Religion: Ablution Without Absolution

India's Jains give a lavish bath to a 1,000-year-old idol

Well before daybreak thousands of the faithful begin toiling up 614 stone steps cut into a hillside in the southern Indian town of Shravanabelagola. Their goal: an open-air temple housing the great, gray granite statue of the Lord Bahubali, believed by them to be the first mortal in this epoch to have reached the state of kevala (nirvana— or liberation) The statue is 58 ft. 8 in. high and 1,000 years old. Its 11-ft. head is covered with gently swirling curls. Its ears are elongated. The eyes are open in...

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