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Royal Patronage of Shravanbelagola

    Dr. H.A.Parshwanath writes about the Royal Patronage of Shravanabelaogla, Shravanabelagola and royal connections with Gangas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagar Kings, Rashtrakutas, Mysore Kings and more.

    Religion and political wisdom have always prevailed and lived together in the annals of Karnataka. Religion was the mainstay for the rulers to have administrative control over them and also to attract them towards the royal attire. There existed no clear line of demarcation between the two. The dictum of doctrine between the ruler and the ruled pervaded together. Jainism has played an important role in the socio political life of Karnataka. It possess a pan Indian character. Shravanabelagola flourished and cherished in the background of royal patronage and enjoyed the supremacy of religious fervour. The place was the key centre for all the activities of Jainism. It was more a religious capital than the political arena. It laid down the firm foothold for the spread of Jainism throughout south India. It was the sunshore for the propagation of religion to every nook and corner of society. Religion was an inducing factor influencing the effect of religion. It has played a pivotal role in the political history of Karnataka. The kings, samanthas, chieftains and palegars have ruled the place with valour and religious fragrance.

    Shravanabelagola is a place of great importance from the point of pilgrimage and also archeological and religious heritage. The place derives its name from the point that Shravana or Shramana means a Jain ascetic and Belagola or Biliya Kola means white pond.

    Gangas and Shravanabelagola
    It is very interesting to note that the Gangas played an important role by patronising Jainism. Shravanabelagola drew the attention of Ganga dynasty from 4th century to 13th century. Its glorious past called as Gangavadi-96000 (Ganganadu) encompassed the frontiers of the kingdom with the religious compassion of Jainism. The famous rulers such as Shivmara I, Shivmara II (A.D. 788-812), Amoghavarsha, Marasimha II, Rachamalla IV (A.D. 964-999) and the minister Chavundaraya stood as the golden link between Jainism and Shravanabelagola. The abounding inscriptions available throw much light on the patronage of these kings for Jainism. Shivamara II has written Gajashtaka. Simhanandi, the Jain muni was the great inspirant for the foundation of Ganga dynasty as revealed by an inscription in Shravanabelagola dated 1179 A.D.. Another inscription of the place (A.D. 1129) has mentioned emphasising the fact that Simhanandi blessed his disciple Konganiverma with the sword incarnated with the name of Arahantha to revolt against the gamut of sins. An inscription of 1400 A.D. also mentions the name of Simhanandi Acharya. The inscription found in other parts of Ganga domain also mention the importance of Shravanabelagola. According to these Madhava, also called Konganivrma was the founder of Ganga kingdom. He is described as a great warrior and was blessed by Arhatbhattakha. Simhanandi also showered his blessings on him to combat his enemies and attain supremacy.

    An inscription of A.D. 810 mentions that Amogavarsha the first Ganga king associated with Shravanabelagola built Chandraprabha Basadi. He is described as an eminent scholar with erudition for culture and poetics and also had keenness for drama and other performing arts. It is said that he had written Gajashtaka and Sethubbandha. An inscription found in Kyathanahalli in Srirangapattana taluk has mentioned about the liberal donation by Rachamalla II (A.D. 870-919) and Yerayappaarasu (A.D. 886-913) to Shravanabelagola. He sheltered Gunaverma I who wrote Shudrakha-Harivamsha. Marasimha II (A.D. 963-975) observed sallekhana at the abode of Ajithabhattarakha at Bankapura. A brahmastambha was erected in memory of him in Indragiri in A.D. 974. It is curious to note that this pillar was emanating a musical vibration signalling the entry of enemies to Shravanabelagola and the inhabitants of the place were protecting themselves by closing the doors of houses and temples. Ajithasena was the main link between the Ganga dynasty and Shravanabelagola. The pedestal of the bronze idol of about 2 feet found in the Jain Muth of Shravanabelagola mentions the name of Kundanasomidevi the elder sister of Marasimha II.

    Avaneetha, the Jaina king who ruled for a period of 40 years had also the patronage for other religions. He was the disciple of Vijayakeerthi the Jainamuni. He was called Haracharanaravinda Pranipatha in inscriptions. He donated lands to Jain temples as recorded in Hosakote inscriptions. Durvineetha (540-600 A.D.), the disciple of Pujyapada (Devanandi) who wrote Shabadavathara, the Sanskrit work on grammar.

    Chavundaraya the great minister and commander-in-chief during the period of Marasimha II and Rachamalla IV occupies the distinct position in the history of Shravanabelagola and Karnataka. He was praised as Veeramarthandadeva for his valour and Samyaktva Ratnakara for his patronage for the religion. He has sketched indelible lines in the field of politics, literature and culture. He is immortalised in the works of Ranna, Nagaverma and Nemichandracharya. He is described as a great warrior who defeated the enemies by waging war against Vajjaladeva the brother of Pathalamalla. He fought against Shilasharas, Nolambas, Chalukyas and many Samanthas. Jagadekaveera the king who commanded Chavundaraya has immensely praised him for the victory in the war against Nolamba king and Ranasingha. According to an inscription of T.Narasipur (900 A.D.) Chavundaraya was the son of Mahabalaiah. Mahabalaiah’s father Govindaiah and brother Eshwaraiah served under Nolamba Kulantakadeva and Marasimha. Chavundaraya’s mother Kaladevi, wife Ajithadevi and son Jinadeva also followed significantly the path of Jainism. Pulaiappai who spent here last days Vijayamangala was said to be the younger sister of Chavundaraya. He was the disciple of Ajithasena Bhattarakha and Nemichandramuni. His greatest achievement was the engraving of the huge monolithic statue of Lord Gommateshwara atop the Indragiri (A.D. 981-82) and construction of Chavundaraya temple in Chandragiri.

    Gangas also patronised mural art (paintings) as found in Jain mutt of Shravanabelagola and Jain temples of Gubbi and Nittur.

    Hoysalas and Shravanabelagola
    Hoysalas also played an important role in the growth and development of Shravanabelagola. It is interesting to note that about 80 inscriptions of Hoysala period are found in Shravanabelagola. Furthermore many monuments of the place belong to the Hoysalas. The details about the Hoysala kings namely Vinayaditya (A.D. 1047-1098), Yereanga (A.D. 1098-1102), Vishnuvardhana (Bittideva) (A.D. 1108-1152) and Ballala II are available from these inscriptions.

    Hoysalas came to limelight in the 11th century A.D.. The monolithic statue of Gommateshwara shows the following explicitly carved lines at his feet on the right side, “Sri Gangaraja Suttalayam Madisidam” (i.e. Gangaraja constructed the temple row around). Gangaraja was the prime minister and commander in chief of Vishnuvardhana the Hoysala king. It should be noted that Gangaraja cited here was different from Ganga kings and belonged to Hoysala dynasty. Echiraja was the father of Gangaraja his mother Pochala Devi has been mentioned as Pochambike and Pochabbe in the inscriptions. His wife Lakshimidevi has also donated offerings to Jinalayas. He also established Jinanathapura near Shravanabelagola and constructed Kattale Basadi on Chandragiri in memory of his mother Pochabbe, as revealed by the inscription found at the pedestal of Lord Adinatha of the temple. He and his son Boppa constructed many temples in Kambadahalli near Shravanabelagola. Gangaraja was conferred with the title Drohagaratta in recognition of his sincerity. Boppa called the basadis also as Drohagaratta Jinalayas in memory of his father. Punisimmiah the commander-in-chief in the Hoysala period also encouraged Jainism.

    Shantaladevi the queen of the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana (A.D. 1090-1141) showed adeption for the art of dance and she was a staunch follower of Jaina religion with a broad outlook. Traditionally it is believed that Vishnuvardhana was originally a Jaina but converted into Sri Vaishnavism due to the influence of Ramanujacharya. But he continued his patronage for Jainism. He was the son of Eachiraja and Pochikabbe. His royal queens included Lakshmidevi and Nagaladevi. One of his brothers Bommannaiah has rendered unique service to Shravanabelagola and is equaled to Chavundaraya in his philanthropic deeds. His wife Shantala built Savathi Gandavara temple in A.D. 940 in Chandragiri at Shravanabelagola. She donated Mottenavile village to her guru Prabhachandrasiddanthadevaru for the routine pooja celebration and offering of food. She also built Yelasanakatte tank for the temple. She observed sallekhana at Shivagange. Her mother Machikabbe also observed samadhi marana following here.

    Gopanandi, the teacher of Yereanga developed Shravanabelagola. Ballala I relieved the agony of the Swamiji of the Jain Mutt at Shravanabelagola and was conferred with the title Ballala Jiva Raksha Pala according to an inscription of 14th century.

    Another name which should be remembered after Gangaraja is Hullachamupa at the time of Narasimha, the Hoysala minister. He belonged to Vajivamsha and the parents were Yaksharaja and Lokambike. He lived for a period of 100 years. His wife was Padmavathi. His brother Heggade Lakkiah enhanced the glory of Shravanabelagola. His son in law Harianna constructed Paravadimalla Jinalaya in Kumbaiyyanahalli. Hulla’s gurus included Kukkuttasana Maladharideva, Banukeerthideva, Devakeerthimuni and Nayakeerthisiddantha Chakravarthi. He renovated Jain temples at Bankapura, Kopana (Koppal) and Kellangere. He constructed the huge Bhandara Basadi in A.D. 1159 at Shravanabelagola and also installed 24 Tirthankaras in the temple. Bandhara Basadi is situated very proximal to the Jain mutt. It derived its name from the fact the Hulla was also a treasurer in the Hoysala kingdom. The word Bhandari means a treasurer. Hoysala Narasimha called Bandara Basadi as Bhavya Chudamani due to its exquisite beauty. Hulla built two houses which were later converted as Jain muth and thus formed the residence for the pontiffs of the place. He erected Nishadi stone (memorial stones) in name of Devakeerthi Panditadevaru in Chandragiri. He also constructed a choultry in Jinanathapura. He donated Bekka, Savaneri and Keggere villages to Shravanabelagola which were given to him by Hoysala Narasimha. His another commander in chief Chandramouli patronised Shravanabelagola. Chandramouli’s wife donated Bammenahalli to Parshwadeva of Shravanabelagola. She also constructed a Jain temple and she was the disciple of Balachandramuni of Shravanabelagola.

    Ballala II (A.D. 1173-1220) also enriched the religious heritage of Shravanabelagola. Nagadeva the minister of Ballala constructed the platform for performing dance platform in front of Kammata Parshwadeva temple at Belagola. He also constructed Nagara Jinalaya. His guru was Nayakeerthi. Ballala’s another minister Reachimaiah installed Shantinatha idol in Jinanathapura and also installed Sadarananandi Jinalaya at Shravanabelagola. Akkana basadi and Mahanavami mantap at Shravanabelagola were also constructed during the reign of Ballala II. Thus one can conclude that Ballala’s regime was the golden period in the history of Shravanabelagola. Hoysalas role in the history of Shravanabelagola has remained immortal due to the advent of numerous Jinalayas after the installation of Lord Gommateshwara. Shravanabelagola became the abode of Jinalayas during their period. Hoysalas have also immensly contributed for sculpture. The idols of Tirthankaras, Yakshas and Yakshis stand as a best example of this kind.

    Shravanabelagola and Vijayanagara Kings
    Jainism flourished well till the end of 13th century. But it received a severe jolt during the Vijayanagara rule due to the greater influence of Vishnava sect. Jainism suffered during the reign of the king Proudadevaraya. An inscription of Veera Bukkaraya I (A.D. 1368) has vividly described the animosity that existed between Jains and Vaishnavas and Jainism suffered heavily during this period. Bhimadevi the royal queen of Devaraya I (A.D. 1410) donated Shantinatha idol to the Mangai temple of Shravanabelagola. She was the disciple of Panditacharya of Shravanabelagola. Irugappa the minister of Harihara II and who is the son of Bukkaraya constructed a garden and tank in name of Gommatadeva.

    Shravanabelagola and Rashtrakutas
    Among the RashtrakutasKaribhayaindraja was attracted by the place. Amogavarsha I was a great Jain devotee. The Jain Siddantha works derive their names Dhavala and Jaya Dhavala from the titles of Amogavarsha as mentioned in Shravanabelagola inscriptions. Indraraja (A.D. 982) observed sallekhana according to an inscription found in Shravanabelagola.

    Shravanabelagola and Mysore Kings
    The Wodeyars of Mysore Kingdom had a high patronage for Jainism since the time of inception of the kingdom. It is worth to note the relation of the Yaduvamsha with this holy place.
    An inscription of donation (A.D. 1638) lent to the place is found in the exterior of the corridor of Lord Bahubali. It describes the solving of the problem of property of Belagola temple debted and how it was released under the leadership of Chamaraja Wodeyar. The other side of the inscription pillar mentions the donations given by Doddakishnaraja Wodeyar (18th century) for the maintenance. The poet Chidananda has mentioned the visit of Chamaraja Wodeyar to Shravanabelagola in his work Munivamshabhyudaya.

    Doddaraja Wodeyar (1672 A.D.) donated Kogi Bommanahalli to meet the expenditure of serving of food in the choultry of Jain Brahmins. During the time of Chamaraja Wodeyar (1674 A.D.) the priests of Shravanabelagola lost the lands donated to temples for pooja purpose and proceeded to Ballatakipura. The king evinced interest to give back the lands to the priests in the presence of Charukeerthi Panditacharyavarya, the pontiff of Jain mutt. As a result the priests returned to Shravanabelagola and continued to perform pooja celebrations. Chickkadevaraja Wodeyar (1723 A.D.) donated seven villages to meet the expenditure of the choultry near Kalyani and also for the conduction of pooja of Lord Gommateshwara. The kalyani found in the centre of the Shravanabelagola town was built in A.D. 1723 in memory of Chickkadevaraja Wodeyar as he died during the period of its construction. His minister Vishalakshapandita donated a chariot and celebrated Mahamasthakabhishekha of Gommateshwara.

    In A.D. 1810 dewan Poornaiah gave Kabbala village at the behest of Heggade of Dharmasthala. In A.D. 1830 Krishnaraja Wodeyar III gave Uthaianahalli, Hosahalli and Belagola at the request of the scholar Lakshmi Pandita of Mysore. The income generated from these three villages were spent on the pooja celebrations of Chandragiri and eight temples of the town. Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV developed Shravanabelagola and also conducted Mahamasthakabhishekha in 1925.
    Jainism is greatly indebted to the royal dynasties cited above for their veritable patronage and contribution for the development of Shramana culture in Karnataka.


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    2. Jainism And Karnataka Culture: Ed. Dr.T.G.Kalghatgi (Karnatak University Dharwad, 1977)
    3. Shravanabelagola Ondhu Samikshe: Ed. Dr.G.S.Shivarudrappa (Bangalore University Publication, 1983)
    4. Karnataka Mattu Jaina Dharma: Hampa. Nagarajaiah (Directorate of Kannada and Culture, Bangalore, 1983) 5.Shravanabelagola Srigalavara Bashana Sangraha: Ed. A.Shantharaja Shastry (1932)
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