Mahamastakabhisheka is the grand festival of the anointment of Jain images held on a large scale in Karnataka. The festival which begins today will end on February 26 is held once in every 12 years.  The famous Bahubali Gommateshwara Statue located at Shravanabelagola in Karnataka is anointed with turmeric, milk and other offerings on this day. The festival is believed to be an integral part of the ancient Jain tradition. The last anointing took place in 2006. The ongoing ceremony is said to be the 88th in the series that commenced in the year 981 AD.

As a part of the festival, an art festival called the Shravanabelagola Art Festival was held recently from January 26-28 and the second camp is expected from February 17-25, in Shravanabelagola. The event is being held under the leadership of His Holiness Swasti Sri Charukeerthi Bhattaraka Swamiji of Shravanabelagola from February 17 to 25.

Religious programmes will be held during the head-anointing ceremony of the Bahubali Gomateshwara statue on Vindhyagiri in Shravanabelagola. President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated the event at around 11 a.m.  On Thursday, rituals which begin with the Pancha Kalyana Mahotsava will be held in five stages.

It will showcase the five phases in the life of Bahubali who renounced his kingdom and attained nirvana. The rituals will be conducted by hundreds of tyagis from different parts of the country. Pancha Parameshthi Aradhana will be held from February 12 to 15. The anointing ceremony will begin the next day atop Vindhyagiri. The ceremony includes holy bath of the Gomateshwara statue with coconut water, turmeric paste, vermilion powder, sugarcane juice, milk, sandal paste and flowers.

The Gommateshwara Bahubali statue at Shravanabelagola is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Jainism. The place is known for its architectural and sculptural activity under the Western Ganga dynasty of Talakad. As per beliefs, Chandragupta Maurya died there in 298 BCE after he became a Jain monk and changed his lifestyle.

On the first day during the rituals, 108 kalashas (holy vessels) will be used, while anointment including 1,008 kalashas will be held on the remaining days. On February 10, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu is expected to visit Shravanabelagola. On the last day of the rituals (February 26), Prime Minister Narendra Modi and some other leaders are expected to pay a visit. Over one million devotees from Indian and around the world are expected to attend the ceremony this year. Hundreds of Jain Acharyas are also expected at the venue.