A long march to anoint Bahubali idol that began 2 years ago

Posted: 12.02.2018
Updated on: 13.02.2018

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The Hindu Newspaper

 


Sathish G.T

Shravanabelgola, February 11, 2018 00:00 IST

Updated: February 11, 2018 04:32 IST

 

Pilgrims’ progress:A Jain monk having food at Tyagi Nagar in Karnataka’s Shravanabelagola after the long trek. At right, devotees inviting the monks for food.Prakash Hassan  

Jain monks walk hundreds of kilometres over months to attend the Mahamastakabhisheka in Karnataka’s Shravanabelagola

Acharya Vardhamana Sagara Maharaj, a Jain monk, was in Nawai in Rajasthan when he learnt of the 2018 dates for the Mahamastakabhishekha in Shravanabelagola in Karnataka, the grand anointment ceremony for the idol of Bahubali that takes place once in 12 years. He immediately began his over-2,000 km trek on April 17, 2016, to reach the pilgrimage centre earlier this month along with 40 of his disciples.

The Acharya is among hundreds of Jain monks who have walked long distances for months, and in some cases years, to reach the Mahamastakabhisheka, says Charukeerti Bhattaraka Swami ji, the head of a Jain mutt.

Old tradition

Walking from far to reach here is an old tradition. Jains believe emperor Chandragupta Maurya also walked here from Pataliputra after renouncing his empire and worldly possessions.

The monks follow a highly rigorous diet over the pilgrimage. They take food and water only once a day. They do not stay in a place for more than a month, except during the rainy season. “We do not have a permanent place,” says Acharya Sachidananda Maharaj. When the dates of the event were announced, he was at Parabhani in Maharashtra. “I travelled about 1,200 km in two months,” he said.

The ascetics walk 20 km a day on average. “We fix our programme considering our travel time,” says Acharya Suryasagar Maharaj, a native of Maharashtra. He was in Jharkhand when the dates of the event were announced. “From Jharkhand, I went to Delhi, from there to Agra, where I spent four months of the rainy season in 2016. Again, I took a break for another four months in 2017. I have travelled more than 2,000 kilometres in the last two years,” he told The Hindu.

The 54-year-old monk says that there were days when he covered up to 40 km a day. “Devotees follow us along the route. Some of them go ahead and make arrangements for our stay in the night,” he said. He will be travelling about 600 km to Sangli in Maharashtra after the event is over.

Rigorous path

“Once we have control over our senses, it is not difficult to follow the rigours we have chosen. Saints give up food if any insect or an unwanted object is found in the meals served. We do not take even water after that. The practice is called Antraya,” he said.

A number of devotees from different parts of the country have also arrived here to attend to the monks. They prepare and serve food for them. Kamal Babu Jain, convener of the Tyagi Nagar committee in Shravanabelagola, said, “Nearly 300 saints have reached. A few are still on their way. We have made arrangements for their stay here.”

Along with the Acharyas, many muni s (holy men) and mataji s (revered women) have also travelled long distances.

They walk in the morning and afternoon, ending the day as soon as the sun sets, so that living organisms on their path are not hurt in the dark hours. The monks carry only a kamandala (oblong pot) of water and a fan made of peacock feathers.

Along their route, they stay in houses belonging to devotees, or government guest houses, community halls and schools. When she was Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi issued an order that Jain monks be allowed to stay in government buildings during their travels.

The monks devote a great part of their time to spreading Jain philosophy, and studying.