– Prof. Yashwant Malaiya, Colorado University
At the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka, that is a region that has been an ancient center of Jainism. We can perhaps term the region Konkan, although the term Konkan is used with different meanings. Such was the influence of Jainism here in ancient times that the Vaishnava “Bhagavat Purana” mentions that lord Rishabha had wandered in the Konka (Konkana), Venka (Vengi), and Kutaka region and a king of this region had spread Jainism due to his influence.
There is still a large Jain population in this region. In fact you will be surprised to know that Belgaum (across the border in Karnataka) , Kolhapur and Sangli (both in Maharashtra) are among the top 5 districts in India in terms of the Jain population. There were many kings in this area that followed or supported Jainism. The most glorious among them were the Rashtrakuta who originated from Latur and had their capital at Mayurkhandi (near Nasik) and later at Manyakhet  During their reign numerous famous Jain texts were composed, including Dhavala, Jayadhavala, Mahapurana, Uttarapurana and Ganita-sara-samgraha. They ruled from about 752 AD to 972 AD. The last Rashtrakuta king, Indra the fourth retired to Shravanbelgola and passed away in smadhi-marana in 904 .
In the first century AD, a king Nahapan (of non-Indian origin) ruled region near Nasik. According to “Shrutavatar” of Vibudh Shridhar, Nahpan became a Jain monk Bhutabali. Bhuytabali and Pushpadnata later studied under Dharasena who live in a cave in Junagarh. They togeter later wrote the famous “Shat-khandagam”.
Here I will briefly mention about Kolhapurand nearby places.In the first century AD, at Mahimanagari, near Kolhapur a gathering of monks was held. This assembly decided to send Bhutabali and Pushpadnata to Mt. Girnar to study under Dharasena. Some say that part of Shat-Khandagam was composed at Kolhapur.
Kolhapur bcame a major Jain center duuring the rule of Shilahar kings in the 11th century. Kolhapura was also known as Kshullakapur (because of the presence of a large number of Junior Jain monks) or Padmalaya, after the deity Padmavati who is now worshipped there as Mahalakshmi and is the tutelary goddess of Kolhapura.
One of the rulers of this dynasty was Gonka. An inscription at Teradal mentions that Gonka was healed from snakebite by a Jain monk and Gonka had built a temple of Lord Neminath. Many Jain temples in that region
build in the next couple of century are called Gonka-Jinalya after him. During the reign of Bhoja I, a dynamic Acharya Maghanandi helped establish an institute at Rupanarayana-Basadi. Several of the kings and nobles of the dynasty were disciples of Maghanandi. Maghanandi is often called Siddhanta-chakravarti ie the great master of the scriptures. He is sometimes called “Kolapuriya” to distinguish him from many other Acharyas with the name Maghanandi.
Maghanandi belonged to a distinguised lineage of Acharayas of Deshiya- Gana Pustaka Gachchha. One of his predecessors of Gollachaya, who was once a king. The Bhattarakas of Shravenbelgola and Mudabidri belong
to the same lineage .
Just like pairs Hemachandra Suri and king Kumarpal, Nemichandra Acharya and Chamundaraya. Kolhapur has a famous Acharya-devotee pair.A legendary account of Maghanadi and Shilahara king Gandraaditya of
Kolhapur occurs in “Jainacharya Parampara Mahima”. It mentions 770 Jain shrines being built by Gandaditya and 770 disciple monks of Maghanadi. Many of the inscriptions in Kolhapur and nearby places attest to this relationship. Gandaraditya had built a temple “Tribhuvan Tilak” for Lord Nemi at Arjurika, where Somadeva composed “ShabdarNava-Chandrika” (guide to a lexicon). Like Ashoka Maurya, El Kharvel etc, he was supported all religions. In one inscription he is called “sarva-darshan-chakshuha” i.e. viewer of all points of view. His general Nimbadeva was also a devoted Jain. A Kolhapura inscription at the MahaLakshmi temple (it has 72 Jinas carved on the shikhar) mentions a Jain temple made by Nimbadeva.
His son Vijayaditya was a disciple of Manikyanandi, the successor of Acharya Maghanandi. Several inscriptions mention donations by Vijayaditya and his generals to Jain institutions.A brahmin Vasudeva, a dependant of a general Kamadeva of Vijayaditya, had built a temple to Lord Parshvanath .
The glory of Jainism in Kolhapur declined after the Shilaharas. Still, Kolhapur has a unique place in Jain society. It is the only place in India today with not one but two functioning Bhattaraka seats, that of Lakshmisena Swami and of Jinasena Swami which has shifted from Nandni to Kolhapur. The Lakshmisena Matha is an active publisher of books and a periodical “Ratnatryaya”. There is famous 9 meter high idols in the matha temple. It is said that the height of the gate of the Math was chosen to match the height of the gate of the
local king, such was the significance the Bhattaraka seat. In 1871 the maha-mastakabhisheka of Lord Gommateshvar at Shravanbelgola was entirely organized by the then Lakshmisena of Kolhapur.
You can read a little about current Bhattaraka Lakshmisena in “The Assembly of Listeners” by Carrithers and Humphry (Cambridge University Press, 1991). Incidentally Prof. Sangave, the well know author of “Jaina Community: A Social Survey” is from Kolhapur .
- Several Jain institutions in this region are somehow connected with the Rashtrakuta dynasty. Both Latura and Manyakhet (Malakheda) have been Bhattaraka seats. Malakheda seat became empty in the early part of this
- But that was not the end of Rashtrakutas. The Rathor Rajputs of Rajsthan/North India are descendants of ancient Rashtrakutas.
- Kshullaka means a junior Jain monk.
- See http://www.cs.colostate.edu/~malaiya/bhattaraka.html
- In this region, many Brahmins have been following Jainism since ancient times. Even now there is a Jain Brahmin community there.
- Several famous Jain Acharyas of this century have been from the Maharashtra-Karnataka border region, including Acharyas Shantisagar, Vidyanada, and Vidyasagar.