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    Penukonda is an ancient Jain heritage centre in the Ananthapur district of Andhra Pradesh with its history starting from the 14th century A.D. We can find the Ancient Sri Parshwanath Digambar Jain Temple and Sri Ajithanath Digambar Jain Temple.

    History – The deep roots of Jainism in Andhra Pradesh can be traced back to the 5th and 6 th century B.C. Many historical sources have proved that Lord Mahavir had taken up his vihar around this area and had spread Jainism around this region. This continued for almost another 1500 to 2000 years and later on started deteriorating due to the onslaught of other religions by around 14th and 15th century A.D. However, in spite of these onslaughts, we can find the traces of Jainism all through the length and breadth of Andhra Pradesh. Of these only three or four heritage centres are in good condition and the prominent of these is Penukonda or Penugonda or Penugunde. However, we cannot find any Jain families residing in Penukonda other than the family of a Jain priest. This is not only popular in Andhra Pradesh alone instead is popular in the neighboring states of Karnataka and Tamilnadu and has given a unique identity to Andhra Pradesh such that it has become a synonymous name with Jainism in Andhra Pradesh. This article will help the readers explore about the heritage of this historical place in Andhra Pradesh.

    In all we can find three important places/structures of Jain interest at Penukonda, viz, Padabetta, Sri Ajithanatha Basadi and Sri Parshwanatha Basadi.

    Penukonda Jain Mutt
    Penukonda was also the seat of a Jain Mutt. The inscriptional references mention that the Jain mutt was established by around the same period (A.D. 1359) when the Parshwanatha temple was constructed. It was also the abode of many Jaina Munis and Aryikas. The Bhattarkha of the Jain Mutt was called as Sri Lakshmisena Bhattarakha Swamiji. The disciple (shishya) of Sri Lakshmisena Bhattarakha Swamiji at Penukonda was called as ‘Chikka Lakshmisena Devaru’. The name Lakshmisena Bhattarakha is also associated with the Bhattarakha’s of three other Jain Mutts, viz., Narasimharajapura (Chikkamagalur District, Karnataka), Kolhapur (Maharashtra) and Jinakanchi (Tamilnadu). Many inscriptional and historical references and stories associated with Penukonda Jain Mutt explains us about its relationship with the other Jain Mutts. Some inscriptional references also mention that there was a well established ‘Shruta bhanadara’ (library) and many Jain manuscripts were preserved here.

    In addition to the below-mentioned temples, the Jain mutt and around three to four temples at Penukonda have been the victims of Muslim invasions and a couple of them have been converted into homes.  Some people in Penukonda are of the opinion that one of the Muslim Darga’s in Penukonda was once a Jain temple. As a evidence to this while we move ahead to the right of Sri Parshwanatha temple we can find a Muslim Darga with its entrance resembling the entrance of a temple.

    Donations – The donations can be sent to Sri Pachhe Parshwanatha Jaina Basadiby transferring funds to account no. 7523, Andhra Bank, Penukonda Branch. (Devotees are requested to kindly check about this with the priest before transferring funds).

    Heritage Centre Type – Atishaya Kshetra

    How to Reach – Penukonda is a small town in Ananthapura district at a distance of 70 Kms from Ananthapur and at a distance of 120 Kms from Bangalore.  It is well connected by road and trains and is on the railway line that connects Bangalore and Dharmavaram.

    The nearest airport, Bangalore International Airport is at a distance of 100 Kms from Penukonda.

    Accommodation Details – Just behind the Parshwanath temple and within its compound is found a Digambar Jaina Dharmashala constructed in the year 1992 (inaugurated on 13-12-1992) it has a big hall a a few rooms and can accommodate of around 50 people. Jain food if requested will be prepared at the priests house.

    Heritage Centre Map –

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    Penukonda Photo Gallery

    Temple Name – Pada Betta

    Temple Type – Archeological Site

    Temple History – Just around one and half kilometer before reaching Penukonda town along the Bangalore – Ananthapur highway is found a small hillock on our right called as the Padabetta. A board erected on the road side makes it easy for us to identify this place. Padabetta is found to the south-west of Penukonda town. This structure is about 250 feet wide and 100 feet high and has a coupe of huge rocks with in itself.

    The hillock has derived the name ‘Padabetta’ because of the presence of padas (foot impressions) of Jaina munis in different places on the way up the hillock. Of these two are found just within a distance of around 6 feet. One of these found on the northern side of the hilock has been carved in memory of Sri 108 Ajithkeerthi Nirgantha Muni Maharaj and is 6 x 9 inches wide. The other two have been carved in memory of other two Jaina munis who attained salvation here by undertaking sallekhana. Near one of these pada’s is found a 6 ½ X 9 ½ inches wide embossed sculpture.

    On the top of the hillock are found a series of embossed Jain sculptures on two big rocks. On one of the rock, to the right of the hillock is found an embossed Brahmayaksha figure with horse of 15X17 inches wide.  A bit further ahead of this figure is found a figure of a Jaina shravaka and at a short distance from here is found the sculpture of Goddess Ambika. To the right of the Ambika figure is found the Padmavathi sculpture. To the right of the Padmavathi figure is found a series of four sculptures of Jaina munis in padmasana. To the right of the Jain munis is found a figure of a Jaina Tirthankara in Kayotsarga flanked by chamaradhari’s. Further ahead of the Tirthankara idol is found a series of three sculptures of Jaina Munis in padmasana. To the right of these munis is found a vyasapeeta with Jinavani on it. Besides the vyasapeetha is found a figure of a Jaina acharya with a figure of a Tirthankra above the head of acharya. On the right side of the Acharya figure is found the figure of a Kamandala. This sculpture is about 15×17 inches.

    About 10 feet further ahead to the right of these structures on a rock is found another figure of a couple undertaking sallekhana. Further we can find a figure of a couple with folded hands to their right is found a Jaina acharya preaching the Sallekhana vrata to them. When we move further ahead of these figures by about 20 feet on can find a figure of Lord Sri Parshwanatha in Padmasana.

    While we look or read about the above structures at Penukonda it might sound simple or like just any other group of Jaina sculptures or figures. However they serve as a proof of the Jaina way of life existent and the following of sallekhana during the period. Though we cannot find any written references or inscriptions at this place, the historians have predicted that this might be of sometime during the 15th and 16th century.

    Temple History – This temple is situated in the southern part of Penukonda. The temple built in the 14th century has found renovations during the era of the Vijayanagar Empire and during the 19th century. The temple was renovated by the Gowdanakunte family of Amarapura who also built the Adinath temple at Amarapura. Hence this reduced their visits to this temple.

    In A.D. 1966-67 the priest of the Gudibande (a place in the Kolar district of Karnataka and near Penukonde) Digambar Jain temple took Digambar muni diksha as Muni 108 Sri Ajithakeerthi Maharaj and spent his last days at this temple. To carry out a peaceful and uninterrupted meditation he got a cave kind of structure made in the basement of this temple. Sri Anikar Suranna (D.Brahmarayappa), a popular Jain merchant and a staunch follower of Jainism from Hindupur town of Andhra Pradesh put a lot of efforts in helping out Sri Ajithakeerthi Maharaj and for the renovation of this temple, he had also got a good cooperation from the Jain shravaks in Kolar district. As a result of this a very grand Keshalochana samaroha of Muni 108 Sri Ajithakeerthi Maharaj was held at Penukonda. Over a period of time after the samadhi  of Sri Ajithakeerthiji the temple started deteriorating due to lack of care and after few years the ashtadatu idol of Sri Ajithanatha Tirthankara was stolen probably with a assumption that it was of gold. However, might be on realizing that it is not a gold idol they cut the Tirthankara’s hand and left the broken idol near the temple. Since then the pooja of the temple has stopped and is in a very dilapidated condition.

    The 100 x 127 ½ feet wide temple is very huge and unique of its kind. The temple has the idols of Goddess Shrutadevi to the right and Lord Parshwanatha to the left of the sukanasi. An inscription found in the temple reads that these idols were installed by Sri Karanadhikara of Sidila Bommarasa’s, disciples of Sri Maghanandi Siddantha Chakravarthi. The temple is also of great importance from the architectural point of view and deserves attention from the Jain samaj towards its renovation.

    Temple Name – Sri Parshwanatha Swamy Temple or Sri Pachhe Parshwanatha Swamy

    Temple Type – Digambar Temple

    Main Deity – A green coloured idol of Lord Parshwanatha in Kayotsarga.

    Temple History – This temple is situated in the midst of the Penukonda town and has the idols of Lord Parshwanantha as the Main deity. It has three idols of Lord Parshwanath in kayotsarga of these two idols have been consecrated after the construction of the temple over a period of time.

    The temple built in the year A.D. 1359 has very spacious prakara and the temple is spread-out over an area of 100X100 feet. The compound wall on the front of the temple has been designed in such a way that it gives it an antique look to the visitors at the very first instance. On the lintel of the entrance is found the idol of Parshwanatha Tirthankara.

    The temple has undergone constant modifications over the passage of time with two renovations. The Original structure of the temple had three entrances with the main entrance facing east. On the lintel to the eastern entrance to the temple is installed a Tirthankara idol flanked by two elephants performing kumbhabhisheka to the Tirthankara idol. The idol of Parshwanath Tirthankara facing the main entrance is 4’3” in height; it has a 7 hooded serpent above the idol and on either sides of the idol besides the shoulders are found two chamaras engraved symbolically instead of chamaradharis. Besides the feet of the Tirthankara idol are found the 9 inches high idols of dharanendra Yaksha and Padmavathi Yakshi.

    On the pedestal below the feet of the Parshwanath idol is found a nine lines inscription. A summary of the inscription is as below:
    This temple was constructed on Shaka 1281 Vikari Samvatsara Magha Shuddha Panchami Thursday, i.e. A.D. 1359, by Mulasangha Nandisangha’s Balatkaragana – Saraswathi Gachha – Kondakundanvaya ‘s Priyarajaguru Mandalacharya maghanandi Siddantha Deva’s disciples. Hence it can be concluded that this temple belongs to Vijayanagara kings Rajaguru’s tradition.

    Infront of the garbagriha of Sri Parshwanatha Swamy on either sides are made two semi Garbagriha kind of structures with stages. Idols of Sri Dharanendra Yaksha and Padmavathi Yakshi are installed on the right and left side of these semi garbagrihas.

    In front of the garbagriha of this east facing idol is found a spacious navaranga with four pillars. The pillars are designed in such a way that they form a centrally located square structure in the navaranga.

    Pachhe Parshwanatha Swamy
    As already mentioned the temple has undergone constant modifications over a period of time and the entrance to the north of the temple was closed and a small stage was constructed in front of the wall. A four feet high idol of Lord Sri Parshwanath is installed in the centre of the stage. The idol is made out of green stone (called as pachhe in Kannada) and hence it is popularly called as ‘Sri Pachhe Parshwanatha Swamy’. This idol is very popular across the world is said to be one of the very unique sculptures of all times.

    The Parshwanatha idol is about 40 ½ “ X 20 ½” and the exact date of its making or of its installation in the temple is not known. However, it is believed that this idol might have been brought from the Bellary region of Karnataka. Due to some religious onslaughts numerous Jain temples were destroyed at another popular Jain centre called Koppala (or Kopanachala) near Bellary. Hence some historians predict that the idol might have been brought from one of the temples in Koppala. This kind of Pachhe stone idols were usually carved during the later part of the 11th century and probably around 1060-80 A.D.. It might be belonging to some time around the Kalyana Chalukyan King Tribhuvanamalla Vikramaditya’s period (1076-1125 A.D.).

    The idol is very attractive with artistically carved hoods and tendrils. To further appreciate the beauty of this idol it is good to compare the other similar contemporary idols. To mention a few – the Parshwanatha idols at Rona (Gadag District, Karnataka), Gerusoppa (Shimoga Dsitrict, Karnataka), Bagalkot, Stavanidhi & the recently found idol at Kasamalagi (Belgaum District, Karnataka), Amminabhavi (Dharwad District, Karnataka) and chandragiri (Chittor District, Andhra Pradesh).

    Infront of the garbagriha of Sri Pachhe Parshwanatha Swamy on either sides are made two semi Garbagriha kind of structures with stages. On the left Semi Garbagriha is found the 23”X18” idol of Goddess Padmavathi. In front of this idol facing towards west can be found a 49 ½ “ X 26” high black coloured idol of Lord Parshwanatha in Kayotsarga. To the right of this idol towards the Padmavathi statue is found a 21X14 inches high idol of Sri Brahma Yaksha with horse. An inscription found on the Brahma yaksha idol says that the idol was got done by “Gnanamathi Akkagalu”(Akkagalu means sisters in Kannada).

    On the right Semi Garbagriha is found the Padmavathi Parivaralaya facing south and Amra Kushmandini devi facing east.

    Padmavathi Parivaralaya – a very unique structure in the world
    The Padmavathi Parivaralaya is one of the very unique structure associated with Goddess Padmavathi. The Padmavathi idol is about four feet high and has been decorated very attractively. It is a chaturbhuja idol (idol with four hands) seated with one of its legs folded. An idol of Kukkutasarpa (head with that of a Sarpa or snake and the body of a Kukkuta or hen) is found infront of the Padmavathi idol. On the head of the idol can be found an attractive crown with the idol of Lord Parshwanath and above the crown is found a 7 hooded attractive sculpture of a snake. This is a symbolic way of conveying that Goddess Paadmavathi is the queen of snakes. The idol is flanked on either sides with chamaradharis and two idols of Jain Goddesses on either sides. This entire group of seven idols with a centrally located Padmavathi flanked by chamadhari’s and two Goddesses is called as the Padmavathi Parivaralaya or Goddess Padmavathi’s family. This unique arrangement of Goddess Padmavathi along with here family is very unique of its kind and cannot be found else where in the entire world. This is the uniqueness of Penukonda. Off late since the past 4 years special poojas are performed to Goddess Padmavathi as a part of the Kalasarpa Dosha Parihara vidhi.

    In addition to the above mentioned idols we can find many small Jaina Trithankara idols made of Panchaloha (an alloy 5 metals) and marble.

    The Temple architecture of Sri Parshwanatha Temple
    The temple is said to have been constructed at the dawn of Vijayanagar empire by around 1359 A.D. and is built in the Dravidian style. The pinnacle (shikhara) of the temple rebuilt in July 2004 is also very attractive, it starts off with a square base and ends in a circular format. This has been built as per the temple vastu specifications. This has been built above the Parshwanatha statue that is facing east. On all the four sides of the pinnacle are installed idols of Lord Parshwanatha in Padmasana. In front of these idols are found the small but attractive Lion idols.

    Donations – The donations can be sent to Sri Pachhe Parshwanatha Jaina Basadiby transferring funds to account no. 7523, Andhra Bank, Penukonda Branch. (Devotees are requested to kindly check about this with the priest before transferring funds).

    Pooja Offering at Sri Pachhe Parshwanatha Jaina Basadi – Special poojas to Goddess Padmavathi are offered on Fridays and Sundays. Devotees from Bangalore and other parts of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh keep visiting Penukonda very frequently. Devotees who wish to get the prasada after performing pooja to the deities in this temple every year (once a year) they can send an amount of Rs. 1008 to the temple. For one time pooja and prasada an amount of Rs. 105 can be sent to the temple.

    Temple Address – Sri Parshwanatha Swamy Jaina Basti, Penukonda Town, Ananthapura District, Andhra Pradesh, India.

    Temple Phone No. – 08555221186

    Dharmashala Name – Digambar Jaina Dharmashala

    Dharmashala Address – Sri Parshwanatha Swamy Jaina Basti, Penukonda Town, Ananthapura District, Andhra Pradesh, India.

    Dharmashala Phone – 09490625218

    Bhojanashala Availability – Yes

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