Abhishekam Query

S Jain skjain at server.uwindsor.ca
Thu Feb 16 02:31:44 UTC 1995

Dear fellow Indologists,

First of all greetings from cold Canada. It is still below freezing
here (very coolldd!). This morning we had freezing rain on top of 
snow and ice; that caused many fender-bender accidents. It is supposed
to warm up tomorrow (above freezing), and we are looking forward to

Since this is my first posting to this news group, may I take the liberty
of introduce myself ...

My name is Sushil Jain and liver in Windsor which is in southern Ontario
and across from Detroit in the USA. The two cities (Detroit and Windsor)
are by a bridge (Ambassador Bridge) and a tunnel (under the Detroit
River). Windsor is a small city (about 200,000 in population) and only
100 miles (160km) from London (Ont). Windsor boasts the first full-
fledged Casino in Ontario (but I have never visited it though it is
only a few kilometers away from my place of residence).

My current research is Jainism (though I am still interested in Sikhism: 
my most recent article on Sikhism was publiched in the Annals of the
BORI (1993; issued in June 1994), titled: "Elements of religious
sacrifice in the initiation of the Khalsa").

Currently, I am writing a paper on *abhishekam* (the ritual of bathing 
images) in ancient Indian traditions (particularly Digambara Jain).

The Jains hold an elaborate ceremony every 12 years or so at a
place called Shravana Belgola in the state of Karnataka, South
India when hundreds and thousands of devotee gather to perform the
unique ceremony of *mahamastakabhesheka* of Bahubali.

Bahubali was the younger son of first Tirthankara (Adinath
Rishbadev) who had divided his kingdom amongst his eldest son,
Bharata, and others while renouncing the world.

Mahamastakabhesheka involves the complete bathing of the 57-foot
high colossal statue of Arhat Bahubali from head to toe. The last
such ceremony took place on Dec. 19, 1993.

Abhishekam is considered to be the first part of puja. The 'true' meaning 
of abhisheka is 'bathing the Lord' (Virag Sagar, Jininder
darshan, Jininder pujan, n.d.), but a Jaina scholar describes it as
'anointing ceremony' (Jaini, 1979:335); hence the term
*mahamastakabhesheka* is often translated into English as

Instructions for this activity, I am told, are clearly laid down in
the *abhishekam path* of Abhiyanandi and Meghnandi (the exact citations 
I have yet to locate).

Other works. e.g., Jinasena's Adipurana (vs (ie. verses) 49, 81 
etc.), Ac(h)arya Kundakunda in his section on Chaityabhakti, Devasena's 
Kritikaram (vs. 1092), Nirinderasena's Siddhantasar (vs. 6), Jayasena's 
Pritishtapath etc. also refer to the ritual ofabhishekam.

The last authority says:

     Kratavya abhisheka mahaniyatam... (vs. 914)

A variety of liquids in 1008 kalashas (pots) are poured over the
statue after *shudhi* (purification preparations). Flowers are
showered at the conclusion of the ceremony.

What we want to do is to describe this ceremony in more detail.
However, before we do this we want to look at the reasons
(symbolism) behind this ceremony. 

One of the possible reasons, as suggested by Zimmer, is that when
arihant-to-be obtains enlightenment the blood which flowed through
his veins becomes transparent or milky in colour (hence the pouring of milk 
over the image during abhesheka and the use of alabaster in
making Jaina images installed in the temples, cf. Jaini, op. cit).

I have not recently consulted *The History of Dharmashastra* but
P.V. Kane may have something to say about it as, of course, 
authors on the Karnataka culture, e.g., Karmarkar, 1947; Mugali, 1946;
Rice, 1921; Sharma, 1940; Shripal, 1953; Sudarsen et al (eds), 1987

There may also be some insights in other works like those of Jan Gonda's 
"The concluding bath of the Varunapraghasa" (in Selected Studies on Ritual, 
ed. R. Kloppenborg); Dennis Hudson's "Bathing in Krishna: a study in Vaisnava theology" (HTR, 1980); Waghorne and Cutler's
theology" (HTR 1980); Waghorne and Cutler's God's of Flesh, gods of stone: 
the embodiment of divinity in India, 1985 etc.

There are several other sources (61 in all) which I have recorded
in my contribution "Bahubali (Gommata): A Bibliography",
_Jinamanjari_ vol 8, no. 3 (Dec. 1993),      

Some of them are:

- Saryu Doshi's *Homage to Sravanabelgola*, 1981; 
- Vilas Sangave's *The Sacred Sharavab"Historical development off 
Gommatesvara cult in Karnataka," in Jainism and Karnataka Culture, ed. T. 
Kalghatgi, 1977; 
- Kalghatgi's *Gommateshvara Commemorative Volume*, 1981; 
- the special Mahamastakabhisheka issue of _The Illustrated Weekly of
India, Feb. 15, 1981; 
- Ralph Strohl's superb doctoral dissertation,
"The image of the Hero in Jainism: Rsabha, Bharata and Bahubali",
- M.H. Krishna's "The Mastakabhiseka of Gommatesvara at
Srvanabelgola" in _Jaina Antiquary_, vol. 5, no. 4 (1940)

Note: The last item in -Jaina Antiquary_ I have not been able to
obtain. Neither have I yet been able to obtain
1. Gandhi, S.L. Jain, "Ritual and symbol in the Jain religious
tradition", _Dialogue and Alliance_ Vol. 4 (Sept. 1990), 13-20; and
2.Bolin, Nona R. and James,Gene (eds)
Ritual in world's religions, Dialogue and Alliance, Spr. 1990

I wonder if any of the Indology readers would have access to these
There are probably many other modern sources descriptive of
religious rituals and practices of the Indian/Hindu religion(s) but
we are more particularly interested in locating (ancient) Jaina and
Hindu sources, and in relating/comparing their ritual of
*abhishekam* to the ancients whether in India or abroad.

Thank you very much,

<Sushil Jain>
email-> skjain at uwindsor.ca


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