Mandaragiri’s Jain Heritage Rediscovered

Mandaragiri's Jain Heritage Rediscovered
Mandaragiri’s Jain Heritage Rediscovered

Nitin H.P.

You go in search of something, but you stumble upon completely different. It is much more prevalent in history and leads to a different set of discoveries. Here is one such instance of the research conducted by Dr. D.V.Paramashiva Murthy (a professor at Tumkur University, Tumkur) and his team at Mandaragiri, a Jain heritage centre located at a distance of 11 Kms from Tumkur and 1.5 Kms off the Bangalore Pune National Highway 48 (NH48) that has helped in rediscovering its lost Jain heritage.

Mandaragiri has evolved as one of the popular Jain pilgrim destinations over the past 2 decades owing to the renovation of ancient Jain temples on the hill and construction of new Jain structures. It houses a hill with 4 ancient Digambar Jain temples and 3 new Jain structures off the hill.

The temples on the hill are dedicated to Parshwanath Tirthanakar, Suparshwanath Tirthanakar and 2 others to Tirthankar Chandranath (one in Kayotsarga and the other in padmasana posture). All these temples are enclosed within a high raised compound. An inscription of 1160 A.D. (EC – 24, Tumkur – 61, Panditanahalli) found in the temple premises provides details of the construction of a Jain Basadi and a lake called as Padmavati Kere. However, the inscription does not specify the Tirthankar’s name nor the location of Padmavati Kere. Prof. Kamala Hampana, a learned scholar and researcher opines that the Maidalada Kere located to the north of this hill was called as Padmavati Kere (Maidalada Kereyada Padmavati Kere, Bharana, Pg. Nos. 471-473).

Inscriptional Details – The inscription reveals that a Temple and Padmavati Kere was built by Machiakka wife of Ereyanga who was the chief general of Hoysala King Narasimha I. It specifies that she was the grand-daughter of Nakishetty and Nagave and the eldest daughter of Bittiganka and Chandavve. It further provides details of her guru as Postaka Gachhas Desigana’s Sri Kondakondanvaya’s Gandavimukthadeva Muni. As a part of the religious activities she constructed the Basadi and Padmavati Kere at Divya Tirtha. It also includes details of the donations she made for the temple’s upkeep, for carrying on the Aharacharya of Jain Munis visiting the place and the temple’s renovation. At the inscription’s end is found a Jain Shapashaya (details of curse’s/ill effects to the people if they do not follow the instructions specified in the inscription).

Un-Answered Questions in the Inscription – In spite of the details specified in the inscription there are a few un-answered questions. They are as below –

  1. How many Basadis did Machiakka construct at Mandaragiri?
  2. What was the Basadi’s name?
  3. Is Maidalda kere and Padmavati Kere one and the same.
  4. The inscription specifies one other lake as Hiriya Kere, which is that lake?
  5. We can find words such as Maidavolal Divya Tirtha in the inscription. Did this name exist earlier?

The fieldwork undertaken in the vicinity provided answers to these questions and has led to the rediscovery of Mandaragiri’s Jain heritage.

New Discoveries – A recent fieldwork and further research undertaken by Dr. Paramashivamurthy have led to new discoveries in the vicinity.

  • Chandranath Temple – The inscription indicates that “Machiakka constructed the temple for Chandimadevarige in memory of her mother Chandavve. However, it does not specify if it was a newly built or was renovated. The ruined Tirthanakar idol found in front of the Chandranath temple resembles the Hoysala architecture. Hence it can be concluded that this was the idol and the word Chandimadevarige indicates that it was a Chadranath
  • Lakes / Kere mentioned in the Inscription
    • Hiri Kere – The inscription indicates that Machiaakka constructed the Padmavati Kere. The localites are of the opinion that the present Maidalada Kere found near the hill itself was Padmavati Kere. However, further research under taken by Prof. Paramashivamurthy by comparing another inscription of A.D. 1287 from Honnudike village indicates that the villages was called as Mayindapolal that was built in memory of the Nolamba king Mahendraraja I. Furthermore, the structure of the lake at Maidala indicates that it belonged to 9th century A.D. In addition to this on our way to Maidalada Kere from Mandaragiri hill we can find 7 idols of Saptamathrukas measuring 4’x5’ each. The style of these Saptamathruka idols indicate that it belonged to 9th century AD. Based on the above facts it could be concluded that Maldalada Kere was not Padmavati Kere and had existed much before Machiakka’s
      The inscription on Mandaragiri mentions about Hiriya Kere twice while describing Machiakka’s donations. If we go by the literal meaning of the words Hiriya Kere it means that it is a bigger lake or an ancient lake. Hence it can be concluded that “Maidalada Kere / Lake at Maidala” is the Hiriya Kere quoted in the inscription.
    • Padmavati Kere – After concluding that Maidalada Kare was not Paadmavati Kere, the next big question that arises is which is that Padmavati Kere. The inscription indicates that she built a lake for the Basadi but not for the village. If the lake is for the basadi means that it was for carrying on the Pooja at Basadi as well as for devotees visiting the basadi. This helps us conclude that the small lake found behind the hill to its west is nothing but Padmavati Kere.
  • Divya Tirtha & Temples DiscoveryThe inscription at Mandaragiri indicates that Mandaragiri was called as Divya Tirtha much before the construction of the temple. The present field work has provided further clarity to the question as to why was it called Divya Tirtha.
    • Parshwanath Idol on a Boulder – In between the temple and Padmavati Kere is found a huge boulder to its south is found a 6 feet high carving of a Tirthankar.

Dr. Paramashiva Murthy opines that “a huge idol of Lord Parshwanath existed here and has been chipped off later by miscreants”. This could also be a Chaityavasi Tirthankar (a Tirthakar sitting below a tree).

  • Small Pond – To the temple’s north is found a small pond. This appears to be an ancient construction.
  • Abandoned Temple – Adjacent to this boulder there is another huge boulder and attached to it is the structure of an abandoned temple. Broken pieces of the temple’s pillars, lintel and Manastambha. The temple has been built adjoining the boulder and measures about 30’x30’. The inner section of the temple and its sanctum sanctorum is covered by shrubs and thorns till the temple’s roof. The team with great difficulty cleared the shrubs and thorns and were able to find an image resembling the padmasana idol of Lord Parshwanath being engraved on the rocks over an area of 9’ x 9’. From the structure, it is clear that the carving of Parshwanath Tirthankar might have been chipped off by some miscreants. The exact reason for this is not clear. The broken structures of pillars, manastambha, temple’s structure and others help us conclude that it belonged to 10th century A.D.
    “Had these sculptures and the temple not been destroyed it would have been a great contribution to Jain culture by Tumkur District” says Dr. Paramashivamurthy.
  • Divya Tirtha – Owing to the glory of the temple and the Tirthankar structures the place was called as Divya Tirtha mentioned in the inscription found on Mandaragiri
  • Besides the boulder is found some wide area for people to sit. The words “Sri Swasti” measuring about 5 inches has been inscribed on them. Intermittently along the rocks are engraved some signs and parallel lines by the sculptors for keeping an account of their attendance.
  • Mandaragiri, Lakkundi and Attimabbe Connections – In addition to these discoveries Dr. Paramashivamurthy has gone a step ahead and has proved the links between Mandaragiri, Lakkundi and Attimabbe. Available inscriptional references indicate that the famous Brahma Jinalaya at Lakkundi was built by Attimabbe in 1007 A.D. and was rebuilt successfully twice by Bharatarya (1050 A.D.) and Nakishetty (1100 A.D.). Machiyakka as already mentioned was the grand-daughter of Nakishetty and Nagave and the eldest daughter of Bittiganka and Chandavve. Hence, she is also related to Attimabbe and might have been influenced by her philanthropic work. This further enlightens us about the relationship between Tumkur and Lakkundi.

This interesting research by Dr. Paramashiva Murthy has been successful in clearing the missing links in Mandaragiri’s Jain Heritage. Through this research, we are able to conclude the below facts –

  • The Chandranath Basadi with the idol in Kayotsarga/Kadgasana (standing) posture on Mandaragiri hill was built by Machiyakka.
  • The Maidalada Kere was not Padmavati Kere and had existed much before Machiakka’s
  • The small lake found behind the Mandaragiri hill to its west is Padmavati Kere.
  • The Parshwanath idol on the boulder In between the temple and Padmavati Kere was found a huge boulder to its south is found a 6 feet high carving of a Tirthankar.
  • Re-discovered the ruins of an ancient basadi that existed much before the constructions on the Mandaragiri This takes back the history of this place by another 2 centuries to 10th Century.
  • Owing to the antiquity of the re-discovered ruins of an ancient basadi, existence of Parshwanath idol on the boulders behind the temple and the Padmavati Kere Mandaragiri was called as Divya Tirtha.
  • Links between Mandaragiri, Lakkundi and Attimabbe.

Dr. D.V.Paramashivamurthy has thanked his research colleagues Dr. B.Nanjunda Swamy, Sri Atti Renuka, Jain scholar Dr.S.P.Padmaprasad and members of the Tumkur Jain community Sri Pachhesh and Sri Natesh.

Post Author: JHC