Shravanabelagola’s Siddhara Gundu and its Heritage

– Article & photos by Nitin H.P.

  • A rock boulder located besides Akhanda Bagilu on Indragiri Hillock, Shravanabelagola, Hassan District, Karnataka, India.
  • Has 8 inscriptions – related to carvings on the hillock, Sallekhana memorials, visit of devotees & construction of a water reservoir.
  • Seven Sallekhana memorials with & without inscriptions.
  • Carvings of Jinas and a group of Jain ascetics.
  • One of the carvings attributed to pre-historic script.

Shravanabelagola's - Siddhara Gundu and its heritage

Shravanabelagola, an ancient Jain heritage Centre in Karnataka has a history that dates back to 2nd century B.C. Close to 800 plus inscriptions, 30 plus Jain temples and monuments of archeological importance in the town and the 2 hillocks have carved for Shravanabelagola a unique place in the Indian history. The history of a big boulder on the Indragiri hillock of this heritage town on our way up to Bahubali is very interesting.

When one climbs up the Indragiri hillock and passes through Tyagda Kamba (an artistic pillar enclosed within a mantapa) and proceeds further up we encounter a big boulder with a few carvings on them. It is located to the right of Akhanda Bagilu on and known as Siddhara-gundu (or the boulder of the Siddhas). Its heritage is very unique and impressive.

Carvings of a Sallekhana Memorial or Lord Adinath & his children or a Muni & His Sangha?
The 1st thing that attracts any visitor’s attention is the carving of a standing Jina in the centre on the bottom most & a Jina in padmasana in the top most row along with carvings of Jain Munis (100 nos) with folded hands sitting on either sides in 8 rows. In the bottom most row on left hand side are found 2 women with folded hands. Historians have varied opinion about this carving. Some are of the opinion that it is the carving or Lord Adinath & his children. The images of 2 women are attributed to his daughters Brahmi and Sundari. There isn’t any written evidence supporting this argument. Probably looking at the nos. historians might have concluded that this image is of Lord Adinath & his children. In contrary to this some are of the opinion that it might be a Sallekhana memorial. However, there isn’t any written evidence supporting this argument either.

In addition to the above 2 small inscriptions are found in between the strips of each rows.

On the strip between the 1st & 2nd rows a text1 “Vanavasi Svami…..” is inscribed. This means an ascetic who lives in the forest. Based on its text, its period is said to be around 1400.

In between the 4th & 5th rows the text2 “Simhanandi Acharyaru” has been inscribed. This might give us a feeling that the figures of Jain Munis inscribed on the rock could be of Acahrya Simhanandi & his disciples and it might be their Nishadi (Sallekhana memorial) Based on its text, its period is said to be around 1400.

Inscriptions On Siddhara Gundu – Including the two explained above there are as many of 8 inscriptions inscribed on this boulder.

Dharmabhushana’s Nishadi3 of 1372 A.D.
This is a 14 lines inscription of 1372 A.D. inscribed just below the carvings of Jina & 100 other ascetics. It is a sallekhana memorial of a Jain monk named Dharmabhushana. The inscription gives a very detailed description of the monk’s teachers & their lineage. It goes on to say that Dharmabhushana belonged to Mula Snagha’s Balatkaragana. He was a spiritual descent Takirti-deva of Vanavasi (the current Banavasi of Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka), his disciple was Devendra-Visalakirti (details of his titles are mentioned as – Acharya Vadi vadisvaraya Vadi Pitamaha Sakala Vidvajjana Chakravarti), Devendra-Visalakirti’s disciple was Subhakirti, Subhakirti‘s disciple was Dharmabhushana, Dharmabhushana’s disciple was Amarakirti, Amarakirti’s disciple was Dharmabhushana.

Inscription Related to building a reservoir
This 9 lines inscription4 of 1600 A.D. states that (On the day specified), Baiyana, son of Gamaya Narasappa-setti of Beguru, visited the God, built this reservoir and founded a water shed.

Inscription indicating the names of Visitors
This 3 lines inscription5 of 1400 A.D. states that Gopaya, lay disciple of Somaséna-déva, and Baichakka as the (names of visitors). These probably might be the names of visitors who visited Shravanabelagola during 1400 A.D. and might have got this inscription engraved to document their arrival to the hillock.

Keerthideva’s Nishadi6
This is a 2 lines Nishadi inscription. It indicates that it is the Nishadi of a person called Keerthideva who was a disciple of Bhuvanakeerthi deva.

Hemachandra Keerthideva’s Nishadi7
This is a 2 lines Nishadi inscription. It indicates that it is the Nishadi of a person called Hemachandra Keerthideva who was a disciple of Shanthakeerthi deva.

Inscription Related to the carving of Bharat & Bahubali images besides Akhanda Bagilu
This inscription8 of 1160 A.D. is inscribed to Left of the boulder. It is an 18 lines inscription that tells us that Baharatamayyya Dandanayaka younger brother of Mariyane Dandanatha was a general and built the two shrines of Bharat & Bahubali on either sides of Akhanda Bagilu for beautifying the sides of the entrance to the holy place. It likewise tells us that the grand flight of steps leading to Akhandabagilu was also the pious work of the same general. The inscription also mentions some other pious acts of his, namely, the construction of the happalige (railing) of the hall near those images as also of the hall around Grommatesvara, and of the grand flight of steps. He is also stated to have built eighty new basadis and renovated two hundred in Gangavadi region. Bharata’s daughter Santala-devi got this inscription engraved.

Other Carvings on Siddhara Gundu
In addition to the above we can find 3 other carvings on this boulder.
Carvings of Jinas – To the extreme top of the boulder are seen carvings of 2 Jinas in Kayotsarga posture. However, no inscriptions are seen around this.

Carvings of Pre-historic scripts? Just above the inscription related to the carving of Bharat & Bahubali are found 9 parallel lines with 2 other pair of lines with circles connected to them. Historians differ in their opinion about this carving. Some are of the opinion that this is a pre historic script, while a few other are opinion that this might be a Harappan script.

Half Carved image of a Jina – To the extreme left of the boulder is found a half carved image of a Jina in Kayotsarga (standing) posture and is about 6 feet high. The actual period of this carving is yet to be finalized.

Usage of the term Siddhara Gunduowing to the fact that we can find numerous Tirthankar images and Munis without attributing them to any specific Tirthankara historians might have used the term Siddha (usually refered to perfected masters who have achieved a high degree of physical as well as spiritual perfection or enlightenment) to this structure.

Summary of the structures & inscriptions on Siddhara Gundu

Summary of inscriptions

  • One of them is related to carving of Bharata & Bahubali structures besides Akhanda Bagilu, four Nishadis (Sallekhana Memorials).
  • One of the inscription indicates that a muni was living in a forest.
  • One of the inscription gives is details of construction of water reservoir.
  • One of the inscription documents the visit of a devotee and his wife.
  • Four inscriptions are Nishadis and documents the death of Munis by observing the Sallekhana ritual.
  • Period of inscriptions vary from 1162 to 1600 A.D.

·         Summary of structures

  • Carvings of Two Jinas surrounded by 100 Munis.
  • Seven Sallekhana memorials are found. One of these just has the inscription, 3 of them have inscriptions along with images of Jain Munis & women with folded hands under taking Sallekhana, and the other 3 does not have any inscription but has the images of Jain Munis & women under taking Sallekhana with folded hands.
  • Carvings of 2 Jinas in kayotsarga without any inscriptions.
  • A group of parellel lines attributed to pre historic period.
  • Half carved image of a Jina.

Conclusion – The above inscriptions & carvings on Siddhara Gundu’s small area reveal interesting facts that instigates a readers and researchers to explore further about their antiquity and if deciphered might reveal interesting facts.

References

  1. R NarasimhacharEpigraphia Carnatica – Volume 2 (1923), Inscription No.; 275, Pg. No. 126, Mysore Archeological Series.
  2. R NarasimhacharEpigraphia Carnatica – Volume 2 (1923), Inscription No.; 276, Pg. No. 126, Mysore Archeological Series.
  3. R NarasimhacharEpigraphia Carnatica – Volume 2 (1923), Inscription No.; 273 (112), Pg. No. 125, Mysore Archeological Series.
  4. R NarasimhacharEpigraphia Carnatica – Volume 2 (1923), Inscription No.; 270, Pg. No. 124, Mysore Archeological Series.
  5. R NarasimhacharEpigraphia Carnatica – Volume 2 (1923), Inscription No.; 271, Pg. No. 124, Mysore Archeological Series.
  6. R NarasimhacharEpigraphia Carnatica – Volume 2 (1923), Inscription No.; 272, Pg. No. 125, Mysore Archeological Series.
  7. R NarasimhacharEpigraphia Carnatica – Volume 2 (1923), Inscription No.; 273 (112), Pg. No. 125, Mysore Archeological Series.
  8. R NarasimhacharEpigraphia Carnatica – Volume 2 (1923), Inscription No.; 267(115), Pg. No. 123, Mysore Archeological Series.

About the Author – Nitin H.P. holds a bachelor of engineering degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mysore. He works as Assistant Manager – Digital Marketing at Wipro Technologies, Bengaluru. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the popular Jain website WWW.JAINHERITAGECENTRES.COM. He has been managing it for more than 14 years. He can be contacted by phone (+919880818869) or by email (nitin@jainheritagecentres.com).

Post Author: Nitin H P