Kamthana (Bidar District, Karnataka), February 4, 2013: Kamthana in Bidar district is one of the most inspiring places for a number of Jain ascetics and devotees. The annual three-day car festival held here from February 15 to 17 attracts hordes of devotees from neighbouring states.
Jainism was the most vibrant religion in the ancient and medieval period of the Hyderabad Karnataka region’s history. This is evident from a plethora of Jain monuments, historical and heritage sites, artefacts, nishidhis (memorial stones), basadis and inscriptions found extensively in several parts of the region, particularly in Gulbarga and Bidar districts. One such unique Jain centre is the Jain Mandir of Parshavanth Tirthankara at Kamthana in Bidar district.Situated at Kamthana village, 10 km south of the district headquarters of Bidar, it has a number of unique attributes. Like the Jain holy places of Shravanabelagola and Koppal, Kamthana was one of the most sought-after centres by Jain munis and shravaks who would choose this site to seek salvation through the practice of sallekhana, fasting unto death with traditional vows.
The place also reveals the influence of the Jain traditions prevalent in North India, evident from the presence of the ‘Srivatsa’ mark on the chest of the Parshvanath. ‘Srivatsa’ is a diamond-shaped mark on the chest of the Parshvanath usually found on sculptures in North India but not in South India. The mark is symbolic of the greatness of the soul, much like the diamond, known for its qualities of firmness, brightness and purity.
Carved in black mixed blue soft granite, the 115-cm tall and 55-cm wide monolith Parshvanath idol mesmerises not just because of its beautiful form but also because of its inner beauty. Qualities like self restraint, serenity, calmness, compassion, detachment, renunciation, austerity, meditation, all can be found and experienced in the sculpture.
The prabhamandala or radiance can be found at the back of the head of Parshvanath sitting in the paryankasana pose and sheltered under a seven-hooded serpent. Needless to say, Kamthana has remained one of the most inspiring places for a number of Jain ascetics for self realisation and salvation.
Many of them would come here to undertake sallekhana. A number of nishidhis, stone memorials recording the act of sallekhana, can also be found in and around Kamthana.
Though the sculptor who made such a marvellous piece of stone poetry remains anonymous, the inscription in Kannada found at the bottom of the sculpture states that it has been installed by Rechisetty of Sri Mollasangha tradition. This is the 18th Jain inscription found in Bidar district, according to history professor Appanna Hanje who has written a research article on the Kamthana Jain shrine. According to another amateur research scholar, D N Akki, the original meaning of Kamthana is ‘a place of forgiveness’, which is one of the greatest tenets of Jainism.
Made during the reign of the Kalyani Chalukyas in the 11th-12th century, due to fear of aggressors, the sculpture was installed at a safer place in the cellar of the temple. However, it was rediscovered by Acharya Shruta Sagar Muni in 1987 and the idol was brought out from the cellar and installed on a higher platform in the temple.
Though the temple has been renovated, the sculpture of Parshvanath Tirthankara has remained unaltered ever since its installation about 900 years ago.
Bidar Jain Milan Secretary Vijaykumar Jain maintains that Kamthana is one of the most inspirational Jain centres where three-day annual Rathyatra Mahotsava is held from February 15 to 17, attracting devotees from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and other states. The temple committee wants to restore the glory of the temple through a number of religious and cultural activities. -Image Courtesy: Prajavani, News Courtesy: Srinivas Sirnoorkar, Deccan Herald