Celebrating the life of 'tirthankaras'

Swatee Jog Feb 6 2018, 00:07 IST
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Rituals underway at a Panchkalyanak Mahotsav.

The celebrations of Mahamastakabhisheka will begin from February 7, 2018 in Shravanabelagola with the initiation of Panchkalyanak Mahotsav, the celebration of the five stages in the life of a tirthankara.

During the event, consecration of the new idol is done at the hands of the Pratishthacharya, who is well-versed with the traditions. Religious authorities known as Bhattarakas (or acharyas) also lead the consecration. Although the ceremony celebrates the five stages of the life of a tirthankara, the whole celebration can last anywhere from three to 15 days. Each day, a particular aspect is chosen. The beginning of the celebrations is marked by using holy water carried in the kalashas. These kalashas are carried in a procession to the temple.

The acharya then purifies the place with holy water and begins the function. A flag is also hoisted. In Karnataka, Panchkalyanak Mahotsav is celebrated with much aplomb. A stage is erected for this purpose. All the key characters in the life of the tirthankaras are enacted by common people.

At times, people bid to get a chance to enact certain roles and the amount
accrued is utilised for development purposes. The characters wear suitable costumes and the whole scene is played out for the audience. It is a joyous occasion to see the events unfolding on stage. The scenes depicting the mother of the tirthankara having auspicious dreams is a treat to watch. Young girls hold placards depicting the 14 dreams.

The birth is celebrated by decorating the cradle. The Rajyabhisheka of the tirthankara is an event that symbolises his success in the world before renouncing it. The event is marked by a procession on elephants and horses. On these occasions, the acharyas and munis hold discourses. While these events help bring the members of the community together, they also spread the significance of the life and works of the tirthankaras in the young minds.

It is believed that all the 24 tirthankaras exemplified similar traits, not only during heir lifetime, but also before their birth, when their mothers had the same 14 dreams that indicated that the baby to be born would change the course of humankind for the better.

The five stages in a tirthankara's life include:

n Garbha Kalyanak: The phase when the soul of a tirthankara leaves the past birth and enters the mother's womb.

n Janma Kalyanak: The event of his birth.

n Diksha Kalyanak: The event when he accepts monkhood.

n Kevalgyan Kalyanak: The event when the tirthankara attains omniscience
(keval gyan).

n Moksha Kalyanak: When the tirthankara leaves the mortal body and attains salvation.

The Panchkalyanak Mahotsav is conducted whenever a new Jain temple or basadi is built, and even in old ones where a new idol has been placed. However, once in every 12 years, a Laghu Panchkalyanak is organised in all basadis.

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