For people across the world, the Mahamastakabhisheka is a spectacular experience that holds a mesmerising effect on the mind, body and soul. Many plan in advance and some spontaneously to be a part of this sacred celebration held once in twelve years. The Mahamastakabhisheka is a ‘grand consecration’ of the spectacular Gommateshwara in the sacred town of Shravanabelagola in Karnataka. Shravanabelagola is one of the most important pilgrim centres for Jainas in South India that is charged with devotional fervour during the Mahamastakabhisheka. Jaina ascetics and devotees from across the world congregate to behold and participate in the anointing ceremony that is celebrated with total dedication to Gommateshwara also addressed as Gommata or Bahubali. The spectacular monolithic statue stands tall (approximately 57 feet in height) atop the Vindhyagiri hill and can be reached by climbing close to 500 stone carved steps. Built in circa 983 CE it is one of the largest free standing statues in the world and continues to celebrate this sacred ceremony once in 12 years since then.
During Mahamastakabhisheka, the Lord Bahubali is anointed with sanctified water and sandalwood paste poured over the statue from a scaffolding. The statue is further bathed and anointed with milk, sugarcane juice, saffron paste and powders of turmeric and vermillion followed with a final shower of flowers.
The magnificent sight of colours cascading down the length of the Gommata (Bahubali) is hypnotic. In contrast, the stillness of the iconic statue depicts the contemplative posture as seen in ‘Kayotsarga’. The serene eyes of Gommateshwara view the world in total detachment creating an impact on thousands of devotees thronging for his blessing. Devotees worship the power of the infinite in total surrender. They merge for a moment with the identity of the liberated one in the everlasting realisation of peace and oneness with the cosmic.
It is this very mood that Manujunath Kalledevar tries conveying in one of his most recent works from the ‘Bahubali-Japa’ series. The impact of being in the presence of Bahubali has held the artists attention for years. This experience has led to deeper perceptions of understanding, beyond the mundane duties of life. In this particular work (100” x 50”) he brings together 28 photographic portraits that the artist captured during the ceremonies held this year in February. They are representative of the multiple dimensions of Bahubali, sanctified in myriad colours, as they wash away illusory layers leading one towards deeper introspection. It is in this space that the artist recognises the towering strength of Bahubali and his renunciation from all worldly attachments. Capturing ritualistic moments through his photographic lens is again metaphoric of the mirror that is placed in the centre of the work. The mirror indicates a space that reflects the inner being, the true nature of one’s self. ‘Bahubali-Japa’ captures the intrinsic essence of the impact of the Mahamastabhisheka that a devotee experiences. It depicts a gradual understanding of a devotee where fears are dissolved in the meditative presence of Bahubali.
This series is once again an extension of the artists pondering on meditative processes. His earlier series of works titled ‘Japa’ is seen as patterns of repetitive chanting (japa) that aids the mind and body towards deeper awareness.