Kumbhabhishekam (Kumbha-Shikhara or crown of the temple, Abhishekam-sanctification with spiritually charged water) is performed to consecrate new shrines, re-consecrate existing shrines after a renovation or every twelve years. The highlight of the Kumbhabhishekam ceremony is the pouring of the sanctified water from the pots over the top of the gopurams by the priests, at an auspicious moment, to energise the entire temple. The Kumbhabhishekam we are performing in May 2020 is a unique one called Ashtabandhana Maha Kumbhabhishekam
as it involves two main highlights - affixing the main deity's idol to the pedestal and energising the entire temple with spiritually charged water .
Ashta means 8 in Sanskrit and Bandhanam means tying or fixing. Ashtabandhanam is the process of affixing an idol to its pedestal (peetham) with a clay-like paste made of 8 specific herbs mixed with wood lac, limestone powder, resin, red ochre, beeswax and butter. The paste is formed into long rolls about 2 cm thick and applied directly around the base of the idol, so that the cemented joints become watertight. This process is believed to keep the idol rejuvenated for a period of 12 years. When the Bandhanam is performed with gold (Swarnabandhanam),the rejuvenating power of the deity is believed to last for a period of 100years.
The Ashtabandhanam paste is pliable like rubber. Through repeated interactions with abhishekhadravyams - materials used to bathe the idol during daily worship like water, milk, buttermilk, sandal paste and oils - and atmospheric oxidants, the paste loses its flexibility, becomes rigid and gets riddled with a lot of fissures. Through these fissures,the abhisheka dravyams percolate and attack the Yantra (specific to the deity) embedded under the peetham, obliterating the Bijaksharamantras -- mantras of sacred syllables (bija)-- that are inscribed on the Yantra, and this is believed to contribute to the lowering of the pranic spiritual power of the deity with the passage of time.