– Article by Dr. H.A. Parshwanath
The Panchaparameshti Basadi or the Danashale basadi near the entrance to Akkana Basadi enshrines the Pancha-parameshthi group. The five panchaparameshtis are the Jinas, Siddhas, ACharyas, Upadhyas and the Sadhus.
Jain mutt is a place where the propagator and the server of Jainism lives and under whose guidance the religious activities are conducted in an organised manner. In this direction, the Jain mutt of Shravanabelagola stands foremost. The establishment of the mutt has drawn the due attention of all the sections of people. It is a religious centre acting as a nucleus of all activities of Sri Kshetra.
It is said that Chavundaraya intended to establish a mutt (Dharmapeetha) in Shravanabelagola following the engraving of Lord Gommateshwara in Indragiri to guard the religious values and as a result, Nemichandracharya Siddanthachakravarthi became the head of Dharmapeetha. It was later called Charukeerthi Peetha. In the later days, it was considered as the seat of Shravana culture of Jainism in Karnataka. There is no exact documentary evidence as to when the mutt came into existence. The first mentioning of the munis of the mutt is found in A.D. 1131. The munis were called Charukeerthi Bhattarakha. The incarnation of the religious head of the mutt goes as Chamundarayarchita Padadyaneka Birudavali Virajamanarum i.e. the holy feet of munis were worshipped and enshrined with the title by Chavundaraya. The head of the mutt possessed the name Charukeerthi suffixed with the adjectives like Deva, Pandita, Muni, Bhatha and Panditacharya. The heritage of the Jain Mutt is mentioned in different literary works, inscriptions, palm leaves and manuscripts. Poet Chidananda (A.D. 1750) belonging to the Jain Mutt has cited it in his Munivamshabhuyudaya. It is also mentioned in Ananthakavi’s Gommateshwaracharite. Other Jain poets like Koteshwara belong to the tradition of Jain Mutt.
The Jain Mutt temple is an exquisite structure attracting the pilgrims. The front porch of the mutt has elegantly carved pillars. There are three cells holding the several metal and marble images. The middle and the right cells have Chandranatha and Neminatha respectively. The image of Neminatha has an artistically executed mandasana or pavilion. The left cell has two metallic figures, the upper Saraswathi and the lower Jwalamalini. One of the interesting images of the Mutt include Navadevata idol i.e. the image of the nine deities. Besides there are also Panchaparameshtis. A metallic idol of about 2 feet high which was found while digging up the ground of a coffee plantation belonging to Mr.Crawford in the Manajarabad taluk was presented by him to the mutt. This image belongs to Ganga period. Kushmandini Devi the deity of Shravanabelagola occupies a distinct position in the mutt. The walls of the mutt are decorated with rich paintings denoting the lives of Jinas and Jaina kings. The right panel of the middle cell shows the Dasara durbar of Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar. The left one has the figures of Panchaparameshtis, Neminatha with his yaksha and Yakshi and a Jain Guru. The north mural has the picture of Parshwanath’s Samavasarana. The south wall has the scenes from the life of Bharatha Chakravarthi. The other paintings include the life of prince Nagakumar, Shadleshya, Parshwanatha and 24 Prophets.
Shubhachandracharya was the pontiff of the Jain Mutt during the reign of Hoysala Vishnuvardhana. He derived the name as Abhinava Charakeerthi Panditacharya in the latter years. The Wodeyars of Mysore enriched the heritage of Jain mutt.
Traditionally it is believed that Nemichandracharya (Nemichandra Siddantha Chakravarthy), the guru of Chavundaraya was the first pontiff of the mutt. The mutt has rendered services in the field of religion, art, literature and architecture. It has imparted religious education to students and others by conducting schools, religious scripture libraries, religious discourses and publishing and distributing religious books. It has also trained the students with religious rituals and ceremonies. The 34 Jain temples of Sri Kshetra come under the administration of the Jain Mutt.
The Jain mutt at Shravanabelagola has always been a prominent centre of Jain religion and culture. It has helped immensely in maintaining and enhancing the reputation of the place. It has acted as a spiritual university and pilgrim centre.