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Indian Religions ,
Jaina Dharma or sramana dharma is a
small but very influential religious tradition in India. It has been a
major cultural, philosophical, social, and political force since the
dawn of Indian civilization. Called Nirgantha (without bonds) by
ancient texts, it is one of the oldest sramana (ascetic) traditions
still surviving in India. The community today has a population of 4
million (2001 census), has a nation-wide spread, but is most prominent
in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. It has a good presence in
Delhi-Mathura, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Bundelkhand regions.
The Rig Veda contains clear references to Rishabhdeva, the first
Tirthankara, and to Aristanemi, the twenty-second. The Yajur Veda
mentions the names of three Tirthankaras, viz. Rishabhdeva, Ajitanatha
and Aristanemi. Rishabha has also been mentioned in the Bhagavata
Parshvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankara, is the earliest Jaina
leader who can be reliably dated, and probably lived in the ninth
century BC. The pervasive influence of Jaina culture and philosophy in
the ancient Bihar region may have stimulated the rise of Buddhism. It
has been said that when Siddhartha Gautama left home, he went into the
forest for penance and moved about naked and plucked his own hairs and
lived like a Jaina Niggantha (2).
The beginnings of Jainism in Karnataka are unknown. Legend has it that
Mahavira visited Karnataka and initiated King Jivandhara of Hemanagada
country of the Kuntala (Karnataka) region, and this probably accounts
for the early origins of
Jainism in Karnataka, generally assigned to
the fourth century BC by Jaina tradition.
Tradition states that Bhadrabahu and his royal disciple Chandragupta
Maurya, migrated to the South along with many followers due to a
famine in the north. The group settled at Shravana Belagola in the
Mysore region, where Chandragupta undertook sallekhana (death by
fasting) at the Chandragiri hill named after him.
Chandragupta Basadi at Shravana Belagola, a latter day structure, is
linked to this tradition, but there is unfortunately no epigraphic or
literary evidence to corroborate it. The first mention of this
tradition is found in a Shravana Belagola epigraph of the seventh
century. “Brhatkhosha” of Harisena of 931 AD also mentions this
tradition. Narasimhachar, who has examined the sources in detail,
believes this tradition has some basis (3).
Political position of Jainism under Karnataka Kings
Jainism received huge patronage from Karnataka Kings,
royal families, merchants and common men. A large number of monuments
throughout the state attest to Jaina influence. A large number of
epigraphic references mention the patronage and grants received from
Kings and Queens to the Jaina faith. From the reign of the Kadambas of
Banavasi until the Vijayanagar period, Jainism received generous
grants from Kannada monarchs.
Kadambas of Banavasi
(345-525 CE): The earliest grant from the Kadambas comes from the time
of Mrigesavarman in his fourth regnal year (4). The copper plate
mentions the grant of an entire village for the benefit of Jaina Gods
(Bhagavat, Arhat and Mahajinendra). He also gave thirty-three
nivartanas of land (in modern Halsi in Belguam) to Yapaniyas, Jainas
(5). The same copperplate states that Jaina ascetics must be fed
during rainy seasons.
Gangas of Talkad
(350-1000 CE): Tradition connects the origins of the Gangas to a Jaina
teacher, Simhanandi. Shripurusha gave Devanahalli grant to Jinalaya
and Narasimharajapura grant to a Jaina Caityalaya(6).
Prithvipati I’s Billur grant records the gift of twelve villages on
the banks of Lakshmanathirtha to Satyavakya Jinalaya at Pannekadanga
(7). There are many inscriptions showing huge grants made by
Rachamalla IV, and his minister Chavundaraaya.
Chalukyas of Badami (sixth
century): Despite being staunch Hindus, they extended patronage to the
Jainas. The existence of a Jaina cave side by side a Vaishnava cave at
Badami shows the tolerance of the era. During the reign of Kirthivarma
II, Kaliyamma built a Jinalaya at Annigeri (8); Sendraka Durgasakti
donated lands to Sankha-Jinalaya at Puligere (9); and Vijayaditya gave
village Seribaluru near Laksmeshwar.
Rashtrakutas (eight century) and
Chalukyas of Kalyana (twelfth century):
Altekar characterizes the age of the Rashtrakutas as the most
flourishing period in the history of Jainism in the Deccan.
Amoghavarsha I was more Jaina than Hindu (10); many court officers
were Jainas. The Rattas of Saundatti were staunch supporters of
Jainism. Altekar estimates that at least one third of the total
population of the Deccan during this period was Jaina (11).
The Chalukyas of Kalyana patronized all religions. Taila, founder of
the dynasty was a patron of the great poet Ranna (a Jaina).
Satyashraya had a Jaina teacher as Rajguru. Attimabbe constructed many
basadis. The king gave a golden kalasha to one basadi at Lokkigundi
(12). Shantinatha, a minister of Someshwara II, built Mallikamoda
Shantinatha basadi at Baligrama (13).
Hoysalas are traditionally connected with Jainism from
their origins. Sala was himself a Jaina. Ereyanga is said to have made
many grants at Belagola. Vinayaditya II built a large number of Jaina
According to the Belur inscription, Vishnuvardhana received prasadam
of God Vijaya Parshwa from the Jinalaya and made provisions for the
performance of ceremonies of Vijaya Parshwa and 24 Thirthankaras. His
wife Shantaladevi is described as a jewel of Jainism (14). Many of his
generals including Mariyane Dandanayaka, Punisa and Boppa were Jainas.
These disprove allegations that Vishnuvardhana after conversion to
Vaishnavism ignored Jainas. Narasimha I, a Vaishnava, made grants to
Sravana Belagola. Ballala II built Nagara Jinalaya at Dorasamudra.
Patronage to Jainism continued in the days of Narasimha and Ramanatha.
Vijayanagar (1336-1646 CE):
With the establishment of the
Vijayanagar kingdom, the emphasis
shifted to Hinduism and Jainism received a great setback. Yet, Jainas
received some grants. Harihara II patronized Jaina ministers. He also
constructed Kuntha Jinalaya at Vijayanagar (15). A Shravana Belagola
inscription of 1442 mentions grants for Gommateshwara.
These show that Jainas enjoyed patronage from Kings and were a
dominant political force in Karnataka.
Kannada literature is often classified into Jaina, Vaishnava and
Virashaiva literatures, in recognition of the prominence of these
faiths in giving form to and fostering the classical expression of the
language (17). Starting with the Kavirajamarga (c. 850), and till the
middle of the 12th century, literature in Kannada was almost
exclusively composed by the Jainas, who found eager patrons in the
Chalukya, Ganga, Rashtrakuta and Hoysala kings (18). Jainas dominated
Kannada literature till the 12th century.
The earliest existing prose in old Kannada is a Jaina text
Vaddaradhane (Worship of Elders, 9th century) by Shivakotiacharya.
Jaina writers like Adikavi Pampa, Sri Ponna and Ranna, are
collectively called the ‘three gems of Kannada literature.’
Pampa wrote “Adi Purana” in 941 AD, which narrates the life history of
Rishabdeva, the first Tirthankara. Ponna wrote “Shantipurana,” a
biography of the 16th Tirthankara Shantinatha. Ranna's poetic writings
reached their zenith with “Sahasa Bhima Vijaya”.
The Jaina contribution to architecture is immense. Shravana Belagola,
Chandragiri, Indragiri, Moodabidiri, Karkala, Dharmasthala, Venur,
Gerosoppa, Hadolli, Bilgi, Lakkundi are some of the important centers
of Jainas monuments in Karnataka.
The earliest references to Jaina monuments are found in Halasi and
Devagiri inscriptions of the Kadamba period. According to the Gudnapur
inscription, the Kadamba King Ravivarma built a temple, Kamajinalaya
The monolith 60-feet high Gommateshwara statue at Shravana Belagola is
testimony to Jaina contribution to architecture and sculpture. It was
built by the Ganga minister and commander Chavundaraya in honour of
Lord Bahubali, the second son of the Tirthankara Rishabdeva, also
known as Adinatha.
The Badami Chalukyas built a cave temple dedicated to Adinatha.
Another Jaina cave is at Aihole. The structural temples built by them
include Meguti Jinalaya at Aihole and the Jinalaya built by Kumkuma
Mahadevi at Lakshmesvar.
Jaina monuments of the Rashtrakuta period are found at Pattadakal,
Malkhed, Lakshmeshwar, Koppal and Bankura of North Karnataka. The
Neminatha basadi at Malkhed, capital of the Rashtrakutas, belongs to
ninth century AD. The Jaina temple at Naregal is the biggest
Rashtrakuta temple in Karnataka. It was built during the period of
Krishna III by Padmabbarasi, queen of Ganga Permadi Bhutayya in 950
Many Jinalayas were built by Kalyani Chalukyas, including Brahma
Jinalaya at Lakkundi and Sankha Jinalaya at Lakshmeshwar. Chaturmukha
basadi, Neminatha basadi, Vardhamana basadi and two Parsvanatha
basadis at Gerusoppa are important Jaina monuments built during the
Vijayanagar era. Thus Jainas made enormous contribution in every
aspect of life of Karnataka people.
1. The Bhāgavata says: “In the womb of Merudevi, wife of Nabhi,
Rishaba had his eighth avatara. He showed himself in a form that is to
be worshipped by all Shramanas.”
2. Majjima Nikaya: Maha Siha Nada Sutta, mentioned in “Buddha and
Mahavira: A Philosophical Perspective” by Dr. T.G. Kalghatgi
3. Epigraphia Carnatica, Sacred Books.
4. Indian Antiquary, Vol. 7, mentioned in Karnaraka Kings and Jainism,
Dr. A.V. Narasumha Murthy
6. Ibid, Vol. 2, mentioned in Karnaraka Kings and Jainism, Dr. A.V.
7. Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. 1
8. Epigraphia Indica, Vol.32
9. Karnaraka Kings and Jainism, Dr. A.V. Narasumha Murthy
12. South Indian Inscriptions, Vol.11
13. Shikripur 136, mentioned in Karnaraka Kings and Jainism, Dr. A.V.
14. Soraba inscriptions.
15. South Indian Inscriptions, Vol. 9
16. Jainism and Veerashaivism, Dr. G. Marulasiddaiah
17. Narasimhacharya (1934)
19. Sastri (1955)