The myriad moods of Moodabidri

– Article by Hazel Colaco, Deccan Herald

Moodabidri, the very name evokes images of a cluster of bamboo groves. Mooda means east and bidre is bamboo and it is said that the abundance of bamboo groves in the area gave the place its name. However, there is more to Moodabidri than just bamboo.

Situated 37 kilometres away from Mangaluru, it is a picturesque land of hill and dale, a rich culture embedded in maths and jain temples, an agrarian bonanza boasting of the famous Soans Pineapple Farm and the rare herbal garden of medicinal plants of the Alva Ayurvedic College, an educational hub with a cluster of engineering colleges and other educational institutions, the birthplace of Ratnakara Varni, the medieval doyen of Kannada literature and author of Bharatesha Vaibhava.

Steeped in Jain culture
Rightly known as the Jain Kashi of South, Moodabidri has the spirit of Jainism echoing in all its streets. It is the most sought after pilgrim centre of the Jains and a fascinating fact is that its rich culture is linked to the number 18 and has 18 roads connecting it to various other villages, 18 lakes and 18 basadis.

The 18 Jain basadis that adorn this temple town are Badaga Basadi, Shettara Basadi, Hire Basadi, Belkere Basadi, Koti Basadi, Vikrama Shetti Basadi, Kallu Basadi, Leppada Basadi, Deramma Shetti Basadi, Chola Shetti Basadi, Maday Shetti Basadi, Baikanatikari Basadi, Kire Basadi, Padu Basadi, Shri Mathada Basadi, Jaina Pathashalya Basadi, Guru Basadi and Tribuvana Tilaka Chudamani Basadi.

Built in 714 AD, Guru Basadi is the earliest Jain monument of this place and is also called as Siddantha Basadi and  Hale Basadi. Lord Parshvanatha, the 23rd Jain Thirthankara is the presiding deity of this Temple and you can find a beautiful 3.5 metre tall statue of his in the sanctum. The rare Jain palm leaf manuscripts of 12th Century AD known as Dhavala texts were discovered here and are preserved reverently till date.

During the Mughal invasions, precious Jain texts were smuggled from Shravanabelagola to Moodabidri.

Rediscovered in 1800’s, these manuscripts of Prakrit texts copied in Hale Kannada with pin pricks on palm leaves are revered as the oldest written materials of the Jain origin.

The collection of three ancient manuscripts – Dhavala, Jayadhavala and Mahadhavala – collectively called the Siddantha in Digambara tradition was the only copy of the Siddantha available for many centuries.

The Tribuvana Tilaka Chudamani Basadi or the ‘crest jewel of three worlds’ was built in 1430 AD and is popularly known as the 1000-pillar temple for its intricately carved pillars. Built in Vijayanagara style in solid granite, this structure is considered the largest among Jain basadis. The construction was initiated in 1430 AD and it is said that it took 31 years for its completion.

Due to its sheer magnitude, it was constructed in three phases. In the first phase, the sanctum with the 2.5 metre tall idol of Chandranath Swami was installed. In the second phase, the open prayer hall with its 100 pillars was built and last was the installation of the 15-metre- tall single stone pillar called the manasthamba by Queen Nagala Devi of Karkala, right in front of the structure.

Moodabidri was also the seat of the Chowtas, a local Jain family originally ruling Puthige, situated 5km from here. They shifted their capital to Moodabidri in the 17th Century and constructed a palace, the remains of which can still be seen. There are beautiful images of Jain thirthankaras, yakshas and yakshis in the basadis.

The stucco images in Leppada Basadi are worth a visit. The Jain tombs and the Nyaya Basadi at Kodangallu in the outskirts of Moodabidri and the monolith Bahubali statues in nearby Karakala and Venur will complete your Jain yatra.

Post Author: JHC