Chavundaraya is credited with installing the famous Bahubali idol of Shravanabelagola.
He composed the work “Trishasti Lakshana Mahapurana” popularly known as “Chavundaraya Purana” in proasic format. He was a warrior and minister of Western Ganga kings Marasimha II (961-74) and Rachamalla IV (974-77). He is also called as Chamundaraya (probably derived from Chamundi, the deity of Nami Teetharankara).
His other name was “Gommata”, he was fondly called by this name by his parents. Gommata means ‘beautiful’. This is the reason the image of Baahubali carved by Gommata is called Gommateshwara (God of Gommata). It is so popular that the original name is forgotten.
He is a Jain and claims that he is a Brahma Kshatakulotpanna. Details about his parents are not known. There are inscriptional references to prove that his son’s name was Jinadevanna. Ajitasena Acharya and Nemicandra Siddhanta Chakravarthi were his teachers. he was a classmate of Marasimha II and participated in many wars on his behalf as his favorite General.
References from Chavundaraya Purana and an inscription at Sravanabelola mentions that he was a minister of Nalvadi Rachamalla.
Apart from the titles of Guna Ratna Bhushanam and Kavi Jana Shekaram, he is known to have had titles given to a warrior such as Samara Dhurandhara, Veera Mataranda, Ranranga Simha, Vairi Kulakala Danda, Bhuja Vikrama, Chaldankaranga, Samara Parasurama, Pratipaksha Rakshasa, Bhatamari, Subhata Chudamani. These help us conclude that he was a great warrior.
This work occupies a unique place in Kannada literature. Its glory lies in being one of the oldest prosaic texts. It was recognized as the first prose work of Kannada literature before it was published. This Mahapurana related to Jainism is followed depending on the Mahapurana of Jinasena Acharya, Gunabhadra Acharya. The material of this Mahapurana is the history of 24 Tirthakaras, 12 Chakravartis, 9 Baladevas, 9 Vasudevas, 9 Prativasudevas, who were the Salakapurushas. While refraing himself to just the essential parts of the stories of Titharankaras and Mahapurushas he has largely skipped the useless narratives and descriptions, personal qualities and adjectives, decorative idioms, moral paraphrases, religious process details and other terminologies. His work is so brief and concise that the episodes of Bharata Baahubali seen in the Adipurana as Chakravarti Charitae, is narrated in two and a half parvas by Jinasena in Purnapurana and Pampakavi in 133 verses, while Chavundaraya has condensed it in just 27 lines.
Although Chavundaraya might not accepted as a skilled writter from such instances, it can still be concluded that he was a rigid writer. Owing to this rigidity, there is no interesting plot and details of the Titharankara chronicles. One of the achievements here is that the main points of Titaranka’s history have been summarized in such a way that the details of the Tirthankaras are depicted such that it does do an injustice to the actual facts. Inspite of this it is worth noting that this work is successful in building the devotion among the readers about Jainism.
Although the Mahapurana is very ancient in India, it was Chavundarayana who brought it to Kannada for the first time. This book has received praise because it is the Mahapurana in Kannada about the history of Trishashti Salakapurusha and because it is the first source text for the stories of Ramayana, Bharata and Bhagavata of Jain tradition in Kannada. Chavundaraya articulates the poetic legacy of the Sanskrit Mahapuranas, which is not usually found in other texts. From this point of view Chavundaraya Purana stands as an authoritative document in Jain literature. The poet claims to have composed Trishasti Lakshana Mahapurana in 978 A.D. Though the beginning, end and middle of the stories of this book, are in prosaic format, a few verses are seen intermittently.
Although Jinasenacharya wrote his book following the Mahapurana of Guna Bhadracharya, he was also influenced by other Mahapuranas written earlier in Sanskrit and Prakrit languages. He is also said to have written a Desivrtti (probably Kannada) for the Gommatasara written by his guru Nemichandra Siddhant Chakravarthi, Veermattandee (Veeramartandee). But that book is not available.
Chavundaraya’s name is immortalized by the Baahubali idol carved by him on Indragiri at Sravanabelagola, the inscription ‘Shri Chamurajam Madsididam’ near the right feet of Baahubali idol and the fact that sentences with the same meaning in Tamil and Marathi come from it, it is certain that he was the one who got the idol amdke.
It is said that the installation of this idol was probably made in 983 A.D. In the Gommata Jinendra Gunastava inscription of Boppana Pandita, there are details about the installation of this idol by Chavundaraya. It is as if Chavundaraya longed to see the idol of Bahubali in Bharata Paudanapura when he heard about the greatness of the idol. When known people mentioned that the idol was located at a far off page and inaccessible, Chavundaraya’s extraordinary act became so impressive that it reached the level of legendary imagination in the people, as he decided to get another such idol made and got the the idol of Baahubali at Shravanabelagola engrved. There are many stories related to this.
Rachamalla honored Chavundaraya who did this miraculous work by giving him the title of ‘Raya’. It is probably because of this religious personality of Chavundaraya that others addressed him as Anna.
Kavi Rana must have been his classmate while he was a disciple of Ajitasena Acharya. Even after that he must have helped Ranna a lot. Perhaps out of that gratitude, Ranna seems to have named his son Raya. Nagavarman I in his work Chhandombudhi also claims that he was patronised by Chavundaraya.
This picture postcard on Jain Kannada Poet & General Chavundaraya has been released by the Mangalore Postal Division, Department of Post, Government of India, on the occasion of “Kannada Rajyotsava – 2022” under the “Jina Ratna Bhushanaru” series. The picture postcard has been sponsored by Hombuja Jain Math. The entire project has been led by Mahavir Kundur, Hubli.