NEW DELHI – Some 100,000 people gathered on Wednesday at Shravanbelagola, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, to attend the inauguration of the Bahubali Mahamasthakabhishek festival that dates back to the 10th century and is celebrated every 12 years, official sources told EFE.
The festival celebrates Bahubali, a renowned saint of Jainism, a religion founded by Mahavira, a contemporary of Buddha, around the fifth century BCE.
“This is my third visit to the festival. I wait for 12 years to attend the festivities because it brings me peace of mind and fulfillment,” Vijay Kulkarni, a 44-year-old engineer from Karnataka’s Dharwad district, told EFE.
“Around 100,000 people were present at the inauguration today,” Vinod Chandra, Information Officer at Hassan district – where Shravanbelagola is located –, told EFE.
He added an estimated four to five million people are expected to attend the festival between Feb. 17-26, the highpoint of the festival.
“Twelve temporary townships have been set up for the devotees, pilgrims and saints visiting the festival,” Chandra said.
Indian President Ramnath Kovind had opened the festival by seeking the blessings of the Jain saints, lighting the lamp, an epa journalist reported.
“This immense statue of the lord Bahubali is a unique example of India’s well-developed culture, architecture and sculpture. The expression on face of the statue fully conveys the motto of “Ahinsa Parmo Dharmah” (Nonviolence is the biggest duty),” Kovind had tweeted later.
During the festival a 17-meter high statue of Lord Bahubali will be anointed in a ceremony that would be attended by Jain monks and devotees from across the world.
The festivities will also include cultural programs as well as discourses on spirituality, ethics and morality, according to Shayam Upadhye, Public Relations Officer of the administration at Hassan.
Around 3,000 police officers have been deployed so far for security purposes.
More officers will be deployed as the festival progresses and the footfall increases, district Superintendent of Police, Rahul Kumar Shahapurwad, told EFE.