moral literature should be made available to children.
TV channels have to broadcast programmes which convey moral values and enable people to become conscious citizens. There are several such channels today. A few decades ago we used to have only one channel but today we have channels dedicated to Bhakti, culture, traditions and Puranas.
Everything gets politicised these days. Religion is used for electoral politics. Do you think the religion and politics can go together or should be kept separate?
A matha means a place for a student to pursue his studies. It is a school of imparting culture. Though several mathas and religious institutions run modern schools today, they have not forsaken their traditions. Every matha, and ashrama is imparting Dharmic education. By teaching cultural values, they are creating scholars. But today’s generation is more interested in Engineering, Medical or MBA. Gurukulas today are finding it difficult to find wards due to the attraction of high paying jobs. In such a scenario, we mathadhipatis (administrative heads of mathas) are contemplating of ways to safeguard our dharma, gurukula tradition, culture and legacy. Despite the attraction of today’s youth for high paying professions, we have not stopped our efforts. Our work is also being done through our educational institutions, Sanskrit schools and gurukulas. In my opinion, most mathas have stayed away from politics which is good.